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10 Tips on Surviving the Holidays with Cancer

Holidays can be challenging, but here are a few helpful tips to surviving well.
PUBLISHED: NOVEMBER 09, 2016
The holidays are around the corner. While these occasions are meant to be filled with joy, sometimes they become stressful. Expectations and emotions are high. Pressure is placed on having the perfect holiday.

For the person affected by cancer, feelings of being overwhelmed and confused may be debilitating. Feelings of stress, worry, sadness and even anger are normal.

Remembering the past can be frustrating. Thanksgiving and Christmas are painted as perfect times of the year where all is right with the world. People are jovial and kind, but what happens when those holidays are filtered through the lens of sickness and suffering? Those idealic views are easily skewed. A cancer patient can feel disconnected. It can be scary to understand unconventional thoughts.

No matter where you are in your treatment plan, you’ll be affected in some way.  But here are some tips to help:
 
  • Use your words. Talk to loved ones. Tell them how you’re feeling. Be honest. If you’re overwhelmed and stressed, say so!  
  • Say yes. Accept offers of help. People want to assist you. Let them. Give them suggestions. Both giver and receiver will be blessed.
  • Learn to be present in the moment. Don’t focus on what was or what should be, focus on what is. Enjoy the moment and relax. Practice mindfulness.
  • Prioritize. There will be many activities this season. It is a good idea to consider which ones are most important to you. Since your energy level may be low, choose wisely.
  • Make a list. Lists are helpful for organizing and remembering. In the midst of treatment, sometimes it’s difficult to think about anything other than getting through the day. Making a list of tasks and categorizing them into “need to” and “want to.” Lists can help lighten the load of personal expectation. Cross off items as you complete them and don’t worry about those left undone.
  • Do what you feel like doing. Plan tasks around your energy. Start with plan A and go to plan B if necessary. If you enjoy shopping, shop. If you can’t get out and do it yourself, make a list, order online or ask others to pick up items for you. Doing things that were important to you before the diagnosis can help keep your spirits up.
  • Set limits. Help others understand. Some family members or friends may not understand how fatigued you feel.
  • Leave your options open. Some days you may feel energetic; others you may not feel up to doing much at all. Allow yourself to make last minute decisions.
  • Surround yourself with others. It’s easier to maneuver through the holidays with those who love and care about you. Let them encourage you and offer comfort. Try not to isolate yourself.
  • Look for the positives. Focus on blessings and forget the failures. Take time to be intentionally grateful.  
 
This time of year can be challenging, but shouldn’t be dreaded. Cancer doesn’t have to steal your holiday joy.



Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
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