4 Tips for Adjusting to Holidays Amid COVID-19 While in Treatment for Cancer

November 26, 2020
Barbara Tako
Barbara Tako

Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.

Adjusting to the unique holiday season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, all while going through treatment for cancer requires extra kindness and willingness to change some habits. Here are 4 tips to do just that.

I just read about a breed of dog that can be unforgiving. If you make one mistake, in this dog’s mind, you are out—down for the count. I think I want a breed of dog that can be more forgiving. All my previous dogs forgave my foolish mistakes with them and gave me unconditional love regardless of my human faults.

I want to think that I have learned about myself and my short-comings from my cancer experiences as well as each dog I have had in thirty-three plus years. Cancer or not, slowly, I try to become a better human. Don’t we all? Isn’t that especially important this year while coping with cancer, COVID-19, and the holiday season?

Here are 4 tips to better yourself to help balance cancer, COVID-19 and the holiday season:

Remember that we all matter, each and every one of us.

A friend of mine recently confessed that she would not want to go see a marriage counselor with her spouse during a short rough patch because then they each would have to face their faults and be told about the mistakes each of them had made. This surprised me.

I mean, I am totally a mistake-making human and I believe we each owe it to the people around us to work on becoming the best human we can be. When we own our mistakes, there is then this amazing opportunity to change and do better. I am pretty sure my friend tries to be the best person she can be in all of her relationships except maybe the one she has with herself—she can be too hard on herself. Are you too hard on yourself?

RSRR—Recognize a negative thought, stop, replace it with a healthier thought and then redirect.

We can rewire our thinking and therefore our behaviors.

Some thought tracks in the brain turn into deep ruts. We can repair even the deep well-worn ruts with: “Recognize (when a bad thought appears), stop, replace it with a healthier thought and then redirect,” a simple technique shared by my therapist.

Why isn’t everyone taught this in grade school through early adulthood? Parents often do this when training their children, so why aren’t more people doing this with their own thought pattern ruts? Try it with cancer. Instead of “cancer is going to kill me,” stop that thought, then substitute “I am getting through this cancer moment by moment.” Next, redirect yourself to another activity—anything that distracts you from depressing cancer thoughts.

Hold two conflicting ideas at the same time.

Years ago, a therapist told me that one part of mental health is the ability to hold two conflicting, but true, ideas in your mind at the same time. I miss my dog who can never be replaced (she died from cancer) and I will eventually choose a new family dog member. I am grieving and I am hopeful to have a new family pet.

Mindfulness: Use the pause.

When we can take a breath and pause for a second, we have the glorious opportunity to choose not to repeat a mistake in our thoughts, words, or behaviors. We have a chance to speak or do kindlier and to break old hard-wired thought patterns.

When we keep in mind these techniques, we can be kinder to the people around us and even our pets during these difficult times, plus we can even be kinder to ourselves. Cancer patients and their caregivers definitely deserve that.

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