Don't Let Cancer Ransom the Joy of the Holiday Season


Are you trying to get ready for the holidays in addition to being newly diagnosed with cancer, receiving active treatment or coping with survivorship? It’s not an easy task.

The holidays can be difficult and taxing without adding cancer to the equation. The disease is absolutely stressful enough.

My advice: Don’t let cancer ransom the joy of the season from you. This year I am really missing my mom. As cancer survivors, it’s hard not to wonder how long we will be around to have the holidays with the people we love. So, don’t let cancer thoughts win. Let the unhappy thoughts happen when they pop into your mind, acknowledge them, and then move on to your celebrations. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, but consider the thoughts below that I find to be helpful.

Perspective. I grin to myself sometimes when I remember complaining about “the hectic holidays” and “holiday stress.” Seriously. Stress, really? Cancer survivors have coped with way worse stress. Do you think that I am stressing about getting my out-of-state packages mailed in time? Well, not really.

Happy Thanksgiving. It is happy. I am still here to be with loved ones and friends. I refuse to sweat the small stuff. I won’t get hung up on appearances or even food for Thanksgiving and the other holidays. I will try to be grateful for the family and friends who are here and to appreciate them as they are. I will focus on being grateful that I am still here. Hey, I am still here and so are you.

Do you feel like your glass is half empty or half full? As I age and survive, I realize how much junk that happens is really just between my own two ears — my perception of what is happening or being said. Although I am hardwired as a glass-is-half-empty person, as I have said before, I can work on improving my attitude of gratitude.

Farm it out. If you need help with Thanksgiving, ask for help. I truly believe most people want to do the right thing most of the time, but they are not psychic. Even so, I see people pay attention and when they see something, they often try to help. I can’t tell you how many times, with my broken foot, complete strangers held doors open for me.

Don’t forget your basics. Slow down time and get better at living in the moment. You can try music, meditation, going to your comfort place or easy things that keep your hands busy. Use any tool you need to help slow your cancer worry brain down. I wish I had learned some of these tricks sooner.

Laugh often. Watch funny movies. Find the humor even in unhappy moments. Just be yourself and if that is a little snarky or quirky at times, so be it.

And, what happened to kindergarten naptime? Let everyone have personal time-outs. Each of us needs time to focus on a personal passion and to regenerate. If you haven’t, consider starting a gratitude journal for yourself and suggest your loved ones try it, too. You could each share some of your journal at the holiday table.

Again, the holidays can be very stressful and, as cancer survivors, we have already experienced stress at a completely different level. So, keep perspective.

We know that things could be worse, a lot worse. Remember to take a breath. Be gentle. You can do this! I wish you a truly peaceful holiday season.

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