Cancer and the Holidays
It is almost Thanksgiving, so the rush of the holiday season is upon us. However you have enjoyed or celebrated or managed these weeks in the past, adding cancer to the mix complicates and intensifies the equation. Especially if you are in the middle of treatment, you are tired and definitely have less energy than usual. No matter where you are in the cancer world. your feelings are heightened, and there are sure to be bittersweet moments. I am positive that every single one of us has at least a fleeting thought of "How many more Thanksgivngs do I have?" right along with "I am so grateful to be here at this moment."
I have been talking a lot about this in groups and with individuals over the past couple of weeks, and here is a summary of my advice:
1. Anticipate some strong feelings and difficult moments. They are inevitable, and they will pass. It is okay to cry if you need to.
2. You will be more tired, and you may have to delegate or forego some of your usual responsibilities or traditions. It's a little late for Thanksgiving, but, if you usually host the big dinner, ask someone else to do it this year. Buy the desserts. Accept all offers of contributed food. Shop online. Consider minimizing the decorating or sending holiday cards after the holidays--or not at all.
3. Remember the "energy bank". Each time you make a withdrawal, you need to make a deposit to maintain the balance. This means that, if you are out late at a party or spend the day shopping, you may need to take a nap the next day.
4. Whenever it is necessary, use the "cancer card." Inevitably, there are enough bad things about this diagnosis that it is perfectly fine to look for any good aspects. Sorry, you can't make three dozen cupcakes for the school party tomorrow. No, you can't stand outside the market and collect donations for most of Saturday afternoon. You get the idea.
5. Most of all, pay attention to who and what you love. Put your time and focus there. In the midst of all your troubles, savor the blessings. As a woman in one of my groups said yesterday, make memories.
Here is a good article about managing the holidays from ASCO's CancerNet. Per usual, I give you an excerpt and a link:
Coping During the Holidays: Common Questions
People with cancer and their families and friends often approach the holidays with a mixture of conflicting feelings: excitement, worry, hope, exhaustion, and happiness. You may wonder how to maintain old holiday
traditions, handle seeing friends during or after treatment, or be a supportive family member. Here are some common questions asked during the holidays, along with helpful suggestions.
Q: How should I manage fatigue during the busy holiday season?
A: First, discuss any change in your energy level with your doctor (learn more about coping with cancer- related fatigue). Then, make a list of the events you usually participate in and choose the favorites you would like to continue. Ask your family and friends for help. For example, if you would like to host a
holiday dinner, but don't have the energy to cook and decorate, ask family and friends to help with some of the tasks. Talk with family and friends about combining events (such as decorating the house and making holiday goodies) or changing locations to reduce your travel. Get help with household tasks to save time for more enjoyable activities. Some online communities offer tools to help people with cancer and their friends and families coordinate tasks. And don't be afraid to say no. Some people find that they have a new
appreciation for simpler, smaller gatherings. Make this holiday season about rediscovering peace and happiness in old and new ways.