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Coping with the holidays while surviving cancer

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When you or someone you love is undergoing medical treatment, the busy holiday season can easily become overwhelming.

People experiencing diseases such as cancer often approach this time of year with a complex mixture of emotions: exhaustion, excitement, worry, and hope. 

They may wonder how to maintain old holiday traditions, handle seeing friends after treatment, or be a supportive family member.

“Use your treatment as permission to be sane over the holidays," advises American Cancer Society editor Joy Fincannon.

She recommends the following tips to help both patients and family caregivers preserve energy and capture a little holiday joy:

  • Set lower expectations. Don’t worry about decorating the house, baking, or buying gifts for everyone in your life. Remind yourself, “This is temporary. For a short period, I can let that go, and it’s OK.”
  • Accept offers of support. Delegate shopping tasks and errands to others who may be looking for a concrete way to help.
  • Decide not to isolate yourself during the holidays but plan a rest time each day, no exceptions. If you need to retire early or skip a gathering, do so.
  • Food doesn’t taste right to many people in treatment. Focus on family, friends and spirituality now and look forward to enjoying meals at the next holiday, when treatment will be over.
  • Keep children informed. Children very much need to know about your illness and what’s likely to happen, since they often think it may somehow be their fault. It’s best to explain things to children promptly and privately.
  • Spiritual growth doesn’t require you to be physically on top of your game. Enjoy a book of short inspirational thoughts; attend a religious service. Finding spiritual meaning in the holidays is helpful, regardless of whether you meditate, belong to a religious organization, or read philosophy.
  • Remember, holiday rituals only come once a year. One of their most important functions is their ability to contain feelings that may appear incompatible, such as sorrow and joy. Focus on the current holiday season, not previous ones where you could be more active. Give yourself the gift of avoiding the rat race this year!

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 Content Editor