The holiday season can be stressful for even the most healthy people. Adding a cancer diagnosis to the hustle and bustle of the holidays can seem overwhelming to say the least – but it doesn't have to be. With a little planning and an open mind, the holidays can be an enjoyable time for cancer patients and their families.
If you live near your family members, celebrating the holidays together may be as simple as making a ten minute drive. If spending the holidays with family means extensive traveling, take the time to consider whether or not you feel up for a flight, a long drive or a train ride. When going through treatments, your doctor may not want you to be traveling long distances or you might just not feel up to making the trip.
Try staying connected with family members who live far away by using social media, texts, emails and phone calls this holiday season. Set up video chats so that you can participate in family events from a distance. Consider sending a holiday card or letter to loved ones with an update on how you're doing so that they know that even if you're not physically there for the holidays, you're still thinking of them throughout the season.
Find a Balance
Typically, the holiday season comes with invitations to parties and family gatherings that you may or may not feel well enough to attend. Try to prioritize which gatherings are most important to attend and decline invitations to some events. This will help you to conserve your energy for the events that you do attend so that you can enjoy them.
Know that when you decline an invitation, people will typically be very understanding of your situation. Even if you don't give a detailed explanation, a simple “I'm sorry I won't be able to make it this year,” will usually be well received by event hosts.
Take a look at the calendar to see if you have any treatments or appointments that might conflict with the festivities that you are wanting to participate in. Talk to your doctor about what can be done to adjust your treatment schedule around holiday activities.
You will probably be surprised to find that most health care professionals will be happy that you're feeling up to attending events and be willing to work with you if at all possible.
You may need to adjust your usual holiday routine according to how you're feeling. Focusing on new traditions and spending time with loved ones can help you cope with your diagnosis and help you feel more in control of your time celebrating holiday festivities.
Here are some examples of activities to try:
Host a potluck dinner instead of cooking a big meal.
If you normally host family get-togethers but aren't quite feeling up to it this year, ask a family member to take a turn hosting holiday festivities.Instead of doing activities that involve a lot of walking or standing, go to see a Christmas movie in theaters or have someone drive you to look at Christmas lights around town.Ask for help decorating your home or hospital room to help get you in the holiday spirit.
The financial stress related to cancer treatments can sometimes put a strain on your holiday gift giving. Plan out a budget before shopping to help you manage your spending. If you are short on funds, consider homemade gifts or personalized letters. Friends and family members will be happy to have something that you put your heart into.
Shopping online eliminates the need to use your energy walking or driving from store to store to find gifts for everyone on your list. If you're not great with the computer, enlist the help of a friend or family member to help shop online with you. You can also place mail orders for gifts over the phone with most companies. If your budget allows, you may even want to hire a personal shopper to do your gift shopping for you.
Drawing names instead of buying a gift for every member of the family can also help alleviate the stress that comes from purchasing gifts for everyone. Simply put names into a hat. Each person draws a name and buys a special gift for that one person.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with emotion during the holidays or at any other time during your treatments, ask your doctor for suggestions of a counselor or therapist to speak to about your feelings. Letting friends and family members know how you are feeling this holiday season is also a good way to release stress and to receive help if you need it.
If you're worried about looking or feeling out of sorts because of how cancer treatments have affected your appearance, wearing something fabulous can help you feel more confident at holiday gatherings.