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Having Cancer at Holiday Time


If you're in cancer recovery this season, here's what you need to keep in mind: enjoy the season on your own terms. Set limits and boundaries that will allow you to enjoy the festivities in a way that's best for you.

If you're in the middle of chemotherapy treatments right now, or if you're recovering from surgery, just rest. Don't feel the need to cook for others, to bake a thousand cookies or to make the special things you make every year. If you really want to do these things, go ahead, but don't feel as if you must. People will understand.

If you feel kind of okay but you get tired easily, here are some ways to conserve your energy and get the most out of this time of year:

-- Enlist the help of family, friends and the Internet to get your shopping done

It's amazing how much energy you can conserve when you ask for help. There's no reason you should elbow your way through crowds if you're going through chemotherapy or radiation or if you're recovering from surgery. Nobody expects you to do this anyway. Many people will be happy to help you out, you can be sure. Make a list and divvy out the responsibilities to several people, if possible. Advance notice is a good idea too!

-- Don't go overboard when entertaining

If you normally have a big crowd at your home during the holidays, you can still do that, but don't go overboard. If you can afford it, splurge and have cleaning people come in before guests arrive, so that you don't use up energy on housework. Have your guests bring a dish. Tell other family members beforehand that you won't be able to clean up after the party. If you live alone, ask a few of your friends if they'd be willing to stay afterwards and help.

-- Limit the invitations you accept

If you're invited to parties but feel too tired to go, say so. Or go for a short time and leave early. Everyone will understand. If there are certain foods you especially enjoy or that agree with you more than other foods ask the host or hostess if they mind whether you bring your own.

-- Enlist the understanding of your loved ones

Especially now, you need to draw on the support of the people close to you. Don't worry about "ruining" a celebration or changing a few traditions to make things easier on yourself. You can't change the truth, and the truth is that you have cancer. You need to be able to face it with your loved ones, not try to pretend it's not there. Pretending only makes things harder on you. And it can actually bring everyone closer to face this challenge together.

Let's face it-many of us complain that the holiday season can be too commercial, that it can be too easy to lose sight of what's important. Maybe one of the good things about getting cancer is that it helps you to focus on the important things in your life-your friends, your family and your faith or spiritual beliefs.

Taking quiet time to be together and reflect is a gift you need to give yourself.

American Cancer Society; National Cancer Institute
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