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Having Cancer at Holiday Time

separator Most people would agree that having cancer at any time is difficult, but the holiday season creates some unique challenges. Probably the biggest message to people with cancer at this time of year is to 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.

It all depends on where you are in your treatment, of course. If you’re recently recovering from surgery or simply feeling way too sick after chemotherapy, you’ll need to do nothing much besides rest.

It’s a little harder to know how much to do if you’re in that middle stage, when 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:

Shopping: Enlist the help of family, friends and the Internet to get your shopping done. Shopping is exhausting even when you feel great. 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!

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.

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.

Don’t try to protect 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.

A time of faith and friends
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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