Coping with Cancer During the Holidays
I can remember wondering how I would ever manage to celebrate the holidays while experiencing the debilitating fatigue during chemotherapy. My last chemotherapy was in November and I was still feeling exhausted.
Holiday shopping, decorating and entertaining have always been the highlight of the year when celebrating Christmas. How could I handle the holiday preparation and events and not disappoint my family or myself? I have realized the importance of each moment as life can be short.
Tips for surviving the holidays
The beauty of online shopping
In the past, my shopping was always completed in August because I like to avoid crowds and lines in stores. I discovered on-line shopping and gift cards, which really maintained my energy level as I could shop from the comfort of my home. My granddaughter loves to bake. She and my husband prepared cookie trays which also served as gifts for family and friends. This tradition of family Christmas baking and gifting has now been passed to my granddaughter.
Asking for and allowing help when entertaining
Consider a different holiday tradition. Allow friends or family to lessen some pressures of entertaining by bringing a dish, catering a meal, or having the meal at a favorite restaurant. We did this for our Christmas Eve dinner. I rested during the day and had energy to enjoy the time. We were even able to combine several families who otherwise could not fit in our home.
Keep it simple
Try not to over-exert yourself. Only attend events when you feel up to it. I learned to avoid large crowds and anyone who was sick as my immune system is still very weak. Be good to yourself, enjoy your favorite foods, take naps, consider a massage or something else that you enjoy and find reenergizing.
Recognize and acknowledge your emotions
Holidays can be very stressful, adding additional pressure to an already difficult situation of managing cancer and its effects. You may not have the holiday spirit every day. Recognize your increased anxiety level as reflected in difficulty sleeping, irritability or nervousness. Consider asking family to help with tasks such as decorating. Fortunately, my son loves Christmas decorations and outside lights. I was able to enjoy the holiday spirit without the hassle of doing the tedious work of both putting up and taking down the decorations.
Communicate when you feel up to it
Keep in touch with friends and family. I have discovered the art of “texting”. It allows me to keep in contact with friends and family who I might otherwise not see. I text and respond when I have energy. I find hearing from distant friends and relatives most comforting.
Make priceless memories
Taking family pictures and journaling have helped me remember and enjoy the wonderful times, and feelings of the holiday.
Dealing with cancer is already a major challenge. Cancer survivors need to balance the demands of your disease with those of celebrating the holiday season. Hopefully, some of the above suggestions may be useful and allow you to manage both your health and the holidays.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?