Coping with cancer during the holidays

by Karen on December 17, 2013

Santa Claus with children gathered around him

A moment I wouldn’t have wanted to miss — spending time with Santa and dear family friends. ©Karen Gooding 1995

Living with cancer is never easy. Living with cancer during the holidays can be downright awful.

Here’s a short list – pretty similar on several credible websites – of strategies for coping with cancer during the holidays: Keep life simple. Don’t overdo it. Express your feelings. Let people help you. Eat healthfully. Exercise. Don’t drink too much. Rethink traditions.

That’s a pretty good list, whether you’re dealing with cancer or not.

Dad and me at a celebration with good friends 10 days after my mastectomy. ©Karen Gooding 1995

Dad and me at a celebration with good friends 10 days after my mastectomy. ©Karen Gooding 1995

I’d like to add a few things, from my own experience:

  • Order pizza, and use paper plates. Nobody will care.
  • Overdo it – just a little. Be sensible, but don’t miss out on something you really want to do. Go see your child in the holiday musical. Stay up a little too late talking to someone you love. Bake cookies, if you feel like it. And then rest.
  • Conversely, skip anything you don’t really want to do. And don’t feel guilty about it.
  • It’s OK to feel sad – or happy. Or sad and happy. And petrified and hopeful. And nauseated and itchy and a little lightheaded. Share your feelings with someone you trust. Or shove those feelings under your pillow for a little while, pour a glass of ginger ale, and watch Elf.
  • Close your eyes. Don’t worry about dishes in the sink or wrapping paper on the floor. Take a nap, and let the holiday fairies – aka your family or friends – do the work.
  • Make new traditions. Maybe this will be the year you let someone else make the big holiday dinner. Or you’ll make charitable donations as gifts for friends. Or you’ll decide the Christmas tree really looks better with only half of your decorations – the ones you actually like.
  • Remember why you celebrate the season. Whether you draw strength from your faith, your family or your friends, gather in the hope and the peace and the joy. Breathe in the love. And celebrate.

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