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Cancer During the Holidays

HolidaysThe holiday season is typically viewed as a time to celebrate with friends and family by giving and receiving gifts, taking part in religious traditions, or just coming together to enjoy a meal prepared by generous hands. But having cancer can make even the best of traditions become not as enjoyable when you are worrying about your health or feeling unwell.

For people with cancer trying to get through this time of the year, read on for tips to help lift your holiday spirits:

  • Do not feel the need to hold back. Give yourself permission to express your feelings no matter what they are. This could mean joy, fear, sadness, tears, laughter, and so on. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy and stay active. Be sure to not overdo it when it comes to exercise. Replace aggressive activities for less strenuous ones depending on your health situation with cancer treatments. Also, get plenty of sleep.
  • Enjoy simple pleasures to help improve your mood. This could mean a nap, hot bath, a delicious cup of tea or maybe having an extra slice of pie for dessert. But be careful not to overindulge on alcohol since this could heighten bad feelings.
  • Get help in organizing holiday gatherings. Potlucks are great in having others help by bringing a dish to share. There’s also the option of eating out at a favorite restaurant or having someone else host the celebration if you are used to being the one to take on this responsibility.
  • Remember it is okay to say no. It is fine to not participate in everything and to focus on being by yourself if need be. If you want, you also can tell people that present buying is too much this year. Find the right balance between celebrating with friends and family and spending time you may need on your own.  But also be careful not to isolate yourself so that you miss out on experiences that distract you from discomforts and bring some joy.
  • Give the gift to friends and family of letting them do something for you so they can feel the joy that comes in giving. Many people who have cancer struggle with asking for help because they do not want to burden someone else.  However, many people want to help and are waiting to be asked.
  • Feel free to stay distracted. Take a break from the worries of your life by going to a movie, enjoying a sports game, playing cards with friends, or taking part in other activities you enjoy. Shopping for the holidays can also keep you busy, but be sure to not shop ‘til you drop. Remember that you can use mail order catalogues, buy things over the telephone, or purchase things online.

reflections-hatsAnother great option for those that may be interested in shopping for someone going through cancer is the Reflections Boutique, part of the Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. The boutique and consultation suite is designed to help individuals manage the physical appearance changes brought about by cancer and its treatments. Products include nutraceuticals, breast prostheses, mastectomy bras, and hair alternatives; such as wigs, hats and scarves.

For more information on Reflections, go to:

For more information from the American Cancer Society on handling cancer during the holidays, go to:

To read CancerCare’s “Coping with Cancer During the Holidays,” go to:

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