My first diagnosis and my recurrence both occurred right before the holidays. The holidays are a time of stress regardless. It was sometimes very difficult for me to face all the “holiday cheer” with the fear of cancer lurking in the back of my mind. On the other hand, there is no better time to be surrounded by loved ones than after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The timing of my diagnosis was definitely a mixed blessing. Here are a few things I learned from facing the holidays with cancer twice:
- Do your best to appreciate the holidays. The holidays are about family and giving. Enjoy them as much as you can. If you are feeling down, time with your family may be just what you need.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a break from the cheer. If you feel yourself becoming emotional or overwhelmed take a step back. Go to another room to decompress, or offer to go on a drink run.
- Let your family know about your diagnosis before the holidays, if you are comfortable with sharing the information. With my first diagnosis, I didn’t share all the details with everyone immediately so at every holiday party I was bombarded with questions from well-meaning loved ones. Have an answer prepared for when people ask you questions about your diagnosis.
- Enjoy all the great food as much as you can. During treatment you may not feel like eating because of side effects. If you do feel like eating, take advantage of all the holiday treats. (Even our registered dietitian says it is okay as you long as you indulge in moderation!) Read more tips on nutrition during the holiday season.
- Ask for help. If you are normally the person who cooks for parties or shops for presents, ask a friend or family member to help you out this year. We all need a hand from time to time.
- Listen to your body. If you are feeling physically tired or dealing with side effects, take it easy. Skip the tree decorating so you will be able to make the Christmas family dinner.
- A cancer diagnosis will always bring with it elements of sadness and stress. If you are having trouble managing these emotions or they being to interfere with your daily life, let your healthcare team know. Many cancer patients experience clinical depression. Seek the support you need.
At PearlPoint, we wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday season. Have you faced the holidays with a cancer diagnosis? What advice would you offer a newly diagnosed survivor? Let us know in the comments below!