Coping with Cancer During the Holidays

December 1, 2022

Even though the holiday season is a time of tradition, family togetherness, and hope, it can also be stressful. With all the shopping, party planning, visiting family and friends, cleaning, decorating, and cooking to do, many people are exhausted just by the prospect of the holiday season each year!

If you or a loved one is currently facing cancer, or dealing with the lasting side effects from a past cancer diagnosis, the holidays can be even more stressful. You have to deal with doctor’s appointments, treatments, and the emotional toll that cancer can take alongside all the other responsibilities and events the season normally brings. If you’re mourning a loved one, that can bring a whole other set of difficult emotions to deal with, and you shouldn’t have to do it alone.

Through working with cancer patients and survivors over the years, we’ve been able to develop a number of tips for navigating the holiday season while also dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

  • Feel & Express Your Feelings: Whatever emotions you’re having, give yourself permission to feel them.
  • Ask for Emotional Support: Make a list of people: friends, family members, other cancer survivors—who you can count on to listen to your feelings, concerns, and even triumphs, and who can encourage and support you in your cancer journey. A lack of emotional support can affect you more than you think.
  • Take Care of Yourself: This applies physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eat balanced meals featuring your favorite foods, exercise as well as you can, take baths, nap, watch your favorite TV, play games with loved ones, or other things you love.
  • Make a Simple Plan & Pace Yourself: Scale back on activities that cause stress, like entertaining, hosting a party, or shopping. It’s okay to rely on other people this holiday season! Be mindful to schedule activities when you have the most energy.
  • Learn to Say No: Facing cancer is one of the hardest things anyone has to do. If you don’t have the space or energy to do something, even if it’s a tradition, that’s okay. People will understand if you can’t attend or do certain activities, and they will still show support because they love you.
  • Don’t Pressure Yourself: Try not to set unrealistic expectations or do everything yourself.
  • Don’t Overindulge: It’s best not to drink alcohol or eat too much. Alcohol is a depressant, so it can worsen any bad feelings you may be having.
  • Don’t Force Yourself to Feel Better: It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to be angry and hurt! Don’t try to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holidays.
  • Don’t Do Too Much: Plan ahead to figure out what you can do when. Set aside days for specific tasks. Give yourself plenty of time.

For people who’ve lost a loved one to cancer, the holidays—especially the first holiday after they’re gone—can be extremely difficult. If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, you need emotional support. Talk to others who may be facing similar challenges, or use your family members as a source of support. You can also try following some of the tips above as well, especially those regarding feelings. Allow yourself to feel pain, anger, or whatever emotions may come along during the holidays. Also remember that it’s okay to give yourself a break from your grief and enjoy holiday dinners, family time, or other activities!

If you’re working through a cancer diagnosis or treatment, you don’t have to do it alone. CanCare can connect you to a network of cancer survivors who have walked a similar path. We have highly trained cancer survivor volunteers who are ready to provide emotional support to those facing all types of cancer. We provide breast cancer support, prostate cancer support, brain cancer support, lung cancer support, and many other types of cancer diagnoses! We even offer cancer caregiver support!

Your CanCare cancer survivor match will have experienced many of the same treatments and symptoms, and you will have their undivided attention when you're spending time with them. CanCare has helped many other survivors in their journey, let us help you too. Get matched for one-on-one cancer support or give us a call today.