A cancer diagnosis or having cancer treatment is hard enough at any point of the year, but dealing with cancer over the Christmas period is especially difficult. As December begins, we start to believe that we need to be ‘in the festive spirit,’ merry and joyful. But what if you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with cancer or you’re going through treatment which is really taking it out of you or a family member? It’s not easy to pretend that everything is fine and just carry on as normal.
Traditionally we see our family and friends, go to parties and overindulge on festive food and drink. But what if you’re suffering from cancer fatigue, have just been told that a family member is very ill or going through gruelling treatment which makes you lose your appetite?
If you are battling cancer, you may feel sick or constipated, or not be able to taste food as well as you used to. If you have a specific health issue, talk to your medical team before the Christmas period gets in full swing to get some advice. Make sure you have anti-sickness medication to last over the holidays. If cooking makes you feel sick or you don’t have the energy ask someone else to prepare the Christmas dinner. Keep your portions small and don’t over eat. Check with your doctor/nurse if alcohol will interfere with your cancer drugs.
Don’t feel forced to do too much if you feel too tired. If you don’t feel like going out, ask people to visit you instead of making yourself go out and visit others. Don’t isolate yourself as this can make you feel worse. If you have plans then alternate activity with rest to make sure you don’t tire yourself out. If you go to a party, make sure you are rested beforehand and maybe decide to only stay a short time.
If you are experiencing a variety of symptoms you may not feel like going out as much over the Christmas period as you are used to. It’s sensible to adjust your expectations. Do you usually have people over for Christmas Day and Boxing Day/New Year’s Eve/Day? Share the load and ask other family members/friends to host. Or you might decide to invite less people, or do a buffet instead of cooking lots of food, or ask your guests to bring food. If you are determined to cook the Christmas Dinner like normal, then do it and remember to ask for help to lighten the load. Or go to a restaurant instead if you can’t cope with the idea of it.
We all feel pressure to have a great time at Christmas. We are bombarded by images in the media of festive fun, socialising and shopping. If you’re not feeling well this pressure can make you feel even worse, anxious or even depressed. You may look back to the previous year and question why everything seems to have changed, or get angry. These are totally understandable reactions. It might help you to try and forget about your cancer over the festive season, if you are able to do that. You might want to take stock and reflect on what you have been through over the past year. Your family and friends are probably having the same feelings as you, especially if they’ve been by your side during your cancer journey. Talk about how you feel with your loved ones, don’t hide your feelings or bottle them up because you feel like you need to be ‘up’ and happy constantly.
It’s time to get practical. Find out if your doctors/nurses will be available over the Christmas period. If not there will be medical staff on call that you can contact if you need to. If you’ve had a biopsy, scan or other tests before Christmas, you may not get the results back until after Christmas, which can cause panic and anxiety. Waiting for test results can be a very challenging and anxious time for many people and keeping busy can help to distract you from the worry.
Coping With A Loved One With Cancer
Over the Christmas period, your loved one who is undergoing treatment might be feeling down or unable to fully participate in the festivities. They might be angry and frustrated that they can’t do the same things that they’ve done in the past. Be compassionate and listen, and try and stay positive. Or they might be up and down, fine one minute and teary the next. Share the load amongst family members and friends so you’re not the only person helping your loved one. You might feel emotional often and find it hard to stay positive; it can be very stressful trying to stay positive when you feel like you’re falling apart inside. Speak to the medical team and get extra support, and talk to a therapist or counsellor if things get too difficult to cope with. Don’t just try and battle on.
Take time out for regular self care and do something for you. Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup, you need to look after yourself before you can look after someone else. Remind your family of traditions you have and stick to them if that is comforting for everyone, or make a new tradition. Try and go to a pantomime if you think it’s appropriate or watch light hearted, fun films. If it’s appropriate, laughter can take the stress out of many situations. Think of ways to make things as stress free and peaceful as possible for yourself, all of your family and everyone around you.
Remember to stay flexible and communicate your needs!
Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a very happy and healthy 2017! If you are struggling and need help and advice with coping during the Christmas period, then I offer a thirty minute FREE consultation. Click here to get in touch and arrange a session.