beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

  • Contact BIDMC
  • Maps & Directions
  • Other Locations
  • Careers at BIDMC
  • Smaller Larger

Find a Doctor

Request an Appointment

Smaller Larger

Cancer and Holidays

Posted 7/4/2016

Posted in

  Happy 4th of July. Although this holiday is usually less emotionally-charged than some others (e.g. Thanksgiving and Christmas), it is still a holiday. and all holidays are about memories and traditions. For most of us on this summer day, those traditions include food (whether it is the old NE meal of salmon and fresh peas or a more common cook out) and family/friends and maybe a parade or a picnic and fireworks. I grew up mostly in Alexandria, outside of DC, and we used to go into town to watch the pretty terrific fireworks on the Mall. When I was very small, my mother insisted that I take a nap after dinner, before we departed, and I vividly remember lying in bed in the daylight and thinking how ridiculous it was to imagine I might sleep. My mother was definitely not a cook, but the 4th's picnic always included deviled eggs. I still love them.

  Many years later, I spent a 4th here in Maine while I was on chemotherapy. On the 4th itself, I recall a beautiful hike to the top of a mountain; it was breezy on the summit, and my hair blew off in large fistfuls. This was during my first cancer experience in 1993 when the standard breast cancer chemo was CMF. CMF leads to some degree of hair thinning, and that mountain top was partly responsible for my ending up mostly bald. Twelve years after that, I was again on chemo, and we were again on MDI for the 4th. That year, we did the same hike (tradition, right?), and I whipped off my baseball cap on the summit to let the wind rush past my shiny bald head.

  This year, back on our beloved island, we are blessedly healthy, and the day has involved kayaking, hiking, and plans for a barbecue. The point of all this is that cancer does not take or respect holidays. Once you are done with active treatment, the cancer impact is mostly emotional: the "how many more Passovers or Thanksgivings do I have?" During active treatment, it is even harder. We then have those same fears and worries, but we may also feel crummy and not be able to participate in the festivities as we would wish we could. The only advice then is to be gentle with one's self, lower the expectations, especially around tasks, and hope that next year is better.

  From Cure Today comes this article:  Happy Fourth of July: Cancer Doesn't Take a Break

Breast cancer survivor Barbara Tako recalls a Fourth of July holiday during her chemotherapy treatments

A holiday weekend may provide a welcome distraction for some. My truth is that cancer doesn’t take a break for a holiday weekend. In fact, I remember my hair falling out even as I was watching amazing fireworks a few years ago. I had to pack my wig just in case and I was glad I did. I had to clean up the globs of wet hair from the floor of the shower every morning during that long weekend. Before we left, I remember running into a department store to purchase a bag large enough to hold all the cancer supplies — the medications, the wig, the lengthy instructions, sun screen and a few plastic barf bags. A normal purse just wouldn’t work for that weekend. Ironically, for me, I received numerous compliments for that bag I needed to carry around. - 

Read more:


Add your comment