beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

To find a doctor, call 800-667-5356 or click below:

Find a Doctor

Request an Appointment

left banner
right banner
Smaller Larger

Cancer and the Holidays

Posted 12/11/2013

Posted in

  The holidays are definitely upon us. I can ignore the Christmas decorations that begin to appear in late October and even the trees that start to go up the minute the Thanksgiving turkey has been carved. Since we were away for the first week in December, I even have managed to delay my obsessive thoughts about the approaching holidays. But here we are; it is December 11th, and I can pretend no longer. As some of you know, the major challenge in my life is a Christmas Eve party which gets larger each year--followed, of course, by Christmas morning and its small details of stocking (13, I think, this year) and food and more festivities. Blessedly, I am healthy and well and able to take all of this on with "only" the normal amount of grumbling, but it is much tougher for those who are in the midst of active treatment of coping with bad news.

  If this holiday season feels particularly daunting or painful or sad, think carefully about how you want to manage it. In spite of our ties to traditions and sense of responsibility to others, there really is little that can't be changed. The easy things are considering how to minimize the work, reduce the tasks. For example, cookies can be purchased rather than made, and shopping can be limited or done online. If you are in the midst of treatment, no one is going to expect you to produce the usual holiday extravagaza, and the trick is really convincing yourself that it is okay to do less. Or even to do nothing. Is dinner always at your house? Speak up and say you are not up to it this year, that someone else needs to host.

  This is an excellent article from Kathy LaTour's blog about holidays. I will give you the beginning and a link. Then look for a second link to a more serious article from CancerNet about managing these weeks.

Ho ho horrible holidays

  I don't know a cancer survivor who doesn't have some kind of issue with the holidays. All the focus on family, faith, fun and the future can wear on people who now may have different relationships with their family, may be suffering a trial of faith, who haven't had fun in a while (unless you consider racing up and down hospital hallways with your IV pole fun), and who no longer can be sure of the future as guaranteed.

  There are so many issues with the holidays for cancer survivors that I don't know where to begin. For me November and December became times to remember every family moment and make them the biggest and best ever--just in case I wasn't going to make it to next year. Since my first holidays came right after I started chemotherapy, I have no memory of them, but I have a feeling I put up a good front since I did the "I am woman and cancer won't keep me down" routine for a few years. I often joke about American women never allowing themselves time to be sick because their identify is tied up in doing Thanksgiving for 30.

  I have had other cancer friends tell me they didn't want to see a bunch of family when they knew they would get the looks that bore through your soul as the person said, "HOWWWWW AREE YOOOUUUU??" while looking at you like you might die any minute.

And for more reading or listening:


Add your comment