Written by Lisa Yen, NP, NBC-HWC - December 9, 2018
The holidays and cancer sound like two words that simply don’t go together. The holiday season can bring up so many emotions.
Fatigue…Simply the thought of decorating the house, shopping, and wrapping presents is exhausting.
Interactions with others…What will I tell distant relatives who are seeing me for the first time since my diagnosis? How will they react? How do I keep my loved ones from worrying about me during this celebratory season? How many well-meaning people will tell me about a miracle cancer cure? How many times will I hear, “But you look so good…”?
Worry…How will I explain to my kids that the holidays will be different this year? What can I eat and drink? What will life look like next year?
Stress…In the past, holidays used to be a certain way. I feel like I should be able to carry on these traditions. How do I manage all that needs to get done? How can I celebrate when I’ve experienced so much loss?
It may be easy to feel like saying, “Bah humbug!”
How not to allow Cancer to be a Scrooge:
Let go of expectations of yourself.
Release yourself from the expectations of how things “should be” or “used to be.” Find creative alternatives to holiday traditions.
Take yourself off the hook from the need to do everything yourself. Ask for help and delegate responsibilities.
Acknowledge and accept feelings of sadness. Allow yourself the time and space to feel sad. Give yourself permission to talk about your feelings with people that you feel safe with, whether it is a significant other, family member, support group, or professional. More resources on managing depression and other emotions are listed below.
Slow down and keep things simple.
Learn to say “no.”
Plan your time and energy wisely to avoid overdoing it. Break down tasks into manageable chunks. Pace yourself.
Build in moments to simply take a breath.
Holiday grocery shopping can be chaotic and tiring. Here are practical tips on how to make holiday grocery shopping easier.
Be prepared for interactions.
Prepare a script. Consider your responses to potential questions and situations.
Plan an exit strategy. Prepare an escape plan for uncomfortable interactions or for times when you feel fatigued.
Be intentional in your self-care.
Eat balanced, healthy meals. Eat and drink in moderation. For more on nutrition, see below.
Physical activity can help release tension and reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.
Protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu and other illnesses by taking proper precautions:
If you are bringing food to a holiday gathering, prepare by reading these tips on how to prevent food-borne illnesses.
If you plan to send food gifts, follow proper these food safety guidelines.
Schedule in “me” time.
Allow yourself simple pleasures (light a candle, nap, walk) or activities (going to a movie, dinner, or sporting event) that provide a distraction and may help lift your mood.
Laugh with NET patient and comedian Steve Mazan.
Find support. Ask for help and allow yourself to receive it.
Nutrition Information for NET patients:
In this article, NETRF provides excellent information about what to eat and what to avoid, resources for recipes, and meal preparation.
Nutritionist Leigh Anne Burns shares helpful nutrition tips specific for NET patients:
Here are more videos on nutrition for NET patients:
Nutrition & Integrative Oncology presentation by Carolyn Katzin from the 2016 Los Angeles NET Patient Education Conference
NET Nutrition presentation by Meghan Stewart from the LACNETS 2015 Los Angeles Patient Education Conference
For NET patients with Carcinoid Syndrome (CCF), check out this excellent resource from Carcinoid.com.
Resources for Depression:
Feeling blue? Read this article about cancer and depression by NETRF and consider taking this anonymous online self-assessment.
Depression hotlines are available if you are experiencing depression or if you have a friend or loved one who may be depressed.
The American Cancer Society is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can help you find support online, local bereavement groups, and other resources. Call 1-800-227-2345.
FOR THOSE GRIEVING LOSS:
Managing Emotions, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Coping With Grief During the Holidays, American Cancer Society
Grief, Bereavement and Coping with Loss, National Cancer Institute
Helping a Grieving Parent, American Hospice Foundation
Mourning the Death of a Spouse, National Institute on Aging