SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS WITH CANCER

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.

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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:

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  • 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.

  • Plan ahead.

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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.

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Physical activity can help release tension and reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.

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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.

  • Listen to inspirational music by NET patients Giovanna Imbesi or Tom Bajoras.

  • Find support. Ask for help and allow yourself to receive it.

    • Join LACNETS.

    • Join a local support group. Click here for a directory of NET support groups.

    • Connect with others online. Click here for a directory of online support and discussion groups.



Nutrition Information for NET patients:

For NET patients with Carcinoid Syndrome (CCF), check out this excellent resource from Carcinoid.com.

Resources for Depression:

FOR THOSE GRIEVING LOSS: