Even people in perfect health can feel exhausted and overwhelmed during the holiday season; that feeling is often magnified when you’re undergoing cancer treatment. You may not have the stamina to battle Black Friday crowds, deck the halls or entertain as lavishly as you have in years past, and that’s OK. If you’re a cancer patient try not to overexert yourself, but don’t isolate yourself either. We've put together a few tips for managing the holiday season while undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment.
1. Surround Yourself With Loved Ones
The holiday season is a great opportunity to spend time spend with your entire family. Maybe you have important people you haven't been able to see for a while.
A great way to bring everyone together is to attend get-togethers or holiday parties that include your family and friends. Gatherings like that are a great way to liven up the mood for everyone.
If you aren't able to attend a gathering physically there are always options like Facetime and other video chatting apps that can help you stay connected to your support system, while taking the break that you may need.
2. Temporarily Tweak Holiday Traditions
It’s easy to become caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and become overwhelmed. This year, try to focus on the underlying reason for your traditions: Celebrating relationships and enjoying spending time with loved ones.
Get-Togethers & Family Meals
If you typically host a holiday get-together but don’t feel up to it this year, try handing off the hosting duties to someone else and just enjoy the festivities as much as you can. When you start to feel tired, have a plan prepared for how you can head home when you feel ready.
You can also plan a dinner at one of the many wonderful restaurants in Hampton Roads, Virginia; Northwest North Carolina; and the surrounding areas.
If you’re up to hosting a Christmas dinner, you can do this without as much work as you’d typically do. Ask each guest to bring a dish and have a potluck or have the meal catered.
Holiday Shopping & Decorating
If it’s the excitement of shopping with your favorite people that is your most cherished tradition, you could suggest they pay you a visit and help you pick out some gifts while you shop online, from the comfort of your own home.
Many holiday traditions include decorating a Christmas tree or your home. If you don’t have the stamina to do it on your own, remember that it’s OK to ask for help from friends and loved ones. Maybe in doing so, you can create some new traditions as well.
For many the holidays come with some travel plans, and whether you're traveling near or far, it can be a stressful experience. The most important item to check off before deciding to travel while undergoing cancer treatment is to check with your cancer care team. You may require additional paperwork, medication, immunizations, or insurance.
3. Seek A Confidant or Counselor
You might feel stressed about not being able to participate in the holidays as you usually would. First, try not to let this bother you. Especially at this time of year people love doing this for others -- especially for friends and family members who might need a little bit of extra help.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or overly concerned it's a good idea to seek out someone who you can trust to express to them how you feel. If you don't want to share this with anyone you know a professional counselor is a good alternative and is often covered by insurance. Their outlook on your situation can make it easier to manage your feelings through the holidays.
4. Allow Yourself to Indulge a Little
Many cancer patients experience a smaller appetite or nausea which makes eating difficult. If you find that there are periods of time when you’re feeling well enough to eat, enjoy some of your favorite holiday foods. staying at a healthy weight is important during cancer treatment.
Overeating can cause another set of digestive issues for just about anyone so be sure to keep your selections in moderation.
5. Get Your Rest
Fatigue is a normal side-effect of many cancer treatments, including radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, and it is often described by cancer patients as being one of the most difficult cancer treatment related side-effects to deal with. There is no exception for the holidays. If you are feeling tired, weak, run down, heavy, or have no energy, it is important to listen to your body and take a break. If you are going to participate in holiday traditions make sure to make a plan that incorporates rest and relaxation into your activity. Planning times to rest, eating well, and reducing stress can help you get through your cherished holiday traditions.
6. Consult Your Oncologist
Don't hesitate to consult your oncology care team about the cancer treatment routine during the holiday season. They may be able to accommodate important dates on your holiday schedule. And be sure to tell them if you’re experiencing any side effects that may be new or different. They can help you with managing these, even during the Christmas holiday season.
Make it easier on yourself this year, and if you need help from your cancer specialist at Virginia Oncology Associates, we encourage you to contact us. You’ll be able to visit with us at one of our 9 convenient locations, including Chesapeake, Elizabeth City, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg.