How to Stay Flexible, Kind & In Contact During the Holidays
Even in the best of times, navigating the holidays can be challenging. You have that one cousin who may always have their distinct opinion, and your auntie’s wry humor may keep you on your toes. Among all the commotion, nothing feels quite as challenging as trying to enjoy the holidays when you or a loved one is fighting their best fight against cancer. The situation can feel helpless, but supporting a cancer patient in little ways can go far.
Tips for Family or Friends
Epic Care nurse Colleen Birmingham understands how to support family members while they battle cancer. Thanks to her decades of experience treating cancer patients, Colleen shared how to help people cope with their new circumstances so the holidays can stay as joyous as possible.
Remember to Stay Adaptable
Because cancer symptoms are somewhat unpredictable, patients sometimes don’t want to make plans because they don’t want to disappoint others or themselves.”Someone might think they’re going to feel great on Christmas or New Year’s or Thanksgiving, and then the day before, they don’t,” Colleen said. “And that can often feel like a disappointment for themselves or their family.”
To get ahead of these emotions, check in with your loved one regularly and manage your expectations about how you talk about their abilities. Respecting boundaries is important at this delicate point in their lives, and you should strive to ensure they feel comfortable.
On the other hand, “patients might want to do everything,” Colleen explained. “Instead, listen to what’s most important to them at this time of year — and help where you can.” As their loved one, think of yourself as being their support system. Pay attention to their mood and offer creative ways to help them slow down if you see they may be overdoing it.
Additionally, Colleen adds that if a loved one has passed from the disease, some traditions may be too painful to carry on in the shadow of cancer. If you still need time to grieve, you can always turn those customs into new ones or table them. Consider celebrating him or her by creating a new tradition in their honor. Write a letter to them, host a ceremony in remembrance, or donate your time to a local charity close to their heart.
Whether it’s the holidays or not, regularly check on the patient in person and look out for health-related changes, such as weight loss, too. Colleen stressed that visits should be done following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
Tips for Patients Coping with Cancer During the Holidays
If you have been recently diagnosed or are currently undergoing treatment, consider these tips to help you cope with cancer during the holiday season:
- Create a routine. Include sitting in a chair for at least a half-hour to eat before returning to bed.
- Turn on lights around the house. Adding light to your routine can actually help you sleep better.
- Light candles. The act of lighting a candle and smelling the scent ignites senses to improve your mood.
- Play music. Whether it is holiday music, your favorite music or something new, the rhythm to music can help you breathe better.
- Take your energy outside. Sitting in nature, even if it is just on the back deck, allows you to breathe
- Take care of yourself. Whether you are just making sure that you eat and shower regularly or that you are partaking in some of your favorite activities, these rewards will make you feel good and relaxed.
- Try a new tradition. You could plan a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before, or start new customs with family and friends.
Colleen explains: “If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it is the value of getting back to the basics.” For cancer patients, that approach can accommodate everyone this year.
Colleen also shared a moment that has stuck with her through the years and may help others: “A cancer patient once told me that she actually started living a better life once she learned how to live with the condition. The patient said, ‘when you can learn to kind of accept that this is a part of your life and you’re able to enjoy the things that are meaningful to you, then that’s the gift of healing, truly.’”
“You have to make life easy because it makes you reflect on what’s important,” Colleen concluded with a hopeful smile.
If you or a loved one are struggling this season, please check in with your doctor, loved ones, and consider available resources provided on epic-care.com. From all of us at Epic Care, we wish you and yours happy holidays.