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Tips for Managing the Holidays During Cancer Treatment

Georgia Pennington, MSW

December 9, 2020

The holidays are typically viewed as a season of festivity and a time to come together with loved ones. Many people spend this time reflecting on memories made over the past year and surround themselves with hope and joy as they talk about their future. However, this time of year may not have the same meaning for people coping with cancer. What is seen as a joyous time for some people may bring up a wide range of emotions for cancer patients and their families. Patients and families may be concerned about managing their time between appointments, treatment, and holiday gatherings. They may feel anxious about participating in holiday traditions as treatment and follow up care can be physically and mentally taxing. The cost of cancer care can be financially challenging can cause additional stress during the holiday season. As the holiday approaches, it is important to be mindful that this season may also bring up emotions other than joy and happiness. Fortunately, there are ways to support families coping with cancer. Here are a few tips:

  • Create new holiday traditions: It may be time for a new holiday tradition! Your loved one may not feel like getting dressed up, so have everyone wear pajamas instead.
  • Discuss expectations and be flexible – Cancer care can be physically exhausting. Leave it up to your loved one to participate in family gatherings. Sometimes plans may change last minute as they may unexpectedly not feel well.  
  • Rethink gift giving- Instead, give a gift of food. While some patients may not be able to eat the food you send due to their treatment-related side effects, a gift of food may give them peace of mind knowing they do not have to cook for the holidays.
  • Donate to cancer research or foundations- This can be a way to show support for your loved one while simultaneously helping others facing a similar situation.
  • Listen and acknowledge- Recognize when your loved one needs support and give a listening ear.
  • Offering your help to caregivers – Caregivers may feel overwhelmed during the holiday season while trying to balance holiday responsibilities with caring for their loved ones. Offering your help with decorating, baking, or other holiday responsibilities can be an excellent way to assist your loved one during the holidays.
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