Cancer and the holidays…

Your loved one has cancer.  That news hit you like a ton of bricks.  And now, it is holiday times…a time for celebrating, gift giving, lots of food and joy.  How do you navigate the holiday waters with your loved one who is challenged by cancer?  As we say over and over in the book Living Like A Lady When You Have Cancer, we will never have all of the answers.  But, we do have some thoughts that may be helpful to you.  Importantly, we encourage you to share the thoughts, ideas and insights that you have that may be helpful to others.  Go to our share your story page and we can help connect your insights with others.

Today, let’s focus on fatigue….fatigue is common during the holidays, even when you are not struggling with cancer.  There is the shopping, the cooking, the baking, the making sure you know what everyone wants, the not disappointing anyone, the additional shopping for the items you forgot, the wrapping, oh, and of course, the decorating.  For the lady going through cancer treatments, in addition to fatigue from the lists of things to do, her body is challenged by the treatments as well, to the point that fatigue may completely overwhelm her.  Encourage her to sleep, to take the naps she needs.  Help her reserve her strength for those special days when family and friends are all around.

To help her with fatigue, begin by understanding what is important to her during the holidays.  Does she want to stay with all her traditions, or would she like to change even eliminate a few traditions this year?  Which traditions can you help her with?  If she has a list prepared, can you do the shopping, or the wrapping for her?  Can you bake the cookies?  Is it easier for her if you bring the dinner to her house or to have her family come to your home?  Can you do the decorating?  Perhaps you could organize her “elves”, or friends, to each take a different task to help her through the holidays.  Remember, every time you take a little task off her list, you are giving her not just the completion of the task, but the gift of rest.

I went through my final chemo two weeks before Christmas.  While I had done much of the shopping on-line, I had yet to do any of the wrapping.  While I slept, my beautiful sister, Jennifer, wrapped and wrapped and wrapped.  When I awoke from one of my naps, I looked at the gifts and exclaimed how lovely they looked – and that it looked as if I had wrapped them.  She wrapped them just the way I always did – with lots of bows and ribbons.  She smiled and reminded me that she had been receiving gifts from me for years and knew just how to make them look like I had done it.  What an amazingly thoughtful gift.  Not simply doing the wrapping, but doing it in the way of my tradition.