Decking the halls, shopping for presents, and preparing milk and cookies for Santa Claus can be stressful. The holiday season can be especially challenging for cancer patients and their family members, who may be struggling to embrace the holiday spirit in between cancer treatment and side effects.
If someone in your life is battling cancer, you may be wondering how to make the holidays better and more festive for them. Here are some helpful recommendations from our patients and their loved ones:
- There may be no better gift than time and a listening ear
A friend or family member facing cancer needs your love and support, even if they fail to tell you directly. Be there for them, whether by phone, email, in person, or even on social media. Let them express themselves, share their thoughts, and become vulnerable without judgment.
Read How to Deal With My Friend Having Cancer? for more advice on how to help someone cope with the emotional and psychological effects of cancer.
- What does a cancer patient need to do to get a hug around here?
There are many reasons to give and receive hugs. Hugs reduce stress, protect against diseases, boost heart health, and make people happier. In cancer patients, a heartfelt hug may even help reduce feelings of fear and pain.
Just a reminder: Hugging is not COVID-safe. However, for the sake of love and merriment, here’s how to hug safely during a pandemic.
- Arrange a pajama party for your loved one and their “quarantine squad”
On most days, even on Christmas or New Year’s, a cancer patient may not want to wear a fancy dress or suit and tie. Having the patient and everyone else wear pajamas may make the patient feel more comfortable, as well as help make their day feel more festive.
Alternatively, in light of the global pandemic, if you wish to remain as safe as possible, you can send your loved one some comfy pajamas and slippers instead of having a holiday gathering.
- Volunteer to do the decorating
Hanging ornaments, stockings, mistletoes, lights, and other festive pieces can be overwhelming for anyone with a big family, and even more so for people who struggle with fatigue from cancer and its treatments. This year, make decorating for the holidays a fun family activity. As for the person in your life dealing with the symptoms and side effects of cancer, let them sit back and relax with an immune-boosting smoothie. Of course, they are always welcome to join in on the fun.
- Don’t be afraid to say the word “cancer” around the patient
You might feel like avoiding the c-word, especially if you are trying to brighten someone’s spirits during the holidays. But the chances are high that your loved one is already thinking about it. Do not be afraid to discuss cancer and say, “I am here for you and I love you.”
- Do the shopping and gift-wrapping for them
Until the COVID-19 chapter comes to a close, it is best for immune-compromised cancer patients to avoid crowded shopping centers, especially since the United States is leading with 7,408,707 active coronavirus cases as of December 23rd, 2020.
Offering to shop for someone with cancer will help keep them safe and eliminate some of the stress that accompanies the holidays. And, to keep yourself COVID-free during this time, online shopping is an available and convenient option. Just remember to sanitize the packages when they arrive.
- Maintain a happy, lively environment
Go ahead and sing, dance, play games, laugh, talk about life, and do not hesitate to celebrate. Just because someone with cancer does not feel their best does not mean they want everyone around them to be glum during fun holiday activities. Give them the chance to join in, too.
- Keep the house neat and tidy
Vacuum, do laundry, take out the trash, and change the sheets. Do whatever needs to be done around the house — without being asked.
- Cook, bake, or order their favorite dishes
Prepare or order something delightful for your loved one, such as dark chocolate cookies or creamy broccoli soup. Just remember to avoid cancer-causing ingredients and educate yourself on the nutritional challenges related to their treatment.
- Have yourself vaccinated
Some conventional cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can weaken the immune system and increase a cancer patient’s risk for life-threatening infections. As such, make sure you are up to date on your vaccines — including the flu vaccine and Tdap — before you begin spending time with a cancer patient or survivor.
- Choose to stay home if you are sick
Bacteria and viruses are unwanted gifts for cancer patients. As mentioned, infections put them at higher risk of complications.
- Run errands, such as grocery shopping or going to the bank
Running errands is part of life, but cancer patients may not always have the energy to do everything on their own. Volunteering to pick up a carton of milk at the supermarket or taking out some money from the nearest ATM will help your friend or family member cross things off their to-do list, reduce stress, and limit exposure to germs and COVID-19.
- Create lasting memories
Christmas is a time for making happy memories. So, create new traditions or maintain as many old ones as possible. There is no need to do something complicated or make arts and crafts. It only requires you, your time, devotion, and attention. Something as simple as sitting by the fireplace and talking about past holiday experiences could be fun and memorable for you and your loved one.
Takeaway: Don’t Let Cancer Ruin the Holidays
Christmas is already hectic for most people. Adding cancer and its treatments, multiple doctor’s appointments, and a life-threatening pandemic can make the holiday season even more stressful. Hopefully, the suggestions listed above can help you and the person in your life living with cancer have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
For non-invasive cancer treatments that help restore the body’s healthy condition pre-diagnosis, call New Hope Unlimited today at 480-757-6573 to schedule a consultation.