Coping With Cancer During Holiday Cheer

Cancer can make the holidays more difficult for patients and families so keep it simple

(RxWiki News) The holiday bustle can be a bit much to cope with for people going through cancer treatments or those who have lost someone to cancer. Here are a few tips to manage the holidays.

Tips for pacing and coping through the holidays from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute can help lower stress.

Start with keeping things simple and taking time to rest before and after every commitment and don’t forget to make time to indulge a little in a favorite activity.

"When you're battling cancer, don’t be afraid to voice your needs."

Sarah Reed, MPH, MSW, from the Adult Survivorship Program, an affiliate of the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, gives helpful tips for people touched by cancer to manage stress during the holidays.

Ms. Reed said, “There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. Dealing with illness, or grieving a loss, can make tasks such as shopping, baking and decorating overwhelming or impossible. It’s important to find what works and is comfortable for you.”

Ms. Reed has put together a go-to list for coping well with the balancing act of cancer in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.


  • Being the perfect host or hostess may have to take a backseat this year, but that doesn’t mean zero participation either. Choose one or two of your favorite holiday traditions and enlist helpers to lighten the load. Turn a holiday dinner into a potluck, form an assembly line for cookie making or delegate it all out to others.The most important thing is not to overextend, overwhelm or overdo.

Use the Internet:

  • The days of mandatory holiday shopping madness are gone. With the vast world of online shopping, everything can be purchased from the comfort of a bed or couch. Even the gift wrapping process can be delegated to many online stores or invite people over to have a gift wrapping party. Many grocery stores offer online order and delivery service. If the process of getting out to shop is too exhausting, use the virtual world to manage everything instead.

Don’t repress, express:

  • A lot of emotions can surface with cancer or the holidays. Combine the two and emotions can run over. This is perfectly acceptable. Whether talking to a friend or family member or seeking professional help from a counselor, speaking freely and maybe even shedding tears can help relieve the stress, sadness and joy.

Put your body first:

  • The holidays are exhausting. Be sure to rest as much as possible before and after events and gatherings. Taking a walk with family or friends can also be a rejuvenating activity.

Take time for yourself:

  • Plan an activity to indulge in that is a break from any worry, stressor or obligation. Schedule a message, take a long bath, watch a movie and have coffee with a friend, just make sure to do something that is a treat and brings you joy.

Focus on the parts of the holiday that bring happiness and support and take a break from anything hectic this holiday season. There is no reason to let the holidays become a stressful and exhausting event. Above all, take care of yourself.

This press release was published in December on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute website.

Review Date: 
December 19, 2012