Coping With Cancer During The Holidays - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 19, 2012

Coping With Cancer During The Holidays

The holiday season is, for most folks, truly the "most wonderful time of the year." However, for a variety of reasons, it can be an emotionally difficult time for some people. And experiencing the joy of the season can be troubling when cancer has invaded your world.

Whether you yourself are fighting the disease or if it’s a loved one, cancer can hang over everything at this time of year. But cancer patients and their families can navigate the holiday season in a way that is comfortable for them, takes into consideration all their emotions, and still provides an opportunity for seasonal joy.

Here are some guideposts for cancer patients and their caregivers during the holidays:

  • Don’t get stuck in the old way of doing things. Don’t just do things because that’s always how you’ve done them; consider having the big holiday dinner at someone else’s house this year if it’s going to ease your burden. And don’t be afraid to try to establish new traditions by simplifying your preparations, whether that means ordering out for the holiday meal, or not making the eggnog from scratch. Delegating some of the work that traditionally falls on your shoulders is more than acceptable too.
  • Adjust expectations. Cancer treatments can leave you drained, and that’s before the emotional aspect of dealing with the disease. So don’t be afraid to scale back what you do this holiday season, whether it’s hosting fewer people, attending other social events or just simplifying your gift buying. And don’t feel badly about adjusting those expectations downward just a bit.
  • Enjoy special moments. Rather than dwelling on the way things used to be, try to focus instead on the special moments that do occur. On the other hand…
  • Cut yourself some slack. If you’re not feeling up to it, don’t beat yourself up because you can’t get into the spirit. Give yourself permission to feel and express sadness and frustration. Be true to yourself and don’t feel like you need to live up to some ideal of what the holidays should be. Be real.
  • Don’t partake of that great holiday tradition – stress. People get wound up during the holidays; there’s so much to do and they want to do it perfectly. Even under the best conditions, they’re likely to be disappointed. So try not to get pulled in to the energy-sapping competition that many people stage during the holidays.
  • Celebrate! Try to take time to celebrate with your loved ones.   

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients.

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