Christmas: the most wonderful time of the year? Not so much for cancer patients, but this can change
While the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, they quickly can go from joyful to stressful for those dealing with the daily reality of a cancer diagnosis.
Feelings of depression and disconnection can be common. Priorities may change, moods may fluctuate, frustration may increase and disappointment may become the new normal.
If you, or someone close to you, has received a cancer diagnosis or is undergoing treatment during the holidays, do your best to accept the feelings, thoughts or emotions they are dealing with, and above all else, be flexible to these changes.
Here is some advice that may help cancer patients through the holidays:
Talk to your loved ones honestly. Let them know you may be living on a roller coaster during the holidays and ask them to understand and support you. Communicate what you need so you can receive the support you need. Cry, laugh and share your thoughts. You may find great comfort in expressing your feelings.
During this time of year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with holiday parties, shopping, decorating and cooking. Cancer can be exhausting. Your first priority is you. You can buy cookies or decorate the house a little less, and your friends will understand if you miss a party or two. Accept offers of help. Your family and friends gladly will step forward to lend a hand.
Enjoy the present.
Don’t focus on what you are missing this year; instead cherish each moment and take time to relax. Practice mindfulness.
Do what you want to do.
Plan your “to dos” around your energy levels. Prioritize your list and choose to do the things you enjoy the most. This may help to keep your spirits high.
Surround yourself with family and friends.
They want to support you and offer comfort, hope and some fun. Try not to isolate yourself
And, here is some advice for loved ones who want to help but don’t know how:
Accept and respect your loved one’s wishes. They need you more than ever. You are the no-judgment zone. Make sure your loved one knows they can be open and honest with you
Offer to help and do it!
Instead of saying, “let me know if you need anything,” do something. Plan a girls’ night and bring over a movie and pizza, run errands, clean the house, bring over a meal or take the kids for the day.
Most of all, be a friend and be there for your loved one, even it is just sitting side by side in silence. This could be the best Christmas present they receive.
Ashley Richardson, DO, is a breast surgeon with Comprehensive Breast Care. She completed a breast surgical oncology fellowship at McLaren/Karmanos Cancer Institute in Flint, where she was the first graduate of the fellowship program.
Dr. Richardson conducted her general surgery residency at Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc, and obtained her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
She is a member of the American College of Surgeons/American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the Michigan Osteopathic Association and the American Society of Breast Surgeons.
She is accepting new patients. To make an appointment with Dr. Richardson, call 248.687.7300.