Christmas is a time of joy, festivities, family, friends, love and laughter. However, for many Christmas can be the most harrowing and difficult time of year, writes Ellen Joyce, Director of Services at Cork ARC Cancer Support House.
Cancer is never a welcome ‘visitor’ at Christmas. The feelings experienced because of cancer are exacerbated. Feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, anxiety, anger, isolation, loss and sadness are so normal and holiday traditions can be a reminder of how life has changed and make dealing with these feelings more difficult. Remember, everyone feels different, and feel different things at different times.
BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF AND THOSE AROUND YOU
Christmas will come and go. Spending time with the ones who you feel most comfortable and at ease with is the most important thing. Everything else can wait.
REST WHEN NEEDED
Tiredness can be a problem during and after cancer treatment. Listen to your body, and rest when you need to. Pace yourself throughout the day by alternating activities and rest. Prioritize what you need your energy for and don’t waste energy on people or things that are not meaningful for you. Limit visitors to the times of the day when you feel most rested.
ASK FOR HELP
“To learn to receive will be the best gift you can give.” If you feel fatigued or overwhelmed or just not able, it is ok to ask for help. It is amazing how this helps those who want to do something for you. So reach out – ask, delegate and receive with grace and gratitude. It is what Christmas is all about.
KEEP THINGS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE
Forget all the “must dos” and “must haves” at Christmas time. Think of what nourishes your body, heart, soul and spirit and you will be surprised how easy Christmas can be. It is the simple things that mean the most and are and the most fulfilling.
DEALING WITH FEELINGS
Remember, everyone feels different, and feel different things at different times. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Partners, families and friends will be going through their own feelings. Don’t presume what feelings others are experiencing. Avoid clichés such as: “but you are looking great” or “don’t worry you will be fine.” Talking through how you feel with someone close can help. If you don’t want to talk to family remember Cork ARC provide a listening service for Cancer patients and their families.
EATING AND DRINKING
Often Christmas can be focused around eating and drinking. Don’t feel under pressure to do the same. No appetite, taste change, nausea and difficulty with swallowing can all be side effects of treatment. Stick to small portions of the foods you are comfortable with, don’t be afraid to say “no thank you” or “I will pass on this one.” The most important part is that you can make the most of the connections with family and friends during the festive season.
AVAIL OF THE SERVICES AROUND YOU
There are many local support services in every community. They are there to help you and understand what you are going through. There are also many helpful information booklets available online, such as the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Coping with Christmas when you are bereaved booklet.