Family Living Focus: Cancer during the holidays

Family Living Focus

FROM: Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota

The holidays can be a difficult time of year when you or a loved one is facing cancer. Your usual traditions may be disrupted by treatment needs or unpleasant side effects; the demands of the season may feel overwhelming when combined with the emotions stirred by dealing with a serious illness.

The following tips and resources can help get you through


Give yourself permission to feel and express your feelings, whether of joy, fear, sadness, or pain. Let yourself laugh or cry.

Take care of yourself. Eat balanced meals and make time for some exercise. Physical activity is a good way to release the tension that builds around this time of year.

Allow yourself simple pleasures such as hot baths, naps, favorite foods and other activities that will help lift your mood.

Find distractions like going to a movie, dinner, or a ball game; playing cards with friends, or other activities you enjoy.

Prepare for the holidays. Decide if you want to continue certain traditions or create new ones. Plan in advance how you want to spend your time, with whom, and for how long.

Enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, meal preparation, and cleanup.

Learn to say no. You don’t have to participate in everything. People will understand if you can’t do certain activities.


Don’t pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations or try to do everything yourself.

Don’t overindulge in alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can “bring out” or heighten bad feelings.

Don’t try to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Don’t shop ’til you drop. Stick to a budget if you are going shopping. Buying things will not make up for any negative feelings you are having. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then stick to your budget.

Don’t plan too much per day. Plan ahead, setting aside specific days for specific tasks.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Eat and drink in moderation. Get plenty of sleep.

Learn From Others:

Other cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers can also be a source of comfort and support during the holiday season.

Check out local support groups and online communities to connect directly with people who know what you’re going through.


Information from article by the American Cancer Society, December 3, 2012.

If you would like more information on “Cancer During the Holidays” feel free to contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus – University of Minnesota at Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.


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