Cancer and the Holidays

Last year some part of me knew it was the holiday season, but I was so hyper focused on the cancer journey that everything else was just part of the background. My husband was very sick from treatment and I was exhausted.

What a difference a year makes! This year he is well, and I am rested.

But there are others out there who will be dealing with cancer this holiday season. It may be a friend or loved one. It may even be you.

The holidays can be an especially difficult time for cancer patients and their tribe. A patient may have trouble getting into the holiday spirit because of physical illness or fatigue. The tribe may feel extra stress trying to make everything “perfect”.

No matter what role we play in a cancer journey, patient or tribe, these tips can make the holidays a smoother and happier experience for everyone.


  • Express your feelings. Tears can bring a sense of relief. Laughter can be relaxing. Sharing can be comforting. It is common to experience a mixture of anticipation, excitement and apprehension about the future. Let your feelings breathe, talk them over with a loved one, friend or coach.
  • Be realistic about your energy levels. Change your holiday activities to make the most of your energy. If you don’t feel up to dealing with the crowds at the mall this year try shopping online or asking others to pick up gifts for you.
  • Know your limits. Let everyone know what or how much you can do. Accept help with holiday tasks like cooking, shopping or decorating.
  • Schedule downtime. Making time for rest and relaxation can improve your health and well-being. Let your body tell you how much rest you need, not your to do list.
  • Be selective about your activities and participation. If you don’t feel well enough to participate in all your family holiday traditions, choose the ones that are most meaningful to you. A less hectic holiday may turn out to be even more special.
  • Nourish your body. During the holidays there are more parties, gatherings and family events full of comfort foods and sweet treats. Healthy nutrition is important even during the holidays. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some treats, just make sure you are well-nourished with healthy foods first.
  • Be present in the moment. Don’t focus on what was or what should be, focus on what is. Enjoy the moment and relax. Practice mindfulness.

Regardless of your circumstances, this holiday season will come and go, and next year will be different. Make this a season of joy by spending time with the people that you love, doing the things that you love.


Do you know someone whose life is touched by cancer? For an honest conversation about cancer and how coaching can help CLICK HERE to schedule a free discovery call with Dr. Melanie Dunlap. Providing support to patients, survivors and caregivers.

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