Sunday, November 21, 2010

Surviving the Holidays with Cancer

This is my second holiday season undergoing some form of cancer treatment. Last Thanksgiving, I was recovering from my mastectomy, and I had my second chemo on December 23rd. This year, I am recovering from the reconstruction surgery I had on the 18th.

After two years of holidays being impacted by cancer, I have a few tips on getting through the season:

1. Enlist Family and Friends
I was a "do it all myself" person. No potluck in my house, no way.  I created gourmet meals, set a beautiful table with napkin rings and everything, and cleaned and decorated. When you can't lift your arms, all of that has to go, and so I asked for help. Family cleaned my house, cooked Thanksgiving dinner, brought their own dishes - and you know what? It was more fun. For the first time, I got to sit and relax and let others do the work. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I waited a year to have my next surgery so I would have an excuse to do it all again! This year, I'm buying a Thanksgiving meal from Whole Foods. It's not about the food, it's about the family.  I will play games with them rather than spend time in the kitchen.

2. Lower Expectations
If your holiday doesn't include 500,000 lights on the house, a themed Christmas tree in every room and a night of caroling in costume - does it really matter? If you can't pick up the laundry off the dining room table, will your family love you less? Being bald and tired on Christmas distills the meaning of the holiday down to its most important element - having your family smiling at you. (And, of course, giving you a kindle)

3. Go easy
Chemo makes you tired, especially at the end. You can't taste, you don't have energy. Surgery makes it hard to move and do the things you want to do. You may be feeling discouraged, and like treatment will never end. Take this time to relax. Light a holiday candle and let the undone chores go. Choose the most important traditions - making a great day for a little one, for example - and let the superfluous go. It's not the time to fret about what you used to do. Read a book, reflect on your life, allow your body to rest, and let the pressures of the holiday go. Health is now your goal, not an elaborate, perfect holiday.

4. Shop Online
Low white counts mean being in holiday crowds can be dangerous. Plus, depending on where you are in your chemo schedule, walking may be exhausting. Take advantage of deal sites like or Amazon's vast list of items, (please use my search box on the right) and do all of your shopping online. Amazon will even wrap for you. I did 100% of my Christmas shopping online last year and I will likely do the same this year.  Yes, you miss the crowds and store decorations, but having nice young men in brown clothes bring you packages is also a plus. 

If you would like to chat with me about getting through the holidays with cancer, or chat with other Sacramento Connect bloggers as well as The Bee's Niesha Lofing and Debbie Arrington about Surviving the Holidays (whether you have cancer or not) use the chat window below. The chat will start at noon California time.

1 comment:

  1. I've been quietly following your posts for some time now. This is my second holiday season since learning of my breast cancer as well. Dec 16th, reconstruction works on the nipples! :) You have a beautiful page - keep up the great writing. You can find me at

    Happy Thanksgiving and may you and yours have a very blessed Christmas this year. It's amazing how much more special it seems with every passing moment.....


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