The holidays are a time to celebrate, but oftentimes they can also be a time of stress as we try to create the perfect celebration. Organizing holiday festivities, bringing together family and friends, decorating, shopping, cooking, hosting—the list goes on! It can all be very demanding, and adding lung cancer to the mix adds even more pressure.
After a lung cancer diagnosis, it’s easy to feel like you can’t keep up anymore and that your holidays will never be the same. They can be special, as long as you remember to take care of yourself first before taking care of the holidays.
Here are some tips from some survivors and caregivers of lung cancer for how to have a festive holiday while managing cancer:
Tracy M, Patient/Survivor: “Being diagnosed with lung cancer made me realize that life is short, even if you live to 100. It made me realize I needed to start living, so my first Christmas and Hanukkah after diagnosis I celebrated hard, including having a “Tracy’s Kicking Cancer’s Ass” party right after the New Year.”
Don’t stress about a picturesque holiday.
Tesera W, Patient/Survivor: “One of the challenges with a late stage cancer diagnosis is the temptation to put a huge emphasis on holidays and make them of monumental importance, in case it is the last one or the last one without worse health problems. But I don’t think that means our lives need to look like we just fell out of a Hallmark holiday movie. To me, the real spirit of the holiday comes from being present with my most precious family and friends, enjoying our simple celebrations whether or not the setting is perfect, and taking time to relax whenever possible. Even if this is my last holiday, I truly doubt my kids will remember if I put up a holiday wreath with the most perfect bow but they may remember if we share some time connecting, regardless of the less than picturesque setting.”
Do keep your health in mind when making holiday plans.
Ivy E, Patient/Survivor: “Make sure to keep some downtime for yourself — it’s very easy to exhaust yourself during the holidays with shopping, cooking and making things perfect for your family. Try to schedule time for yourself as well so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. Figure out what works best for you — napping, reading, a massage —and make sure it’s included in your holiday plans!”
Danielle P, Caregiver: “Extended family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, etc, will all try and pull you in different directions and throw their weight around. Try your best to ignore it and focus only on making good memories. Schedule whatever you like, and whatever you/your person want to schedule. If it does not give you/your person pleasure to schedule something, strike it from your calendar.
Do cancel if you are tired.
Danielle P, Caregiver: “There is no shame in cancelling. If you aren’t feeling up to the thing, don’t go. Too tired? Don’t go. Sick to your stomach? Don’t go. You don’t owe explanation. Those who care about you know your situation and should understand.
Don’t think you have to do it on your own.
Ivy E, Patient/Survivor: “Don’t forget to ask for help — there’s no need to feel like you have to do everything that you’ve done in the past. You family and others who love you will completely understand.”
Do take care of yourself.
Jill H-W, Patient/Survivor: “Practice self-care. Bring nutritious food to a potluck and eat it! Taste that decadent treat that looks so delicious! But if it doesn’t taste as good as it looks, stop after the first bite! Get fresh air and exercise every opportunity you can.”
Don’t be afraid to talk cancer.
Jill W, Caregiver: “Share stories and photos. Make good memories. Keep normalcy to the day, but feel comfortable talking openly about end of life decisions if you haven’t done so already. Once the talk of dying is over, everyone can focus on living.”
Do enjoy your holiday to the fullest.
Jill H-W, Patient/Survivor: “None of us know how long we’ve got. I was diagnosed on December 12, 2013. I received my second chemo on December 24th. I felt like a deer in the headlights that Christmas. There were so many emotions and pressures. My kids were 6, 10 & 12. I thought that it would be my last Christmas. Thankfully, I’m still here five years later. Cherish every moment! Say the things you know you should say. Seek reconciliation, ask for forgiveness, tell them you love them. Take lots of pictures. Laugh and be silly. Live life while you can. Seize the day!”