Tips For The Cancer Patient During The Holidays

News — By on December 20, 2010 at 6:42 am

The holiday season brings with it each year a little hope, a little magic and the opportunity to make memories that can last a lifetime. For a cancer patient it can add some additional “snowdrifts” that need to be waded through.
I offer to you, the person about to begin, undergoing, or recently concluded with cancer treatments a few hopefully helpful hints to help you and your families through the next few months of family, friend and work gatherings.
When I asked my wife what advice she would give, the number one thing she offered up was, “Ask for Help.” Pretty simple to say but not always easy to do. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Don’t be afraid that you will be letting someone down if there are things that you simply can’t do this year. The cancer treatment that I am familiar with is for small cell lung cancer, it involved radiation as well as chemotherapy and took a heavy toll on my energy levels as well as appetite and left me feeling drained at times and unable to focus. It took awhile for me to admit that I needed help sometimes just putting on my socks, but once I did begin asking for help, not only did it help me tremendously, it also gave the people around me a sense of usefulness that they were able to contribute in some manner.
Accepting help takes some of the pressure and stress from you and will become a very helpful piece in your recovery plan.
If you’re a parent there is a certain amount of stress that naturally falls on us all to make the holiday season a happy and memorable time for our children. If your going through treatment you might find yourself overcompensating for your illness out of some self-inflicted guilt of the effect on your children. This will lead you to pushing your body harder and farther then you should and could be detrimental to your long term health. Depending on the age of your children, their level of understanding regarding what you are going through is going to help alleviate not only your stress but theirs as well. Be as upfront as you can about how you are feeling. Children are remarkably resilient and most can cope with things better then we give them credit for, the key is to not overwhelm your child with too much at once.
Watch your levels. Make sure you are staying hydrated and that your white and red blood cell counts are remaining consistent. Dehydration was a huge nemesis for me while I was going through treatment.
Make sure you have the things you need. If you have had radiation treatments that came in contact with any part of your throat then you are familiar with a substance called ‘magic mouthwash’ and you don’t want to find yourself without it over a long holiday weekend. If they advise you to use a stool softener do to the medications you are taking then do it. You don’t want that trouble creeping up on you during juniors school pageant.
This brings up the next tip. If you know you have a school function to attend, make sure you get enough rest before hand so that you can make it through. If there is going to be an office party it’s ok to inform people in advance of your intentions. “Sally, are you coming to the boss’s party?” “Yes, I am. I will be there at 7:00 p.m. and plan on staying and visiting with everyone until 8:30, by that time I think I will be ready to call it a night.” You have now set boundaries for your appearance and will leave no one asking at 8:30 “Have you seen Sally?” “I hope nothing happened.” and there should be no discomfort for leaving at a time that is appropriate for you. Be prepared for the endless barrage of questions you are going to receive regarding your health and condition and remember that you are at a festive holiday party and not your own wake so keep the drama to an appropriate level. It’s hard enough sometimes for people to come up with the right thing to say to you when you have cancer, let them off the hook by turning the conversation their way. Ask about their kids, what their plans are for the holidays etc. You’ll find some people who are not comfortable talking about themselves are still more comfortable then asking you about your condition.
Family gatherings are a bit different I think you can walk into a room full of family members and just say up front “Hey gang here I am, I’m feeling pretty good tonight and I appreciate everyone’s concern but let’s just have a good time and not worry about any of this stuff right now.” You can work the room a little differently with family then with co-workers.
The important thing here is that you try to get out to different functions that you are invited to and to the children’s programs, to church, if you attend. These things are as much for you as for them. Will you feel like going, probably not. Will you be able to host and prepare the big dinner this year? Not by yourself you are going to have to do what? That’s right, ask for help.
Don’t miss the important things because of something unimportant like a lack of hair on your head. Ladies that goes for you too. Got a hat, wear a hat. Cancer is nothing to be ashamed of, you are not weak, you have done nothing wrong. Cancer treatments have certain side effects and that’s all there is to it. People don’t point and stare at you. Be prepared because they will look and wonder to themselves “I wonder what’s wrong with that guy?” Followed by “I wonder how I’d look with no hair?” But it’s generally no more than that, a passing glance of curiosity. If you are going to survive, you have to get way beyond that to begin with.
It’s a time to be out with friends and family so don’t deprive yourself of that pleasure, just plan better than you ever have before. Get plenty of rest, plenty of liquids and set your boundaries.
These things are your obligations to fulfill. You might have to ask for help this year, You might not be the raging social butterfly that you have been in the past.
Don’t overcompensate for your illness.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
Don’t jeopardize your health for any reason. Having cancer is like a heavy weight fight, it’s seldom won in the first round, it’s usually decided late in the fight and won by the fighter who is the best prepared to go the distance. save a good portion of your energy for the fight.
Ask for help, it will help the people closest to you cope with your illness if they feel useful. It’s important, don’t deprive them of that.
If you have cancer, the greatest gifts you can give this year are memories. Tell your children or grandchildren stories of holidays past(please leave out the walked up hill to school in a blizzard both ways stories) but share who you are with the people you love and regardless of your fate, you will live on forever.
My holiday wish for you is to be telling the story of the year you beat cancer for Christmas, many years from now to a healthy generation of great grandchildren who don’t even know what the word cancer means.
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