Coping with cancer at the holidays

holidays and cancerThe holiday season brings joy and cheer to many, but what if you are dealing with cancer or recently lost a loved one? This time can also bring on pain and sadness.

It can sometimes feel wrong to be down when everyone around is sharing stories of happiness and pleasure. Expect to have some emotional pain. When the feelings come, let them. Talk about your feelings and let people know if you are having a tough day. This will allow others to support you better. Accept a few invitations to be close with family or friends. Choose the ones that sound most appealing to you at the time, and avoid ones that feel like an obligation. It is okay to say no, people will understand. Although setting limits is important, be careful not to isolate yourself. People often feel lonely at the holidays and refusing every invitation can heighten this.

Simple tips to make this difficult holiday season a little easier:

  • If the idea of holiday shopping overwhelms you, buy gifts online or through catalogs.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations such as, “in spite of this difficult time, I will try to enjoy this season.”
  • Feel comfortable telling people around you that you might not have the energy that you usually have during the holidays. Ask for help with cards, wrapping, etc. This also helps people who care about you feel useful.
  • Prepare yourself for January. Sometimes the aftermath of any big event can bring on a sense of loneliness.
  • Minimize financial stressors, set a budget and stick to it.
  • Get regular exercise, even walking helps remove tension and improve mood.
  • Take time for yourself, for relaxation and solitude.
  • Remember, laughter can be very healing!
  • Know that limiting exposure to the holidays can be the best option for some.


  • Hide your feelings from children in an effort to “be strong” for them or protect them. You’ll only be teaching them to deny their own feelings.
  • Don’t act as if everything is the same, unless you truly feel this way.
  • Don’t be afraid to cry. Crying lets the steam out.
  • Don’t use alcohol to mask the pain.

Overall, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. Some may wish to stick with tradition, while others might choose to change things. Don’t feel you have to make every moment perfect, you might just end up exhausting yourself both physically and emotionally by doing this. Most of all, take advantage of the holiday season. It’s a time to lighten up, and celebrate life and what is meaningful to you.

Take the next step:

yoga for cancerCancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor is a local non-profit affiliate of The Cancer Support Community (CSC). The Cancer Support Community is the largest and most comprehensive program in the country devoted solely to providing emotional support and education to people with cancer, their caregivers and children – all free of charge. Its mission is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. The Cancer Support Community is a resource for education and information, and a place to gain support – all in an environment of acceptance and hope.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.