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Top 13 Holiday Tips for Patients & Caregivers

joemetz's picture
Posts: 493
Joined: Nov 2011

Found this excellent blog on the Colon Cancer Alliance web site:


Top 13 Holiday Tips for Patients & Caregivers



The holidays can be a tough time of the year when you’re dealing with cancer. Check out this list of personal tips from our Patient Support Team and Helpline staff.

13 Holiday Tips for Patients, Survivors and Caregivers

  1. Acknowledge and be honest about your feelings – don’t force it when you don’t feel it. The holidays can be stressful enough without the added pressure of trying to “fake it.” It is normal to experience feelings of loss or sadness over how cancer has changed a special occasion. Share the low times AND the high times. Tears can be a big relief and very healing; laughter can be very relaxing. 
  1. Simplify and be honest about your expectations with yourself and others. For example, if you traditionally host a holiday celebration at your home, try inviting fewer guests this year, or not host the event at all. Consider hosting a pot luck dinner, in which others bring most of the food, order from a restaurant or ask a friend or loved one to assist with the cooking. Maybe this year you do your shopping online or nix the holiday cards.
  1. Don’t get bummed out if you are not feeling the holiday spirit. It will come back, just give it time.
  1. Fatigue, discomfort, neuropathy and physical limitations can hinder your traditional holiday tasks.  Think about what matters most, and modify the tasks to meet your needs so you can enjoy the celebrations with less stress and more energy. 
  1. Don’t expect things to be “perfect.” Try to laugh at the reality of the imperfect moments and go with the flow.
  1. Gather around you those who lift your spirits and avoid those who draw you down. The holidays do NOT require you to spend time with negative relatives.  This is a great time to take the focus off of cancer and put it onto the family and friends who mean the most to you.
  1. Don’t think you are superman/woman. Your body may still be fighting to beat the cancer or recovering from treatments.  Give yourself the OK to say NO, I am not up to doing this or that and don’t feel guilty about it.
  1. Sometimes it can be hard to accept help from others. The holidays put many people in a helping mood. If someone offers to help you, let them. That can be a nice holiday gift for you and them.
  1. Put yourself first when you need to, and do something good for yourself. Take some time each day to relax and recharge, even if it is simply taking a walk around the block, reading a book, putting on some soothing music and having a cup of tea or doing deep breathing exercises.
  2. Bundle up and take a walk outside – see the lights and/or just star gaze. If you’re lucky to have snow, make a snowman or snow angel.
  3. Play board or card games with the kids/family. Many people feel pressure to say the right thing to a patient, but playing games gives everyone a healthy and fun distraction and many laughs too!
  4. Watch fun holiday movies together. Boys may especially have a hard time articulating their feelings, but they’re happy just to be with you on the couch watching a movie with some popcorn.
  5. No matter what, do not feel guilty if you can’t do what you’ve done in the past!  Lower expectations and you may find this is your best holiday ever!

We’re Here to Help

Need support during the holiday season? You’re not alone. Call our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030 M-F 9:30-4:30 ET or connect with others through our upcoming My CCA Support Holiday Fellowship Chats.

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5216
Joined: Jan 2013

With temps down to - 26º F here in the desert, you can be sure I'm going to bundle up (#10). 

Thanks for the list, Joe. Its always hard to let things, traditions even, go at this time of year, but sometimes you have to. 

Posts: 1019
Joined: Aug 2013

My poor brother felt so guilty when he didn't feel up to having Thanksgiving dinner with us (#3). We brought the food and trimmings to him and let him eat it when he was ready. I could see he was not feeling well. I am going to read this list to him so he knows he's not alone.

I find as a caregiver, the hardest part is watching how uncomfortable he is. He's not the same,smiling person lately. He is the type of guy that is always smiling from ear to ear, but watching him walking like he's 90 and seeing how tired he gets, just breaks my heart. How do all you caregivers out there handle those feelings?

We had a few inches of snow today and I don't drive in the snow. I had to cancel my echocardiogram and reschedule for next week. I am sure it will be fine.

I promised my best friend that I would do something for me. I think tomorrow I will get my hair done. I looked in the mirror today and realized that I have a stripe down my head. I need a dye job badly and never even noticed. My hubby never said a word, neither did my daughter. LOL (I thought I'd give you all a little chuckle)

I hope everyone is feeling better. Thank you all for welcoming me to your group. You have no idea how much your posts have helped me both emotionally and intellectually. I have learned so much from all of you. 


Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5216
Joined: Jan 2013

It broke my heart (still does) when you said your brother would sneak some chocolate. Buy the man a box of chocolates, and tell him to have one or two a day, I swear it won't hurt and he'll be the happier for it. 

Just saying. 

Posts: 1019
Joined: Aug 2013

I don't stop him from eating anything these days. The doctor had said that sugar feeds cancer, but the poor guy has so many issues, I'm just glad to see him eat anything. He didn't just sneak little pieces of candy, I went to his house one day and he had bought a whole case of chocolate (like the ones you sell at school, the big bars). Originally the doctors had him on a diet because he was morbidly obese and had to have surgery, it wasn't safe. He did lose some weight and is down to a healthier weight, but he's still considered obese. I try to encourage healthy eating, but it's not going to happen. He is happier eating what he likes. I told him that having anything in moderation is okay, just don't go crazy with it. He's an adult (even though he is ID), so I can't make him eat well. I will make suggestions to him and dad, but they eat what they like best. My feeling is that he needs his energy, if I can convince him to eat more protein to build up his strength, a little chocolate here and there is not going to hurt. Don't worry, I'm not being the food police. I just try to encourage him to follow the doctors orders. At this point, my goal is to see him happy!


maglets's picture
Posts: 2596
Joined: Jun 2006

Joe thank you for that list. That is just excellent timing ....well done. I remember one Christmas I had had a liver resection and was coming home.  A girlfriend brought over a simple fozen lasgana....pop it in the oven and a nice bottle of red wine.....my daughter and hubby got me tucked up on the couch with blankets and they enjoyed their well deserved feast with some candles.  i will always remember that night as one of my happiest...The list is right....keep it simple.  I was truly happy just to be home....and they were happy not having to cook their meal....thanks joe


Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5216
Joined: Jan 2013

I didn't mean the post to sound like you were the one stopping him from enjoying his chocolate. My apologies! 

Its more than obvious that you have nothing but the best in mind for your brother. He is a very lucky man. 

Posts: 1019
Joined: Aug 2013

No problem. I wasn't sure if you thought I was being too overprotective. Actually, I was, he's my little brother, but life is too short to not stop and smell the flowers (or eat chocolate)! Thank you for your kind words. I'll make sure I tell him to have an extra piece just for you! Laughing


PS I hope you're feeling well! Stay healthy and have a Happy Holiday!



Posts: 1607
Joined: Aug 2012

Thanks for posting this Joe - I'm having the hardest time with #13.  It's really hard to not keep up with the traditions that the kids have come to expect, but my husband has been in the hospital since mid November ...now in rehab and I just don't see it all getting done.   I want to try to make Christmas normal and special for the kids, but I'm not feeling it...

joemetz's picture
Posts: 493
Joined: Nov 2011


You're doing what it says to do... you are lowering your expectations.

Make the best of what you can, and celebrate the good things that you DO have in life.

a wonderful family and good friends who care.

keep your head up. be strong. lower the expectations and make the best of what you can.

yes it's hard. But with him in the hospital, its time for you to take the lead... be strong and make the best for everyone.

do a celebration of Christmas in his hospital room.

maybe a gift exchange or maybe silly simple gifts for one another.

i'm just trying to thow out anything that might help... be creative. you can do it.




Posts: 496
Joined: Apr 2013

This is awesome, I wish I had been on this board last year when my husband was in the hospital 13 days in December and was able to see this list then.   I did have to cancel my large Christmas dinner at our house and just have 4 of the closest family members - it was SO much nicer and relaxing for all of us.  People got gift cards, cash or maybe nothing.  Everyone just has to figure out what works for them.  It doesn't help every commercial on the television or radio reminds us of how much everyone expects at this time of year.  Once you "let it go" it is a huge burden removed.   Right after 9/11 I lost my long time job and my adult family members were quabbling over who they "had' to buy gifts for.  I made a donation to the NYC Firefighters Widows and Orphans Fund and let them all know I did it in their names.  Since then, I have not bought them any gifts for Christmas.  What do we need?  Not much besides love and good health.

Thanks for the reminders to keep things in perspective.


annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2573
Joined: Oct 2011

some great reminders!  I spent most of one holiday season in the hospital, which meant my poor husband had to hear me say "Did you put up the lights yet?", every freaking time he came in to visit. I'm lucky the poor guy didn't have a heart attack, out putting up lights at midnight after the kids were in bed.  I have since come to realize that it's the core of the holiday that really matters (which may be different things for different people), and that the extra bits aren't really all that important.

I think it's kind of critical for us as cancer folk to figure out what that core might be (more time with immediate family vs extended family, outdoor time, church, or what have you), and use the limited energy we have to focus on that.

Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3348
Joined: Jan 2010

With a few minor modifications, this list can also be used for those of us who have lost a loved one during the past year.  First holidays without them are especially difficult.

We need to remember that as long as they are in our hearts they are not far away...even though we can't see them.

Marie who loves kitties

LivinginNH's picture
Posts: 1458
Joined: Apr 2010



joemetz's picture
Posts: 493
Joined: Nov 2011

And, what's crazy about this list comparing  cancer vs. first holidays without a special loved one.... many deal with both during the same year.

my favorite on the list is :  Don't Fake It.  (meaning don't fake feeling good, when we really don't)

that's a big one for me.


Phil64's picture
Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2012

Thanks Joe. This is a good list and a great reminder to manage the holiday and to not let it manage us.

Posts: 1154
Joined: Jun 2010

What I may be doing next year is checking into a nice little resort and let everyone else take care of me. No cooking no mess no fuas unless it is over me. 

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