Coping With Cancer During the Holiday Season

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For cancer patients and their loved ones, the holiday season can be a very special time of year and can provide extra opportunities to spend quality time together. However, the holiday rush can come with some added stress that may make living with cancer and managing symptoms more difficult. If you or someone close to you has cancer, the following advice may help you find calm and peace over the holidays so you can enjoy the beauty of the season.

Managing Stress

With out-of-town guests, holiday card lists, decorating, presents, and festive meals, the holidays can be exhausting and may cause cancer patients to experience added fatigue. To reduce stress, schedule time in the day for naps, and consider going to bed earlier in the evenings. If you don't feel up to attending holiday parties, invite loved ones to visit you at another time instead. You may wish to do quiet activities with them such as watching a movie at home, playing a game, or just talking. Schedule some quiet time in the day just for yourself and do something relaxing.

Some activities that may help you relax include:

  • Taking a hot bath
  • Getting a massage - (consult with your doctor first)
  • Writing in a journal
  • Reading your favorite book or magazine
  • Drawing/coloring
  • Watching a holiday movie
  • Drinking your favorite tea

When trying to manage holiday stress, remember that you aren't alone and that it's okay to ask for help. If you'd like to put up holiday decorations but are feeling low on energy, ask a friend or family member to help. Similarly, if you want to send out holiday cards (or e-cards) or prepare a special festive food but are feeling tired or foggy, see if a family member, friend, or caregiver could help with preparing and sending cards or making holiday foods.

It’s important to also remember that before attending holiday gatherings, having guests or participating in any other activities, always consult with your oncologist first to make sure it fits within the guidelines of your treatments.

Knowing Your Limits

As a cancer patient, you are probably already good at listening to your body and recognizing when you aren't feeling well. With the additional stress of the holiday season, it's especially important to stay mindful of your energy levels. Be careful not to overextend yourself. If you'd like to attend a holiday party or outing and don't know if you have the stamina to attend the entire event, consider just dropping by for a few minutes and then going home to rest. If you find yourself feeling more tired than usual for more than a few days, let your loved ones and your doctor know. Your medical team may be able to recommend medication changes or additions that will reduce your fatigue.

Getting Support

Sources of emotional and social support are vital for cancer patients and their families at all times of the year. The holidays are often emotional times for many, and leaning on your support group and loved ones during this season can be very uplifting and remind you that you are not alone. If you are not currently a member of a support group and would consider joining one, your medical team can help you find one that is close by and convenient for you. Your loved ones cherish the opportunity to spend time with you, too. In addition to in-person time, phone calls, video chats, and emails can all help keep you connected.


At the Parrish Medical Center, we want to help all cancer patients and their families live life to the fullest during the festive season and throughout the year. Contact the Parrish Cancer Center at 321-529-6202 about how we can help you with treatment, symptom management, and emotional support. We are happy to answer all your questions and concerns. 

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