I remember my first time going through the holidays as a survivor. I was so thankful to still be here, but I felt sad that I couldn’t handle all the traditions that had become such a huge part of the season. Chemotherapy and radiation really take a toll on a person. I was nearly done with treatment, but the effects on my body lasted for MONTHS. I figured out pretty early on that I needed help. I wanted to decorate the tree, but even getting everything down from the storage closet was more than I could do. That was the year that we made some significant changes in our holiday traditions. I thank my kids and my husband for embracing the changes. I’d like to share with you a few of the changes that we made.
Christmas Cards – We minimized the stress of writing out individual holiday greeting cards by creating a newsletter, bringing everyone up to date with one message. Instead of mailing hundreds of cards, we sent the newsletter to our friends via email and sent the hard copies only to those we couldn’t reach via email (back then, the numbers were certainly limited, but it all helped). We know it is far less personal, but, remembering the stress we felt every year until the cards were done…well it was a change that helped immensely.
Gift Giving – Instead of buying presents for ALL the nieces, nephews, cousins, etc., we agreed that we would only exchange gifts for the small kids in the extended family. That not only helped with the time spent shopping, wrapping, etc., but really helped the budget. Cancer treatment has a way of wiping out not only your energy, but you bank account. When it comes to shopping for the immediate family, I knew I wanted to be involved, even if I couldn’t be the one to go to the mall. Besides feeling exhausted, remembering that your immune system is lowered, it’s wise to leave the physical shopping to others. But that doesn’t mean you can sit down with your family members, and be involved in selecting their gifts. You can secretly plan the gifts for the each family member with other members. I know that when I went through this, I still wanted the thrill of gift-giving, but taking the actual shopping for each item off of my plate really helped.
Meal Prep – I always loved making the entire meal and inviting everyone to our house. That year, we made room for others to chip in. We were blessed when people offered to do a potluck. At first I felt that I was a failure, unable to live up to my usual standard, but very quickly I realized not only how much stress it removed from me, but it allowed others to feel good about their contributions. And dinner was unique and tasty.
If YOU are in the midst of this difficult journey, make this the year you give yourself permission to simplify by letting go of long-standing traditions, and have a more relaxed time. You deserve it!
If you KNOW someone who is going through cancer, you can be their hero. Put yourself in their place and try to imagine the areas that you could use help with. There are many things you can do, from helping them set up their tree, get the decorations out of the closet, or hang lights, to making food, or watching their kids so the parents can shop in peace or just take a night off.
I wish you a very happy and blessed holiday season. Enjoy this personal message about de-stressing the holidays.
The Breast Cancer Survival Expert