Managing cancer treatments through holidays is a tough road

OKLAHOMA — Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the goodwill and good cheer, it is not easy to fill a long shopping list while battling cancer. For patients facing cancer treatments and numerous doctor visits, this holiday will be very different from the rest.

"Their treatment can be really fatiguing," Lacey Richard, LPC-C, Mind-Body Therapist with Cancer Treatment Centers of America said. "There's a lot of concerns on their minds - perhaps they're curious if this is their last holiday. So, there's a lot of really heavy weight that comes with the holidays for our patients."   

So, Richards, who helps CTCA patients in Tulsa, came up some strategy for managing holiday stress. She suggests:

Richards says patients often worry about dampening the feeling of a holiday gathering by sharing their cancer prognosis and treatment plan. However, she advises sharing those experiences can be cathartic and help draw family members even closer together. "I think a lot of times our family wants to know what's been your struggles, what's going on with you," she said. "I really encourage them to be honest and share what's going on in their life." 

Acknowledge your feelings — and the new normal

Rather than dwelling on what you cannot do this year, focus on what you can. Richards says it is important to acknowledge the feelings that may erupt, while embracing what can be. 

"I think it's okay to say, this year I'm going to sit out," Richards said. "This year I'm going to make small things the big things - focus my energy on one church service or focus on brunch instead of Black Friday shopping all night." 

Practice gratitude

In CTCA literature, Richards wrote 'The fall season is full of holidays that encourage us to be grateful but spending a few minutes a day to mindfully appreciate the small things can make a big difference! It could be as small as attending a church service or writing an unexpected thank you note or hugging a few of your favorite people-appreciating the small things reminds us of what's really important.' 

"Just kind of being mindful and appreciative of little tiny things that happened really puts us in a new mindset," she suggested. 

Learn when to say, "No."

Since cancer treatments can be physically and emotionally draining, Richards said it is important to learn when to say no to people and events. Patients need their energy to fight, so be sure to set priorities. Plan for meaningful events and let go of things that are not as important.

Embrace close relationships

Reconnecting with family you have not seen for some time can be stressful. While reunions are heartwarming, they can also revive long-held conflicts and negative feelings. So, she advises keeping your "first string friends" on speed dial. Plan to be with your nearest and dearest family and friends while being grateful for the time spent with those you love. 

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