Posted 4 years ago

Coping with Cancer During the Holidays

Coping with Cancer for the Holidays Ironwood Cancer & Research CentersCoping with cancer during the holidays can be an emotional experience for patients. Holidays are generally a time to celebrate with friends and family. Visions of family gatherings, company parties, and gift-giving come to mind. The holidays can also be a time for stress and anxiety. The pressure to purchase gifts for everyone on your list, visiting relatives, and preparing large meals can be overwhelming for anyone. But if you have cancer, coping with the holidays can present a different set of challenges.

Concerns about your future, physical health, a busy treatment schedule, and not feeling like yourself, can add to the stress of the holidays. Maybe you look different than the last time you saw your family? Will it be possible to eat the food you usually enjoy during this time of year? What if someone shows up to the family gathering sick? Do you have to leave? Navigating through the holidays can get complicated, but it does not mean it’s impossible. Here are a few tips to make your holiday season manageable:

A New Lens

Look at the holidays from a new lens!  You may not be able to do all of the same holiday traditions, travel as much, or eat some of your favorite treats.  Incorporate some traditional things but be open to new ideas, activities, and practices. Maybe you will enjoy the holiday even more than you have in the past.

You Come First

Be selective of who you choose to be around. Try to enjoy the company of friends and relatives who are supportive. Remember, it’s okay to decline some invitations. Self-care is not selfish. Taking a break or a nap is an excellent idea prior to attending events if you are feeling fatigued or overwhelmed.

Coping with Cancer During the Holidays Ironwood Cancer & Research CentersWelcome Kindness

Do not feel guilty when friends and family want to support you, bring you gifts, or even deliver meals to you at this time of year. They may feel helpless and want to make things better for you in hopes that their kind gesture is going to brighten your day.

Coping with Cancer During the Holidays Ironwood Cancer & Research CentersSecret Word

Come up with a secret word or phrase like “crocodile hunter” with your spouse or loved one. When you have had enough and need to leave, say the word or phrase, and plan your exit.

Gift Giving

If you want to visit department store make sure you plan your day accordingly.  Get plenty of rest prior, pack medicine, snacks, and take a shopping buddy with you. Another popular option is to shop online or purchase gift cards at your grocery store. The world of online shopping is booming, and makes gift buying easy. There are several online companies that will help you create personalized gifts like, photo books, pillows, and coffee mugs. Consider handmade gifts like ornaments, family recipe cards, and love notes.

Keep it simple and scale back on purchasing gifts if your finances are strained. Do not feel guilty if this holiday season is more about spending time with the ones you love rather than spending money on gifts.

Coping with Cancer for the Holidays Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

Eat Well, Live Well

Patients can forget their dietary restrictions very easily.  Plan ahead so you can make healthy choices for holiday meals.  A few easy tips are be mindful of portion sizes and choose to start meals with vegetables that will curb your appetite.  Schedule an appointment with our registered dietitians to create a holiday meals that the entire family will love. For healthy recipes, check out the Eat Well, Live Well video playlist on the Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers YouTube page.

Ironwood’s Integrative Services Department has a full class schedule through the holidays to help you live well on your cancer journey. Try meditation or drumming if you need to reduce anxiety and stress. Participating in one of our support groups is a great way to meet people who are going through similar situations. Our activities and groups are open to anyone in the community, so bring a friend or relative with you.


About the Author,

Nicole McCallister, LMSW

Nicole McCallister, LMSWNicole McCallister is a Licensed Master Social Worker.  Nicole received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State University in August 2017.  She received her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Studies in April 2003 from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Nicole has spent the last 15 years working with children and families in the child welfare system of Arizona.

About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers

Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations, and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit our website at