This time of year tends to be filled with family, friends and festive celebrations. For some, it will be the first holiday season after a cancer diagnosis.

Lindsey Wise, a social worker with Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s Aquilino Cancer Center, has advice on how patients and caregivers can cope with cancer during the holidays.

“Because the holidays are a time that family and friends come together, many patients may find this is an opportunity to share news of their diagnosis,” she says. Deciding with whom you’ll share a diagnosis is an intensely personal decision. Most people start by telling their closest loved ones, like their spouses or partners.  If you have children, Lindsey says it is important to talk to them in age-appropriate language about your diagnosis and treatment plan.

The holidays often result in a jam-packed calendar of events and parties, but it’s important to make your health a priority.

Here are Lindsey’s tips on how you can avoid becoming overwhelmed and exhausted:

  1. Acknowledge where you are during the holiday season. You may not have the same energy or feelings about the holidays as you did before.  It’s okay.  Acknowledge where you are, emotionally and physically.
  2. Reframe expectations and traditions. Remember, there is no “right” way to celebrate.  Find ways to celebrate that work for you.
  3. Put yourself first. Remember to take time for self-care, rest and relaxation. It is okay to say no to social or family obligations.  Spend time with people you love and who give you strength
  4. Ask for help when needed. Rely on your support team during this time.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. Know your limitations when it comes to stress.  Allow yourself to take things one at a time to avoid burnout.

If you are caring for someone with cancer, make sure that you are taking care of yourself as well, so that you can be available to help your loved one. Listen to their needs and find ways to be supportive, but don’t forget your own needs at this time of the year.

“If you ever need help coping with a cancer diagnosis or your role as a caregiver, please reach out to your oncology social worker,” Lindsey urges.  “We are here to help.”

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