Mom Has Cancer
& Hope for the Holidays :
Holiday Tips for Families Coping with Cancer
holidays can be a trying time for everyone, but stress is multiplied
for women dealing with breast and gynecologic cancer.
the nearly 250,000 women diagnosed with these types of cancers in
the United States this year, their first holiday season may be especially
difficult, both emotionally and physically.
it's the season "to be jolly," these women and their families
may find themselves struggling with how to make the holidays happy
holidays are the time of year when many mothers feel the need to
turn into 'SuperMom'," said Ursula Matulonis, MD, gynecologic
cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and
Women's Hospital. "If they are undergoing cancer treatments
or struggling emotionally, many tasks such as shopping, baking,
and decorating may be overwhelming or impossible. We want women
to give themselves permission to decide which activities are right
for them this year and feel empowered to control the way they and
their families celebrate the holidays."
anticipation of the holidays can be more stressful than the actual
holiday, planning and communication can help families get through,
and even enjoy, the holidays again.
is the key to success," said Matulonis. "Acknowledge that
the holidays may need to be spent differently. The family should
discuss how they would like to celebrate the holidays. Moms and
their families should do
what is right for them during the holidays."
True to Yourself
Keep in tune with and be honest about your feelings. Express, don't
suppress them. Don't pretend the cancer isn't there. If you feel
a need to cry or get upset, it's ok to do so. Tears can bring a
sense of relief. Be aware of your expectations of yourself and control
them, rather than letting them control you. If you feel sad about
the year gone by, it's OK to express those feelings. It is common
to experience a mixture of anticipation, disappointment and apprehension.
Instead, talk them over with a loved one, a friend or a professional
To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the season, pick one or two things
that you want to do rather than do the many things you feel you
should. Decide and communicate what you won't do this season, instead
of what you can't do. Taking on too much or expecting too much will
only make the environment more stressful. Keep things simple.
Flexible and Fluid
Don't strive for perfection or try to make this the most elaborate
holiday you've ever had. Mishaps will occur, but take them in stride,
and don't sweat the small stuff. Give yourself permission and be
prepared to cancel plans at the last minute, if you're not up to
Don't feel you must make every single moment of the holiday season
memorable. It is better to limit yourself to a few events instead
of drifting from one to the other or feeling too exhausted to be
able to enjoy any occasion.
Fear "The Meal"
Don't worry about putting a big dinner together. How about organizing
a "potluck" where family members and other guests each
prepare a dish? People will understand if you ask them to bring
a dish for the meal or ask someone else host the meal this year.
If you feel the need to be involved in the holiday preparations,
help set the table or dry the dishes. You can even suggest eating
out at a restaurant and not have to worry about shopping or cleaning
up. Remember there is no right or wrong way to celebrate.
Shopping creates stress under the best of circumstances, but at
the holidays, forget about it. Shop for gifts online, or through
catalogs in the comfort of your own home and leave the long lines
and crowds to others. Send "e-cards" this year. There
are many locations on the Internet that are free, fun and simple,
and there's no need to buy stamps or go to
the post office.
Plan an afternoon outing or a weekend getaway. Spend time with someone
you don't usually visit. Spend time in a new or different setting.
Even daily exercise can reduce stress by increasing energy.
with Tradition or Create New Traditions
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to keep up with your
traditional duties. Change the time of day when dinner is traditionally
served to work with how you're feeling. Celebrate in a different
room than usual or eat out rather than at home. Start a family keepsake
book and record old and new traditions.
a Little Selfish
Don't forget to spend some time with yourself. Be sure to take care
of your needs; get adequate rest and exercise. It's therapeutic
to reflect and think. The less you do the more energy you'll have
to enjoy everything and everyone. And you'll be better company the
rest of the time.
And accept it graciously when it is offered. The hardest thing to
do may be to accept that you can't do it all.
Let Mom Do Everything
Offer to do more and help around the house; let Mom rely on you.
Let her pick what TV show the family watches one night or what she
wants for dinner. Do what is right and best for her. She'll appreciate
it more than you'll know.
Make the home a happy place for Mom. Trim your home with mistletoe;
it gives permission to hug and kiss. Or make fun, inexpensive ornaments
from things around the house. Mom will appreciate the cost savings
a Coupon Gift Book for Mom
Have the entire family create a book filled with "coupons"
that Mom can redeem. Create I.O.U.s good for breakfast in bed, a
house full of completed chores or a night out with the girls. The
best things in life really are free.
Spend more time with your "old friend" Mom. Although she
does need to be alone at times, don't let her isolate herself. Get
caught up on family history. Ask her about how she spent the holidays
when she was young or have her tell you about a "funny"
family holiday moment.
Reaching out to others -- community groups, school friends, volunteer
work and helping those less fortunate -- can help to take the focus
away from coping with cancer and provide a fresh perspective on
Read an encouraging book or watch an inspiring movie with Mom or
your friends. Write in a journal or talk to friends about how you
are feeling. It can lift your spirits and help you get through a
Compassionate. Be patient. Be generous.
Work as a team to help Mom and each other. Notice the small, special
moments the holidays can bring.
and Hope for the Holidays reflects The Gillette Company's continued
support in providing women and their families with tools to foster
emotional wellness when diagnosed with breast and gynecologic cancers.
A gift from the company led to the creation of the Gillette Centers
for Women's Cancers at Dana-Farber/Partners CancerCare, in Boston,
MA, which is comprised of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the founding
members of the Partners HealthCare System, Brigham and Women's Hospital
and Massachusetts General Hospital.
see -> A
Breast Cancer Christmas
More about coping with cancer around the Web:
Coping with Cancer During the Holidays - Fact Sheet
Coping with Cancer at the Holidays - Massachusetts General
2 , 2002
Updated September 7, 2011