How do you cope with Christmas when you’re worn out from radiotherapy? Or still enduring nausea caused by chemo? What if your hands and feet are continuing to experience neuropathy (chemo induced nerve damage, which produces numbness and pain) and yet you are expected to go shopping or wrap presents, because your family and friends think you are back to “normal”, whatever that is.
We asked our Cancer Coach participants to share their survival tips for the festive season. From focusing on spending time with family and friends to treating yourself to a facial, their advice comes from first-hand experience on how to make the most of this special time of year without being overwhelmed.
“The important thing is spending time with friends and family.” – Catherine
“My main tip would be not to put pressure on yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t feel up to cooking because of treatment or can’t afford to buy presents because cancer has affected your income. People will understand. The important thing is spending time with friends and family. And don’t worry about what date you do this. Whether it is on Christmas day itself or a few days – or even weeks- earlier or later doesn’t matter. If the timing of your next round of chemo means you’ll be feeling horrid on the 25th, just have Christmas lunch on a day when you’ll be feeling up to eating something (and getting out of your pyjamas) I had my mastectomy on Christmas Eve two years ago so we had our Christmas meal and raised a glass of fizz a few days before. I didn’t want my family to miss out on Christmas because of my op and it was nice to do something normal together and forget about the cancer thing for a few hours.” Catherine, Cancer Coach participant.
“If you’re feeling low, play upbeat music and dance.” – Karen
“Living with just my husband and our cat, my Christmas tends to be quiet. I will be going out on Christmas Eve for a party and my advice would be, if you are going out, don’t over think things, other people are too busy getting excited themselves, so they probably won’t notice anyone else. Decide what you’re going to wear in advance and even maybe try the clothes on the day before to ensure you feel comfortable. You may have been lounging in casuals and slippers for a while, so ensure you’re going to have comfortable footwear too. If you’re currently going through chemo, or are post chemo and still haven’t got your hair as you would like, ask your hairdresser what headwear would suit you. Have a facial and get your nails done to give yourself a confidence boost. If you don’t feel like shopping for presents, either speak to your family about not buying this year or send cards with small gifts like gift vouchers instead. If you find yourself feeling low, play some upbeat music and dance.” Karen, Cancer Coach participant.
“Give yourself space to rest, to think, to recover.” – Elma
“I was treated for endiometrial cancer during lockdown, finishing my radiotherapy on Christmas Eve. I recommend that you acknowledge the emotional roller coaster you and your family have been through. Give yourself space to rest, to think, to recover and to accept ALL offers of help.” Elma, Cancer Coach participant.
“Just treat Christmas as another day in your cancer journey.” – Diane
“Last year we couldn’t celebrate Christmas. I had just come out of hospital Christmas eve after my first cancer operation and my husband was going through his chemotherapy after his cancer operation. Try not to think of it as surviving Christmas. Just treat it as another day in your cancer journey and hope that there are friends or family who can drop off a Christmas dinner – we were lucky enough to have that support. Joining Cancer Coach was an amazing turn around for me. I regained my confidence and found the new me.” Diane, Cancer Coach participant
About Cancer Coach
The Cancer Coach programme is available to anyone previously diagnosed with a stage 3 or below cancer and who has now completed their physical cancer treatment and is experiencing low mood, anxiety, worry, and who doesn’t know how to move forward in their recovery. The course takes participants through a series of weekly facilitated group sessions, run for a six-week period over the telephone or online video. Participants benefit from the peer support of the sessions, as well as learning tools and techniques for improving emotional wellbeing, which can help them on their recovery journey. The course is free, completely confidential and accessible from the comfort and privacy of home. If you’ve completed cancer treatment and are wondering how to cope, then please apply to join the course. Simply complete the application form online. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 020 3983 7616.