Dealing with the Holidays after Diagnosis

Many of the women we talk to say it’s difficult to get through the holiday season. Whether newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment, or in recovery the holidays can bring stress and set off a series of emotions that you may not know how to handle. Even caregivers often find themselves not wanting to celebrate the holidays because of feelings of guilt. For those of us who have lost a loved one, the holidays often underscore their absence and all the feelings associated with that void.

LBBC’s Guide to Understanding Your Emotions is a good resource to help you understand the range of feelings you may be experiencing. The guide will explain when and how to ask for emotional support and suggest steps you can take to move forward with your life.

Another good resource is LBBC’s Survivor’s Helpline, (888) 753-LBBC (5222), a national, toll-free telephone service staffed by trained volunteers who are also breast cancer survivors. Helpline volunteers are dedicated to offering guidance, information and hope in a confidential setting. This service is not intended as a substitute or replacement for professional counseling or medical services, but sometimes it helps to talk to someone who has “been there.”

If you feel stress around the holidays, consider the following tips provided by Richard Hara of CancerCare to get through this tough period:

  • Keep your expectations realistic: Know your physical limitations and give yourself extra time to rest as needed; anticipate that strong emotions will hit you unexpectedly, and give yourself permission to be less than “joyful” all the time.
  • Delegate — let others help: Creating a list of tasks you can ask others to take on for you accomplishes two things: it helps distribute responsibilities in a more manageable way, and people feel more comfortable when given something specific to do to help.
  • Save your energy for the important stuff: In other words, prioritize and pace yourself. If you need to turn in early, or aren’t able to eat in your accustomed way, just let people know. Everything doesn’t have to be done all at once: enjoy what you can now, and look forward to enjoying more in the future. Maintaining holiday traditions is important, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be altered or replaced with new ones.
  • Share your feelings with others: Don’t be afraid to express your feelings and concerns to family and friends. But consider in advance how much you feel comfortable sharing, and how much the other person may be able to hear. These are judgment calls, and not easy to make, but remember that the goal is not so much about imparting information, as it is supporting and enriching relationships.

How do you cope with the holidays? What advice do you have for women who may be struggling to get through this holiday season?

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