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Getting Through the Holidays with Cancer

Getting Through the Holidays with Cancer

By Allison Howe, P.T.

The holiday season often proves to be stressful for people in perfect health. But for someone with cancer, this time of year can be overwhelming and exhausting. If you, or someone close to you, is coping with cancer, a few common sense guidelines can have a significant impact on how you feel going into the New Year.

There is no shortage of activities during the holidays, so it is important to remember to pace yourself. Don't try to do all of your holiday shopping in one day. If you enjoy baking Christmas cookies, spread it out over a few days. Listen to your body and rest when you become tired. Try to understand and accept that you need to do less than you have during past holiday seasons.

Set priorities for what absolutely needs to be accomplished, and what would be nice to accomplish. You may decide to go to one or two holiday parties, instead of all of them. Rest up during the day if you are going out that evening, so that your evening out does not have a negative impact on the next day.

Don't try to do everything yourself; get help from family members, friends, and neighbors. They can assist you with cooking, shopping, cleaning, and snow shoveling. You may find it easier to do a bit of Christmas shopping if someone else does the driving. Let your friends make some meals for you. It can be a tremendous relief at the end of the day to simply pull a prepared meal from the freezer and heat it up. If you are fighting cancer, nutritious meals are important, and this is an area where friends can easily support you. Trust that your family and friends truly do want to lighten your load because they care about your well-being and want to help you stay strong.

Try to balance activity with rest throughout the day. Light exercise can be very good for you, physically and emotionally. Stick with an exercise regimen that you know you are comfortable doing, rather than embarking on some new, aggressive workout program. Take walks, get fresh air, or swim a few laps, but stay away from activities you know will wear you out. Gentle exercise will keep you energized, but if you become overly tired, you may end up feeling depressed. It's best to schedule your exercise at a time of day when you typically have the most energy. If you are a morning person, that's the best time to go for a walk.

A cancer diagnosis has many ramifications, and the holiday season can be especially difficult. By taking extra special care to get the rest you need, by delegating some of your tasks to others, and by setting priorities, you can give yourself the gift of energy to see you safely through the season.

Allison Howe is a physical therapist at Cayuga Medical Center’s Convenient Care Center at Ithaca. She is on staff in the Department of Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine.

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