December 14, 2018
13 ways to help someone with cancer during the holidays
BY Laura Nathan-Garner
The holiday season can be stressful. That’s often even more true for cancer patients and their loved ones, who may be struggling to get in the holiday spirit between cancer treatment and side effects.
So, if you have a friend or family member facing cancer, you may be wondering how you can make the season a little brighter for them. We asked cancer patients, caregivers and survivors in our Facebook community to weigh in.
Here’s what they recommend.
1. Give the gift of time and a listening ear. A friend facing cancer needs you to be there, whether that’s by phone, text, mail, in person or even on social media. Let them talk, cry and be angry if necessary.
2. Hug them. Often.
3. Have a pajama party. Some days, cancer patients may not feel like getting dressed – or may not be comfortable in their usual clothes. But having everyone wear pajamas can make the patient feel more comfortable – and make the day feel more festive. If you can’t have a pajama party in person, send comfy pajamas, slippers and/or a soft, warm throw.
4. Take charge of the decorating. This can be daunting for anyone, but even more so when you’re fatigued from cancer treatment – or from caring for a cancer patient. Make decorating more fun by rounding up friends and family to help, and let the cancer patient relax.
5. Don’t be afraid to say the “c” word. You might feel like you shouldn’t mention cancer, especially if you’re trying to keep someone’s spirits bright during the holidays. But chances are, your friend or loved one is thinking about it. Don’t be afraid to talk about cancer and say, “This stinks, and I love you.”
6. Shop for their gifts and wrap them. This will eliminate a lot of the stress of the holidays and let your friend save energy for fun things.
7. Keep life as normal as possible. Cancer sucks, but there’s still a lot of joy to be found in life. Play games, sing, dance, laugh, share what’s going on in life and don’t be afraid to celebrate. Don’t assume that someone with cancer doesn’t feel well or won’t want to participate. Give them the opportunity to join in the fun.
8. Clean the house. Wash clothes, vacuum, empty the dishwasher, mow the lawn. Do whatever needs to be done – without being asked.
9. Give the gift of food. Bake cookies and make soup. Or, send gift cards to favorite restaurants for a holiday meal. Keep in mind that some patients may not be able to eat food you send due to a compromised immune system or nutritional challenges related to their treatment, but their family and caregivers will almost certainly welcome the meal, which gives them one less thing to worry about during the holidays.
10. Get vaccinated. Certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy – as well as stem cell transplants – can weaken the immune system, putting cancer patients at increased risk for life-threatening infections. So, it’s crucial to make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines — including the Tdap and flu vaccine — before you spend time with a cancer patient or their loved ones.
11. Stay home if you’re sick. Germs, infections and viruses are especially unwanted gifts for cancer patients, putting them at risk of complications.
12. Run errands. This will help cross some things off of your friend or loved one’s to-do list, reduce stress and limit their exposure to germs.
13. Create memories. Whether creating new traditions or maintaining as many old ones as possible, the holiday season is a time to create memories. So make your time together count. This doesn’t require doing something complicated or making crafts. It only requires giving your friend or family member love and attention and really showing up. Use these ideas for making memories last.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.