A Christmas tree in a spotlight

Community Shares: Tips for Surviving the Holidays with Advanced Breast Cancer Part 1

Last updated: December 2020

As beautiful and fun as the holidays can be, they can also come with a whole lot of work and stress. This year, we hope you remember that you have a choice in terms of how you spend your energy.

To find out more about managing the coming season, we reached out to followers of our Facebook page and asked people to share: “What are some tips for getting through the holidays with metastatic breast cancer?”

More than 30 community members shared what is working for them. Here is what was said.

Scaling down during the holidays

Before having advanced breast cancer, you may have had certain standards for decorating, baking, and all the other holiday fanfare. However, you may find you will enjoy the holidays more if you lower the amount of work involved. You may do just a bit of decorating, depending on your energy levels. It is OK to put yourself and your energy first. Your loved ones will understand that the holidays are going to look different following your diagnosis.

“If you have to scale down, do not feel guilty about it. A smaller meal, smaller tree, and fewer outdoor decorations are all OK.”

“Maybe you cannot bake the holiday cookies. You can buy them at a local bakery. Do what you love, but do it smarter.”

Buying less gifts and buying online

There are no rules when it comes to gifts. Just because someone buys you 1 does not mean you have to buy them a gift. This year, you may feel up to buying gifts – and you may not. Those who choose to buy presents shared that online shopping has come in handy. You can also choose to have gifts sent directly to the receiver so you do not have to wrap and resend them.

“Planning ahead for things like shopping for and mailing gifts.”

“Order gifts online.”

“I have done all my shopping online. It is just too tiring, plus being in a mall with everything going on is risky.”

Asking and receiving help

Sometimes just the load of everyday tasks – keeping the house clean, cooking, and doing the laundry – is a lot to manage when managing cancer. Throwing the holidays in the mix can add much more work. If people offer to help, let them. If people are not immediately offering, it is OK to ask for help, whether it is with holiday grocery shopping, helping to pick out gifts, or whatever you may need.

Keep in mind that if someone says no, that does not mean help is not available. It simply means that person may not have time right now. Keep asking. You may know someone else – a cousin, a church friend, or neighbor – who may be more than willing.

“Letting others step in to help, especially with errands or cooking.”

“Sometimes you just have to let everyone else take care of everything, and you just enjoy yourself with your loved ones.”

Family and loved ones make the holidays

When all is said and done, what matters most is making memories with loved ones. What you and they will remember is your time together, not the details of the holiday meal. If you are struggling to be present during the holidays, take a breath. Use your senses. Take in the smell of the Christmas tree or the flickering light of the menorah. Pause to savor a bite of what you are eating.

Focusing on sounds, smells, or sights is one of the best ways to get grounded and enjoy the present moment. It can also help to pause and lean into eye contact, connection, and conversations. There is often a lot of love to soak up during the holidays, so enjoy it – even if gatherings are small or online.

“Focusing on my family and making memories when I feel up to it.”

“Definitely spending it with my 2 granddaughters and my daughter.”

“I just focus on making memories with my loved ones.”

Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and tips for this story. We are grateful for everyone’s input.

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