Survivors Share Holiday Words of Wisdom

: 3 Comments

The holiday season is here! The holidays can pose challenges for patients and families. Patients may not feel well enough to participate in festivities. Difficult emotions may arise due to personal and family stress and change. Immune systems may be compromised making large parties and buffet lines off limits. Some patients may even be in the hospital for treatment over the holidays.

How do you adapt and keep the holidays merry and bright after a diagnosis? We asked those who have faced the holidays post-diagnosis to share their experience, tips, and words of wisdom. See their responses to our questions below!

What are your tips for enjoying the holidays after a diagnosis?

We knew that I would be spending the month of December in the hospital as that was when I was scheduled for my transplant. My husband wanted the room to feel festive so he decorated my hospital room with lights, a Christmas tree and holiday stickers on the walls. For Christmas Eve/Day, Mom brought up a crockpot meal that way all the veggies could be fully cooked.

—Karin, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

My tip would be do not feel guilty if you don't enjoy it. This is a new reality. I was diagnosed 3 weeks before Christmas. I did not feel like celebrating so basically my wife and I just held each other. You cannot ignore a cancer diagnosis and act that all is well because it’s Christmas. Your fears and anxieties are legitimate.

—Mark, Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Stay in the moment. It’s easy to worry about the future and let the holidays pass you by. Try focusing on the appearance of a Christmas tree or your favorite family tradition to stay grounded in the present.

—Kim, Hodgkin Lymphoma

Focus on other people during the holidays! Not on yourself. Focus on the glass being half full - not half empty. Enjoy the smiles and laughter of your children, or perhaps your grandchildren! Also, during the holidays focus on being grateful for what you have - not what you don't have.

—Greg, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Put up decorations! I never really got into the holidays until my stem cell transplant was scheduled the week after Thanksgiving last year. I put up a tree at the end of October, so I would be able to enjoy it before my month-long stay in the hospital. I wasn’t strong enough to take it down until March, but it always made me smile.

—Theresa, Multiple Myeloma

Amidst all the holiday plans, be sure to allow time for some rest and relaxation. Take everything slowly and in moderation. And bow out if necessary.

—Lynne, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Did your family start any new holiday traditions after the diagnosis?

My family got permission to stay the night on Christmas Eve so my two boys and husband spent the night in the hospital with me.

—Karin, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

The second Christmas after diagnosis and a transplant things were a bit more normal. Limit the TV time. We were a bit more traditional, not a lot of expensive gifts but more things like cooking tradition meals and baking. We put up a great tree and put lights up all over the place.

—Mark, Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Keep the normal traditions of your family to the greatest degree possible. The holidays are to celebrate what God has given us - not what He has withheld from us.

—Greg, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

What is a good present to give to someone with a diagnosis?

Slippers, books, journal and pen, gift cards (for example Amazon) so they can order something they would like. Gift cards to help with groceries. If the patient has a hobby that they enjoy doing, gift them supplies for that hobby (i.e., knitting, crochet, drawing, or writing).

—Karin, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Just being remembered is good. No need for a fancy expensive gift. A card and phone call means you are remembered.

—Mark, Mantle Cell Lymphoma

A soft, heavy blanket and a port pillow* for the car.

—Kim, Hodgkin Lymphoma

*Click here to learn how to make your own port pillow.

Gift giving to someone with cancer should proceed as usual. You might consider that someone with cancer understands mortality better than most, so focusing on gifts that somehow recognize that might be good.

—Greg, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

A subscription to television or movie apps, like Netflix, HBO, or STARS. We spend a lot of time on the couch, and it’s nice to have some variety in what to watch on television. Someone gave me a $100 iTunes card and I spend it all on movie and television apps.

—Theresa, Multiple Myeloma

Experiences and memories.

—Lynne, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

From all of us at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, we wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season!

Sign in or Register to view comments.