Woman coping with cancer during the holidays

12 tips for coping with cancer during the holidays


Coping with cancer during the holidays is no easy task. Even when perfectly healthy, we’ve all felt the stress of the season at one point or another. So, adding that weight to an already burdensome cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to help manage your emotions. In this article, we’ll share 12 tips to help you cope with cancer during the holidays.

1. Make a plan

They don’t call it the “hustle and bustle” of the holidays for nothing. It’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed with everything they want to accomplish this time of year. Cancer patients are already dealing with a slew of emotions, so having a plan can make a big difference. Write down what you want to do, how you plan to do it, and when you want to do it. Try limiting yourself to the most important activities and consider scheduling them at times when you typically have the most energy.

2. Pace yourself

When you’re making that plan, remember that this isn’t your typical holiday season. Not only are you coping with cancer, but you’re also living through a pandemic. With that in mind, take it easy. Slow down and let yourself breathe. When things on your to-do list start making you feel anxious, remember – your well-being is a top priority. Allow yourself to ask for help if needed.

3. Have a support system

Speaking of asking for help, these are the people who can lend it. Close friends, family members, co-workers – whoever it may be. They may not know exactly what you need, but they will gladly step up if you ask them for help with something specific. These are the people you can count on to be there for you when you need a listening ear. Make a list of the people in your support system and keep it close by so it’s there when you need it.

4. Go online

The COVID era has shone a bright light on the benefits of technology. From grocery delivery to virtual family gatherings, we’ve all adapted to a new way of life in 2020. As someone coping with cancer during the holidays, take advantage of that technology to make your life less stressful. Shop online for Christmas gifts. You can even have them gift wrapped and delivered straight to the recipient. Consider sending e-cards to your loved ones, too. It will save you time, energy, and a trip to the post office.

5. Set a budget

It’s easy to get excited during the gift-giving season and, before you know it, you’ve overspent. Cancer patients are often already dealing with financial stressors like medical bills, insurance claims, and transportation and lodging expenses for treatment. To avoid adding to that financial stress, determine how much money you can comfortably spend and stick to that budget. Also, keep in mind it’s okay to ask your friends and family to forgo a gift exchange this year. Your support system wants you to do what’s best for you, and they will be happy to help however they can.

6. Start new traditions

2020 is already the year of new traditions, so remember, it’s alright to pass up on old ones. Virtual caroling with your church choir or family video chats with your cousins across the country can make for some great memories. And at the same time, you’ll stay safe and conserve some valuable energy to help in coping with cancer during the holidays.

7. Prepare for the uncomfortable

Whether you’re gathering with family in-person this year or hopping online to chat with them, you’re probably going to see people you haven’t talked to in a while. If you’ve had changes in your physical appearance, such as weight fluctuation or hair loss, prepare them ahead of time. You can even try to anticipate uncomfortable questions they may ask and have pre-written answers ready to go.

8. It’s OK to say “No”

The holiday season can often come with quite a few invitations. This year, they might be virtual invitations, but either way, they’ll still require some level of social interaction. Remember that it is okay to decline. Don’t feel guilty or obligated to do it all. Your friends, family, and social network will understand and support your decision.

9. Watch your nutrition

The holidays are filled with sweet temptations. As a cancer patient, you’re already in a situation where a balanced diet is important, so try to limit sugary foods and alcohol. It may help to plan your meals to avoid splurging. If you’re going to a holiday gathering of some kind, try eating ahead of time so you’re not as hungry at the event.

10. ‘Tis the season of giving

While it’s important to practice good self-care and prioritize your own well-being, studies have shown that helping others makes us feel better. Look for opportunities in your area to lend a helping hand. Things like food, toy and clothing drives, or even something as simple as donating a dollar to charity at the checkout line, can help put you in a better mood.

11. Live in the moment

Allow yourself to feel happy and enjoy holiday traditions and time spent with family and friends. If you find yourself feeling sad or overwhelmed at a time when you’d normally be happy, step back and take a few moments to yourself. It’s important not to stifle those feelings, so take some time to reflect and acknowledge them.

12. Feeling sad is OK

Along those same lines, don’t ever feel guilty or ashamed when you start feeling sad or overwhelmed. Sadness, anxiety, and grief are all normal emotions for cancer patients at any time of year, so don’t feel the need to mask them or “put on a happy face” just because it’s the holidays. Understanding and expressing your feelings is an important part of coping with cancer during the holidays.


As part of the Provision CARES Cancer Network, Provision CARES Proton Therapy has locations in Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn. If you or someone you know has cancer, we encourage you to call 1-833-6-PROTON. One of our Cancer Care Experts can speak to you about your specific diagnosis and help determine if proton therapy is right for you.