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Let's Discuss...Holiday Traditions
The holidays are traditionally viewed as a time to celebrate. Many people enjoy reuniting with family and friends, exchanging gifts and celebrating religious traditions during this time. However, sometimes people with cancer and their loved ones feel disconnected from the rest of the world during the holidays. 

How do you plan to manage the reality of cancer this December holiday season?


Please share your thoughts below...
40 Replies
156 Posts
Personally this holiday is my first with my diagnosis. I am reuniting with a family member and family it’s been more than 20 years. But would like to keep it quiet. First time in 21 years i usually cook my work turkey it’s given as part of a gift. I don’t want to pick it up this year, nor want to cook the turkey. I suggested going out for dinner. I don’t think it went over very well lol. Everyone is getting spoiled with gifts this year. I feel bad though had to tell my 11 year old Santa wasn’t real, we figured we should get some credit. There never is an age that is designed to tell parents when to speak to children about this this kind of stuff? I hope everyone here I call my family, have a great great holiday with the ones they love, make memories, and celebrate 🎉.
your friend 
1537 Posts
After just finishing the stress of treatment, I felt like I was being thrown into the stress of Christmas. Even though this stress can be positive, it has felt like a weight on my shoulders. I have had to
remind myself I am still recovering. The parents of our new daughter-in-law are hosting dinner for our family and it will be the first time in over 25 years I haven’t made Christmas dinner. I am doing things on a smaller scale. I have done less decorating, baking and I have done a lot of on line shopping. I am limiting the number of events I attend so I can continue to rest and recover but still enjoy the time with family and friends. Was it the year I wanted and planned, absolutely not, but I remind myself how blessed I am
to have a great care team and all the wonderful people around me who have supported and stood by me this past year.  Here’s hoping for a quieter 2020!
10 Posts
Hello, Fist time posting here.  BC survivor. Just finished last chemo 2 weeks ago and in the island of time before radiation starts.  There is no letting up on visiting and cooking and having friends over this holiday season.  I started lights, trees action with decorations a week ago. I actually wrote Christmas cards and sent them by post already, complete with photo of me and my daughter with Santa ... it's my proof of life photo for those abroad who worry about me, :). We are planning board game nights,  outings, solstice celebration, Mass, a possible sound of Music sing a long, dinners, NY eve. It's going to be so much fun to start coming put of my cave of Netflix,  school runs, blood tests  doc appointments,  chemo and grastofil pain and dog walks only.  My cognitive abilities are way down and I get tired,  but I am going for it so my daughter and I can celebrate the holidays with Joy. Go for Joy! Go for the shiny objects. Find a light. Create the joy. x
We will spend time with low key, kindly cousins familiar with cancer, with local presents. We will phone family, and give presents courtesy of Amazon. I’ve connected with relatives via e- mail.
We are going to a public Messiah sing a long and an evensong  with a different church, though we are not very churchy, since we are new to Victoria. We saw the truck parade which was, indeed, a hoot and quick and funny. There is a tuba parade? We want to see the castle here and the Butchart done up if the sun shines. I was also thinking of laying some local flowers on Emily Carr’s grave.

I had lunch with the Breast Friends and went to a book signing for Zhila Kashaninia, who wrote about her extraordinary survival of brain cancer. We are newcomers here, and are taking part, now that I can get out of bed.

l bugged a cancer yoga group for get togethers, but only two takers...that’s enough to make friends.

My gift to myself is hiring a writing mentor that I know.  If anyone here wants to be part of a writing group, although it kind of already is, why not start one? Is that within the rules? People can contact me.

if someone knows a local writing group in Victoria, let me know, please. Also, I’m putting out that I would love an art collaborator/assistant/therapist, I’m hoping to find one. I enjoyed doing art therapy in a Certificate program, but it’s not necessary. I have a fully equipped art room. Even Matisse had students to help him when he had bad arthritis!

We will rewatch The Good Place as it makes us laugh out loud. Groundhog Day would also be a good one.

I’m retired, so that’s how I’m doling out my energy. I’ve put socializing as my priority, as a counterbalance to tedious arm and torso exercises, til more classes start.

56 Posts
I've been discussing this on Twitter. My husband and I don't have any family, so not worrying about any visits. He is unable to eat, so we will watch some Christmas movies, exchange some gifts. He hung up some Christmas lights in the living room, so it's looking pretty festive lol. Also - You Season 2 hits Netflix on December 26th, so I feel a marathon will be happening :)
15 Posts
Just before my husband was diagnosed with cancer I started a new job in health care as an unit assist with maternity. Because of this I actually am working during most of Christmas. I work 12 hour shifts on the 23, 24 & 25th, which does make things even harder for me. I am torn... I'm new within my job, so I have to work. People who are young and single expect the time off because of seniority, so I am working.  Tim's oncologist remains vague on his prognosis. After the fact when Tim's health improved, we were told that Tim was indeed very ill and he made remarkable improvements. The doctor also admitted he did not have a lot of hope for Tim. The fact that Tim has gained weight when we were told it would be impossible and that Tim was not reacting badly to chemo, has lifted the hope of the doctor. However, he still hasn't said too much about the future. Am I being foolish to work during Christmas? Our kids are young adults, so they say they understand why I have to work. My daughter has a boyfriend and will be spending some time with him and his family. My family is not very religious either, we take solice in getting rest when we can.  Most of our extended family lives away and we are like most of the time, alone during the holidays.  My father is the only extended family, but is now immediate family because he lives in a suite in our basement, so it will be 5 of us, maybe a 6th if boyfriend joins us.  So am I making a mistake not being home?  I honestly don't  know.  So many people make demands as soon as they start working somewhere, ex, they will only work certain hours, must take certain days off, expect to get holidays off although they knew when starting this job that this facility is run 24/7.  I refuse to be one of those newbies.  Most of the time I am able to make it to my husbands appointments and treatments.  I get to spend a lot of time with him now that he has started his long term disability.   So do I need the time off?  Am I being realistic? What if this is in fact Tim's last Christmas on earth?  Am I robbing my family??? But I do know that if I tried to take the time off I most likely won't be able to find a replacement.  I really don't want to believe that this is Tim's last Christmas with us.  I HOPE that Tim will survive this for many years to come!  Tim's prognosis was 6-12 months... that was late July.  Last CT Scan showed no growth but nothing shrunk either.  This was done after 7 treatments of chemo only and plenty of rest and desire to keep living.  I just cannot imagine my future without Tim... not at this point in my life... in another 40 years maybe then I can accept that fate.  Am I being foolish????  I really hope I am making the right choice!!! Although, I really don't feel I have a choice??? There are also children staying in the hospital... unable to be home for the holidays... with no choice... I am a very caring person and want to bring joy to those who are unable to be home.... but I want my family with me too, just in case this is my last Christmas with Tim.  
I’m currently in the midst of radiation. I only had the less aggressive chemo due to my platelets being so low. I pray this is enough. 

It will always haunt me I think wondering if the BC beast will tear its ugly head. Not to mention I also have Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. 

This Christmas will be different. I’m not hosting as my son and daughter in law stepped up to host. It will be more fun as my 1 year old granddaughter is developing such a beautiful personality. 

2020 will be a New Year. I will be focusing on getting well changing my diet, exercising more and spending time with ONLY the people that have been there for me and make me happy. It’s true what they say you can judge a true friend or family member when you’re at your lowest point.  

I hope to enjoy a family bacation with my kids and granddaughter in March and hopefully Europe in the summer. 

My my husband has been wonderfully supportive and I pray we can enjoy our “golden years” together and put all this health nonsense behind us. 

Merry Christmas to everyone (yes I’m proud to say this). May your lives be filled with much health and happiness for many years to come. 
Cynthia Mac
3868 Posts
Rlh178‍ , you do have a lot going on. All you can do is the best you can do. 

You ‘ve got a clear grasp on your employer’s needs, and are pretty well analyzing the whole situation.

You can still work and have Christmas. If you have to go in late in the day, you can plan a lovely Christmas brunch, with croissants purchased a couple days ahead, and a French Toast casserole or other make-ahead dish. If you aren’t off until 7, you can plan a late dinner, again, with make-ahead side dishes that you can pop into the oven and heat up. Whatever you do, you will make those memories.

And, if you DO want to have a full-on, freshly-made dinner, you could do that on Boxing Day or the 27th. (Someone once told me that there are no Christmas police.)

As for me, I’m one of the “lucky ones.” I only have to buy for a few people on a “heavy” year, and I don’t do a lot of entertaining. Already this year, I’ve “begged off” two pot lucks, and if this cold “blooms,” I could miss a third one!

This year, Christmas is all about what Dad wants, and he says he doesn’t want to be traipsing around to various houses, and he doesn’t want us working our butts off cooking. So, I’ve contacted Swiss Chalet, and will be ordering four family Festive Specials, picking them up on Christmas Eve before closing, and heating it all up the next day. 

He has a CT scan on Monday, and we’ll get the results on Dec. 31, so the goal is to get through the scanxiety. 
10 Posts
It's been tough this year.  My cancer treatment was in 2018, but I just had a prophylactic double mastectomy in November.  I have been pretty down this year.  My boyfriend suffers from depression, SAD and the anniversary of the death of a loved one from cancer.  Over our years together I've been able to find my own Christmas spirit.  It wasn't happening this year.  However, I just put on some beautiful Christmas music that my Mom played every year (Mormon Tabernacle Choir - The Holly and The Ivy album).  I feel that I'm moving a little closer into my Christmas zone :)  Baby steps.
59 Posts
I guess maybe I was not clear in my original reply.
Nothing is changing for me in regards to the way I celebrate Christmas.  Perhaps deciding to stay off of work through treatment (as advised by oncologist) has helped as I have more time to rest without having to worry about working.
I have done baking, shopping and am all ready for the family gathering that I am cooking  this year as I do every year. As usual my husband and kids pitch in with the prepping and clean up.
I do not feel isolated at all.  This is something I told everyone once this journey began..do not treat me any differently.  If I need help I will ask for it.  I do not want sympathy..I want support when needed and I have that so for me everything is fine.  
Christmas is always a time for family. Since I was diagnosed with cancer shortly after last Christmas to me this year is important. Why is it important you say? BECAUSE I AM STILL HERE...and so are all of you!!!!!!! And that is awesome! Yes, I have read the posts and realize that we have lost people along the way, but I feel that they would want us all to celebrate for them. To maybe remember them every time we see a light twinkle or a decoration sparkle. My mom is 85 years old and has COPD. I had my cancer surgery for melanoma and it kicked the crap out of me, but I refuse to give up. I will be holding a Christmas dinner at my house for my husbands family on Dec. 29th....we lost Grandpa this year ( my husband step-father) so I think it is important for us to honor his memory as he loved the big get together. On Dec. 25th I will go to my mom's house and cook that dinner also for my mom, brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and my own husband and kids. My 16 year old daughter will help, my husband will help make the dutch apple pies also for both events. He peels the apples! I will get tired and I will rest when I need to. I love Christmas because of family, because of the decorations, because of the food....hopefully I will feel hungry when the day comes..lolol. I think it is important to look for the magic this time of year. It could be a little thing, like a child smiling at you or seeing a deer come out of the woods and stop and look at you (I live in the country) or going through the Tim Horton's drive through and being surprised that the guy in front of you paid for your coffee. Watching a white snowy owl take off from a hydro pole. I could go on but I think you get it. Merry Christmas to all of you and do something for yourself...I will be thinking about you all. Take care Mistiquewolf
The Holly and the Ivy is one of my favorites, too. I like the St Paul’s cathedral version.

Christmas is a weird one. We’ve had all done up ones, and since we don’t have kids and live away from the close family, we had a rebellious Christmas, where we ate all the things we didn’t permit ourselves the rest of the year: cheesies, twinkies, hot dogs, BBQ chips, beer! It was a good memory. I’ve had some very sad but more standard Christmases.

One of my Jewish friends says she loves Christmas because she can just chill with no requirements!

So I will just suggest that it comes in different flavors, so give yourself some treats in whatever form, even if it means is allowing sadness. Next year may be different.

if you like music, gosh I would go to the library and do a prowl for something you’ve never heard!
542 Posts
This is my first Christmas since my diagnosis and I have to say, it has played on my mind that this could be my last; which makes me sad because I love it but I am happy I am celebrating another at least.
My Christmas is going to be pretty much the same as always - my hubby and I will get up, have a nice breakfast (that he'll make) and then we'll open our gifts to each other. Later in the day, we are going over to his sisters' who is hosting this year; all we need to take is a dessert so pretty easy. I will connect with my family at some point on Dec 24th or early Dec 25th as they are in Europe.
I haven't done any baking this year as I was concerned about treatment and transferring anything to something that someone might eat. I put the tree and decorations up, the 1st weekend of December (the earlier the better 😊). My hubby and I will watch all our favorite Christmas movies until Christmas Day; just chilling out and maybe indulging in a few treats 🍪🍰🍫
I have made up little gifts for about 13 of my colleagues this year - just want to give them something to say thanks for all their support and care this past year.
If I am still on this chemo treatment, unfortunately, my next one falls on Christmas week so I am hoping I won't have too many issues - this cycle has given me some liver pain and has made me feel immobile so I am crossing my fingers that my Christmas won't be tainted by this disease - I refuse to let it ruin my Christmas! I didn't get to go to my staff party tonight (or work today) so that's enough - I will not let this keep me down!
I want this Christmas to feel as normal as possible.
274 Posts
Thank you so much for writing and sharing your thoughts on the holidays. Yes we are Here! Thank you God for another season. My daughter and her fiancé are coming in from back east, my daughter who lives close by us and my nephew (his first Christmas with us) will share Christmas dinner at our place. I am enjoying decorating and being creative. I am working more and feeling pretty good. I feel very grateful for the medical care I have received. It has been quite the year and I am glad to say goodbye to it.
64 Posts
Last year I was diagnosed with BC in November, had my mastectomy in December and still had my drains in over Christmas. I did manage to make it out to one family event but it was generally a pretty quiet, somewhat stressed holiday season. I did not even send out Christmas cards as I did not know what to say in them.
This year I am finished my treatment and am thankful to be here and to be feeling pretty good. We decorated and put up the tree on December 1st which is two weeks earlier than normal. (My husband actually helped decorate the tree which he never does.) I sent out my cards with a little note to explain to anyone I hadn't talked to why I had skipped last year. I am busy wrapping presents, planning menus and baking etc.. Quite different from a year ago when I was so worried and thinking about not much other than my next medical appointment. Really looking forward to gatherings with family and friends.   
1182 Posts
This is going to be an exciting and thankful Christmas. They always have been but this one has extra specialness to it. My husband Mick was declared 5 years cancer free which we celebrate. Unfortunately he had a very minor heart attack about 6 weeks ago but again it was mild and he is still here. I literally just had shoulder surgery yesterday so my decorating and shopping all had to be done well ahead of time. The neat thing this year is my youngest son who is 21 and an amazing chef, is coming to my house and he and mom mom are doing all the cooking and cleaning. YAY me! Usually I am the one doing all of that so I shall enjoy being pampered.The only sad thing this year is we will be missing our favorite furbaby as he pass one week after my husband's heart attack. I still have a deep aching hole in me and he sure loved Christmas as I always bought him extra special treats and of course then there were the leftovers! I shall remember him with love on Christmas and maybe give an extra treat and leftover plate on the floor in memory.

Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays, peace and comfort.

A year ago I was trying to empty a thousand square foot house and three storage sheds. For Christmas day I drove to my brother-in-laws in Bremerton and spent a quiet day with him and then returned to put the final touches on packing up twenty years of life. I had insisted on a live tree and had spent time decorating it, struggling to keep a little normalcy in a crazy year.

I was dreading Christmas this year. I committed to singing a Christmas cantata - something I hadn't done for a few years. But other than some Advent activities really wasn't looking forward to much.

And then the kid called and offered to fly me to Alberta and Saskatchewan for Christmas. Spending time with my family for Christmas for the first time in years. And all of a sudden things really brightened. Oh now I have to think about presents for a hundred kids that I don't know (nieces, nephews, and their wee ones) And of course there is the cold and snow that I haven't experienced in twenty years or so. But still family at a very special time of year.

Like Aries‍  I have in the back of my mind that this may be the last one. And so it becomes a question of legacy. What do I want my family to remember about me in that last year? I'm thinking food should be a part of it. But since I'm traveling that is going to be hard to pull off. Still an interesting challenge. And I'm kind of thinking that some board and/or card games will be necessary. And stories. Of course stories. Boxing day fishing trips from years past. And traditions... I suspect that somewhere along the way someone will have that live tree that I'm missing so much.

The reality of cancer is that there is much that we miss out on. We can't be as active as we were. We can't eat all the food that appears at this time of year. We may be in pain or suffering severe side effects. So find ways to celebrate the hope, love, joy, and peace of this season.

Tonight... I will join my colleagues at our annual christmas party. 

Although I haven't been feeling well this past week and I am feeling exhausted from the long hours I put in at work... I am pushing myself to wear that pretty dress I bought and although I may not dance the night away with my husband...  I will have fun! Cancer will not define me!
1545 Posts
Karla‍ Welcome to cancerconnection. I hope you are not trying to do too much over the holidays!   If you're looking for a quiet activity, you could introduce yourself : https://cancerconnection.ca/discussions/viewcategory/41   or    https://cancerconnection.ca/discussions/viewcategory/39 .  You can join any discussion or start your own topic. 
WestCoastSailor‍ Alberta and Saskatchewan with the wee ones sounds like great fun! What an adventure!

So sorry about your furbaby, jorola‍ .  I hope your shoulder heals well and hope Mick is doing well.

In our family, things will be fairly quiet. On the 25th, it will be me, hubby and our two young men, (or me and the three wise guys!).  I sometimes call myself a cultural Christian or a secular Christian.  I love the Christmas traditions in which I was raised. Over the past few days I was on YouTube listening to The Chieftains - The Bells of Dublin (Christmas Eve).
   My husband does loads of volunteer work, so some of the volunteers have been dropping by for coffee. I bought a cake this afternoon as a Toronto couple was dropping by.  It was triple chocolate mousse cake, wow, delicious!
542 Posts
WestCoastSailor‍ - so glad you are heading East to spend time with family Angus! What a lovely last minute plan!
1952 Posts
We are not big on all the Christmas hype for lots of reasons. Our traditions are a walk with the dog, phone calls to family in UK, exchanging gifts, and a home cooked meal together. Between Christmas and New Year we like to go camping, and we have friends as mad as us who come too!
117 Posts
With hubby only having a diagnonis of 6 months...I'm going all out for Christmas.
Although I normally do Christmas dinner, I am having several added people (family) and it works for me and hubby... the more the merrier

Last night a family tradition is Carolling Sing-a-long... there were about 30 of us, all family (i come from an very close knit family and extended family - we do everything together).. it was great fun... I as the caregiver was really worried I would not be able to cope... only to find out many of us were not able to cope.... so we cried together, and laughed together and reminsed of sing a longs gone by.

For new years we will go to our other home which is in the snow belt.  There have been many times when we (hubby and I and family that live in the snow belt) start a campfire, and bring in the new year.... Again I dont know how I will cope as it isnt going to be a good new year for me.

Hubby is staying the course... he doesnt talk about his dieing, he says he needs to keep it in the box... I gave him a journal to write in but he hasnt been doing that either...he says he cant put down the conversation he has in his head to paper... so I will look for a tape recorder.

We go to the oncologist this week...to see what if any updates there are.

I hope you all have a good Christmas...keep the faith!!!
8 Posts
Doesn’t feel much like Christmas this year.  I usually entertain Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I am so not into it this year my sister in law will be in from out of town and taking care of everything.  I just don’t have the energy.
274 Posts
Hi Acre, I am so sorry to read your journal. How very trying for you to have to wait over the holidays to get your treatment restarted. I hope you can enjoy some rest over the holidays and let your sister in law take over for you! 
Cynthia Mac
3868 Posts
Vox‍ , I live in the snow belt, too. Of course, you could live an hour away from me and still be in the snow belt! LOL 
35 Posts
I continue Christmas celebration with family and friends despite cancer.   Just keep my energy up for the feasts and laughter.  Lucky me.
1245 Posts

This is my first Christmas without my husband, Cliff.  Christmas was his very favourite time of year and I know that he would want us to celebrate Christmas in the way that we always did. 

I love that "Christmas Village!"  I used to get my sons to help me with something similar each year. We had so much fun doing that! Of course, I had to teach them a much needed skill of building things out of sugar cubes.
I find Christmas to be draining these days. It has largely lost its significance in our lives because of the cancer and how it makes everything harder.
We have a living room full of beautiful plants that I tend to year round, so what I have started doing is to decorate some of them with miniature LED lights. We are both tree-huggers" so that always makes for a nice atmosphere, and welcome change from the rest of the year. I actually leave those lights on year round, and when we feel like a bit of "the spirit of christmas," I just turn them on. Ill share a pic here when I get them up and running for this year. :)
Cynthia Mac
3868 Posts
CentralAB‍ , I know what you mean about cancer taking significance out of Christmas. For me, in some ways, cancer has helped me rediscover the significance of Christmas. Oh there have been other factors, including age, a decreasing family circle, and even retirement.

In my 20s and early 30s, I went all-out at Christmas, I made ornaments to put on the packages, I wrapped things up (including the house) like Martha Stewart, we dined with friends, and hosted many an occasion. Over time, I realized I was spending weeks gearing up for something that is over in just hours!

When I moved into this house, I started out fine, put up a tree every year, had decorations all over, and put Christmas towels in the kitchen and bathrooms. I saw a shift 3 years ago when my little dog died just 7 days before Christmas. The next Christmas, my Mom had passed away a few months before, and my Dad had his lung surgery 10 days before Christmas, so I didn’t put up a tree that year, either, nor have I since. 

The man in my life isn’t much into the season, and he merely watched the decorations go up and come down. He doesn’t decorate anything in his own house. I’ve concluded that the spirit of Christmas isn’t in the decorations, and I’d rather spend the hours it will take to put up and take down a tree on other enterprises. Plus, I still haven’t figured out what my cat will think of a tree and its accoutrements. Not sure I want to find out!

To me, the barrage of commercials saying “buy me, buy me” is draining, especially this year, as are those “friends” on FB with their angst about being wished “seasons greetings,” or “happy holidays.” My irritation with that could be directly linked to being a caregiver, and feeling that I just don’t have time for that pettiness.

So, if cancer and other contributing factors have “pared down” my season, that’s OK. I feel it has brought me closer to the spirit of the season, of wanting peace on earth and good health for all.

However you celebrate, and whoever is with you, have a wonderful holiday.
Wendy Tea
1632 Posts
Cynthia Mac‍ ,  I think it is time I chimed in. I agree the holidays are far too commercial. I have a group of very special friends located across the country. My holiday shopping starts January 1st and all year long I pick up interesting, quirky, inexpensive gifts and put them in the gift cabinet. This means I dont have to rely on gifting a box of chocolates or something that I didn't put some thought into. It also means 98% of my shopping is done by December 1st.

I am on my own for the holidays. This doesn't mean I am lonely, nor does it mean I am by myself. I have put minimal decorations up. I love sending cards to those who dont have internet, and sending emails to many others. 

The stress of holiday celebrations are made worse by thinking every minute has to be filled. The less I plan the more free time I have to accept spontaneous invitations. Tomorrow will be my third lunch out this week, and as of Monday, only one lunch was planned. I will meet friends on the weekend, on the 23rd and the 24th. If I find myself alone on the 25th, I will go for a walk, greet everyone I see, cook a beautiful dinner for myself, wear new PJ's and enjoy the day. Otherwise I might get a surprise invitation. Either way I am good.

My goal continues to be to keep stress at a minimum. Hence I am grateful my son and his beautiful wife are staying put in Seattle. In the past, I have travelled many miles to spend time with friends but 2019 has been my year to put on my own oxygen mask first. 

For those of you spending the day alone, you are not alone. I will be thinking of you. Think of me and we will be together.

Wendy Tea 
8442 Posts
Wendy Tea‍       and Cynthia Mac‍  Had to add my 2 cents as well.   While the holiday is very commercialized whatever you do, don't re-gift!     I got caught doing that once and it didn't go over well.       That's a story for when we meet.     As you know my dad is a hoarder, so I figured I'll just go rummaging around in his basement for gifts since he has everything under the sun and moon down there.       Moral of the story....if you are going to re-gift, make sure you know what you are wrapping up before you give it to the person.      Full story to follow.     
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