Christmas can be busy and hectic at the best of times. Gifts to buy and wrap. Food to prepare and cook and trees and decorations to put up. Add cancer, with its treatments, multiple appointments, treatments and results and it can become extremely stressful. Here are ten tips to help you help your friend with cancer over Christmas.
Offer to host celebrations
A cancer patient may feel they have to follow tradition and host gatherings as usual. Offer to host celebrations or alternatively go to a restaurant. Cancer patients sometimes have difficulties with eating and drinking so check if there are dietary requirements and have snacks available. You could also take a meal to your friend for them and their family if they are not up to attending get-togethers.
You could offer to help with deciding on gifts, buying vouchers and gifts online or from the shops. Gifts will also need to be wrapped and either delivered or posted.
Cancer treatment will not necessarily stop because of Christmas. You could offer to help with transport to appointments and also to friends, family and other gatherings.
Cancer patients can often experience extreme fatigue. You could offer to help with putting up decorations. Don’t forget to offer to take them down and pack them away.
Let your friend know that you are available to them to do anything they any need. This could include collecting prescriptions, transport to appointments and to see friends and relatives, cooking and cleaning.
Visit your friend but before doing so ask if it is welcome and be very clear that saying no is just fine. Begin your visit by saying “It’s good to see you”. Cancer patients sometimes need a break from thinking and talking about cancer so ask about hobbies interests and other unrelated topics.
Allow for sadness
Christmas can cause people to reflect and cancer patients, in particular, can experience feelings of loss and grief at this time. Sharing feelings and thoughts can often help. Allow them space to change any rituals or traditions that no longer feel appropriate to them.
Instead of large gatherings and activities that require lots of energy, standing and walking, offer to go to the cinema, the theatre or to drive to see the Christmas lights.
Christmas and cancer can heighten feelings of sadness, isolation and loneliness and make the simplest situations overwhelming. Offer your friend support at these times and if they need exit strategies from certain situations or gatherings.
Treat them the same
While your friend may need support with their cancer diagnosis, especially at Christmas, they may find it very frustrating and feel angry if you overprotect them and try to do everything for them. Allow them the space to ask for what they need which may well be practical as well as emotional and as far as possible treat them as you always have.
Wishing you a calm and peaceful season
Natalie Murphy is one of Cancer Care Parcels authorised contributors.