Facing the holidays with cancer, serious illness

The holidays can be a difficult time for those facing serious illness. Once welcomed gatherings and special events may seem overwhelming, loved ones might not know how to help and children might not understand why this holiday is different than those of years past.

“Every year, The Gathering Place talks to many local residents facing cancer about how to cope with their illness, eliminate stress and set expectations during the holidays,” says Kristina Austin, director of community outreach at The Gathering Place, a local cancer support center. “We recognize the season can bring new emotions and pressures, and we invite those facing cancer and their loved ones to stop into either of our facilities and talk with one of our clinical program staff about how to manage holiday stresses or drop in for a free yoga or Tai Chi class to relax.”

Though each person and each situation is different, among the tips The Gathering Place often shares during the holiday season:

  • Recognize your limits – Whether you’re enduring a cancer diagnosis or taking care of a loved one, your energy level may be far reduced from that of years past. Don’t be afraid to make changes in traditions. Hold the family dinner at someone else’s home. Enlist help in wrapping presents or baking cookies.
  • Speak up regarding your needs – In the wake of illness, certain foods may not appeal to you, and you may feel more tired than usual. Feel comfortable about speaking up about your needs. Tell friends and family if you cannot enjoy food at this time and let them know when you need extra rest.
  • During the holidays, it is important to help children understand that some of the usual activities may have to change. Set reasonable expectations, for yourself and your children. Let the children know that the outside lights will be scaled back this year, only the most favorite cookies will be made, and only one special holiday event will be attended.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your feelings – Avoid bottling up your fears and frustrations. Share your concerns with family members and friends to relieve internal stress.
  • If there was ever a time to take friends up on offers of assistance, it is at holiday time. Getting out the decorations, buying the special wrapping paper or candles, even helping the children with their shopping, can all be done by a healthy family member or friend. This will allow you to enjoy more personal time with your children.

For more information on The Gathering Place and its programs for those touched by cancer, call 216-595-9546 or visit www.touchedbycancer.org for a full listing of free programs and services. The Gathering Place West is located at 800 Sharon Dr. in Westlake.

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Volume 2, Issue 25, Posted 1:43 PM, 12.10.2010