Cancer Patients’ Guide To Christmas When You Have Children

Christmas is an incredibly tiring time, with events, family gatherings and activities constantly taking place throughout advent. 

But some parents’ festive plans may have been thrown a curveball with an oncology diagnosis or the start of cancer treatment, and they are worried about how they will cope with the hectic season while feeling unwell. 

Whether they are undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, or are suffering from the cancer itself, they will not be physically or emotionally able to deal with the multitude of family festivities at this time of the year. 

However, this is not to say they can’t enjoy Christmas at all, as they just need to work out how they can get the most out of the festive period with their children even if they are not feeling their best. 


Manage expectations

Your original Christmas plans might not be able to go ahead, so it is important you and your loved ones decide how this year’s holiday will look like for you all. 

Being mentally prepared for this Christmas to look different is half the battle, but you will learn there are still some festive activities you can take part in even if they were not the ones you had planned. 

As well as managing your expectations, it is important to do the same with your family, especially children. Tell them what symptoms you are likely to be dealing with, from sickness to fatigue, loss of appetite to your hair falling out. 

If you explain to them now that you will not be able to go to the pantomime, Christmas grottoes and school fairs, but will find other ways to celebrate, they will have time to accept the news.


Think of alternative activities

Instead of late night shopping and New Year’s Eve parties, you will need to rest over the festive period. 

So why not snuggle down with loved ones to watch Christmas films? You could get your children wrapping the gifts or putting up the decorations as you watch some of your favourite festive movies.

Other alternative activities that, hopefully, won’t tire you out too much include reading some festive stories together, such as The Night Before Christmas; watching your little ones bake some Christmas cookies; or going for a wintry walk for some daily exercise. 

It is important for recovery to get moving every day, so going for a walk could become your daily family outing, so long as you listen to your body and don’t push yourself too much. 


Call in help

Cancelling Christmas entirely is not an option when you have children, but doing all the Santa jobs like shopping, wrapping, and cooking would be too demanding on anyone with cancer or going through treatment. 

That is why it is essential to get help from loved ones. Ask them to decorate your house, buy or wrap the gifts, make the dinner, or even do some cleaning. 

Maybe they could take the kids for a Christmassy day out so you have a chance to rest properly, or they could have them for a sleepover. 

Do not think twice about asking parents or friends for assistance, as even normal daily tasks, such as cooking, will feel like a struggle with the challenging symptoms you may be experiencing. 


Eat what you can

Cancer treatment can have a huge impact on appetite, thanks to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation being common side effects. 

This means the idea of preparing, cooking and eating a big roast dinner with all the trimmings may make your stomach flip. 

So the best thing to do is keep it as simple as possible and only eat what you can. Talk to your kids about whether they really want a big traditional dinner, and if they do, try to get someone to help prepare it for the family. 

You can pick at parts of the meal you can face that day or just stick with small snacks, such as crackers, if you are feeling really unwell. 

However, you may find they are just as happy with something like sausages and chips, which would be a lot gentler on your stomach and much easier and quicker to prepare. This will give you all more time to open presents and watch Christmas TV. 

If you are feeling really sick over the period, your doctor can prescribe you anti-nausea tablets, which will help you get through those more difficult days. 

You might find you are able to eat or do more than you anticipated over the break, but do not expect too much of yourself, as you will only be disappointed. 

The most important things are to get the rest you need and enjoy the moments with your family when you are feeling better, without the pressure of having to make it a perfect Christmas.