A CancerLand Holiday Wishlist…or Please Help Me Get Through the Season


Alysa Cummings
Alysa Cummings

Holidays can be happy, happy, merry, merry or holidays can get on your last nerve.

You know what I mean? Honestly, it’s true. And trust me, cancer may have very little to do with it.

The season that starts with Thanksgiving and climaxes with New Year’s Day can drain anyone dry, even if you’re in the best of health. The flurry of activity – too many plans and not enough time to do them all. Overeating. Over-shopping. Over-stressing. Overdoing the celebration. (Did I mention relatives who occasionally overstay their welcome?) It can all be exhausting whether or not you live in CancerLand.

So what can you do for a friend, family member or loved one who’s just not “at their best” this holiday season because they are recovering from cancer treatment? How can you help them get through November, December and January with a smile on their face?

After giving this some thought, and checking in with some of my fellow survivors, here’s a short wishlist from CancerLand:

Help me feel normal

I’m still me! Sure I’ve been through some unpleasant medical treatment, and I might not look exactly the same, but I don’t want to be treated any differently. And, trust me, I will have zero tolerance for long faces, pitiful expressions and endless “howwww arrrrrre you’s.” all through dinner.

Help me feel special

Hug me. Kiss me. Celebrate with me. Whatever you do, please don’t avoid connecting with me. I’m grateful to be here – right here, right now – partying with all of you. Keep the invitations coming. Let me join in the merriment if I can, to the best of my ability. The spirit is willing! Let me work out the details.

Help me feel pretty

Losing my hair (along with selected body parts) doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my vanity. If the thought of buying me a gift makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable, (is this the right size? is this the right gift?) do the next best thing: give cash. Love that! Or a generous gift card to one of my favorite stores. I will be eternally grateful and I promise that I’ll treat myself to something sacredly selfish and special – all the while thinking lovingly of you.

Help me feel loved

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Please let me know if there’s anything that I can do…” Well-intentioned, no doubt, but an actual, caring gesture speaks volumes. The champion crocheter who creates a beautiful afghan that matches my living room color scheme and keeps me cozy during afternoon naps deserves a prize for Best Gift Ever. Ditto for the foodie who drops off a casserole dish filled with gourmet noodle kugel. I can eat some now and freeze the rest for future comfort food attacks. Thank you just doesn’t cover it! The neighbor who knows I need help dragging in those garbage cans every Friday morning and just does it without fanfare. That’s a real gift from the heart if you ask me. The friend who calls once a week “just to talk,” but instead chooses to listen. The gift of Beanie Baby miniature stuffed animals – all different types of cats – that keep me company while I’m seated in the Chemo Lounge. Blessings, blessings, all.

Happy Holidays!