Christmas with Cancer


Rodney Warner, JD
Rodney Warner, JD

It’s supposed to be The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Even for those of us lucky enough to be “normal” and “healthy”, it’s a time of stress and high expectations. We’re supposed to be happy, even when we’re dealing with uncomfortable family get togethers, spending time at office “holiday” parties with co-workers we don’t like all that much and trying to cram gift purchases into our budgets. Add to it the cold, snowy and icy weather and financial issues you may have, December is an emotional mine field for the unprepared.

You’ve got cancer too? Just makes the season that much more merry!

I dealt with cancer treatment for three consecutive Christmases. As the years went on, my prognosis became more bleak. The following two Christmases, my brother was undergoing cancer treatment. He died a couple weeks before Christmas, in 2006.

There’s a lot of pressure at “holiday” time. Maybe, because of your health, you can’t see everyone you’d like to see. Maybe, because of the holiday, you’re seeing too many people. If family’s visiting, you may feel the need to put on that ‘happy warrior’ face when talking to relatives you haven’t seen in a while, even when you’re not all that happy and you feel much more like a casualty than a warrior.

In general, the best way to deal with cancer is to live the moment, and that’s especially true at Christmas. You can’t think about the past (Why did I start smoking? Why didn’t I go to the doctor sooner? Did I choose the right treatment?) or the future (Will I live? Will I die? Will I suffer? Will I get all those nasty side effects that are listed in tiny print in those handouts that come with the all meds I’m taking?). There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, only today. That needs to be your focus.

Be honest to yourself and others. If you’re down in the dumps, talk about it, to loved ones, to your doctor. Get professional help if you need it and can afford it. Seek out support groups. Get it out. You’re not the only one dealing with these problems. There are probably hundreds of thousands of Americans undergoing cancer treatment in America right now. It’s OK to feel stressed and depressed. I don’t think it’s OK to ignore these issues. You can feel better, you can do better, but you have to make the choice to move in the right direction.

Don’t want to be the happy warrior with others? Then don’t be! Feeling crummy? If asked, let others know! Feeling scared? If you’re comfortable with it, feel free to share! People who truly care about you won’t run away if you paint a picture that’s not bright and sunny. They will support you the best they can. They will feel better knowing that they are helping you in your time of need.

Another way to cope with Christmas with cancer is to focus on what Christmas is truly all about. Despite what you’ve heard, it’s not about Black Friday sales, covering your house with lights and busting your budget to buy gifts for the sake of buying gifts. At its heart, Christmas is a religious holiday. It’s a celebration of the fact that God sent us His son, to spread the Good News that we need to treat each other with love and respect, and that we might be able to live life everlasting. Feel free to opt out of all the Christmas Crap that’s been layered onto the holiday over the centuries.

Give gifts to yourself this Christmas. Be honest to yourself and others. Reach out for help if you need it. You can get through today, you can feel better, be it Christmas or not.