Just Not "Up" for the Holidays

Last Modified: December 22, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I am the caregiver for my husband who has Lung cancer. I have no interest in participating in the Christmas Holidays. I know this is probably a disappointment to the children but I just don't care about shopping and decorating. What can I say to tell them how I am feeling?


Tracy Lautenbach, MSW, LCSW, Social Worker in the Radiation Oncology Department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

If the children have not been told about your husband's cancer please consult with an oncology social worker as a member of your husband's treatment team about how to discuss cancer with children in an age-appropriate way. You can also get some ideas about this from Cancer Care. There is a very good cancer connect booklet called Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer.

Reassure the children that you love them and although you are feeling down and not into the holidays this year you are doing what you can to make it a good holiday for everyone.
You may be feeling burnt out with your caretaking duties and it is difficult to feel like you have to take time off from the cancer to try and enjoy the holidays.

Perhaps you need to replenish yourself physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Let others help- they can shop, wrap gifts, send cards. Don't be afraid to ask- people want to help, but often don't know where to jump in and don't want to step on your toes.

Keep your expectations realistic. Set priorities. Pace yourself and most importantly share your feelings with your family.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. See the entire transcript: Surviving & Thriving During the Holidays Webchat.

From the National Cancer Institute