5 ways to keep the holidays happy when dealing with cancer

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW
Last Reviewed: November 27, 2023

The holiday season can be stressful enough, but when you or someone you love has cancer, the season can be overwhelming. Use these five tips to reduce stress and keep the ‘happy’ in happy holidays!


Decide which traditions are most important to you and ditch the rest this year. Focus on quality, not quantity. Delay some visits until after the new year.

2. Communicate

Communicate your wishes clearly with loved ones. What do you need to make things easier? What gifts would you appreciate most? What do you want to do? Set limits and remember, it is okay to say “no”!

3. Care for yourself (Caregivers, this means you too!)

Take time for yourself, ask for help, and know when to say no. Acknowledge that dealing with cancer may impact your holiday traditions. What can you control and what should you just let go of? Get enough rest and try to maintain a healthy diet to help boost your energy level.

4. Validate your feelings

Think about your feelings- how do you feel about the holidays and why do you feel this way? How does that influence your actions? Understanding these feelings can help you make decisions that support YOU. It is okay to not celebrate and your loved ones will (or should) understand.

5. Develop your elevator speech

Think of some responses to the questions you often get in social situations. Have responses that deflect from cancer – for example, “I am feeling good, how is school going for your son?” or “I had a rough month, but I’m doing a little better. How is your mom doing with her recovery? People feel obligated to ask or fear they appear insensitive, but if you redirect them, they are usually happy to talk about something else. If you think about responses ahead of time, you will find those interactions a little less uncomfortable.

Visit OncoLink’s Holiday Survival Guide for coping tips and special gift ideas for a loved one facing cancer. We hope these five ways to keep the holidays happy help you.

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