The Holiday Experience With Cancer

There seems to be little to be grateful for when receiving a cancer diagnosis. One thing I can say now is that my recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia was determined in the beginning of January 2020; I was able to spend Christmas with my family in Wisconsin before I learned of my diagnosis.

Nonetheless, I had a peculiar holiday that year. I flew to Wisconsin after spending many months in alcohol rehab due to a relatively short but sickening relapse after 20 years of sobriety. I was mentally strong, but I couldn’t kick a cold that I got a month ago. I stayed at my parents’ home. We then gathered with my brothers, sisters and nephews at my sister house for a wonderful Christmas day.

I think I annoyed them.

I felt strangely sick. I wanted to take naps. I constantly blew my nose.! I felt cranky. My muscles ached. I had an attitude. I recall seeing eyerolls. Something was wrong beyond the cold.

I still had a cold when I returned to Tampa and went in to see my oncologist for a routine checkup in early January 2020.I was doing great since battling my first bout of cancer in 2016. This time, however, I did not receive a clean bill of health.I was told that the leukemia came back. A bone marrow transplant was the recommended treatment.

I did not have to spend the holidays in a hospital bed. But many do.

For all cancer patients being treated in a hospital or at home, don’t worry about how the holidays are supposed to be. Accept that this holiday will be different. This time, the meaning of the holiday may be more prevalent as opposed to the usual mass consumption.

Sometimes the Internet is a good thing. Buy online if you wish to give gifts. Send greetings via social media.

To caregivers and cooks, sometimes patients under treatment have mouth sores and changed tastebuds. Maybe make smooth culinary creations like pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, or chocolate mousse?

If you are being treated at home, can you get out to see the holiday lights?

Caregivers, if your loved one is in the hospital, perhaps gather the family and have a pajama party in the room. Maybe everyone wears their pjs and gifts the patient with an extra cozy set? I loved getting cute wool hats with pom pons. I also received a watercolor paint-paper-and-brush set; it made my stay much more pleasurable and made it go by faster.

Before gifting patients with perfumes or lotions, check with the physician. In my journey, anything scented was a risk as my immune system was compromised.

Even though it wasn’t Christmastime, I appreciated the gift of visits. Sometimes, my visitor would just be by my side as I slept. When I woke up, I saw a smiling face. A joyful moment.

Cancer patients- give yourself the gift of rest. Let yourself be pampered. May you be blessed with recovered health, happiness and hope.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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