Dealing with the Holidays: Ideas from People with Metastatic Breast Cancer

November 28, 2013
Think positive!

Think positive!

The holidays are here. While some songs claim this is the most wonderful and most happiest time of year, for many people it is also the most stressful time of year. Last year, we asked people with MBC to share their thoughts on the holidays. We asked them, among other things, how to deal with the feeling that that this holiday had to be most perfect and most memorable gathering. Their comments were so insightful:

“I think that my offer to make six dishes for Thanksgiving was really my attempt to show myself that I was still capable of doing “more” than my able bodied relatives…I am gradually learning that I don’t have to place so much pressure on myself”

“I was upset the first holiday after my diagnosis when our big family gathering had its usual portion of mini-dramas, arguments and misunderstandings. I thought this holiday should be like a Hallmark card or that Norman Rockwell painting, but then I realized we were never that way, so why should I have these unrealistic expectations?”

“For me the biggest stress is trying to please everyone. While I have always struggled with this, the intensity with which I feel this is much stronger now that I am living with mbc. It is an effort to remember that it is truly impossible to please all, all the time. I am trying to remember what it is that I like – this often gets muddled for me. I am still a work in progress.”

“I am bothered and saddened by the thought that this might be my last Christmas. It makes everything so much more emotional and stressful–like your gifts to people have to be more meaningful and your interactions with relatives you barely see more intense.”

Some commented that thinking about meaningful, more personalized gifts was comforting. One woman started a tradition of giving everyone very personalized ornaments. “I’ll be part of their Christmases in the future,” she said.

You can read more thoughts on MBC and holiday coping strategies here. And here are some additional thoughts on enjoying the holidays:

Ask for help. If the task of cooking a large family meal seems daunting, then ask for help with set up and clean up, have each person bring a dish to share, or order food to go from a store or restaurant. You may consider making restaurant reservations. Remember, getting together with the people you care about is more important than the food. Family and friends will gladly play a role in your celebration and may feel flattered that you asked for their input and contribution. Source:’s  Cancer and the Holidays

Create a New Holiday Season Tradition That Makes the Most of Your Energy. Change your usual holiday activities so you relieve yourself of some of the pressures of entertaining. Have a “pot luck,” with family members each bringing a dish for the meal, have someone else host the meal, or suggest eating out at a favorite restaurant. Source:’s Coping with Cancer During the Holidays

Put Yourself First: It’s so easy to feel obligated to accept every invitation, or fulfill every expectation: DON’T! Limit your involvement to what you truly can handle and will enjoy. Source: Mass General’s Coping With Cancer at the Holidays

It’s OK Not to Feel Cheery. If there’s one thing to be mindful of as the holiday season is upon us, remember that it’s OK to not feel as cheery and joyful as all the songs tell us to. It’s normal to experience conflicting emotions at the same time.
Source: MD Anderson’s Tis the Season for Coping With Cancer

If Possible, Keep Your Sense of Humor. When was the last time you had a good laugh? Has it been awhile since you watched your favorite funny movie such as Christmas Vacation?  How about an real golden oldie like Duck Soup?  And finally, if all else fails, ELF YOURSELF! All the best  from MBCN!