You don’t want to make Christmas all about cancer, but at the same time, it’s understandable to want to make the holiday as enjoyable as possible for a loved one who may not be feeling their best. You may also be anxious about giving gifts that are safe, especially when it comes to skincare products. While we can’t possibly answer all things for all individuals, there are some things we can suggest in order to be sensitive and caring to a loved one’s needs so that everyone can have the best time possible over the holidays.
Offer to host celebrations
If your loved on is the person who usually has everyone over for Christmas, maybe make this year the time that you offer to do the proverbial heavy lifting instead. Hosting is a wonderful thing, but as we all know it’s also a lot of work and can be extremely tiring. Being unwell in itself can make you feel tired, but cancer treatments like chemotherapy are known to add to feelings of exhaustion as well as nausea. Equally, cooking can sometimes make nausea from cancer treatment worse because of the prolonged exposure to all those rich smells. Taking on responsibility for the cooking and organising this year may allow your loved one to enjoy the festivities without exhausting themselves too much.
Help with transport
It may be that your loved one still has cancer treatments to get to over the holiday season, so offering to help with transportation to and from appointments is a really caring and helpful thing that can help make the holidays a little easier. Until you’re in the midst of lots of hospital visits, you don’t really realise what a feat of logistics it can be getting yourself there can be, so having someone who’s willing to take you to the front doors, park the car and either sit with you (if allowed) or come back and collect you at the right time can be a real weight off.
Find out if they have a particular routine
It may be that your loved one has a particular routine that’s dependent on things like their medication, or simply when their energy levels are best in the day. Often cancer treatment causes changes in appetite or sense of taste as well - all things that can affect their routine, which may be more important than ever at this time.
That’s not to say that Christmas needs to be oriented around that routine, but being mindful of it, maybe making little changes to accommodate it, can really help make sure everyone has what they need to enjoy the day. Perhaps lunch is at 1 instead of 2pm; or maybe they arrive at 12 midday instead of 11am in order to make sure they rest as much as possible in the morning. You could make it easy to nibble on food a little and often by having snacks around in case they don’t want to eat a lot in one go, giving loved ones the chance to take control of their eating without being conspicuous.
Don’t force the fun
It’s ok to keep things simple and it’s ok to keep things quieter than normal. Cancer doesn’t have to be a topic of conversation but it also doesn’t have to be evident because of its absence from conversation. Treat your loved one like normal over the holidays. Allow space for things to be mellow, and don’t overcompensate for any sadness that may be being felt. Keep things flexible so if someone wants to go and lay down for an hour, that’s ok, and let it be their choice if they want to participate in different parts of the day.
Have a list of contacts readily available in case there’s a problem
On a practical note, it’s always a good idea to have a list of contacts readily available so you’re not scrabbling around for them in the event you need them. Whether it’s a taxi to help your loved one get home without fuss, or the doctor’s number in case they take a turn, being prepared helps to make sure that you feel safe and have all bases covered. Make your list, put it away and don’t think about it again unless it’s needed.
Safe and supportive wellbeing gifts
Onto more enjoyable topics - gifts! Of course, cancer doesn’t have a direct impact on the gifts that you give. However, a little information can help you choose things that are really meaningful, or, on a practical note, useable, especially for anyone undergoing cancer treatment. For example, if you’re tempted by those gorgeous gift sets of bubble baths and body oils, take a look at the ingredients first. Skin can become exceptionally sensitive when going through cancer treatments like chemotherapy, making lots of high street products unsuitable. So you may want to consider one of the Jennifer Young gift sets, such as the Sandalwood Exclusive Gift Collection, which has been created to both be safe and support the skincare needs of anyone with or recovering from cancer. Then again, if your loved one has particular areas they are struggling with, such as anxiety, you could choose an aromatherapy gift set like the Well Being Beauty - Crown Chakra Balance Collection.
All of this said, the most important thing is to keep things as normal as possible during periods of celebration - just be sensitive. No one wants to be told ‘eat this because you have cancer’ or ‘do that because you have cancer’. It’s just important for your loved one to know that if they do need something specific, it’s no big deal, and equally for you to know that that’s all that’s expected of you as well. Like we said at the start of this article, this is by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions, and they are just that - suggestions. However, what we hope to convey is that you are completely within your rights to take a step back from the business of the holidays and think about what you need. Everyone will want you to have a nice time, and if that means that you only feel able to spend a couple of hours with everyone, then that’s wonderful. Or if you’re not sure how to handle something that you’re worried about then there are lots of people available who will happily offer advice or simply listen if that’s what you would like.