“As experienced cancer nurses, we are here to listen to people’s cancer experiences and share emotional and practical support to help people cope with their feelings of sadness.”

Tips for coping over the holidays

Sharing experiences and coping strategies can help people get through difficult times. Here are some tips from others affected by cancer:

Set realistic expectations

  • Consider online shopping and/or gift vouchers for Christmas presents to save time and energy
  • Scaling back on decorating or shopping and/or accepting the help of others with this, can make it easier for you
  • To help keep costs down consider making home-made gift vouchers for things such as babysitting, gardening or a picnic
  • Booking Christmas lunch or dinner at a restaurant, arranging a picnic at

a local park, or asking people to bring a contribution to the Christmas meal  can make it easier

  • If you are having treatment over Christmas, consider having a low key

day on December 25 and plan a celebration at the end of treatment.

Express your needs

  • Tell others if you are finding it difficult to cope and accept offers of help.

Be specific about things people can do to assist

Be gentle with yourself

  • Give yourself permission to get through Christmas the best way you

can. Let people know that you may need to have a rest on the day.

Remember celebrations don’t have to be perfect

  • Mood swings and feelings of loss are common over Christmas. Allow

yourself some time to reflect

  • Have an exit plan prepared for times when you may find a family

gathering or party overwhelming.

Keep activities simple and save your energy

  • Feeling very tired (fatigue) is a common side effect after cancer treatment.

Avoid overwhelming numbers of visitors and long car trips. As energy levels

may vary, sometimes it can be helpful to plan the day’s activities and then

halve them. Allow for rest time during the day. Try to build in a gentle walk regularly over the holidays as this can help restore energy

  • Keep meals simple. If the person with cancer has had to change their

diet, serve food that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Create new rituals

  • If your usual Christmas rituals or traditions no longer feel right, consider

replacing them with a new ritual or tradition that is special to you. For

example, light a candle in honour of a special person who has

died and place it with a photo or flowers on the table.

Seek support

  • Talking to someone about your feelings can reduce feelings of distress

and isolation. Family and friends can be a good source of support. The friendly experienced cancer nurses on our helpline can listen to your concerns and put you in touch with support services. Call 0800 CANCER (226 237) to speak to a cancer nurse today. We also recommend that you carry out of hour contacts for your treating doctor and hospital.

Cancer Information Helpline Hours over Christmas

Although we will be closed over the holidays, 12 noon Thursday 24 December – reopening 8.30am 5 January, phone messages and emails will be checked on the days we return to the office. To have your call returned, please leave your name and phone number.

Our online forum CancerChatNZ www.cancerchatnz.org.nz will be taking a break from 12 noon Thursday 24 December– 8.30am Tuesday 5 January 2016

Other support services:

  • Healthline(24hr/7 days per week) 0800 611 116
  • Lifeline (24hr/7 days per week)     0800 543 354


This information sheet has been adapted with kind permission of the authors, our Australian colleagues at the Cancer Council Victoria Cancer Helpline www.cancervic.org.au

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