The holidays are a time when we gather with friends and loved ones, celebrating the season and counting our blessings. For those dealing with cancer, this time of year can be filled with treatment sessions, doctor appointments and worry. The American Cancer Society knows cancer doesn't take a break during the holidays. Throughout the holidays, in fact all year long, the American Cancer Society offers free information and support to help cancer patients, caregivers and the public stay well and get well.
For the more than 11 million Americans living with cancer, celebrating the holidays can also include the added challenge of dealing with a serious illness. The American Cancer Society stands ready to help people get well, no matter the date on the calendar. The American Cancer Society operates 31 Hope Lodge locations nationwide. Hope Lodge provides a home-away-from-home for those who must continue their lifesaving treatment during the holidays. In fiscal year 2011, the Midwest Division's Hope Lodges provided 43,273 nights of lodging, saving patients nearly $5.2 million.
The American Cancer Society and the Iowa Lodging Association have worked together to make free rooms available across Iowa to cancer patients who have had to travel for treatment. Currently, 33 additional hotels have signed up for this terrific program, saving cancer patients hundreds of thousands of dollars in lodging costs.
Research supported by the American Cancer Society shows that caring for someone with cancer is among the most stressful situations of all people caring for someone with a disease. One of the most important things caregivers can do during the holidays is to take care of themselves. A caregiver's physical and emotional health is vital to the well-being of the person who is ill. In fact, many cancer survivors say they always felt as though their family members and friends were having a much harder time than they were and would have felt better knowing that their caregivers were taking care of themselves.
People with cancer and their loved ones do not have to face their cancer experience alone, especially during the holidays. They can connect with others who have "been there" through the American Cancer Society Cancer Survivors Network, an online community. The Cancer Survivors Network online community is a welcoming and safe place that connects survivors and caregivers across the country to share stories, experience, and to find emotional support. Connecting with others is important and at csn.cancer.org you may be able to find those online relationships that will help you cope during the holiday season.
Cancer doesn't happen to just one person. It happens to family members and friends as well. During the holidays, cancer can challenge each of us in different ways. Therefore, as you cope with cancer this holiday season, communication with your loved ones becomes essential. It is also important to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays. You need to discover what works best for you.
Coping with cancer during the holidays
Prepare yourself emotionally. The often unrealistic expectations of the holiday season can cause a great deal of stress for anyone, particularly someone dealing with cancer.
Keep it simple. If you are in the middle of cancer treatment, many tasks such as cooking, shopping and decorating can become overwhelming.
Know your physical limitations. Be aware of the physical stress that entertaining and travel can put on your body. Pay attention to how much rest you need so you do not overextend yourself.
Let people help you. You will feel relieved and your family and friends will feel good about being able to help you.
Share your feelings. Expressing your feelings, needs and concerns with others can help reduce the stress of the holidays.
Remember the meaning of the holidays. Try not to focus on what may be missing or what is different about this year's holiday season.
Bev Huisman is a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Hamilton County planning committee. To help volunteer, contact Huisman at 832-4785. Log onto www.RelayForLife.org/HamiltonCountyIA and join Relay For Life on July 13. For more information or to get help call (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.