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December 17, 2013


Dealing with cancer during the holidays

Dealing with cancer is very stressful for both patients and their families, and the stress can increase during the holidays.

Families who have someone diagnosed with cancer are faced with multiple stresses caused both by the disease and by seasonal activities.  But Emily Lane, clinical social worker at the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says the holidays can be enjoyable for the individuals with cancer and their families.  She offers these suggestions.

“If a loved one with cancer is dealing with fatigue or other significant issues, perhaps modifying the traditions may help to conserve energy so that the person can enjoy more of the holiday fun. So an example would be if a person with cancer traditionally hosts a very large holiday meal, maybe changing this up to a potluck could be an option.”

Lane says communication is the key to getting through the holidays. She advises families to listen to the concerns of the person with the disease and be there to support and comfort them.

“Asking a loved one what they would like to do during the holidays -- not assuming that we know about what they want or what they need.  Letting our loved ones know that we’re flexible, we don’t mind changing things up a bit. I think those are ways you can try to help someone who is living with cancer feel better about the situation.”

Lane recommends that families focus on being together rather than focusing on the illness.  If someone has serious difficulty coping with the illness, they should contact a local cancer support group, mental health counselor or their family physician.

Ruth Slottag

Phone 217-545-8000
P.O. Box 19620
Springfield, IL 62794-9620
The mission of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research, and service to the community.


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