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Coping With Cancer and the Holidays

Program offers advice for women during difficult time

MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Dealing with cancer can make it difficult to find any hope or joy during the holiday season.

Nearly 250,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast and gynecologic cancer this year and this Christmas and holidays may be especially difficult for them, both emotionally and physically.

A new program called "When Mom Has Cancer: Help and Hope for the Holidays," provides simple tips on how women coping with cancer and their families can minimize their stress during the holidays.

Here's some of the advice provided in the program, which is from the Gillette Women's Cancer Connection.

Be true to yourself. Stay tuned to your feelings and be honest about them. Don't pretend the cancer isn't there. Feel free to cry or get upset. It's common to feel a mixture of anticipation, disappointment or apprehension. Talk about them with a loved one, friend or professional counselor.

Set realistic expectations to avoid being overwhelmed by the season. Select a few things you want to do rather than trying to do many things you feel you should do. Decide what you can do and tell your family and friends. If you take on too much or expect too much, you'll likely start feeling stressful.

Be flexible and fluid. Don't bother trying to make this the perfect or most elaborate Christmas you've ever had. If things go wrong, take them in stride. Give yourself permission to cancel plans at the last minute if you don't feel you're up to them.

Lighten up. You don't have to make every single moment of the holidays memorable. Limit yourself to a few events instead of trying to be part of too many and ending up too exhausted to enjoy any of them.

Make alternate meal plans. Instead of cooking a big family dinner, arrange a potluck, where family members and guests each prepare a food dish. You can even suggest a restaurant meal.

Stay away from malls. Go online to buy gifts or order presents from catalogues.

Be a bit selfish and spend some time with yourself. Take care of your needs and get adequate rest and exercise.

More information

You can find many more tips and other helpful materials at the Gillette Women's Cancer Center.

SOURCE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, news release, December 2002
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