Yikes, it is the Holidays and I have Cancer and No One is Talking about It

Breast Cancer Holiday To Dos ListBy: Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer and a licensed psychologist.

Will it be my last? I am doing pretty well. Treatment is coming along but it is my first Holiday Season living with the knowledge that there is this aggressive invader in my body. What am I to do? Sound familiar? Identify?

Living with a cancer diagnosis is not for the faint of heart. And the Holiday season only amplifies the reality that you have come face-to-face with your own mortality. This diagnosis like none other slaps you into the reality that life is not forever for anyone, especially your life, as you are actively fighting for it. I found it helpful during my treatment to keep my life as “normal” as possible. So here are a few to-dos that might be helpful.

  • Do decorate but do not go over board. Your energy is needed to heal.
  • Do buy your favorite foods even if they don’t taste quite the same.
  • If you are one of those who loves to cook or bake then choose a favorite and make it.
  • If you send out a Christmas letter then focus on the positives of the treatment process and use the letter to tell them what you need to hear from them this coming year. The reality is no one knows what to say and often say nothing in order to not say the wrong thing. So include a little paragraph that says something like this:
      “I know the C word makes everyone nervous and afraid. Thank goodness Cancer is not contagious and you can’t transmit it by talking about it. Do not be afraid to ask me, “How are you doing?” Don’t be afraid to ask me, “Do you want to talk about it?” Or “What do you need?” I have good days and bad days and often times I don’t know what I need but it feels good to be asked. And what I need to hear from you most is: “I don’t know what to say or ask, but I am wanting you to know you are important to me, what can I do?”
  • If you love shopping, go at off times when everyone else is at work.
  • Listen to great Christmas music and if you get bored or teary with it, then switch to music you really love. Don’t be afraid of your tears. Tell your journal how you are feeling and what you are experiencing.
  • Watch holiday movies. Go to a play or live performance.
  • Get outside. Bundle up and walk around the block or drive to a park. A change of scenery always feels good.
  • If you are too weak to drive have someone take you to see Christmas lights.
  • Buy an adult coloring book to color in as the days turn into weeks and weeks into months. Coloring can be a useful and fun activity that keeps your mind from worrying so much.
  • Drink tea. It is a wonderful healing ritual.
  • Wear your favorite and most comfortable clothes.
  • And if you are traveling for the holiday on trains or airplanes consider wearing a mask in addition to keeping hands clean to help protect from others’ germs. These are not full-proof measures but the extra steps do help.
  • And, best of all, give yourself permission to NOT do anything you don’t want to do. If you hate wrapping presents, switch to gift bags only. If you hate cooking, order your holiday meal. Pamper yourself.

Create new memories for next year. Having cancer is a real bummer but do not let it control you and your mood. You are still alive right now and use this time to make the most of it with your loved ones. None of us are immortal. We will all die. We do not get a choice about that. But we do get a choice about how we live and what we create while we are here. Never allow self-pity to steal your joy. Find something to enjoy everyday. Give back. Call a friend who is down and cheer him/her up. Look for ways to make a positive difference in the lives of people around you. You may have cancer but that does not mean your entire identity has changed. Don’t let cancer own you. Live your life the best possible way and get determined to enjoy this Holiday Season regardless. Turn up that music now!

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Doctor’s HOLIDAY Advice For Cancer Patients And Survivors

Holiday Advice For The HolidaysDr. Robin Dilley, Author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey With Breast Cancer and a licensed psychologist.

The HOLIDAY season comes at the best time of the year, starting in fall and finishing in the heart of winter. It is the best time of the year, because it is my favorite time. The weather changes and the colors of fall dance in the crispness of evening dusk and then snow falls and purifies the debris of hot summer months. From Halloween until Valentine’s Day there is a HOLIDAY to look forward to with opportunity for plenty of hallmark moments.

However, the HOLIDAY season can be marred with ghosts from times past that you need to clear out in order to celebrate and take every opportunity to be fully alive in the HOLIDAY season. One good way to do this is to write journal letters to the people or memories that have scarred your HOLIDAY mood. Write a letter to the people or memories that haunt you and burn those letters in a fall bond fire. But don’t stop there. Write a new letter to yourself for every letter that you just burned. This new letter is a letter of declaration. Declare to take back the joy, mystery, and excitement of this time of the year and describe in detail in the letter how you are setting yourself free and specifically celebrating the HOLIDAY season this year. This letter of declaration is your bill of rights to enjoy your life without the haunting of past memories. This is most important for us as cancer survivors. If you are currently challenged with a certain cancer and are wrestling with treatment and recovery the HOLIDAY season can be shadowed with fear and life and death thoughts. It is very important that you rally to claim this time of year for yourself and your family. HOLIDAY’s can be the best memory making times of your life. In order for that to happen you must drop the “should and have-to” demands of society and simply enjoy the presence of festivity and connection that this time of the year provides.

So, cancer survivor’s and current patients get out your pen and paper and write your letter of independence today. Do not let cancer shadow or shatter your HOLIDAY this year. You may not have control of the outcome of your current cancer story, but you can control the way you celebrate this time of the year just because you are still here and this is an opportunity to enjoy.

Hallmark and commercialism have over-burdened and over stimulated many of you with all of the commercial glitz of consumerism. HOLIDAY’S can becoming burdensome surrounded by clouds of should and have-to. Do not allow commercialism to ruin the enjoyment and zest that can be yours during this magical time of the year. Learn to own what your HOLIDAY thoughts and dreams are and execute the HOLIDAY the way you want to do it. For instance, choose the HOLIDAY you enjoy the most and celebrate it fully the way you that brings you the most enjoyment. If Halloween is your favorite HOLIDAY then full celebrate it. Give HALLOWEEN gifts if you want and put it in the card: “Happy Halloween. I just love this holiday and since I can’t do both Christmas and Halloween I am gifting you now and hope you will enjoy this just as much if you were opening it on Christmas morning.” It is okay to have boundaries and not have to do all of everything for the HOLIDAY. If you are overwhelmed with other people’s expectations, you are the only one that can change that. I promise you they won’t change it for you.

Then for the rest of the HOLIDAYS choose one part of the HOLIDAY to truly participate in. For instance if you live near family and have to do HOLIDAY meals on Christmas morning, afternoon, and evening as well as a big celebration on Christmas eve, you know that already. So rather than resist it, pre-plan and prepare what you are going to take, organize it and have it off of your to do list. As a result of these obligations, trim down on other HOLIDAY have-to obligations and learn to say no to the cookie exchange and last-minute wrapping and gift buying. Sometimes, you can be your own worse enemy. Family expectations are tricky and you do not have to take an all or nothing stance. Resisting your mother-in-law’s expectations is a waste of your mental and emotional energy. Just pre-plan around her expectation and do your family obligation with a joyful attitude and the have-to becomes an act of love and service. That is the true spirit of the HOLIDAY season. It becomes your Christmas gift to her even if she is too busy to notice. You know and that is all that matters.

It is up to you as to how you choose to celebrate this HOLIDAY season and if you take ownership you can actually have the best HOLIDAY ever, regardless of HOLIDAY ghosts or your physical health at this time. You are more than your cancer. Do not let cancer define you or your HOLIDAY this year. If you need help taking ownership of this festive time, then seek out the help of a mental health professional that values living in the midst of any situation. May you look forward to the opportunities of mystery and magic during this awesome time of the year.
Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Embrace the Gift of Holiday Love During Crisis: 6 “Tried & True” Ways

Embrace The Holidays By: Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos, International Bestselling Author of Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing.

Trouble does not take time off for celebrations or holidays and neither should you. Every day of life is a special gift. Celebrating the holidays is a wonderful way to distract us from our treatments, illness and crisis. When we embrace and celebrate a gift of love, we automatically give back as much as we received. Accepting love is also a gift to the giver.

“But how can I celebrate when I feel so poorly?” you may ask. I asked the same question while I battled three breast cancers over ten years. So the solutions shared here with you are tried and true.

  1. Embrace the gift of love during the holidays as a first step in enjoying life during times of strife. Disaster is temporary. Love is eternal. Focus on the love and joy will happen. It is part of the miracle of life.
  2. Take time to love the simple things in life. Celebration is not measured by how many things you do, how much money you spend, or how lavishly you entertain. It is measured by how much you share the gift of love and how deeply that gift is felt. Celebration comes from accomplishments. Celebration does not come from your mental “to do list.” It comes from your heart’s, “I did it list.”
  3. Start your “I did it list” by writing down your victories in life, no matter how small. Size is a concept and state of mind. Diamonds come in very small packages yet they are a very big commodity. What diamonds do you have to share with yourself that exemplify your life’s accomplishments? Honor them by keeping them with you. When you feel the weight of treatment, illness or life-in- general bearing down upon you, take out your list and re-read it. If you are having an exceptionally bad day, read it to your reflection in a mirror until you believe it. Mirror therapy can be very effective.
  4. Define your limits and know your limitations while in crisis, treatment or recovery. When faced with an emotional or physical decision that is taxing or vexing, ask yourself, “Will life continue to exist if I do not do this?” If the answer is, Yes!” choose to not do it. Remember that the choice is always yours to accept or reject any request or demand. The word “No” does not require an explanation. Just like the word “Because” “No” is its own complete statement. If you feel compelled to soften the blow add, “But thank you so much for asking.” Embracing this concept is a big step in defining your limits and limitations during the holidays that can become a New Year Resolution.
  5. Sit back and let others show their devotion to you during this challenging time in your life. Receiving affection, compliments or gifts is not always easy for many people. You become so accustomed to giving that you overlook the importance of getting. Look at receiving from a different perspective. Allowing others the opportunity to display their love to you may be the best gift you ever gave to them. It can become the memory of a lifetime. Give them the gift of pampering you.
  6. The holidays are filled with miracles. Some are as small as a newborn baby. Some as big as a second chance at life. Watch for miracles during holiday family gatherings, and remember to give thanks for the small things in life.

During a personal crisis it can be difficult to relinquish control of things that were considered “your job.” Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and shift power into the hands of others can be daunting. Trusting in your Higher Power to lead family members can be a big leap of faith, and that may be a good thing. Agree to let others help you with cores or cherished jobs like trimming the tree or cooking the holiday meal. It may be a way of seeing how much you have influenced their life in a positive way and a wonderful opportunity to tweak family traditions so that you have more energy to enjoy the festivities. Think of this change as a temporary respite from past frenzies, no matter how enjoyable they may have seemed at the time.

This holiday season choose to embrace the opportunity to sit back, relax and share the gift of love by allowing loved ones, family and friends to pamper you like you’ve never been pampered before.
You deserve it. They deserve it. Eat it up!

Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos Breast Cancer Authority ContributorABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos is the International Bestselling author of Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing, & 3x Breast Cancer Survivor whose dreams diagnosed cancer. Kat believes dreams diagnose your life. “Did you have a déjà- vu or did your dream come true?” Kat’s interpretations are in American Express Open Forum. She’s a TV & Radio Host for Wicked Housewives On Cape Cod, Coach, Keynote Speaker, “go-to authority” on Beauty, Health, Wealth & Relationships, Panelist/Presenter at IASD (International Association for the Study of Dreams), columnist, & blogs on sites like DreamCloud, Breast Cancer Yoga. Kat taught Special Education and Psychology at USF. http://survivingcancerland.com/

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