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Taking a Holiday Break from Cancer (When Your Illness, Family Doesn’t)

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

It’s the holidays, and you want to embrace the joy and happiness of the season by eating your favorite meals, giving and receiving gifts, reuniting with family and friends, and celebrating religious traditions. Most of all, the holidays are finally a time to lighten-up, re-charge and celebrate life. There’s just one thing that is standing in your way: A cancer diagnosis.

People with cancer and their loved ones can sometimes feel out of step from the rest of the world, and the holidays can prompt new questions and concerns: How do I take care of the holiday rush and myself at the same time? How can I celebrate when I have so many other things on my mind? What will my life be like next year?

Sharing these questions with people you love and who love you can help you feel more connected said Kevin Stein, Ph.D, Director of Quality of Life and Survivorship Research at American Cancer Society .

I told Kevin about these real-life situations and asked him to give us his advice on how best to handle them.

Q: I’m 37-years-old and have had breast cancer for nearly one year. My prognosis is excellent, and I am looking forward to a joyous holiday season. The problem is my family. They treat me like I am a china doll who could break at any moment. I don't need or want to be treated this way. I know my family means well, but their behavior is a constant reminder that I am ill and could very well ruin the holidays. How can I get them to relax in my presence?

Kevin Stein: It is best to talk openly with your family about your situation. Tell them directly, "I just want to enjoy our time together." Give them the freedom to treat you normally. It could be a liberating experience for all of you.

Q: My husband is not eating well, probably from his chemotherapy. I still want to have the entire family over for a New Year’s dinner, but he is reluctant. I think he is embarrassed about his health. I feel I need to do this just to feel normal again. Please help!

Kevin Stein: It is important to recognize that cancer impacts the entire family.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.