Let’s face it, the holidays are stressful for everyone, but especially for cancer patients and their families.
Chris (my wife) has the majority of her treatment behind her and we are down to one infusion every month and daily doses of an oral chemotherapy drug to keep her brain metastasis in check. Life is pretty much normal, except for occasional bouts of fatigue.
Why then do we have so much stress if everything is going so well? Two reasons: energy and social situations.
An inescapable part of the holiday madness is parties and celebrations. Friends, family, clubs…we just don’t have enough energy to do it all!
The first problem with the parties is finding the energy to go. Her energy is sapped because of the drugs she is on, and my energy is sapped because of the extra things I have to do around the house because she can’t. On the other hand, we feel like we will be letting people down if we say no, and certainly don’t want to disappoint the people that care enough to invite us to their parties.
The second problem is that when we DO go to a party, everyone wants to talk about her cancer. We get the head cocked at an angle, staring intently, asking,
“How ARE you?” Chris tried to head this one off at the pass by standing in front of the group and telling them that everything was going well and they shouldn’t worry about her. Afterwards, several people came up to her and asked, “How are you, REALLY?”
They also want to talk about their friends and relatives that have/had cancer, the latest cancer treatments, an article that they saw, etc.
People want to talk about it. We don’t. We have become defined by her cancer, yes both of us. Chris is sick of being sick, sick of thinking about it, and sick of talking about it. She just wants to be normal. I second that.
I don’t mean to be throwing people under the bus. These are well-meaning people that care about us; it’s just that they don’t understand the pressure that their questions create. It is very stressful to tell the same stories, explain the drugs and treatments, and listen to their stories and “advice” over and over again.
So what can we do about these things?