Tips for your first Christmas after diagnosis, from women who’ve been there
Whether you’re newly diagnosed, having treatment, or getting used to life with or after breast cancer, your first Christmas after diagnosis can be rough.
While it's a great time for family and friends to come together, the extra social, physical and emotional demands of holiday celebrations can be draining. To your friends and families you might seem completely healthy, especially if you’re skilled at acting like everything’s OK. Your family might not be aware of your limitations – you might not even be aware of them yourself.
We asked women about their first Christmas after cancer, and they gave us some wise advice.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for a quiet Christmas
Rob’s family usually come to stay from out of town, but this year she decided it would be too much. She’s asked for a quiet Christmas this year – don’t be afraid to do the same.
2. If someone offers to help, let them.
“I found Christmas difficult because I didn't take advantage of the support I was offered from the local support group,” Jude says. “In my head I thought they would all be enjoying Christmas with their families and wouldn't want to talk or listen to me.
“Now I am the other side I realise how wrong I was and how much better it would have been for me if I had used the support that was on offer.”
3. Remember that the people closest to you might be struggling as well
“Only a couple of days ago I was reflecting on the very upsetting, horrible time our family had last Christmas, just 6 weeks after my surgery. I had thought that coming together as a family would be comforting and that the fun of Christmas would help us all. As the matriarch of the family I wanted to stay calm and have things go as smoothly as possible. However, I had very little energy to do much, other than observe.
“I think I expected my husband and all of my adult children to cope with the way I was and "look after me". I had not stopped to think much of how it was affecting them because the setbacks I'd had kept me focused on myself.”
Maureen wants us to remember that “a cancer diagnosis does not affect just the person with the diagnosis. Some family members struggle more than others with the news.”
4. Take time out every day to recharge
Hannah let everyone know that she’d need some time each day to herself. “Sometimes I napped, sometimes I gardened or read a book. It gave me time to de-stress, and not feel like I had to entertain people all day every day.
“It’s not easy, especially when you’ve got family staying at your house, but it kept me sane.”
5. Ask for help. Your friends and family want to give it to you.
Five years ago Jo ploughed through her first Christmas during treatment as if nothing was wrong, and it ended in disaster. This year, in her first Christmas after being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, she’s putting what she learned into action.
Read her beautiful Christmas advice.
If you need support, try mybc.
mybc. is an online community for New Zealanders affected by breast cancer. It’s a place to share experiences with people who understand exactly what you’re going through, whether that’s a diagnosis, treatment, or learning to live with or after cancer.
If you’re struggling to keep up with the festivities this Christmas, you can share your experience with others on mybc. They might be able to give you some tips, advice, or a sympathetic ear.
Sign up to mybc.
The NZ Breast Cancer Foundation also funds free counselling for anyone with breast cancer. Click here to find out more, or call 0800 BC NURSE.