Coping with special occasions

Many of us associate Christmas with seeing family and friends, parties and lots of eating and drinking. It is a time of celebration. But when you have cancer, you might tire more easily. Your cancer or treatment may mean that you have trouble joining in with all the festive eating and drinking.

Eating and drinking

Many people who have cancer have few or no problems with eating. But some do. These can include loss of appetite, feeling sick, constipation or changes in taste. At Christmas or other events you might have added pressure from friends and family who want you to eat something when you might not want to.

There are a few things you can do to deal with eating problems. Even if you can’t eat as much as normal, you can still join in.Talk to your doctor or nurse before Christmas or other occasion if you have a specific problem. For example, if you feel sick you might need to make sure you have enough anti sickness medicines for the whole holiday.


Cooking can put you off eating. And sometimes the smell can make sickness worse. So you could ask someone else to cook for you. If they do, you can also ask for small portions. You can always go back for more if you want it.


Many people like to have a glass of wine or other kinds of alcohol at Christmas. This can help you to relax. Generally, the odd glass of wine or beer isn’t a problem. But check with your doctor or specialist nurse if you are having treatment. Alcohol can sometimes interfere with how cancer drugs work or it might make you feel very sick.


Tiredness can be a problem during and after cancer treatment. Try to rest when you need to, and don’t feel embarrassed. Having visitors or going to see people can be very tiring but friends and family will understand. Try to pace yourself throughout the day by alternating activities and rest if you do tire easily. Having a rest in the middle of the morning and the afternoon may help you to cope with the busier and more sociable times during the day, such as Christmas lunch. If you’re invited to parties it might help to have a rest beforehand and perhaps only go for a short time.

Your feelings

Christmas and other big events are often an emotional time even when you don’t have cancer. We often take stock of the year and our lives. And if you have cancer, it can be a reminder that you aren’t as healthy as you once were or would like to be. So you might feel a range of emotions.
Everyone reacts and copes in their own way. Some people just want to forget all about their cancer for the holiday season. Others see it as a time to move forward with the New Year and, if possible, celebrate putting the cancer behind them. Some people need time to think about what they have been through and what may happen in the future. There is no right or wrong way to feel. You might find that partners and family members have some of the same feelings as you. Talking through how you feel with someone close can help.

It’s good to plan ahead before Christmas because there are bank holidays. Your doctors and nurses might take time off, so it’s worth finding out beforehand who you should contact if you have a problem and how you can contact them. There will be a doctor and nurse on call.
Check with your doctor when you will get your results if you had tests before Christmas. The results might be delayed over the holiday period. Waiting for results is often very difficult emotionally. So knowing when to expect them get might make waiting seem easier.

Tips for coping with special occasions

  • Plan ahead and find out who to contact if you have a problem
  • Make sure you have enough of any prescription medicines you need
  • Pace yourself and try not to get overtired
  • Just do as much as you feel like doing
  • Rest if you need to
  • Let other people do things for you
  • Ask for small portions if you need to
  • Have snacks available
  • Enjoy yourself