From Connie Rudy, MSN, APRN, advanced practice provider at OHC

December 12, 2022

The holidays are in full swing, and you might find yourself decking the halls, frosting dozens of cookies, wrapping presents, and party planning. While one moment brings happy anticipation for an upcoming get-together, another brings stress about how to check everything off your to-do list. For those with loved ones who have cancer, this time of year probably has you wondering how to help them enjoy this festive season.

While my OHC colleagues and I have some recommendations, one of the most important things to remember is to have empathy for your loved one. Every cancer patient is unique. Some may be looking forward to this season as a time to reflect on blessings and spend quality time with family and friends, while others may dread the holidays. Understand that patients might be on an emotional rollercoaster while coping with the physical effects of their disease and treatment including fatigue, loss of appetite, or a weakened immune system. Follow their lead and allow them to have feelings.

Following are five suggestions for helping a loved one with cancer celebrate the holidays:

  1. Spend time with them. Give the gift of your time, whether it be in person, via Zoom, sending text messages, or making phone calls. You can enjoy some holiday specials on Netflix together or bake a favorite recipe. You might find that as you create new traditions, you are connecting more deeply with each other and appreciating the true meaning of the season.
  2. Play uplifting holiday music. Music can be therapeutic. Create a holiday playlist of favorite seasonal tunes or spiritual hymns to enjoy with them.
  3. Offer assistance with preparations or household chores. Be specific with your offer to help. Can you pick up groceries for them while you are out and about or stop by to wrap their gifts? Help them decorate their home or decorate a room for them with their favorite holiday theme. Take care of the meal at the upcoming party by making it yourself or hiring a caterer. Stop by to do some laundry or vacuum.
  4. Join them in a favorite activity to give them a break from their anxiety or sadness. Take them on a drive to see light displays or to their place of worship. Stop by their favorite café for coffee or hot chocolate. Invite them on a walk. After all, physical activity offers a mood boost. Play their favorite game or take them to a movie they’ve been wanting to see. Have a PJ party. Remember to stay in the moment and enjoy it.
  5. Share entertaining holiday memories. Ask your loved one to share their favorite holiday memories from childhood. Look at old photo albums. Listen and give them your undivided attention.

Keep in mind that cancer patients can be particularly vulnerable to catching contagious viruses, particularly this time of year. Immunocompromised individuals should be cautious if attending large gatherings. When spending time with them, remember to be diligent about hand washing, mask wearing, and physical distancing.

To promote the healing process, OHC’s cancer care focuses on physical, mental, and emotional well-being to promote patient quality of life. We are grateful for our patients’ loved ones and caregivers who continue to selflessly care for them. For more resources or information on the comprehensive care provided by OHC’s multidisciplinary team of cancer experts, or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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