From OHC

December 18, 2023

While many of us are preparing for the holiday season, making our to-do list for the upcoming festivities, baking and wrapping presents, others are coping with an illness and approaching the holidays with hesitation. Many of us may know someone faced with a chronic disease or cancer diagnosis.  For a cancer patient, the holidays can pose an overwhelming barrage of emotions and physical limitations. For caregivers, they may not have the time to shop and prepare for the season. Cancer doesn’t stop for the holidays; however, you can help a loved one or friend bring a sense of normalcy during this festive time.

Knowing where and how to step in to offer your support may be difficult.  We’ve spoken with several OHC doctors and nurses to gather their suggestions on ways to help others during this joyful time of year.  Here are some ideas on how to provide support:

  1. Open Communication:
    • Ask patients how they want to celebrate the holidays. Some may want to continue with traditions, while others may prefer a quieter celebration, or decide to create a new tradition. Consider a potluck dinner or use a caterer to alleviate the stress of preparations.
    • Encourage open communication about their feelings, fears, and needs. It’s important to listen and validate their emotions but also accept they may not want to be bombarded with questions.
  1. Respect Their Wishes:
    • Respect their decisions about participating in holiday events. No matter how they choose to celebrate the holidays, be understanding of their energy levels and limitations.
  1. Include Them in Planning:
    • Include your loved one in the holiday planning process, for example, what food choices would they prefer, or would an afternoon celebration be easier? This involvement can help them feel a sense of control and inclusion.
  1. Create a Comfortable Environment:
    • Make the environment comfortable and accommodating. Wherever the celebration or gathering is taking place, consider the room temperature for guests and provide them with a comfortable seat that makes it easy for them to get up and down.
  1. Create Meaningful Memories:
    • Focus on creating meaningful moments rather than adhering to elaborate traditions. This could involve watching a favorite movie, sharing stories, or decorating cookies. Try engaging in activities that bring joy without adding stress.
  1. Gifts of Comfort and Time:
    • Consider gifts that bring comfort, such as cozy blankets and soft pajamas. Invite them for a walk or take them for a drive to see the holiday lights. Watch our gift-giving guide video for other ideas
  1. Practical Support:
    • Offer specific help, such as preparing meals, running errands, or helping with household chores. Many cancer patients may feel fatigued and appreciate practical assistance. Take the initiative to do the dishes after you bring them a meal or call them on the way to the grocery store and ask what items they need picked up.
    • Offer to spend time with the cancer patient to allow the caregiver time to run errands or even take a nap.
    • Help coordinate medical appointments or share transportation duties to treatment sessions between yourself and their primary caregiver.
  1. Emotional Support:
    • Understand that emotions can be heightened during the holiday season. Be patient, empathetic, and non-judgmental. Offer a listening ear without pressuring them to talk if they’re not ready.
  1. Offer Emotional Respite:
    • Provide emotional support not only to the person with cancer but also to their caregivers. The holiday season can be stressful for everyone involved, so offering respite and understanding to those providing care is crucial.
  1. Practice Good Hygiene:
    • Keep in mind that viruses can spread very easily this time of year and cancer patients are very susceptible to contagious illness. Ensure that those attending the holiday gatherings are healthy, be sure to wash your hands regularly and wear a mask if appropriate.

Be flexible and understanding, and, most importantly, let them know that your support is unwavering. OHC understands that emotional and mental health are just as important as physical when treating cancer patients.  Being surrounded by loved ones can keep their spirits up and safeguard their overall mental well-being.  We are grateful for caregivers, family, and friends who selflessly care for all patients, providing support in any way needed.  For additional resources, please visit our community resource guide.

For more 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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