For patients and families battling a cancer diagnosis, the holidays can be a stressful time. Between juggling work and school stresses, attending celebrations and crossing off your Christmas list, the holidays can quickly become overwhelming when also dealing with surgeries and treatments.

At Arizona Oncology, we encourage our patients and patients’ families to take a step back and assess what’s most important at this time — traditions, togetherness and a renewed sense of hope.

Here are six ways to navigate your cancer diagnosis during the holidays.

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Schedule Your Appointments and Treatments Accordingly

If you know you’ll be traveling or attending a holiday event during your regularly scheduled appointments and treatments, be sure to contact your provider to align calendars accordingly. This will allow you to keep your treatments on track while enjoying the best of what the holidays have to offer.

Feel Your Feelings

Give yourself permission to feel and express your feelings. Feelings of joy, fear, sadness and pain are not just normal — they’re healthy. Let yourself laugh or cry. Tears can bring a sense of relief, while laughter can be relaxing. No matter the emotion, sharing it with another person will help you understand that you are seen and heard as you navigate cancer.

Celebrate Your Strengths

A cancer diagnosis can feel unjust — especially during a celebratory time of year. However, now is a great time to look back on your cancer journey and see just how far you’ve come. Did you have successful surgery? Are you seeing progress with chemotherapy or radiation? Are you in remission and growing stronger by the day?

While you might not be where you want to be in your journey now, it’s important to understand just how far you’ve come.

Plan for Holiday Time and Alone Time

The holidays can be as exhausting as they are joyous — especially if you’re battling a cancer diagnosis. It might be tempting to give everything to those you love during the holidays, but carve out time where you’re exclusively looking after yourself.

Cook healthy meals. Practice mindfulness. Exercise to release tension. Allow yourself the simple pleasures, even if they seem indulgent. Enjoy a sweet treat, binge watch a TV show or take that hour-long bath. Be kind to yourself at this time. By celebrating yourself, you are caring for those you love.

Enlist Support

You may have low energy while dealing with treatments and symptoms. Lean on your support systems at this time to cross holiday-related tasks off your list. Have a pile of presents to wrap? Enlist the help of a friend or family member, and turn it into a social event! Friends and family can also help with errands, planning and scheduling appointments. You are not alone!

Learn to Say “No”

It can be difficult to put yourself first during this generous time of the year, but saying “no” will help save your energy for the tasks that are most important. There’s no need to make it to every social event you’re invited to. You don’t have to do everything, and your friends and family will understand if you need to sit out certain events.

Give yourself the grace you would give anyone else in your shoes and it will help guide you toward the best decisions during the holiday season.


Author: Kelly Huey is a Social Work Manager at Arizona Oncology, a premier provider of advanced cancer care across Arizona. To learn more, visit