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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
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Holidays are usually regarded as a time to celebrate traditions and connect with family and friends. At the same time, the holidays can be a stressful and depressing time for anyone, and particularly so for a person managing cancer. There are very few people who don’t experience some kind of holiday stress and anxiety.  Add the extra emotions of managing a colorectal cancer diagnosis, and the season can be quite overwhelming. 

Following are time tested tips that may help, many of which are based on the recommendations of the National Mental Health Association. Information about each tip is contained in other sections of this document.

  • Prioritize your activities.Get the most joy and satisfaction out of what matters most.
  • Revise holiday activities to fit your current physical and emotional condition and priorities, and to include people you care about. Don't over extend yourself. By pacing yourself, you will lessen the stress and have the energy to enjoy gatherings you do attend. 
  • Think about past holidays to see what has previously helped you cope. Look for consistent holidays stressors and do what you can to eliminate them. 
  • Keep your expectations realistic. It’s okay to feel sadness and joy at the same time.  Find a balance between time with family and friends and time for yourself.
  • If you are in treatment, ask your doctor if you can either take a break during the holidays or perhaps arrange your treatment schedule around events which are important to you so you'll feel your best.
  • If you're not physically or emotionally up to going shopping,  or not allowed in holiday crowds, shop online or from a catalogue. Enlist the help of others to pick things up for you. (You can avoid lines by shopping early in the day in brick and mortar stores.)
  • If a money crunch is causing stress, focus on the real meaning of the holiday. Heartfelt, homemade gifts send a thoughtful message. Create a budget.
  • Live healthy. Overindulgence increases stress. Be active, exercise, practice relaxation, get plenty of rest. Keep alcohol to a minimum. Keep food balanced and don't over do it.
  • Share your feelings. As Art Linkletter said, "Laughter is the best medicine." It's okay to cry. You are entitled to y our emotions. Sharing emotions with people close to you helps you deal with them.
  • If you are dealing with grief, use the holidays to help finish your grieving. Allow others to show their support.
  • Build in alone time.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • If you're lonely, get busy.
  • Accept what you can't change.
  • Practice coping mechanisms such as religion/spirituality.
  • If you make resolutions, keep them doable
  • If seasonal decrease in sunlight causes you to suffer emotionally from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), get treatment.
  • Stay in the moment. 

If none of the above ideas work, call your doctor or other medical practitioner. Everyone has "the blues" now and then, but if you can't seem to pull yourself out of it, and your mood is affecting normal daily activities, it's time to get professional help. If suicidal thoughts appear, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255) or get to an emergency room.


  • If you are planning on traveling over the holidays, check with your doctor first about the timing of the trip, your proposed destination, and means of travel. For information about traveling, including how to prepare and what to pack in the carry-on click here
  • Don't be surprised if there is a post holiday let down.  It is not uncommon to feel a let-down if the holidays were extraordinary or disappointing, or even from stress or fatigue. 
  • Remember to stay on your daily medication schedule.  It can be easy to forget with holiday activities, but it’s not wise to skip your medications. If you do skip taking medications, let your doctor know. For information about buying, storing and living with medications, click here.

Revise holiday activities to fit your current physical and emotional condition and to include people you care about. Don't over extend yourself..

  • Pace yourself. Build time to rest into your schedule. Feeling exhausted can make you feel stressed. Overbooking yourself will lead to stress.
  • Don't try to do it all. Simplify. Delegate. The people around you are willing to help.
  • Create new traditions and special memories.
  • If you don’t feel up to celebrating, it’s okay to decline invites. Do accept invitations to spend time with people who are important to you. You will find joy in the love and support of family and friends and in creating special memories. 
  • Balance activities with time for yourself.  Don’t overbook yourself which will certainly lead to stress.


  • For tips about dealing with stress, click here.
  • To learn more about who to think of as being on your team, click here.

Look at past holiday stressors to see what has previously helped you cope and move forward.

Times change and so do we. Move forward, and focus on what is most important. "Don't sweat the small stuff."

If a stressor continues year after year, now is a good time to make a change. Recognizing the trigger helps you face it and also helps you find ways to make a change.

Get rid of unnecessary obligations.

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Depression 101

If you are in treatment, talk to your doctor about taking time off during the holidays or changing your schedule.

Change in treatment schedule

If you anticipate feeling too wiped out following chemotherapy to enjoy holiday events, or are planning to travel over the holidays, speak with your doctor about altering the schedule around activities important to you. It may be possible to change your treatment schedule. 

Time off from treatment

Do not take time off from treatment without speaking with your doctor first.

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Keep your expectations realistic.

Ease up on yourself.  Cancer can take an emotional toll on a person.  Everyone experiences some kind of sadness when faced with a cancer diagnosis.  Expect that you won’t be joyful all the time.  You are entitled to your emotions. Sharing your emotions with those close to you helps you deal with them.

Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a loved one that was living with cancer.

Expect that the way you celebrate the holidays is likely to change over time as circumstances change. 

It’s okay to pass on traditions that cause you stress and try new traditions.

Expect that relationships that have been rocky won’t be healed just because it is a holiday.  Sometimes the season can add pressure on everyone to be more cheerful. Try to accept family members as they are, and do your best to be patient.

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More Information

Depression 101

Prioritize your activities.

Make a list of what you want to get done and prioritize the list.  Set a realistic time table.  Realize it doesn’t all have to get done.  Plus, as you cross things off your list, you’ll have a greater sense of accomplishment. (For help creating the list, we provide a Prioritizer. Add "to do" items as you think of them. Prioritize each item. With the click of a button, your list changes to  your priority. You can change priorities just as easily over time.)

Let others help you.  When people know specifically how they can help, they feel more comfortable.  Prioritize and delegate. You or a frirend can set up a schedule of the tasks that need to be done and the people who will do them. There are web sites that make this easy to do. For example, offsite link

Many people’s holiday stress seems to come from trying to juggle too many activities. Use discretion and do what you can based on your physical and emotional ability. 


If you're not physically or emotionally up to going shopping, or you are not allowed in holiday crowds, shop online or from catalogues.

Enlist the help of others to do the holiday shopping, especially if you have a low immune system due to your cancer or cancer treatment.

Make shopping lists so when you are able and feel up to venturing to the nearest mall, you can make the most of your time and energy.

Gift cards can eliminate the stress of finding the “perfect gift.” If you decide to buy gift cards, first check (1) expiration dates, if any (2) ongoing fees.

If a money crunch is causing stress, focus on the real meaning of the holiday. Reign in spending with a budget.

A holiday is not about the cost of a gift, or the amount of expensive decorations, or how much you spent on the dinner.  It’s about the people.  It’s about the meaning of the holiday.  It’s about being together, sharing good times and creating happy memories.

Spending too much money can lead to its own post-holiday stress.  The best technique for reigning in spending is to create a budget – and stick to it.  Starting the tradition of a “Secret Santa” or family name draw can help with that budget and still keep things festive.

Consider making gifts yourself.  Anything you took the time to do yourself and give from the heart shows someone you’re thinking of them, and is always appreciated.

Look for holiday activities that are free or low cost such as carol services at local churches or window shopping to see the decorations.

If you have children, talk to them about the meaning and history of the holiday you are celebrating.  Encourage them to make presents at home and help them do so. This can be a great opportunity to start a new tradition, spend quality time with your children, and make some fun memories.

While not specific to the holidays, it might help to read our article about:: How To Deal With A Financial Crunch.

Live healthy. Don't over indulge. Exercise. Get rest.

Don’t surrender the healthy habits you’ve been working on.  Overindulgence through alcohol, food, or too many late nights, only increases stress.  Limit alcohol use, eat healthy and get plenty of rest.

Good nutrition is important for your immune system which in turn helps your body fight illness. 

  • Make healthy choices at cocktail parties and holiday dinners… the cookies! 
  • Remember to eat healthy mini-meals throughout the day.

Exercise makes you feel better.  It’s very effective in elevating your mood by boosting endorphins.  Even short walks are beneficial, both physically and mentally. (NOTE: Don't exercise strenuously without consulting with your doctor first.)

Sleep is healing.  It helps the body maximize its ability to fight disease.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, speak with your physician or other health care provider. For tips about getting the sleep you need, click here.


If you are dealing with grief, use the holidays to help finish your grieving.

Many different types of loss can cause grief – from the loss of a loved one to the loss of your health to the loss of a job. In cases of advanced cancer, you may be grieving the future.  Grief can be a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs.  Grief can also leave you feeling tired.  Take care to eat as well as you can and get plenty of rest, and take that walk for some beneficial exercise for the body and mind.

We all grieve in different ways.  The key is to not bottle-up grief.  Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Enjoy the good times, but also take the time to grieve if you need to - forcing yourself to be happy may cause additional stress.  If you need to cry, find a quiet space and have a good cry.  Surround yourself with people you feel comfortable around.  Let others be supportive.

If your grief becomes too overwhelming, seek professional help. Ask your doctor for a referral, or see the document in "To Learn More."  For tips about dealing with grief, click here

Share your feelings. As Art Linkletter said, "Laughter is the best medicine." It's okay to cry.

Share your feelings with friends and family, just as you do concerns about your health.  Keeping negative feelings to yourself is not healthy.  Being open about your cancer can help put family and friends at ease.  Discussing disease and treatment matter-of-factly will help them respond to you.  They will follow your lead and respond without awkwardness.  (You may want to decide ahead of time just how much you’re comfortable sharing.) 

Permit yourself to express your sadness and frustration.  Don’t allow negative feelings to fester.  You may think about your days before cancer and how your life has changed.  If your cancer is advanced, it’s natural to wonder how many more holidays you have left to enjoy with your family.  These feelings are very real - talk about them with your loved ones.  It allows them to talk about it, too.

Share the low times AND the high times.  Tears can be a big relief and very healing; laughter can be very relaxing. In fact, Laughter Therapy has become popular and is based on research findings that laughter can help reduce pain and boost the immune system to aid in the healing process, as well as being a natural gift to help deal with emotional stress. (For tips about bringing humor and laughter into your life, click here.)

Consider joining a support group, even if it’s only to get you through the holidays.  You can participate in a support group at your treatment center or through a disease specific non-profit organization, or from the comfort of your home via the internet or on the phone.  For information about support groups in general, click here. To locate a colorectal cancer support group, click here.

A ” Buddy Program”  is a great way to get one-to-one peer support from someone who can truly relate. You can connect with your Buddy from home over the telephone or internet. For information about cancer buddies, click here. To locate a buddy, see the following:

  • Colon Cancer Alliance at offsite link, or call 877.422.2030
  • Your oncologist or his or her office staff. 
  • An oncology social worker.
  • Cancer Hope Network connects people with volunteers who have been through similar experiences. offsite link
  •, a non-profit organization, makes a connection with volunteer cancer survivors and caregivers who are trained as “Mentor angels” offsite link, Tel.: 312.274.5529

Young men and women: Consider checking out organizations devoted to young people with cancer. For instance: 

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Build in alone time

Quiet, alone time can be used to recharge your energy and your emotions.  It can also keep the day in perspective.

For instance:  take a long bath, go for a quiet walk, sit in front of a fire, go to a movie.  Take on a short term project around the house – you’ll feel the satisfaction that comes with completing a project you have control over and getting it crossed off your list.

Keep in mind that too much solitude can bring on feelings of isolation.  It is important to find a good balance between alone time to recharge and celebrating with family and friends.

Practice forgiveness

Holiday time is not the time to bring up grievances or to allow someone else’s behavior to upset you. All families have their drama. Set aside differences until a more appropriate time for discussion – you don’t need the added stress. 

Hanging on to anger and resentment will only decrease your ability to delight in the season.  The trivial things won’t matter next week or next year.   Enjoy time now with your family and friends and value the chance to be together. 

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If you're lonely... get busy. Consider volunteering.

Holidays traditionally involve gathering with family and friends. If the family is small or distance separates, being alone does not mean being lonely.

Keeping in mind your own abilities, become active to the extent you can and consider the following ideas to help keep yourself busy:

 Volunteer at Church or any of numerous organizations that provide holiday cheer to the less fortunate.  Help gather toys for underprivileged children.  Volunteer to provide transportation for Church services or holiday events.  Giving back is a great way to lighten your load.

If you can’t be with your own family, visit a local nursing home and spread some good cheer.  Raising others’ holiday spirit will certainly boost your own.

Start a new hobby or get lost in an old favorite.

Get in touch with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

If you're single, seek out venues where singles gather, such as a church sponsored event. Check out travel packages for single people.

Be part of the activities at the local community center or senior center.

For additional information about volunteering, click here

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Accept what you can't change.

Remember there are some things you simply can’t change.  Don’t allow things you have no control over to ruin your holidays. 

Be realistic – this holiday is going to be different.  No matter what stage of cancer you are in, awaiting results, undergoing treatment, and recuperating from therapy can all impact the holiday. 

Fatigue, discomfort, neuropathy, and physical limitations can hinder your traditional holiday tasks.   Think about what matters most, and modify the tasks to meet your needs.  There is no “right way” to celebrate the holidays. 

Don’t dwell on what you can’t do this season.  Make it easy on yourself.  Change your expectations to fit your abilities and enjoy the season with less stress and more energy. 

Accept that real life isn’t like a television holiday special….don’t expect things to be perfect.  Try to laugh at the reality of imperfect moments and go with the flow.

If you make resolutions, keep them doable.

Resolutions are well and good, but can add stress to your life if they are impossible to keep. It’s helpful to have short term and long term goals that you can accomplish physically, emotionally and financially.

Making a list can be a very positive experience in itself.  

Practice coping mechanisms, including renewing spirituality.

You’ve already explored coping methods that worked for you in the past.  Perhaps there are additional ones that would be helpful through the holidays.  For example:

  • Meditation:  This combination of relaxation and self-awareness can bring a peaceful feeling.  Spending even just five minutes at a time meditating can help you de-stress. For information about meditation, click here
  • Yoga:  Yoga has been practiced for years as a means to improve physical and emotional well being.  It can help with mood, sleep quality, and in reducing feelings of stress.  It reconnects you and quiets the mind. For an overview about yoga, click here. 
  • Listening to soothing music, or sipping tea are also good ways to relax and reduce stress.
  • Journaling helps deal with your feelings and “unload.” In turn, this reduces stress. For information about keeping a journal, click here.
  • Making a “gratitude list” in this season of giving is another good way to clear our heads of all the tasks on the “to-do list” that increase our stress. A gratitude list helps us look at the present and realize what’s most important in our lives. For information about keeping a gratitude journal, click here
  • Renew your spiritual beliefs by spending time in contemplation of religion and/or spirituality or participating in religious activities.  Cancer seems to open conversations about spirit and spiritual needs.  Spirit is an integral part of the Body-Mind-Spirit healing that focuses on the whole person, and often becomes more prominent in the face of a cancer diagnosis.  Research shows that benefits from religion and/or spirituality include improved coping, reduced stress, a deeper understanding about life and death, and an improved quality of life.  (For additional information about spirituality, click here.

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If seasonal decrease in sunlight causes you to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), get treatment.

Experts are not sure what causes seasonal affective disorder, but the consensus is a lack of sunlight could be the cause.  For some people, a winter decrease in sunlight can cause changes in mood and behavior.   SAD is a form of depression and affects a person during the same time each year.  Because many of the SAD symptoms are the same as non-seasonal depression, it can be hard to tell the difference. 

 Discuss with your physician whether you may have SAD and if so, the appropriate treatment for you.   Studies show that phototherapy (exposure to intense artificial light) can help.  Antidepressants and/or counseling are also used to help alleviate symptoms, as is exercise.  Talk with your doctor to see what options are best for you.

If you are going to travel, talk with your doctor about any special travel needs. Prepare.

Running out of needed medications, or trying to find medical care far from home can increase stress – be prepared.  Make sure to pack important phone numbers and any pertinent medical records.   

For information about travel, including all aspects of preparation, click here. 

Use the holiday as a time to share memories and to make new ones.

Being with family and friends is a perfect time to recall happy memories. Consider pulling together photographs, videos or souvenirs to start the conversation. Even without them, a simple question could start the ball rolling. For example: "Do you remember when......?"

The holidays are also perfect for creating new memories.  Celebrating whichever holidays hold special meaning in your heart and spending time together with loved ones should be your focus. 

No one knows the future.  Things will inevitably not go as perfectly planned, but what both you and your loved ones will remember most is simply being together.

If none of the above work for you, call your doctor or other medical practitioner.

There is a difference between the “holiday blues” and depression.  If despite the best efforts, you continue to feel sad and anxious and are unable to shake off these feelings beyond a few weeks, or if you are unable to carry on your normal daily activities, you may be dealing with more than just holiday stress.  Reach out for help from your doctor, social worker, or other healthcare provider without delay. 

Cancer is a life-threatening illness that has an impact on a person’s emotional well-being.  A cancer diagnosis can seem devastating, even in the early stages. You don’t have to go through it alone. Studies show there is a higher suicide risk soon after diagnosis. Treatment can be hard to get through, but there are people available to help you through every step. Don’t be afraid to reach out.  Feeling overwhelmed with despair, lack of support, and uncontrolled physical symptoms can all lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

No one has to suffer with physical or emotional pain.  Circumstances in life are constantly changing, as do feelings, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem at the moment.  Discuss these feelings with your doctor and health care team, and/or clergy, especially if you begin to make a plan to take your own life.  Depression can be treated and medication can help you through a difficult time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. (For information about depression and dealing with it, click here.)

Sometimes asking for help can be the most courageous thing we do.

If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right away at 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255), or call 911, or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

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