Think about what really makes your heart sing this Christmas

Christmas can be a hard and emotional time for lots of us, and if you have cancer it can be especially challenging.

Bournemouth artist and client of our Bournemouth cancer Support Centre, Natalie, was 45 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and it’s changed her life radically. She says being honest, having self-care moments and shaking off the idea of perfection is a good place to start if you’re living with cancer this Christmas…

Be honest about how you feel

I love Christmas, filled with sparkle and wonder. It’s a special time that brings magic. But the commercial pressure to have the perfect Christmas we’re subjected to can make us spend too much and leave us feeling stressed. It can feel even more overwhelming if you have cancer and the dreaded fatigue and side-effects that come with it. It’s up to you to be honest and shake it up. It starts with a conversation.

So, this Christmas I’m going to be more in the moment with myself and others and rethink gifting.

Do things more simply

I’m going to be kind to myself, have self-care moments and be present. Having cancer can be hard to cope with because friends and family want to make things extra special and vice versa. Ditch the idea of perfect. Imperfect moments, with giggles and mishaps, doing things differently and more simply are some of my best memories. If you try and live up to the expectations of how Christmas was before cancer, you can quickly lose your energy. Remember that fatigue can hit when you least expect it.

Plan rest days

I’ve learnt to scale back, stop when I need to and plan rest days in between the ‘energy heavy’ events and activities. This year, I plan to meet up in small groups for tea and a catch up, rather than full-on Christmas dinners and events. I’ve felt very overwhelmed in the past with so much food around (I’ve had thyroid cancer, so I have problems swallowing and my voice is very soft), so now I’ll adjust and do what’s right for me.

Switch chocolates for cards

I’m really going to think about how and what I’m buying this year. I’m not going to beat myself up for buying mainly online, because I want to avoid those energy-draining shopping trips. I’ll look at other ways of gifting, such as visiting Etsy, where you buy directly from someone who’s put their heart and soul into making something special. I’m also going to reduce who I buy for and make gifts more meaningful. A nice card with a special message is more heartfelt than a box of chocolates.

Make your heart sing

If you banish expectations of what should be and go back to basics, you can really make your heart sing. Be more present with friends and family. Have a lovely catch-up over Zoom, wrap up and go for a walk on the beach, make imperfect table decorations, bake Christmas cakes with someone you love and mess about with the flour, decorate the house with Christmas music playing, get the sparkle out!

What could you do differently?

What could you try this year? You’ll find that most people just want to help, but you do need to be honest about what you need. Perhaps they could help with your wrapping or have a movie day and snacks with you in your PJs. Whatever you try, I hope you find joy this Christmas.