Cancer For Christmas

By: Constance Weygandt

Recently I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Even though I have known cancer survivors and there is tons of literature on surviving cancer, I have discovered there are still a few surprises. My friends and family have been a wonderful support. Here are five ways that I have discovered, along with them, to be able to endure chemotherapy and still enjoy Christmas.

Scents- After my first treatment I noticed that there were scents that were intolerable to me. The scent of anything with a chemical base was particularly obnoxious, cleaning products, perfume and scented candles to name a few. If you are helping a loved one by cleaning for them, vinegar and water works best. Add a few drops of lavender oil to any generic, odorless lotion instead of using perfume. Scented candles are best tolerated when not lit. Leaving the lid off of a candle in a jar adds just enough scent to the room. Better than candles, however, are oranges spiked with cloves, sprigs of rosemary or mint for aromatherapy.

Foods- There are different side effects of chemotherapy that make eating difficult, especially in the first week. I discovered very early on that ice cream is my friend. Bring a loved one several pints of different flavors. While onion and garlic are foods you want to have in your diet, they are too harsh at this time.

Instead, I use garlic flavored olive oil and shallots or leeks instead of onions. When I can eat solid food, I practically live on pasta sautéed in a little garlic flavored olive oil, parsley and lots of asiago cheese.

A Christmas Tree- Fatigue is a very real side effect of almost all types of chemotherapy. Decorating for Christmas just feels like too much to handle but having no decorations would be too depressing and a reminder of how difficult life is this year. Volunteer to put up a Christmas tree for loved ones and take it down. There are also some beautiful table top trees which are inexpensive that you can bring as a gift. I get great joy from my tree which my girls set up for me. It is a cheery spot on a gloomy day.

Laughter- Bring them DVD’s that are light hearted or comedic in nature. Old shows such as I Love Lucy or Abbot and Costello keep me laughing. I also enjoy romantic comedies such as Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail. Now is not the time to keep CNN on a running loop on the TV. While I am aware of all of the horrific things that can and are happening in the world, I can’t deal with an influx of that information at this time. I find when fighting for my life, I want to remember all of the reasons that life is good and well worth fighting for.

I am a person- Remember when dealing with a loved one that they are still a person, not a disease. I tend to laugh and make jokes about what is happening to me. I get asked all of the time how I can joke about the cancer. How can I not? I laughed and joked before I got cancer and some of the side effects are just too ridiculous for words, what I like to call God’s little ironies. For instance, how can I lose all of the hair on my body, in places I don’t even want to mention but still have hairy knees? Is the hair on my knees super hair?

Please keep in mind that no matter what you try and do for a loved one, cancer is a solitary event. Everyone’s experience is different. I am one of the lucky ones. They caught my cancer very early. When I am finished my treatments, I can look forward to a very high rate of recovery. Having said that, I hope these ideas which I have shared help to brighten this Christmas for you and your loved ones.

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