The holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's can be a stressful time for anyone, especially for those suffering from a serious illness such as cancer. Cancer Care, Inc., which helps people with cancer and their loved ones all year long, recognizes that the holiday season can be particularly difficult.

Coping with Cancer During the Holidays:

Practical Guidelines from Cancer Care

Breast Cancer Still Significant Health Threat to American Women

People tend to view the holidays as a time to celebrate, rejoice, and renew connections with family and friends. This is not the case for many people who end up feeling isolated, unhappy, and abandoned. This Brief offers some practical guidelines Cancer Care has developed from working with people with cancer and their families for more than 50 years.

Plan to get together with friends, family, or co-workers over the holidays. Trying to celebrate alone can be very difficult, so accept invitations from others, invite people over, or join an organized group activity through your local YMCA, YWCA, your church, or synagogue.

If you are expected to host the holiday meal, but don't think you can handle the responsibility, give yourself a "time out." Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to keep up with your traditional duties. People will understand if you ask them to bring a dish for the meal, have someone else host the meal, or suggest eating out at a restaurant.

Are you too tired for tasks such as shopping for gifts and cards, or standing in line at the post office to mail packages? If so, enlist the help of a friend or family member or use mail order catalogues this year. There are also easier ways to let others know that you are thinking about them by writing a short note or making a phone call. You can always send them a card or gift later.

Don't be pushed into celebrating by well-meaning friends and relatives if you are not in a cheerful mood. If you feel low emotionally or physically, you may want to postpone a family gathering, an outing with friends, or an office party. Give yourself permission not to join the festivities this year. There will be other opportunities to socialize.

If you feel sad about the year gone by, it's OK to express those feelings. Tears can bring a sense of relief. It is common to experience a mixture of anticipation, disappointment, and apprehension about the future. Try not to suppress your feelings. Instead, talk them over with a loved one, a friend, or a professional counselor.