Health & Wellness

Pressure on Cancer Patients to Be Positive Can Add to Holiday Stress

Written By:
Dec 20, 2021
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Written By: Dana Nolan, MS, LMHC,
December 20, 2021

Many holiday songs seem like they’re trying to convince you that you need to feel happy in December. And if you don’t, then there’s something wrong with you.

“Tis the Season to be Jolly” 

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” 

While many people do love this time of the year and have many holiday traditions that bring joy, some people struggle with the holiday blues. 

Mesothelioma and Mixed Feelings 

The holiday season can heighten the already mixed bag of emotions that accompany life with a mesothelioma diagnosis

Being able to enjoy a sweet holiday tradition like watching your favorite holiday movie with friends may feel even more special when you have been battling cancer all year. But not feeling up to attending your neighborhood holiday party this year can be a devastating reminder of all that you have not been able to do because of your mesothelioma treatment.

As a counselor that has worked with cancer patients for many years, I have reassured my patients and their caregivers that having a wide range of feelings is a completely normal human response to having mesothelioma. There are lots of emotional and physical ups and downs as you or your loved one go through surgeries, experience chemotherapy and devote a lot of energy to fighting your mesothelioma. 

It’s normal to feel sad when you receive disappointing scan results and angry that you have mesothelioma. It’s also normal to experience grief over the loss that comes with not always being able to do many of the things you used to do while coping with mesothelioma

Insights from Mesothelioma Support Groups

In the many cancer support groups that I have facilitated over the years, I have repeatedly heard from cancer patients that they feel pressure to have a positive attitude, to be more social than they feel up to or to put on a smile when they don’t feel like it. 

Naturally, having a positive outlook is easier when you’re feeling good physically or get some good news about your cancer treatment. But, there are days when mesothelioma patients feel fatigued, have shortness of breath or pain which make it hard to do regular activities. 

Feeling sad or angry on those days is understandable and it is important to accept those feelings as valid. Beating yourself up for not having a positive attitude when you are not feeling good physically or emotionally only makes those feelings worse. 

A helpful holiday suggestion is to allow yourself to feel all the “feels” this holiday season with acceptance that there will be days that you really cherish some of the holiday traditions or gatherings and there may be days when you feel a bit “bah humbug.” Consider that acceptance of your emotions as your holiday gift to yourself! (If you are feeling super generous to yourself, then try and let that acceptance extend the whole year round.)

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