PUBLISHED ON: 12 December 2018

It’s common to experience ongoing fatigue after treatment ends, which can make special occasions, like Christmas, feel overwhelming. Helen shares her best tips for managing your energy levels over the holidays.

Helen shares her tips for managing fatigue

I decided to be kind to myself

Last year, I had my first post-cancer Christmas. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2016, and following my initial surgery, I completed chemotherapy at the end of September.

Contemplating my first Christmas after my diagnosis was quite overwhelming, so part of being kind to myself was making a plan that allowed me to cope with the exhaustion that I experienced after treatment.

Here are the tips that allowed me to be kind to myself, have fun, and keep it simple.

1. Try online shopping

For once, I took the ‘easy present option’ and all my shopping was done online or with a friend in direct sales. While I worried about what the recipients would think about their gifts, I really shouldn’t have. They were all delighted. Online shopping is much more realistic in the aftermath of treatment than spending days fighting the Christmas crowds.

2. Ask your relatives to host

Another part of being kind to myself was being smart about the entertaining that goes hand-in-hand with Christmas. If possible, ask your relatives to play host. My experience was that they were only too pleased to help.

My sister hosted our extended family day, while my children decided to spend Christmas with their in-laws, leaving my husband and I to enjoy a rare Christmas Day to ourselves. We celebrated with our children on another day with a no-pressure supper. Instead of cooking, I made the most of pre-prepared dishes.

3. Choose your social engagements with care

Helen after treatment

Pick social events that allow your attendance to be decided on the day. My first festive event involved going carol singing with friends at our local pub. The whole evening was no more than two hours. But I was with friends, doing something I enjoy. I loved it. Most importantly, it was an event that I could give as much to as I was able, and easily slip away from when needed.

4. Schedule time to rest

It can be hard for family to understand that when treatment is over, you're far from recovered. While your loved ones just want everything to go back to normal, it’s important that you're kind to yourself.

I scheduled nap time throughout the Christmas fortnight. I'm lucky I don’t have young or dependent children living with me, so it was relatively easy to do. I rarely slept, but I enjoyed an hour or so of solitude, which helped me recharge. When this wasn’t possible, I tried to have a rest day between busy days. This is where the ‘keep it simple’ part of my plan really came into its own.

5. Tell others how you feel

I found that the only way to help my family understand my fatigue was to be honest with them. I practised saying ‘no’, and rehearsed simple statements explaining that I was still too tired to do everything. As I was the most likely person to demand too much of myself, rehearsing my answers was really designed to keep myself in check.

Come the first week in January, I was able to reflect over the Christmas fortnight, and it felt like a huge success. It was different to normal, but its simplicity only added to my enjoyment. This year, I've started preparing earlier but still intend to keep things as simple as possible and will also keep an eye on my fatigue levels. Most of all, I'm looking forward to celebrating another year of life with my family and friends.


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