If you’re going through breast cancer treatment or have just finished, the holiday season may feel like an overwhelming time. As Lauren approaches her first Christmas after treatment, she explains why it’s important to be kind to yourself and shares her top self-care tips.
I’ll be reflecting on how far I’ve come
I’m one of four children, so Christmas is a massive celebration every year. Even last year when I was going through chemo, it was a great day. New Year’s Eve was just after my fourth chemotherapy, so my husband Nick stayed in with me and we didn’t even see midnight!
October 2018 marked one year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Every now and again I’ll think, ‘What was I doing this time last year?’ and Christmas will be similar to that. In some ways, it’s nice to think about how far I’ve come. Last year I still had my original hair, so I still felt like me.
My birthday is also on 21 December, and birthdays always make you think about where you are in your life. I’ll be turning 33 and reflecting on what that means, and where I thought I was going to be at this age compared to where I am now.
I was scared to think about what happens next
Last Christmas, I was still in the ‘shock period’. I’d been given life-changing news, and felt I needed to stay strong in order to get through treatment. Now my treatment has finished, I’m feeling a little lost.
I never really took the time to think about how I was going to feel after treatment. When I was going through chemotherapy, my only focus was the next step. I was almost too scared to think about what happens next, because I’m struggling with the uncertainty of it all.
My seven self-care tips
Whether you’ve been affected by cancer or not, Christmas and the New Year can be a difficult time for a lot of people. I think it’s really important to be kind to yourself, so here are my top tips for self-care this festive season.
1. Don’t let FOMO (the fear of missing out) get the best of you
You may feel like saying ‘yes’ to every invitation you get, but it’s important to give yourself time to relax. This may mean you have to be more selective about what you go to during the holiday season, but you might find that you can enjoy those outings more.
2. Invite your friends over
If you’re feeling fatigued, or just really exhausted during or after treatment, invite your friends around. Open a bottle of wine, pop the movie Love Actually on, and sit back and relax with good company.
3. Get outdoors and embrace the fresh air
Wrap up warmly, put a bobble hat on, and go for a walk in the park. The fresh air does wonders for your mental and physical health. If you’re feeling up for it, you might like to try going for a gentle run – it’s something which makes me feel so much better afterwards.
4. Reflect on how far you’ve come
Try reflecting on how far you’ve come during the year, rather than beating yourself up about things. Focus on everything you’ve achieved during the year. Some things that stand out for me are coming through my treatment cancer-free, and taking part in The Show 2018, which was so much fun!
Obviously cancer can be absolutely horrible, but there can be some really positive things that come out of your experience. I never would have got to walk on a catwalk and meet so many other inspiring people. I know it’s difficult sometimes, but try to find the silver lining in your experience.
5. Put together a playlist that makes you smile
Put together a playlist that makes you smile when you listen to it. Include songs that remind you of happy moments. The power of music is amazing.
I’ll listen to the first song my husband and I danced to at our wedding, and it cheers me up straight away. A Spotify playlist I’m currently obsessed with is called ‘All Out 90s’. It’s something I’ve been walking and running to.
6. Find someone to talk to
I’m aware it always sounds easier than it is, but if you’re feeling lonely or anxious, it’s important to talk to someone. Whether it’s a family member or friend, someone from the amazing cancer community on social media, or the Breast Cancer Care Helpline, it’s so important to have a chat. It doesn’t even have to be about cancer, but just knowing you’ve got someone there who cares about you will help.
7. Write down your achievements
When I was going through chemotherapy, I’d write down three things that I managed to do that day. It might be as simple as ‘I unloaded the dishwasher,’ ‘I went for a walk for 20 minutes,’ or ‘I had a 30-minute chat with a friend.’ As time goes on, you’ll manage to look back on how much you’ve achieved and improved.
It’s important to be kind to yourself, and not to beat yourself up if you’re not feeling as happy as you think you should be at Christmas or the New Year. It’s OK not to be OK.
Lauren writes her own blog Cancer Chat and shares her journey on Instagram: petite_pois85
Read more personal stories, plus other hints and tips on moving forward after treatment in BECCA, our free app.