All around the world, those who celebrate Christmas eagerly look forward to all the traditions of the season. Many enjoy the lights and decorations. Others anticipate both the giving and receiving of gifts. Still, others think Christmas is all about the food, from those sugar cookies with the red and green sprinkles to traditional dishes that are popular in certain cultures.
But for cancer patients, especially those undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy, which often causes stomach distress, eating at the holidays can become a real chore and just another reason to be depressed about their current condition. It’s tough not to be able to enjoy the food of the season, especially if your favorites make you ill.
In response to this issue, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has offered tips to help those undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments to handle holiday food and the overall stress of holiday eating, including preparing meals when you don’t quite feel up to it.
The most important thing to do, the ACS suggests, is to let friends and family know that you aren’t feeling like yourself this year and that you probably can’t cook that large meal or contribute that favorite dish to the festivities. Compassionate friends and family will understand your limitations.
Next, patients undergoing cancer treatments will need to decide for themselves which foods they can handle. The ACS suggests these steps:
- Keep an eye on foods as they arrive and identify things you think you might be able to tolerate.
- Choose from the inside of the table at a buffet, where little hands, and their germs, are less likely to reach.
- Eat before you leave the house; try a snack with some fiber and protein just in case there aren’t many options for you.
- Start slow and take small portions so you don’t get that “overfull” feeling.
- Ask your doctor if it is ok for you to drink alcohol before you go to holiday celebrations where you might be tempted to drink.
- Look at a potluck as an opportunity to try new tastes and dishes, take advantage of the occasion to identify new flavors that might taste good to you.
Because nausea can be a huge problem for many undergoing chemotherapy, and the sight or smell of food can be a trigger, the ACS suggests that patients remove themselves from the area where food is being cooked or served whenever necessary. They also suggest sipping ginger ale or tea or chewing on a mint to settle one’s stomach.
Remember, cancer patients can find other ways to interact with family and friends aside from sharing meals. Don’t be afraid to speak up and let acquaintances know about your concerns and look for other ways to spend some quality time together, like enjoying a quiet night together watching a favorite holiday video, taking a car ride to enjoy the Christmas lights, or perhaps just an opportunity to talk and reminisce.