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    Cancer: The Uninvited Thanksgiving Guest

    saying grace

    No one invited cancer to Thanksgiving dinner. And no one wants it there. But for many people who have cancer, or care about someone with cancer, this Thanksgiving will have an uninvited guest, one that has the potential to seriously disrupt the party. Managing an unwelcome guest will take some adjusting and planning, but one undesirable addition to the party absolutely does not cancel the party, and need not take all the joy out of your Thanksgiving. Here are three key strategies for managing the uninvited guest.

    Adjust Your Expectations
    Cancer fatigue may make you feel like you can’t even participate in a holiday or family gathering. However, Thanksgiving 2014 will not come again. So, go – definitely go – to the gathering, but adjust the time you spend, the number of people you see, the role you play in preparation for the party this year. The time you socialize may be shorter; your participation in the family hike or board game may be very limited. You may not be able to eat the meal, but you may appreciate a little conversation, enjoy the decorations or say a blessing.

    Pick a Party Line
    People are going to be curious about the uninvited guest. Some people may ask about cancer in a way that feels caring and supportive, while others’ curiosity may seem intrusive and prying. Figure out what you feel comfortable sharing this Thanksgiving and decide before the party exactly what you plan to say. For example, “Check out my CaringBridge site. Let’s talk about cancer after the holiday. Parts of treatment are rough. Thanks for asking, things are ok for now.” Also have a party line to change the conversation away from cancer; “How are your kids? Read a good book recently? Did you see the Tonight Show?”

    Get Outside
    Put on your shoes, bundle up, and get outside. Three times a day – even for just 5 to 10 minutes if that is all you are able to do. Breathe deeply, a breath that comes in through your nose, fills up your belly and goes out through your mouth with an audible sigh. Your nervous system will thank you by releasing chemicals that soothe your mind and body. Walk, or have a friend push you in a wheelchair, and notice the sky, trees, breeze, clouds and sun.  Cancer may have tried to crash the holidays, but cancer can’t take away all the beauty of the natural world.

    Cancer may be uninvited, but cancer does not get to take all the joy out of this holiday. Thanksgiving 2014 will have more challenges, but armed with the strategies above, you are likely to find some pleasant moments this November.

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