Cancer Treatments and the Holidays: A Letter to Friends and Coworkers
When I was going through cancer treatments during the holidays I tried to be as normal as possible. Work was the one place where I could be “normal”. At work it was easy to keep my mind so busy, it was easy to keep up a front and act as if everything was still the same, but by time the Christmas holidays rolled around, I needed help and I just couldn’t seem to ask for it. It was so hard to ask for help when you are use to being the strong one.
I also didn’t know how to ask for help, I felt like I shouldn’t bother people because I didn’t want to make them sad during the holidays. I now shake my head about this type of thinking. It wasn’t until I was done with my treatments that I realized I could have written a letter to my friends and coworkers – I knew they wanted to help because I could see it in their eyes…
Dear Friends and Coworkers,
I have appreciated you being so understanding and giving me space as I am going through my cancer treatments. I have been so busy trying to survive that I don’t even have the energy to explain to you all what is going on; neither do I know how to tell you.
I know many of you want to help, but do not know what to do. I see you walking past my cubby with eyes full of concern, but you do not know how to approach me and I do not know how to let you in to help me.
These chemotherapy treatments are beating me up and I come to work so I can have some place normal to be, I am doing everything that I can to be normal, it is so important to me for I am hanging on by a thread.
So please forgive me for not trying to talk to you or for not asking for help verbally. It’d be so hard to say my words out loud; I am scared if I do I’ll break down. I am writing this letter to you to let you know I appreciate you wanting to help me and that I realize that it is difficult to talk to me. Please understand this is so hard for me and I may cry at a drop of a hat, but just smile and say “it’s ok, we’ll make it through this.”
Here is what would help me keep my holidays as close to normal with my family who are just as scared as I am.
- Do my Christmas dinner shopping; you do not know how this would so help me out to have one less shopping trip to do while I am in my treatments. I can pay for it; I just need someone to get it for me.
- A house cleaning gift certificate would be nice for the holidays. I cannot smell the cleaning chemicals without getting sick and my chemotherapy treatments leave me so tired that even trying to vacuum saps the life right out of me.
- Bake. I cannot bake for myself this year, and I will gladly accept help with this. Take me shopping to buy the baking goodies and you can either bake it at your house or come to my house and bake away. Please pay no mind if all of a sudden I fall asleep on the couch while the baking is going on, it is because my treatments leave me so tired. But please know that I am so happy knowing that something as wonderfully normal such as the baking is being done.
- Help me go some place to have my kids’ presents wrapped, and wait with me while they are wrapped; perhaps we can have a cup of coffee or tea or go hangout at the bookstore while they are being wrapped? I love the bookstore, and I do not get there as often as I want to since I started treatments.
- Take my kids shopping, please; they are doing their best to keep everything normal, shopping is normal. Even if you could just drop them off and pick them up, that would be so helpful.
Please understand, that I am unable to do anything outside of my family right now, it is taking everything I have to be here for my family. It does not mean I am not grateful or don’t care, I just don’t have the energy to do much more right now.
Lastly, know in my heart, thank you is just not enough to express what I feel, I hope when you see my tears of gratitude that you will know you have done more than enough. One day, I will look back at this and remember all the wonderful people who helped me through the holidays as I was facing my one of the toughest times of my life.
With my warmest heartfelt wishes,
Someone who is dancing with cancer…
I wish you peace, wellness, and strength.
Mayo Clinic: Stress, depression and the holidays
Cancer.net: Cancer and the Holidays
American Cancer Society: When Someone You Know Has Cancer