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Our expert offers tips to help cancer patients and their family through the holiday season.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can cause extra stress and fatigue on a person, especially those undergoing treatment for cancer. An oncologist with Baylor College of Medicine offered tips to help cope with cancer during the holidays.

“I always tell my patients that just because they are going through cancer treatment, it doesn’t mean they cannot do what they want and enjoy the holidays,” said Dr. Julie Nangia, assistant professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at BCM. “We talk about what they are looking forward to the most and ways to make that happen.”

The grueling side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and lack of energy, may present the biggest discomfort during the holidays, she said.

Discuss treatment options

“If possible, I will tell my patients they can delay chemotherapy for up to 1 week,” said Nangia. “Patients should discuss with their treating doctor if this is a possibility they are comfortable with, since it could prevent some of the discomfort they cause during the holidays.”

But if it’s not possible, there are a few other things that may help.

“A lot of people undergoing chemotherapy are at risk for infection, so travelling might be a problem,” she said. “Consider asking your family to come to you, instead of making the trip to them.”

She emphasized discussing the individual situation with your doctor to make the best and safest plan for potential travel.

Families of patients undergoing chemotherapy should take the best precautions to prevent spread of any infections to their loved ones, such as constant hand washing and safe food preparations, Nangia said. “If you have been exposed to an infection, it may not be the best idea to bring that exposure back to the oncology patient.”

Ask for help

Chemotherapy can also cause additional anxiety and depression. Support groups may be a good outlet to cope with this, especially at the holidays.

“It may be really hard for some people to ask for help, but do not be afraid to do so,” said Nangia. “Everyone needs a little help every now and then.”

She recommended visiting the American Cancer Society website to find a support group.

Little things may also help, such as eating peppermints and ginger to help with the nausea. Additionally, some research has shown ginseng may help with chemo-related fatigue, Nangia said.

“We always recommend keeping up with exercise – 3 to 5 hours a week – and to maintain a normal body mass index,” said Nangia. “But it’s ok for someone to have a few sweets and gain a few pounds during the holidays. It’s ok to indulge a little and cater to that sweet tooth while enjoying holiday festivities.”