Wednesday, December 5, 2012

a lung cancer Christmas

“Holiday shopping tips for lung cancer patients.” Really? Obviously when I awoke from anesthesia earlier this year I awoke on an alien planet. Is everyone who is diagnosed with lung cancer wealthy? I am still paying off my medical insurance deductibles.  

“You’re not feeling so jolly this holiday season?” At last someone from my home planet! Grateful – YES! Holly, jolly – not really!

Reading suggestions about spouses or significant others taking care of this or that or lightening holiday stress is … well, it’s fiction on my planet. Am I the only spouse caregiver ever diagnosed with lung cancer? What about single people diagnosed with lung cancer what are they supposed to do?

Googling on I discover sites for lung cancer Christmas cards, lung cancer ornaments, and how to get 2012 Christmas Seals®. ... and realize I'm developing bigger issues than lung cancer because I'm starting to sing and dance in my chair to ABBA, "All the things I could do - If I had a little money - It's a rich man's world." 

Just when I was about to dismiss most of these pages of tips on coping with lung cancer and the holidays as written by alien psychobabble bobble head dolls, I found one which makes sense, to me, written by a psychiatric oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, “Coping with Cancer at the Holidays”.

"...Acknowledge where you are
    During the holidays, it’s hard to break out of traditional roles. … you might be unwilling to admit that things are different this year…

It’s important to recognize:
·      The financial burden of cancer: Time away from work, prescription costs and other lifestyle changes during treatment may make this a more difficult year financially.
·      Cancer can put an enormous strain on personal relationships, which can be emphasized at the holidays.
·      Fear of recurrence or worsening condition … because the future is uncertain.
Reframe expectations and reshape traditions

To get the most enjoyment out of this holiday season, try to:
·      Reframe your expectations: … Put yourself first
·      Rethink traditions: There is no “right way” to celebrate.
·      Reassess gift-giving: Make things easier by scaling back
Use healthy living to manage stress: regular exercise and sleep..."
Last year I received the phone call that would alter my life the afternoon of Dec 23rd. Yeah I was lost, confused, angry, scared and more but concealed my health issues and anxieties while dutifully acting as my wife’s spouse caregiver enabling her participation in her family Christmas.

Once an aficionado of all things Christmas, I confess a ‘lung cancer Christmas’ was never on my life’s radar … likewise I confess that I’m grateful to be knockin’ on Santa’s door instead of knockin’ on heaven’s door. “God bless us, every one!"

Patrick Leer

Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @


  1. Patrick, how did you know what I needed to see today? With stress up the wazoo and chemo starting just before Christmas, I need to take a bye on the holidays this year. Amazing that you then directed me back to a link at my beloved hospital---all quite timely. And no, you are not alone. I am patient and often constant caregiver to our fifteen year old, as my husband spends much time on the road. It's not easy to take care of yourself in the way that you should when other (non negotiable) responsibilities beckon.

    Happy holidays best you can!


    1. Linnea, thank you and likewise you have no idea how many times your blog has turned my day around. Best of possible holiday wishes back at you and yours.

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