Holidays Can Be Hard For Many
- Life can be hard any day of the week, but often times holiday cheer is a painful reminder for what—or whom–may be lacking in someone’s life this season.
- Journalist Katie Couric, 64, shared a brutally honest reminder about the reality for many people struggling through the holidays right now. It’s more important than ever to be kind to others, especially to ourselves.
- Cancer survivors share their tips on coping with loss, and cancer-related depression.
Life can be hard any day of the week, but often times holiday cheer is a painful reminder for what—or whom–may be lacking in someone’s life this season.Read More
“We’re all busy,” the post continues, “but we’re not too busy to be kind, caring, and patient. Remember the best thing you can give someone right now is love.”
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Couric knows firsthand how painful the grief can be over the holidays. The former Today co-anchor tragically lost her first husband, lawyer Jay Monahan, to colorectal cancer.
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Couric still honors her first husband by dedicating most of her life to raising awareness for colorectal cancer. He was just 41 when Monahan was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, and he passed at 42 years old. The couple married in 1989 and had two daughters together: Elinor “Ellie” and Caroline.
Couric knows what it’s like to be a single mom mourning her husband and father of her children, especially during the holiday season.
Couric spoke to CureToday.com in 2019 about her tragic loss.
“Our daughters were 6 and 2 at the time, and it’s really hard to describe the kind of heartbreak that ensued after he passed away,” she said. “Our hopes and dreams, what I thought was going to be a long and happy life together, just vanished into thin air after his nine-month battle.”
The cancer had spread to his liver, which is why Monahan went so fast. She addressed having to start over and pushing forward.
“I think that it’s hard to describe for people what it’s like unless you’ve been there, and you have to rebuild your life,” she shared. “Thomas Jefferson once said that the earth is for the living and we’re all terminal. So I wanted to try to have a full and happy life, even if it meant doing so without my husband. I had two little girls who were depending on me. I didn’t have the luxury or the time to put the covers over my head and give up. I think people find a way to go on because they have to go on. They have no choice but to go on.”
Coping with Depression
In addition to some people having feelings of depression from being without loved ones, people battling cancer can have a particularly hard time facing their health and diagnosis as well. They are still living and breathing, but may be thinking about their own mortality a bit more than usual. The physical side effects of chemotherapy, like hair loss and nausea, are familiar to most patients. But as survivor Kate Hunt learned, chemotherapy side effects can contribute to the emotional toll as well.
“There’s a chemical depression that comes along with chemotherapy,” said Kate, a Minneapolis-native who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 22, to SurvivorNet. “Thankfully, my oncologist warned me about it — that it’s chemical, and it happens to so many people.”
That warning helped Kate recognize the depression as chemo-related when it did descend to cloud her thoughts. But she still experienced low points, especially when her aunt passed away. Due to her compromised immune system, her oncologist told her it wasn’t safe to travel to the funeral. Instead, she listened to the service over the phone.
“That was a really low, low part for me … it noticeably had an effect on how I handled treatment,” Kate said. However, she added that having the support of family helped her get her through the rest of treatment and recovery. Don’t be afraid to lean particularly hard on your loved ones over the holiday season.
If Your Loved Ones Want to Discuss Your Cancer
Whether you’re the one with cancer, or your loved one has cancer, there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here when navigating the holiday season. As a cancer patient, how do you navigate when your loved one wants to talk about your cancer? And as a loved one, how do you know when the person with cancer wants to, or doesn’t want to talk about it?
“When talking to loved ones about your preferences and discussing your cancer journey during the holidays, it’s important that you be your authentic self,” Dr. Strongin says. “So rather than telling people exactly what you want, it’s important to share why you want that.”
“When we are our most authentic self and disclose our true feelings, the people around us feel us. So if you aren’t feeling comfortable talking about your cancer and you don’t want it to be a part of the holiday season, tell them why that is. Tell them why talking about it would be so distressing for you.”
If someone in your family has cancer and makes it clear they don’t want to talk about it, then you need to respect that. Everyone deals with having this disease in a different way — some people want to talk about it, while others don’t. And that’s totally OK.
Keeping a Positive Attitude During the Holiday Season
The holiday season has a way of marking the time in our lives, Dr. Strongin says. It tends to be more intense than other times of the year. So what if you’re having a hard time remaining positive during this season that’s supposed to be filled with so much joy?
“For patients who are going through a difficult moment, it becomes a real lens into what’s happening for them because they can remember the holidays the year before or even the year before that,” Dr. Strongin says. “And it becomes a sense of reality when they know that this is going to be the year that’s marked by this (a cancer battle or diagnosis).”
If you find that you identify with what Dr. Strongin is saying, she tells us that she has a challenge for you this holiday season: “I really challenged (cancer patients) to kind of take this holiday as it is, to find the joy in it, to find ways to accept the reality of where they are in this time and space.”