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Thank you for subscribing to Cancer Care, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cancer care and prevention. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff

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The holidays can be an emotionally charged time. While they can be very joyful, it's also common for people to feel sadness, depression or fear. For people dealing with an illness such as cancer, these emotions can be even more complex. If you or a loved one has cancer, be prepared to understand and deal with these feelings during the holiday season.

First, it's important to recognize and acknowledge what you feel, whether it is excitement, numbness or sadness. Allow yourself to cry, laugh or express your feelings as they come. Take time for yourself. Read a book, go to a movie or exercise. If you start to feel overwhelmed, opt out of activities or gatherings. You need not make apologies for doing so.

Planning ahead can help you enjoy the holidays more. Decide with your family what traditions you'll participate in. Consider changing or modifying your activities if it will help make your celebrations more pleasant. Sometimes new activities can help people transcend feelings of loss or grief. Most of all, focus on the moment. Try not to dwell on past celebrations that might seem happier; every celebration can be joyful in its own way. 

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Receiving cancer treatments is difficult at any time of year, but it can be especially tough during the holiday season. If you are going through treatments, be sure to take care of yourself during this season.

Take a break. It's common for people to be extremely tired during cancer treatments. Although holidays typically include more celebrations and activities than usual, don't overdo it. Rest as much as possible.

Scale back as needed. Be willing to do less gift wrapping, decorating, baking or other activities that you typically do during the holidays. Do less if it makes you feel better overall. If holiday traditions are important to you, don't be afraid to ask friends and family for help with preparations.

Stay connected. If you're not able to attend gatherings with friends and family, find other ways to keep in touch. Make phone calls or e-mail as much as you feel up to it. Consider being part of an online cancer support group or a volunteer group such as the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery, which connects cancer survivors with people more recently diagnosed with the disease. A cancer survivor may be able to understand your feelings in a way family members may not.

Acknowledge your illness, but try not to dwell. Know before celebrations how you'd like to talk to others about your cancer. Some people will be more receptive than others to hear about your treatments, so try to consider the emotions of both yourself and others. You are dealing with a serious illness, so it's important to talk about it if you are comfortable with that. However, try not to make cancer the focus of the holidays.

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In Great Health online archive.