HOW CANCER CURED MY HOLIDAY STRESS, by Catherine DuBay

People talk about holiday stress and I feel sorry for them. The holidays do not stress me out at all. Other things stress me out; cooking, shopping, traffic, but not the holidays.

I actually love this time of year. When the days get darker and I have to wear gloves when I run and Starbucks cups turn red, I get really happy. This wasn’t always the case. I used to feel compelled to do it all. Decorate, bake, buy tons of perfect gifts, get the annual photo book completed, entertain and stay in shape. I was so busy trying to portray the life we see on the cover of holiday magazines, I would get to January 2 and realize I didn’t really enjoy the season at all! Then I got cancer one year and I was forced by chemo and surgeries to slow down a bit. I entered the holiday season with the perfect excuse to sit back and take in the season. My Cancer Christmas was about healing and celebrating life with family and friends. All the ideas on the covers of magazines that look so good and require so much work were not an option that year.

Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.
Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.

The decorations went up but not all of them. We baked but only when we really felt like it. I bought a few gifts but only if I saw something that had meaning or purpose instead of just because gift giving had to perfectly equal between both kids. Kids watch closely. At first they count to make sure they each get the same number of gifts. As they get older they start to calculate the value of the gifts to be sure an equal amount was spent on both kids. The cancer Christmas I bought gifts but my kids went easy on me and didn’t get too angry when they noticed an inequality. We entertained that year, but no one cared that my linens didn’t match or the food was from Oliver’s. They probably preferred this given my cooking!

It turned out to be one of my favorite holidays ever! I swore to myself that regardless of how much better I would feel the next year, I would not go back to my pre-cancer manic holiday state. For the most part I have not! Here is what I learned the Christmas I had cancer:

  • Gifts that matter: Buy 1-2 meaningful gifts for each child. Don’t bother with a score card. Life is not fair. Sometimes one kid will get a spectacular gift because you found something really cool for them and the next year might be a bust. My favorite gift as a child was the year my sister made me a ski outfit-yes, with a sewing machine! Pants and a jacket. I really wanted skis, boots and poles but our family couldn’t afford it. I loved that outfit and still can hear the sound of it as I skied down the mountain. Or better yet, spend a day with your kids. All day. No electronics. Ok, maybe half a day. They won’t forget it.
  • Demand some ME time. I like to run. I make sure to run throughout the holiday season. Some of my best runs are in December running through the neighborhoods looking at lights. Also enjoyable are runs/hikes in Annadel as it is much less crowded. Whatever your ME thing is, don’t sacrifice it this time of year! That quick errand instead of a workout can wait until AFTER your workout or your ME time. Stores open late this time of year.
  • Have Fun. Doing something with your family and friends should be a priority this time of year. That’s the true meaning of the holidays. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Bowling is our family favorite. Holiday light tours are also fun. A family night hike on a full moon is wonderful and even better; this year there is a full moon on Christmas Eve.
  • Slow down you’re moving too fast…Breath. Relax and be in the moment. Blah, blah, blah…you have heard it so much but have you done it? Play a game with your family. Head’s Up (by Ellen) is a blast and everyone in the family can play. You just need your phone or iPad and 10 minutes. It lightens everyone’s mood and will make you smile.

Don’t wait for cancer or some other life crisis to slow you down and force you to enjoy the season the way it was meant to be. Do it this year. And put happy back into the Holidays.

Happy Holidays and Trails my friends.

Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.
Photo by Mike McGuire at the 2014 Xmas Relays in San Francisco.

 

 

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