Top Tips for Thanksgiving With Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer can leave you feeling isolated, but while you may think nobody around you understands your plight, that shouldn’t stop you from participating in the festivities. In fact, this is a time to unite with the people you love, and there are several ways to overcome emotional and physical discomfort in order to enjoy Thanksgiving to the fullest.
Why Communication Matters
Letting people know how your cancer symptoms affect your life will help them understand your moods and actions, and in turn they’ll show more compassion and restraint. You don’t have to get into little details of your daily routine or fish for sympathy, but a short and honest conversation about your cancer will go far to relieving your bottled-up stress. The better the people around you understand your situation, the happier they will be to pitch in where needed.
In some cases, people pry too much, or offer to “help” in particularly unhelpful ways. Misconceptions and pushy attitudes can be aggravating, but there’s often a polite and confident way to stay in control. Come up with some solutions to awkward conversations before you get to the gathering: be prepared to offer a short and sweet answer to a prying question, switch the topic of conversation, or in the worst case, and simply leave the room. You don’t deserve to deal with more discomfort than you already have.
Eat Well for Better Comfort
Food and drink are central to any Thanksgiving gathering, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the feast. However, there are a few precautions to take if you want to stay healthy and comfortable in the hours and days to come:
- Small portions – Eating little bits every few hours throughout the day can help tame nausea and keep your energy up if your appetite is suffering. The good news is there’s lots of variety in a Thanksgiving spread, so even if your sense of taste is compromised from treatment, you can likely find at least one or two flavors that you can enjoy.
- Avoid problem foods – Since ovarian cancer is a hormone-sensitive cancer, you need to be careful of foods that have an estrogen-boosting effect. Soy is the principal culprit, but flax seeds can also be problematic. Fatty foods can make nausea worse, and refined flours and processed meats don’t contain enough nutritious calories to be useful for your body.
- Load up on helpful vitamins – A diet rich in colorful fruits and veggies has been shown to boost immunity, especially bright orange foods for vitamin A (carrots and squash) and dark green foods for antioxidants and vitamin B (broccoli and leafy greens). High-protein foods that are high in calories (think eggs, cheese, and fatty fish) are best for keeping your muscles strong and healthy.
Balancing Rest and Activity
Dealing with cancer fatigue can be very frustrating when you’re attending a busy gathering; at the best of times, it leaves you feeling a bit anti-social, but it can also profoundly affect your emotional state. Instead of feeling helpless in the face of your fatigue, learn some coping techniques that will help you to participate despite the exhaustion:
- Delegate tasks – Hosting a party is a big endeavor, but if you’re in charge of the meal – or even if you aren’t – don’t be afraid to ask others to take on a little more. Set up a schedule well beforehand, but also lean on kitchen assistants throughout the day. Trust that everyone around you will ensure that everything makes it to the table on time.
- Take a walk – Holiday gatherings inevitably bring stress and obligation, and it can be hard to deal with all the excitement. When you’re getting overwhelmed, take a breather with some relaxation techniques, or a short walk to center your thoughts. Exercise calms your nerves and stretches your muscles, so you’re bound to return a little more relaxed.
- Stay in good spirits – It turns out that humor and laughter are powerful treatments: a 2011 Norwegian study found that in patients with an advanced, life-threatening illness, a good sense of humor actually increased chances of survival by 31%. Lower your expectations, throw perfectionism out the window, and strike up some funny conversation to help you stay happy, healthy, and appreciative.
Thanksgiving is an occasion to look back at all of the love and support that keeps you going, and the perfect opportunity to tell all those friends and family just how much they mean to you. Sharing your gratitude and accepting the love and concern of others will strengthen your commitment to each other, and that promises a happy, positive start to the holiday season.