Wrapping the tree in tinsel, kissing a loved one under the mistletoe, going to a carol concert or enjoying a roast with all the trimmings. For many, Christmas is a time of great tradition, but when you’re living with cancer it can be difficult to do all the things you normally would. If someone close to you is living with cancer this Christmas, this blog, written by content developer Ella, has ideas of how you can help them with some simple acts of kindness.

Ask them how they’re doing and listen
This will only take a few minutes of your time. Ask them how they are and how you can make their Christmas better. Loneliness and isolation can be big issues at this time of year.

Help them put up their Christmas decorations (and take them down again too)
Putting up the Christmas decorations is quite a difficult task. Often, it involves climbing a ladder to get into the loft and dusting down boxes, and all this before you even think about unknotting the Christmas lights. Your loved one may feel fatigued after treatment, so do the leg-work and help them bring Christmas inside.

Look after their pets
Pop in to take the dogs out for a walk, let the cat out for a few hours or clean out the rabbit hutch. These small acts of kindness can really make all the difference.

Take them out to enjoy the festivities
If they feel well enough, your loved one could really benefit from getting out and about. Take them shopping at quieter times in the day, for example first thing in the morning or late evening depending on their energy levels. They might also wish to enjoy some festivities like a Christingle service, Midnight Mass, ice-skating or seeing the Christmas lights. Remember that many of these things can be watched from a car if needed.

This image shows a quote from Daloni which reads: ‘Put up with me when I am grumpy and try to understand how hard it is to be joyous and cheerful when every day is filled with nausea, fatigue and reminders of what you can't do.’

Help with their Christmas wrapping and postage
Wrapping presents requires quite a lot of energy and concentration that the person living with cancer may not have, so offer to get stuck in with the paper and scissors. The next job is to queue at the post office to get their Christmas stamps and send parcels for them.

Make them a Christmas playlist
This is easy enough to do on YouTube or Spotify. Christmas tunes will get them feeling festive with minimal effort.

Make them some freezable food
Cancer treatment may mean they don't feel like cooking, so take something round to put in their freezer. If you need ideas you can find some ideas in our recipe book.

Offer to look after their children
Children shouldn't have to miss out because their parent or guardian is unwell – this is something the person with cancer is probably all too aware ofDuring the school holiday, offering to take the children out can be a real help to people living with cancer. Not only will this allow them the chance to rest, but the kids can have a break from everything. Just a few hours can make all the difference.

This image shows a quote from Irene which reads: ‘Sometimes you're just so tired that you need a lie down and some quiet time. Christmas can be an exhausting time of the year, even when you are well.’

Invite them round for Christmas or New Year’s Eve
Remember that a lot of the focus will be on food, and your loved one may not feel like eating. If they want to avoid food altogether they could rest while everyone else is eating, then re-join the party afterwards.

If they always cook Christmas dinner, it may be upsetting for them if they aren’t well enough cook. Try to make it into a positive thing – even if you don’t usually cook, now is your chance! Asking them to instruct and supervise may make them feel more involved.

This image shows a quote from Joyce which reads: ‘As a mouth cancer survivor, eating normal textured foods is out for me now - including Christmas lunch/dinner. So, my suggestion would be for hosting family/friends to be flexible and cater for any special meal requirements, e.g.: chop, mash or puree suitable ingredients which are being served with the meal. It can make a huge difference and would be most appreciated.’

Help them get ready to travel
If they are spending Christmas away from home, helping them to pack can take some of the stress out of the travel.

Go to a support group with them
If they’ve never been to a support group, having someone they know with them could help them overcome their fear. They may even take comfort in the fact that you’ll know more about the issues affecting them.

Volunteering, especially at Christmas time is a way to show your support for all those affected by cancer. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, and there are lots of ways to get involved.

Whatever you decide, remember that even the smallest demonstration of care will be of comfort and will help them enjoy the Christmas period as best they can.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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