These events can also be challenging.
While you’re sitting at a table for a favorite
holiday or singing happy birthday sur-
rounded by family and friends, a small
voice inside your head may whisper: Could
this be my last? In the days leading up to
the event, you may obsess over creating a
Norman Rockwell-like experience, when
this ideal may only be possible in paint-
ings. Celebrations have a way of moti-
vating us to keep going, but they can also
increase pressure; the anticipation can too
easily diminish the joy.
Here are some ways to enhance the
pleasure and reduce the stress:
Plan for the Occasion
1) Be realistic and start small. If your
daughter is 5, start with her finishing kindergarten, not with her
wedding day. In making incremental
steps, you will slowly accumulate a
lifetime of memories.
2) When thinking of a special event,
create a real picture in your mind to
work toward. Imagine, for example,
a high school graduation: where you
will be sitting, how the sun will feel
on your shoulders, the music you
will hear, and the people who will
be near you.
3) Don’t overlook less-specific simple
pleasures. Rather than a July birthday,
look forward to summer in general.
4) Seize opportunities to create smaller
celebrations and acknowledge the joy
of your life.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BETH ISRAEL DEACONESS MEDICAL CENTER
Special events may take on magnified significance for cancer patients. Many identify future occasions, such as bar or bat mitzvahs, graduations, weddings and births, as goals: The aim
is to be healthy and present to enjoy these milestones.
WAYS TO MANAGE
Learn to look forward to life events without letting them add to your stress.
5) Remember that the anticipation of
an event is often much more stressful
than the day itself.
6) Consider sharing your feelings in
advance with someone who will be
at the event. That person can then be
your ally if you need a break or some
help containing your worries.
Experience the Moment
7) Recognize that any event is likely to
be bittersweet. You may not be able to
eliminate the bitter part, but you can
focus on the sweetness.
8) Lower your expectations. This does
not need to be the very best day ever.
There is happiness in just being there.
9) If you are planning a feast, consider
delegating tasks so you aren’t too
fatigued to take part in the day.
10) Remember that you are fully entitled
to experience all feelings at any
event. Tears can join the laughter.
11) Be sure to take pictures that can join
a collection of special moments. Put
them on display on your desk or bed
stand. These events will serve as
reminders and encouragement for both
you and your family going forward.
HESTER HILL SCHNIPPER, a licensed
independent clinical social worker, is a breast
cancer survivor and the manager of oncology
social work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center in Boston. She also writes a blog, Living
With Cancer, for the hospital’s website.
YOUR CANCER GUIDE | HESTER HILL SCHNIPPER