Living with cancer and loss at Christmas


Christmas can be difficult for people who have experienced a major change or loss in their life.

Feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness are common and Christmas traditions can be painful reminders of how different life has become.

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, are caring for someone or have lost someone special to cancer, we hope these tips may help you make the most of the upcoming holiday season.

Top tips

Adjust your expectations

Discuss with your family and friends what you are able to manage and then make a plan. Make a list of things you can do and what people can do to assist.

Be gentle with yourself

Give yourself permission to celebrate the best way you can. Try to accept any changes and be kind to yourself and your family.

Celebrate in new ways

If your usual rituals or traditions are no longer possible or do not feel right, consider replacing them with new ones.

Keep it simple

Consider not hosting celebrations especially if you or your loved one has treatment planned during this time. Ask another family member or friend to be the host, book a restaurant or arrange a picnic instead.

Seek support

Talking to someone about your feelings can reduce feelings of sadness and isolation. Family and friends can be a good source of support.

Our fact sheet ‘Special Occasions and Celebrations’ provides additional information or please call our understanding and experienced cancer nurses on 13 11 20 or email


Katherine Lane, Head of Cancer Information and Support Services at Cancer Council Victoria (pictured), encouraged anyone needing support to reach out to their loved ones or to call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

“Cancer Council receives hundreds of calls during the summer holidays,” she said.

“We speak to people who may be worried that their feelings and emotions may dampen the celebrations for others or that they may experience frustrating delays in appointments, treatments and results over this period.

“The holiday season is tough not only for those living with cancer, but also for family and friends who are finding it a lonely and sad time of the year without a loved one.”

Ms Lane said there was also the Cancer Council Online Community, a safe and supportive online site for patients, their carers and families. Through blogs, discussion forums and support groups, members can discuss their experiences and share stories, tips and coping strategies to help normalise concerns and reduce social isolation.

“An increasing number of people are seeking peer support through digital forums to connect with others who can relate to what they are experiencing, particularly important over this time of year.”

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