How to cope with a family brain tumour diagnosis this Christmas

How to cope with a family brain tumour diagnosis this Christmas

Wed 18 December

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for most families. But for those dealing with a brain tumour diagnosis, it can be as stressful as it is special.
In the run up to the big day, we’re sharing eight tips on how you can cope with a family brain tumour diagnosis this Christmas.

1. Continue with family traditions

One of the worst things you can do is make drastic changes to your normal Christmas plans. If the diagnosis you or your family member has received is malignant, you might find lots of your wider relatives and friends want to be around you this festive season.
However, if you normally spend the big day with just your immediate family, continue to do it that way. Even if the diagnosis isn’t malignant, it’s likely that you want to keep things as normal as possible, especially at Christmas. Having too many people around might end up confusing things for everyone.

2. Be mindful of portion sizes

According to Medical News Today, one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting.
As the days surrounding Christmas – and of course, the big meal itself – are full of rich food in large quantities, it helps to be mindful when serving food to those currently going through brain tumour treatment.
Try not to put pressure on everyone to eat lots ‘just because it’s Christmas’. Instead, don’t make a big deal about the food, instead let people serve themselves so they can take as much – or as little – as they want. If you’re the one that’s been diagnosed, also speak to your GP before the event to make sure you have all the anti-sickness medication you need.

3. Celebrate within your means

Any kind of brain tumour diagnosis can cause huge financial strain on families, and that is never more so the case than at Christmas. In order to make your festive period as stress-free as possible, make sure you set and keep to a budget that’s realistic.
If the amount you usually spend on gifts is too much to afford this year, be open and honest with your family about what you can afford. Handmade gifts are always appreciated and won’t break the bank. 
The same goes for the food. Do you always have loads left over? Think carefully about what you reallyneed and opt for vegetarian or supermarket own-brand products to save pennies. 

4. Pace the day

Cancer and its treatment can often make patients feel overly tired and sleepy which can be an issue during Christmas when festivities are high. Those suffering might not want to miss out on the day or might feel embarrassed to leave for a nap. We urge them, or you if that person is you, not to. Christmas can be very tiring, and rest must be prioritised when it’s needed.
The best thing to do is to pace the day properly and planning plenty of rest time into the schedule. We find that mid-morning and afternoon naps work best.

5. Allow time to feel

Christmas can be a confusing and sad time for many families grappling with a brain tumour diagnosis. Depending on the prognosis, patients and their families may be facing their last Christmas together. 
Everyone handles this differently. You may feel devastated and not know how to find a smile to give on the day, alternatively you might want to forget about the diagnosis for the Christmas period. Either way, share your feelings with your loved ones and create a safe space for everyone in the family to talk about how they feel. 

6. Be mindful of alcohol

Most people enjoy a Christmas Day tipple, it helps us relax and gets us in the festive spirit. And if you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, there’s generally no reason why you can’t enjoy a glass or wine or two on Christmas Day.
However, do be careful if they (or you) are currently going through treatment, as alcohol can sometimes interfere with how cancer drugs work. Please check with your Doctor or Clinical Nurse Specialist prior to the festive season to find out what you can and can’t consume.

7. Give thoughtful gifts

If you do have budget for Christmas gifts, consider giving your loved one with a brain tumour something to make them feel more relaxed. Some ideas include: skincare and moisturisers, audio books, a Netflix subscription, letterbox flowers, a weekend away and cosy socks and jumpers.

8. Cherish every moment

It may sound cliché but Christmases after cancer diagnosis should be spent enjoying every minute you are together. The dryness of the turkey, texture of the sprouts and amount of money spent on presents mean nothing compared to spending quality time as a family.

As we said before, it can be stressful and upsetting wondering if this year is the last you’ll spend together, but don’t let that stop you from laughing with each other. Time is precious and having a brain tumour diagnosis in your family should remind you that your time as a family is so very important.

We hope you found our tips on how to cope with a family brain tumour diagnosis this Christmas helpful. If you have any more to share, please head over to our Facebook page.
Please remember that if you need support you can contact us on 0113 3400111 or by email to
Our next BTRS Support Group will be held on Thursday 9thJanuary from 6.30pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Leeds.
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