14 ways to help a cancer patient during the holidays

Young woman holds on older woman's hand in a wheelchair, while looking at a Christmas tree

If a loved one is dealing with a cancer diagnosis during the holiday season, reach out and suggest what you can do to help. It’s a common wish for the holidays to be as normal as possible and to celebrate like they always have, but limitations of energy and finances loom large.

It’s much easier for someone to accept your offer if you provide the idea—like shoveling walks, mailing cards and packages, and putting up their tree. Put on your elf hat and get to it, or try one of these:

  1. Do the outdoor décor. Put up Christmas lights, adorn their mailbox or set up a simple festive spotlight. Make a silly snowman on their lawn.
  2. Bring the morning’s breakfast. Deliver a breakfast casserole or prepared sweet rolls that simply need to go in the oven on Christmas morning.
  3. Help with shopping. Relieve the burden of running from store to store. Help them with online purchases and arrange for delivery or in-store pickup.
  4. Drop off a gift card for groceries or a store like Wal-Mart or Target.
  5. Show up with vacuum in tow. Offer a whole house run through. Or go big and get friends to help clean the house flash-mob style.
  6. Take out the trash. Drag the trash and recycling bins to the curb on the appropriate night and retrieve them the next day.
  7. Arrange for a restaurant delivery of a meal. Something healthy and warm!
  8. See the lights. Go for an evening ride to Niagara Falls, Downtown Buffalo, the Grain Elevators, or your own neighborhood decked out in Christmas lights.
  9. Wrap their presents! This task can be tiring for anyone, let alone a cancer patient.
  10. Take their kids for an outing. Even better if it’s a loud and crazy place that kids love but can be trying for a parent who doesn’t feel well (like an arcade or laser tag).
  11. Be the handyman. Go through the home and make a list of minor tasks and repairs that you can address right away, like changing light bulbs, hanging shelves, replacing the furnace filter, etc.
  12. After-Holiday cleanup. Set a date to come take down decorations and store for next year.
  13. Plan a New Year’s at-home movie party. This way there’s no pressure to stay awake until midnight.
  14. Look forward to Spring. Plant some spring flower bulbs in a pot (i.e. tulips, paperwhites, daffodils) so new life will grow in their home in the months ahead.

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