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Coping at Christmas

A brain tumour diagnosis can make it harder to enjoy yourself, even during the holiday season.

Christmas. It’s meant to be the season to be jolly. But it doesn’t always feel like that for everyone all of the time. Christmas 2016 – only a month after having my brain surgery for a second time around (this one leaving the left side of my body paralysed) I really struggled.

That Christmas, any time I left the house was with my mum. This made buying her a Christmas present incredibly difficult! In the end, I sent my brother links to the presents I wanted to buy her and sent him out to buy them on my behalf. When it came to my dad (who is such a difficult man to buy presents for), I had to ask my brother to keep an eye out on his Christmas shopping for things my dad would like. It feels awful having to leave gift-buying up to other people; especially if, like me, you take great pride in choosing gifts for people!

Another big issue I had that Christmas was the fact that my left hand was not working. Not being able to open your own Christmas presents and having to have someone open them on your behalf was difficult.

Seeing friends on social media enjoying Christmas parties and Christmas markets with their friends hurt, but Christmas was a turning point for me. Whilst taking a trip to my uncle’s, I decided I wanted to push myself and walk as far as I could. I only expected to get to the end of the road, but finished the 10-minute walk to his house. After that I started getting out of my chair in shops and walking as much as I could manage to! So remember, even if it feels like this might not be your year, keep on going! You can do it!

Tips to help you enjoy the holiday season

I found the best way to make it through Christmas was to try and keep up Christmas traditions. It would have been so easy to stay home and not visit Christmas markets but it’s a tradition we always do; so keeping that up added a sense of normality to it. Here are some things that might be able to help:

  • Watch your favourite Christmas films.
  • Wrap presents listening to Christmas music.
  • Drink hot chocolate.
  • Wrap up warm under blankets.
  • Do anything you can to add to your Christmas spirit.
  • See as many loved ones, friends and family as you can and don’t tell yourself you can’t enjoy Christmas because you are sick!
  • Tell yourself you deserve to enjoy this! Take pleasure in putting up the tree, seeing the twinkly lights, and no matter your age, get yourself an advent calendar to build excitement!
  • Eat as much chocolate as you can!
  • Keep up your Christmas traditions! Mine is having a chocolate breakfast!

Take Christmas as a day to forget about your troubles and try and slip back into that childhood excitement. Even at age 18, I made sure to still leave milk and carrots for Santa and the reindeer. I found watching Christmas films made me momentarily forget about what I was going through. And also, you realise after having the life-changing experience of a brain tumour that the fear of gaining a few extra pounds no longer bothers you! So enjoy those mince pies and selection boxes all you want!

A woman feeling supported as she scrolls through the posts in one of The Brain Tumour Charity's Online Support Groups.

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