People with cancer more worried than ever about cost of Christmas this year

Monday 20 November 2023

A Maggie's survey reveals nearly three quarters (74%) of people with cancer are more worried about the cost of Christmas this year than in previous years, with 30% of people saying they are a lot more worried about the forthcoming festive period.

The OnePoll* survey from Maggie’s also reveals that the three most emotionally challenging aspects of Christmas for people with cancer are:

  • worrying ‘that it might be my last Christmas’ (30%)
  • trying ‘to make sure it is still special for my children’ (37%)
  • feeling ‘under pressure to make it feel like a normal Christmas’ (33%).

Christmas with cancer - “there is no certainty”

Gemma, from Oxford, is 42 and a mum of two. She was diagnosed with bowel cancer just before Christmas in 2022. She said: “It was a total shock. I had gone into hospital thinking I had a water infection, and I left with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

“My kids had their Christmas dinner last year with my daughter’s partner’s family because I spent it in hospital. When you have stage four cancer, you start to think about things that you might miss out on with your children.

“My kids tell me ‘Mum, if you make it to Christmas, we will make it really special’, but it’s hard to plan what we will do because I don’t know if I will need more treatment and how it will affect me. With stage 4 cancer, there is no certainty.

“Christmas is an expensive time of year, and during a cost of living crisis, every penny counts. I tried to apply for benefits myself but I had never done it before, I didn’t know how it works and I didn’t have the time to waste. I spoke to Penny, the Benefits Advisor at Maggie’s Oxford, who was fantastic.

“Maggie’s is tranquil. You step in and you feel like you are somewhere completely different. The hospital is one part of my journey, but emotionally, psychologically, Maggie’s is the other part of my journey.”

Maggie's can help with Christmas worries

Maggie’s Chief Executive, Dame Laura Lee said: “It is heart-breaking that so many people with cancer are worrying more about the cost of Christmas than ever before, when it should be a joyful time of year.

“Worrying about whether this Christmas might be their last or about making Christmas still feel special for their children are normal emotions for someone living with cancer, and these are things we hear about a lot in our centres at this time of year.

“We can help. Anyone with cancer, as well as their family or friends, can come into one of our centres – whether it's to find a place to sit with their own thoughts and a cup of tea, or to access expert support from our psychologists or cancer support specialists. If it is money worries that people are concerned about, then people can speak with a benefits advisor.

“I would urge anyone feeling under pressure in the run-up to the holidays to visit their nearest Maggie’s.”

Top tips on coping with Christmas while living with cancer – Maggie's

  • Joy to the World – or not. Christmas doesn’t have to be happy, and heightened emotion can mean being more tearful than normal – it is ok to be sad at Christmas.
  • Embrace ChristMESS! Don’t try to make everything perfect – life is messy, so let Christmas be messy too.
  • Silent Night/Peace on Earth – go for a walk, for a coffee or for a lie-down when you feel you need a bit of peace and quiet.
  • Take advantage of Christmas spirit – guests can walk dogs, look after kids, tidy up and wash dishes after Christmas dinner.
  • Say what you want or need – don’t feel pressured into overeating or eating a traditional meal, playing games or staying up late. Simply let people know what works for you.
  • Stocking up! To make things as easy as possible, ensure you have everything you need for over the holidays. This includes: medication, dressings, extra oxygen, and also everyday items such as indigestion tablets, toiletries and batteries.
  • Five Gold Rings – Christmas shouldn’t be about spending lots of money on expensive food and presents. Remember that it’s a time to come together with friends and family. Everything else isn’t important.
  • Dashing through the snow… or not. With so many activities, it can be difficult to pace yourself at Christmas, especially when already coping with fatigue caused by treatment. You can find out more information on fatigue and tiredness here.

Discover more tips on coping with Christmas while living with cancer here.

How we can help

If you or someone you love has cancer and you are struggling in the run-up to this holiday season, Maggie's is here to support you.

Our centres are located across the UK on the grounds of NHS hospitals, and our professional staff include psychologists, cancer support specialists and benefits advisors.

    Last review: Nov 2023 | Next review: May 2024

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