In the vlog, I’m at the beginning of my cancer journey. In real time, I am coming out of what has been by far the least fun part of my journey. I think the best time to seek out fun is when life sucks. So, to that end, I’ve come up with five fun things to do if you have cancer (or even if you don’t).
Fun Thing #2:
No one hears that they have cancer and immediately feels the urge to celebrate. But, most people immediately register cancer as a huge life-changing event. Call me crazy, but life-changing events (marriages, babies, birthdays) often coincide with partying.
Now, if you have cancer and that doesn’t give you the urge to party, that’s totally cool. In fact, that’s normal. I think society can put a lot of pressure on people who are sick to act like they’re okay, and I don’t want to be a part of that. That said, if you have cancer and you need to escape your feelings of sadness and anger and fear, I have found parties are an effective way of taking a vacation from those feelings.
Here are some cancer party ideas, based on my experience;
Party Before Surgery/Chemo/Radiation
On the eve of any of these smaller life changes within the huge life change that is cancer, I can pretty much guarantee you will feel scared, anxious, stressed, sad, angry, or some combination of all of these. Being with friends and “celebrating” helped me expel a lot of this nervous energy.
My Pre-Chemo Party
A week before I started chemo, I went home to Wisconsin and my friend Julie got a group of my “home friends” together to come hang out. The resulting party felt like a southern Sip-And-See. A Sip-And-See, is like a baby shower after a baby is born where people drink tea (sip) and meet the new baby (see).
In this case, we sat in my basement and I got to catch up with my friends and talk about everything that happened to me so far.. They brought a lot of party foods, which were as essential as the conversations.
At that time what I really needed was to talk through things. I was just devising my plan for treatment, and I wanted to know that I had my friends’ support. This party gave me that.
My Pre-Surgery Party
Two days before surgery, my boyfriend surprised me by reserving us a room at the Waldorf-Astoria (!). After we checked in, my boyfriend took me to a jazz club nearby where a few of my friends were waiting to surprise me. We had a couple drinks and then went back to our room at the Waldorf, where we drank and ate chocolate covered strawberries and picked up some Dutch guys and jumped on the bed and sang “Happy” so loud that security came. Twice.
This party involved no talk of cancer, which was what I needed at this point during my treatment. For a night I was able to be mostly normal and a little crazy, which was perfect.
Hair Cutting/Head Shaving Party
When I was told I was going to lose my hair, I called my hair stylist and told her I wanted to cut my hair short to prepare. My friend Julie planned a whole party for me. She invited all my friends to the salon, and several (including Julie) planned to cut their hair in solidarity.
I was really, really depressed about losing my hair, but knowing my lovely long-haired friends were willing to lose their locks with me was really touching.
Amazingly, I found myself looking forward to cutting my hair, when I had previously been inconsolable at the prospect.
So, the chemo nurses hated this, but I had an entourage every time I did chemo. Having my friends with me during my infusions (which were essentially 8 hours long), made chemo almost fun. Seeing my friends (who would often bring food and play music and bring coloring supplies) every three weeks was something that I actually missed when chemo was over.
The parties weren’t ragers or anything… they were pseudo parties… like eight hour tea parties without tea and with even more gossip. They were maybe the best cancer parties I had. I mean, the memory of them makes me miss chemo. Almost.
You Made It!
A great reason to party is making it through a phase of treatment—getting through surgery, finishing chemo or radiation. When I came home from surgery, I wasn’t ready to party, but the fact that my roommate decorated my apartment with a big party-style banner definitely lifted my spirits.
Now, it takes two to tango, and sometimes it only takes to make a party. When I finished chemo, my boyfriend took me out on a date night to celebrate which was the exact amount of party I was able to handle. Whether you’re a caregiver, friend, parent, or sibling this one on one celebration is great during phases of treatment when a big to-do might feel like too much. The charm of these date nights was that I didn’t have to do a thing. My boyfriend took care of everything at a time when I needed to be taken care of.
Terminal Cancer Party
I don’t have any first hand experience with this kind of party, and I feel the need to tread lightly so as not to offend anyone. Online, I found a few examples of celebrations held by terminal cancer patients. One told the story of a 21-year-old girl who always wanted to be a bride, so, her friends and family threw her a mock bachelorette party with shots and strippers and everything else you’d imagine. I also read was about Chuck Brandt, a gentleman with pancreatic cancer who just wanted a big party before he went (figuring he’d be “too dead to enjoy his funeral”).
I can’t imagine the horror of receiving this kind of diagnosis. But I would guess it wouldn’t be the kind of thing I’d be able to celebrate. That said, this blog is part of a list of ways to have fun when you have cancer. From the day we’re born until the day we die, we have the choice to have fun or have a tantrum. I would imagine a terminal diagnosis would be full of a lot of fear and sadness and tantrums about “why me?” and that is as it should be. But, if you don’t have much time left, maybe some of your time could also be spent having fun.
The sad truth is that everyone dies. While I know my dad died the way he would have wanted, I wish he hadn’t gone so quickly. I wish we’d known. His funeral was beautiful. Really nice. But, he was too dead to enjoy it. It would have been more fun with him there.
Surely the best kind of cancer party is the kind that celebrates not having cancer any more. A close friend of mine just had a whole surprise weekend celebrating three years of being cancer free. My friend came into the city, went to a dance club, stayed in a hotel, had fancy meals and saw a Broadway show. The whole thing sounded awesome and I’m looking forward to celebrating cancer freedom in my future. In fact, when I’m done with all of my surgeries, I want to celebrate my new body with a bra party—buying new things and being healthy. Cancerversary parties can take many forms, and I’m looking forward to experiencing many years worth.
Every Day is A Holiday
Whether or not you have cancer, you can always find a reason to celebrate. Reasons to party can be anything from a new job to the arrival of spring. If you’re struggling to find an excuse to throw a soiree, check out this list of bizarre holidays. Throw a bar party for National Karaoke Week, or invite some friends over for National Shrimp Scampi Day (it’s tomorrow, so get cooking).
I love parties. I love decorations and cake and matching tableware. Most of all, I love my friends. I have an amazing group of people who have supported me throughout this journey, and whenever I see them it feels like a party. They have made my experience not only bearable, but at times… fun.