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Loved ones need extra support during the holidays: BC Cancer

Victoria counsellor stresses the importance of connection for those impacted by disease
Counsellor Beth Burton-Krahn (far right), here with her BC Cancer Victoria colleagues, says the holidays can be especially stressful for people impacted by cancer. (Courtesy of BC Cancer)

Residents should check in on loved ones impacted by cancer this holiday season, suggests BC Cancer and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Beth Burton-Krahn, a counsellor with BC Cancer’s regional care centre in Victoria, told Black Press Media the emotional burden of cancer can worsen during the holidays – and the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t help.

According to BC Cancer, 35 to 45 per cent of those with cancer experience significant emotional distress at some point in their time as patients.

“It’s hard enough to struggle with a cancer experience, especially during an unprecedented pandemic,” Burton-Krahn said. “The holiday season is often complex at the best of times, with messaging about happiness and joy – that’s not always everyone’s experience.”

BC Cancer’s Victoria centre provides counselling services and support programs to cancer patients and family members. The centre’s staff were recently given an internal award for supporting patients throughout the ups and downs of the pandemic.

Burton-Krahn said the weeks leading up to the winter holidays leave patients with heightened emotions, and new COVID restrictions have added disappointment to the mix.

“A person living with cancer might not be doing much socially. They may have been really looking forward to the holidays.”

With COVID limiting the ability for people to gather in-person during the special time of year, it can feel even more daunting to try and comfort those affected by the disease.

There are many ways to support those around you who have been impacted by cancer, both physically and emotionally.

”The best way to help is to be vaccinated, get your booster shot and mask up,” Burton-Krahn explained. “People living with cancer are at a heightened risk.”

Next, get creative with alternative ways of connecting over the holidays. The counsellor said her patients have been meeting for walks, seeing the lights at the Butchart Gardens and throwing Zoom parties to make up for cancelled indoor gatherings.

“Don’t give up on the holidays, even if you’re feeling disappointed. It’s so important to stay connected.”

Those interested in learning more about BC Cancer can visit the organization’s website at

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