The holiday season is a time to give and a time to heal. Sometimes the healing comes through the giving.

For example, someone afflicted with a serious illness, such as cancer, makes time to volunteer and support others who are sick. The acts of compassion translate into raising public awareness, bettering one’s self outlook, and becoming an inspiring example for all.

“Whether you’re a cancer fighter, survivor, or a healthy person, it’s powerful to be out there in the community working for the cause –or any cause, for that matter,” said Melissa Palmer, a breast cancer survivor and author of “My Secrets of Survivorship” and of the upcoming book, “Survivorship: Breast Cancer at 40.”

“You can impact other people to want to give of their time as well. When you go through and survive health challenges, you’re inspired to give back, help others and let them know they’re not alone.You remember so well how people reached out to you when you were sick, and you want to do the same.”

Palmer co-founded a support group for cancer fighters, Soul Survivors, shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Life does not stop because you have cancer,” Palmer said in a prepared statement. ”In fact, it’s great therapy to get involved with charity and to give of your time. And there’s no better time than the holidays to give back.”

Palmer suggests four ways to give back during the holidays:

Visit a nursing home. This warms the heart of an older person. The more people you bring along on the visit, the merrier. “Bringing family or friends spreads the love,” Palmer says. “And you can further brighten their day by bringing cards, gift baskets, decorations and treats, and by singing carols.”

Adopt a family. Religious groups and local organizations can help you sponsor a family to shop for during the holiday season. “There are so many needy families,” Palmer says. “Why not use some of your family’s holiday money to buy gifts for a family in need? And when you get your own kids involved in this and other give-backs, you’re giving them one of the greatest life lessons they could have.”

Donate to a food bank. This is one of the biggest needs every holiday season. Get the whole family involved in shopping for non-perishable goods to be distributed to needy families. “Take your kids on a special shopping trip to pick up their favorite foods to give to someone in need,” Palmer says. “Giving back really starts here during the holidays. When so many people are consumed with high-volume gift-shopping, there are untold numbers who don’t have the fundamentals of survival – food and shelter.”

Pack stockings for homeless people. “Kids can have fun picking out practical items to stuff in the stockings – healthy snacks like granola bars, water bottles, toothpaste and warm gloves,” Palmer says. One way to distribute these is to hand them out to homeless people on your daily commutes.

“There are many ways to give back,” Palmer said. “And we all can. Having a serious illness prompts some people to change their thought process about many things. Instead of thinking sadly about themselves, they think of others in need. The holidays are the right time for everyone to think of others.”