What to Expect During Your Chemo Treatment

Health Monitor Staff
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With your first chemo treatment just around the corner, you may be feeling a range of emotions: anxiety, fear and perhaps even eagerness and excitement. Yet one thing’s for sure, knowing what to expect will help you face the experience with greater calm and confidence. Here are some things to consider—and how you can have a positive experience in the chemo suite.

Speed through check-in. You’ll need to check in when you arrive, so make sure to come prepared. Bring your insurance and hospital registration cards, names and addresses of your referring physician and primary care doctor, a list of meds and your pharmacy phone number.

Get acquainted. Your nurse or chemo technician will be with you throughout the day, so get ready to make a new friend. She’ll check your vitals (before and after the session), insert the IV, take blood, administer the chemo, monitor you and keep you cozy.

Be patient. Don’t be concerned if there seems to be a long period from when you get to the chemo suite and when you start getting the infusion. The doctor’s “go ahead” for treatment may require that your blood counts be checked, plus a pharmacist must mix up your specific combination of chemo, which also adds to the overall time.

Get the care you need. Your blood counts will be checked frequently, and you may be prescribed a colony-stimulating factor medication with your first treatment to keep count of your white blood cells (the body’s main infection fighters).

Pass the time. A session can last anywhere from one to five hours, so pick your perfect distraction, whether a book, portable CD/DVD, iPod or handheld game player, laptop, journal or a diary. Most chemo centers have free Internet access as well as TVs and DVD players—so pack your favorite action-packed movie.  

Stay warm. Most chemo suites are kept slightly cool, so bring a shawl or sweater. You may also want to bring a pillow and a cozy blanket. These little things will make you feel cared for and comfortable.

Bring snacks. Although some centers will order out lunch if your infusion lasts several hours, it’s still wise to pack healthy snacks and water.

Make connections. At many chemo centers, patients talk to pass the time; it’s a great way to find support and make friends. Not a talker? Consider wearing headphones—even if you have nothing playing!

Ask away. After the session, your nurse or chemo technician will take out the IV, check your vital signs and alert you to any post-chemo instructions. Now’s the time to ask any questions you have about managing side effects.

Set the date. Double-check the time and date of your next appointment. Then mark it on your calendar.

May 2013