With your first chemo treatment just around the corner, you may be feeling a range of emotions: anxiety, fear and perhaps even eagerness to get started. Yet one thing’s for sure, knowing what to expect will help you face the experience with greater calm and confidence. At your chemo appointment, you will...
Check-in. Come prepared to make it speedy. Bring your insurance and hospital registration cards, names and addresses of your referring physician and primary care doctor, a list of meds you take and your pharmacy phone number.
Meet your team. 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.
Wait for your chemo “cocktail.” Don’t be concerned if there seems to be a long wait from when you get to the chemo suite to 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 important medical attention. Your blood counts will be checked frequently, and you may be prescribed a colony-stimulating factor medication with your first or later treatments to elevate your levels of white blood cells (the body’s main infection fighters).
Be able to read, play or watch. A session can last anywhere from one to five hours, so make sure you take along something to keep you distracted, 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.
Get comfortable. Most chemo suites are kept slightly cool, so bring a sweatshirt. You may also want to bring a pillow and a cozy blanket. These little things will make you feel cared for and comfortable.
Snack and sip. Although some centers will order out lunch if your infusion lasts several hours, it’s still wise to pack healthy snacks and water. Avoid heavy or greasy foods on the day of your infusions.
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.