How to Get Ready for Your First Chemotherapy

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If you have your first chemotherapy appointment coming up, you’re likely thinking about a hundred things. In this short video, a Dana-Farber breast cancer patient walks us through the chemotherapy infusion process. If you’re anxious about your first chemo appointment, the video is a good place to start.

If you’re also wondering about the logistics of it all, here are some practical tips gathered from patients who have been there.

Chemotherapy

A breast cancer patient talks about preparing for her first chemotherapy 

Wear comfy clothes.  Comfortable clothes are key. So, too, is a short sleeve shirt – or one that you easily can roll up your arm – to allow access for the IV.

 Bring things to read. The duration of chemotherapy infusion varies, but even in the shortest ones, you’ll be in a comfy chair, waiting. At Dana-Farber, there are magazines, televisions, and a volunteer who comes by with a book and magazine cart, but it’s good have your own stash of reading materials.

Dana-Farber offers iPads for patients to use. You can sign them out in the Shapiro Center for Patients and Families. If you do bring your own iPad or other tablet– or any electronic device such as a laptop or cell phone — remember the chargers! There are plugs available to keep the power flowing.

WiFi is available. At Dana-Faber, there’s a guest WiFi hotspot that you can log into, to check your email, Facebook or whatever else you need to check.

Headphones help. Sometimes to listen to music, sometimes to tune out other noises and rest. The infusion rooms also have TVs with individual speakers so you can relax and watch what you want.

Bring someone. All the infusion areas – both semi-private and private areas – have room for friends and family. It’s a good idea for someone to come along to offer support and a ride home, particularly on that first appointment.

Eating is okay. Check with your care team, but generally speaking if you’re not fasting for CT exams or other specific reasons, and you are feeling well, it’s okay to eat before you come in for that first infusion. Although there are snacks available in the infusion areas, you might want to bring snacks, lunch, or drinks that you like.

Lucky charms. A few patients said they brought either good luck charms, or mementos that friends or family had given them. It made them comfortable, and reminded them that their friends and family were with them in spirit.

If you’ve been through chemotherapy, what would you add to this list? Leave a comment below.

4 comments

  1. Anne says:

    Bring a deck of cards or games. Books or magazines are also a terrific way to pass the time. Friends and/or family for a short period or the whole time is a bonus.

  2. Libby says:

    If possible, try to bring an upbeat friend or family member. It’s so much more pleasant to have someone there to laugh with and take your mind off what’s going on.

  3. Rachael says:

    Now is the time to buy yourself a giant handbag! Lots of compartments (think diaper bag). Something you can keep ready to go to your treatments, have water, snacks, your notebook with all your doctor info and medical history (so you’ll be ready for all those forms)doses of your medications, pockets for phones, gum or candy, ipod’s, magazines etc. Bring a sweatshirt or blanket, you never know when the chills might hit you, and most important…drink LOTS of water the day before your treatment, it can make getting the IV so much easier and I found my nausea was reduced if I was well hydrated (maybe that was all in my head). Prepare to be patient, try to schedule your day so that you don’t have to do anything after your treatment (if possible), it will reduce your stress greatly if you get delayed, and I agree with the comment above…bring someone that is POSITIVE, don’t bring someone that is going to cry during your treatment, no one needs that (especially you!).

  4. When I first produced Block Island Beverages Sparkling Juices (Bibbs), I decided to only make the finest beverages using all natural real ingredients with as little sugar as possible to still taste great. When I received the following email, I was very proud and wanted to share it here:

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: BLOCK ISLAND BEVERAGES
    info@drinkbibbs.com

    I was just in the Whole Foods at Legacy Place in Dedham and they did not have your product. Do any of the other Whole Foods carry it? Derby Street? I have to tell you, i am undergoing chemo therapy and one of the side effects is lousy taste; I have a horrible salty taste and nothing tastes good for fluids. I had bought a 4 pack of the blackberry lime a while ago and decided this weekend to try one and it was so good, I went to get more. Your seltzer is so refreshing! You don’t have any idea what it’s like to enjoy a beverage after weeks of not being able to. I live in the Canton area and would drive anywhere to stock up on some of your seltzer. I have 4 more treatments to go. Please let me know where I can purchase this. Thank for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you.

    MBH
    Sent from my iPad

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