How to Get Ready for Your First Chemotherapy

Medically reviewed by Clare Sullivan, BSN, MPH, CRRN

If you have your first chemotherapy appointment coming up, you’re likely thinking about a hundred things. If you’re also wondering about the logistics of it all, here are some practical tips for your first chemotherapy session, gathered from patients who have been there.

A breast cancer patient talks about preparing for her first 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-Farber, 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.

16 thoughts on “How to Get Ready for Your First Chemotherapy”

  1. Bring a sense of complete confidence that the chemo is working for you. Bring with in you a welcoming attitude toward your treatment. Bring as well a feeling of gratitude for the treatment, the staff and the facility.

  2. The most useful tip I got came from my naturopath. I was struggling a lot because the steroids I was taking to prevent nausea (which I was very grateful for, as they worked!) made it impossible to sleep. My naturopath told me not to worry – to listen to calming music or meditate or do breathing exercises. ”There are more than one way to rest,” she told me. The other was that if you have any side effects from chemo, don’t go on the Internet boards yourself – ask a friend to do it. They’re a mix of horror stories and some useful info. You don’t need the horror stories. But if someone can wade through those for you, that helps. My partner found out about some amino acids that deal with neuropathy, which my oncologist approved. And completely stopped the neuropathy. Keep breathing!

  3. Listen to relaxation tapes before and during chemo if nervous about the process. Peggy Huddleston’s Prepare for Surgery book and CD is for more than surgery. Really helped me get my mind around chemo and deal with it.

  4. it is so important to have a family member or friend go with you. My sister would drive me to Boston twice a week and accompany me while I was having my treatment. I don’t know if she really knows how much I value all she did for me while I was struggling with my illness and my mood swings. I will NEVER forget !Reply

  5. I agree with many of the previous comments. Bring someone who knows how to be quiet but who also knows how to make you smile. WATER. Have some Sensodyne toothpaste at home as your gums may feel tender. Stay warm and cozy when you get home. When I could not sleep, I listened to books. You can load a book on your ipod or other device. This made the awake times not so bad, and I usually drifted off to sleep.

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