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.