Chemotherapy is a complex process, and it is good to know what to expect, and how to prepare for it. We’ve put together this short checklist for chemo patients:
Preparations Prior to Treatment
- Get lots of sleep: Chemotherapy can be draining and cause fatigue. Because of this, it is important to get lots of sleep the night before treatment. A well-rested body responds better to treatment.
- Make arrangements for transportation : Some chemo medications can make you drowsy or you may not feel well enough to drive. It will be important for you to arrange for someone to drive you home after treatment.
- Eat something healthy, balanced, and light: A light, healthy meal will help you during treatment by boosting your energy and stamina. Keep it light, because chemo medications can cause nausea.
- Drink lots of water: On the day before, water prepares your body for the dehydrating effects of treatment. So on the day before treatment, drink lots of water. Water also helps the body to flush the chemotherapy medications out of the system, so drink lots of water on the day after, also.
- Ask for support: Ask someone to come with you to your chemo session. Or, have them stay behind and help with chores around the house. The extra support will put you at ease and help you relax during your appointment.
- Buy a wig before treatment starts: A common side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss. If your looks are important to you, buy a wig before treatment starts. This way, you can ensure that it matches your hair color, cut and style.
On your first day of treatment:
- It is suggested that you bring someone with you who can take notes and be supportive. Additionally, you might want someone to drive you home the first time in case any of the medications used are sedating to you. Please note that we have limited space, so we ask that you bring just one person.
- We have blankets and pillows for your comfort; you may also bring your own. Treatment is given in a reclining chair; we also have two rooms with beds available to patients who are not feeling well or have special needs or procedures. In the event that you feel you need a bed, please notify the nurse or scheduler to arrange for one.
- Feel free to bring reading material, or laptops, for which we have free Wi-Fi access.
- Wear warm, comfortable clothes.
- You may bring your own snacks or lunch (if your treatment requires several hours). There is a cafe in the lobby of the Medical Center where everything from drinks and snacks to hot meals are available. Within the cancer center, we provide coffee, tea, water, juices, and crackers.
- Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor, you are encouraged to have breakfast and take your morning medications before your treatment.
- When you arrive, please check in with the receptionist who will take care of your co-payments (if required by your insurance company) and any other necessary paperwork, after which you may sit in the reception area until you are called.
- You will be called in by one of the clinical staff members who will bring you to the lab area where your vital signs and any necessary blood samples will be obtained.
- You will then be taken to an exam room where you will meet with your doctor or one of the physician assistants to review the treatment plan for that day, go over your medications, and address any questions, concerns, or symptoms you may have.
- Finally, you will be escorted to the treatment area by your doctor who will go over the orders for your treatment with one of the chemotherapy nurses.
- The chemotherapy nurses will tell you where to sit, and will go over how they will be administering your treatment to you, and what side-effects you may experience. The nurse will also explain any instructions for medications that have been prescribed for you to take at home, and anything else you may need to do after your treatment.
The medications that will be prescribed for you can be easily obtained with our in-house pharmacy services. Our pharmacy staff will work with your insurance plan, and fill the prescriptions for you so they are ready before you leave. The pharmacy staff will also call in prescriptions and refills to a pharmacy of your choice if you prefer. For more information please call the medication line at 908.788.6434.
After your treatment:
Before you leave the cancer center, please stop at the desk with the discharge coordinators to schedule any follow-up appointments for further treatments, or doctor visits and/or lab tests. The discharge coordinators will also help you to schedule any other procedures (such as biopsies) or imaging tests (such as mammograms or CT scans) that your doctor may have ordered.
Please follow the instructions that your doctor or the nurses have given you. If at any time you have a question or concern, please call the main number (908-788-6461) and someone will be able to help you. If it is after hours, or on a weekend or holiday, the answering service will ensure that the doctor on call receives your message, and he will call you back.
We hope that you will find this chemotherapy checklist helpful. Of course, we know that this checklist for chemo patients is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge variety of questions which may come up before, during and after the course of your treatment. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us or schedule an appointment to come in and discuss them.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms or a medical emergency, please call 911 and proceed to the nearest emergency center.