If you or someone you care about is beginning a series of chemotherapy treatments, this is for you, and/or them. Chemo is the Big Kahuna of scary medical things, but it doesn’t have to be. On the morning of my wife Chris’s first chemo, she said she felt like she was going to "medical Disneyland" - try to keep that in mind. The details of her first treatment are described in great detail in my book, Cancer for Two, “July 12; 1st Chemotherapy Treatment.” (When you read it, remember that it happened in 2002 so a lot of procedural things have changed but not the emotional aspects.) Some other things:
1. Chemo isn't fun, but I seriously doubt it will be as bad as you think it will be. New medicines and procedures minimize the negative reactions. It’s something you have to do, so try not to think about what might happen and just do it.
2. Bring something to entertain yourself - chemo can be boring. Find out in advance how long it will take - Chris's first treatment was four hours; your mileage may differ. They usually will do the first one more slowly just to be sure that you tolerate it well. Subsequent treatments will probably be shorter. Whatever your reaction will be, it probably won't happen for a day or two so you'll feel fine during the infusion itself; bring a book, iPod, iPad, Kindle, or any other digitalia that will keep your mind busy. Ask them if they have DVD players; many do, and you can bring a DVD to watch (maybe mine! I once did a presentation in a chemo waiting room, and one of the patients came with her IV pump in tow: got her infusion during my program!)
3. Chemo rooms can sometimes be cold so bring a blanket if you’d like to. Of course they will have blankets there, but it can be comforting to have something familiar. If you think you may want to sleep, you can bring your own pillow as well. Again, they will also have pillows, but you may have a special pillow and/or blanket that you especially enjoy.
4. If you're nervous (a normal reaction), bring something that will comfort you such as a special blanket or quilt. Maybe you have something special that your spouse, relative, or friend gave you.
5. Chris brought some stuffed animals that were special to her. Bring whatever you'd like to have with you; framed photo(s), teddy bear, etc. Don't worry about what anyone thinks - they will all be too worried about themselves and what others are thinking about them!
6. It is important to remember that there is no reason for you to feel sick from the chemo; tired, maybe, but sick, no. I doubt that you will, but if you do be sure to tell your doctor. There are several medicines that he/she can give you to prevent it. Many patients feel that it's normal and that to complain is to be a whiner: that is wrong and downright dangerous. There is no reason why you should have to endure nausea; if you do but don’t report it, you could jeopardize future treatments which, in turn, could jeopardize the effectiveness of the entire series.
Good luck - I know you'll do fine and, when it's over, you'll be saying, "What was the big deal??"
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