Are you facing chemotherapy for the first time soon, or do you care about someone who is? Are you (or are they) feeling afraid? Are you wondering what to expect on that first infusion day? If so, reading this excerpt from my book, Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy, just might help.
When Chemo Day Arrives
When the day arrives marking the beginning of your chemo campaign, expect to feel many emotions, the greatest one more than likely being fear mixed with plenty of dread. I remember that day well. I was terrified, but at the same time surprisingly, outwardly quite calm.
I also remember the chemo nurse asked me before getting started, “Well, how do you feel, Nancy? Are you nervous?”
It wasn’t possible for her, or anyone, to completely understand how fearful I was actually feeling. If truth be told, I felt like leaping out of the brown fake-leather recliner I had carefully chosen and running out the door as fast as possible.
Again, this is why I wanted to write this book, to help alleviate some of your fear. If you know what to expect, at least somewhat, hopefully some of the fear can be tamped down a bit. Sometimes getting rid of even a little bit of fear makes a difference.
Before you begin chemo, your doctor may or may not recommend a port. If you have a choice in the matter, in my opinion, a port is the way to go once you get over the shock of needing such a God–awful thing. Generally, a port is surgically inserted on a day before chemo starts. It’s a fairly minor procedure, but many like to get it out of the way early. My surgeon wanted to put my port in place a week or more before chemo started, but I bawled like a baby when he told me this because my husband and I had our getaway planned and the thought of going on our mini-vacation with a port in, caused me considerable distress. Go figure. I guess this was one of my breaking points. My tears and pleading quickly changed the surgeon’s mind and my port was surgically put in place on the same day as my first chemo infusion. That worked out fine for me. Who said tears can’t get you what you want? Just kidding.
You might find it helpful to have your partner, another loved one or a friend accompany you, especially for your first chemo infusion. Others prefer to go it alone. Decide before the day arrives. Certain drugs may make you too sleepy to drive safely, so find out beforehand if you’ll even be allowed to drive home. It’s usually a good idea to eat something before your infusion if you can, although they usually have soup, crackers, juice and the like available, so don’t worry if you can’t eat beforehand. Don’t expect to sleep much the night before. Also, chemo takes several hours, so be sure to wear comfortable clothing.
When you arrive at the clinic or hospital for your first chemo infusion, generally speaking, here is what you can expect:
You will check in with the receptionist like usual at your cancer center.
Your weight will be recorded, as it will be closely monitored for fluctuations throughout chemotherapy.
You will have an appointment with your oncologist either before or after your infusion to go over things and to have a quick physical exam.
You will have blood taken to check and subsequently monitor your red and white blood cells, as well as other markers. If you have a port, blood can be drawn through that. I always liked to receive a copy of my blood work report. If you want one, ask for it.
You will meet the chemo nurse who will be responsible for your infusion. He or she will double check your name and birthdate and help you get comfortable.
Some cancer centers allow you to choose between a private room or a group setting. In a group setting, depending upon how busy your facility is, there may be just a couple of others receiving chemo or a dozen or more. If you’re put in a large group setting, there may be little privacy. This can vary quite a lot. Think about which you might prefer if you do get a choice. Be sure to ask about available options.
You may very likely receive anti-nausea or pre-chemotherapy drugs first through an IV, again via your port if you have one. This usually takes about half an hour. In addition, you may also be given fluids to help drugs work more effectively and to keep you hydrated. Don’t be afraid to drink fluids as well. Don’t worry about bathroom breaks. You can easily use the restroom during infusions. Dragging the IV along with you is no big deal. Just be sure to ask the nurse the first time what you can and cannot disconnect.
The infusion of your prescribed chemotherapy drug(s) will then begin. The process may take several hours to complete, so be sure to bring reading material or music to listen to. Some people sleep or watch TV. I could never do either.
When the infusion is complete, your IV will be removed and your vitals may be checked again.
Your oncology nurse should go over any possible side effects to expect and give you a chance to ask questions. If you have any, be sure to ask.
You may receive prescriptions for anti-nausea drugs to take at home for a day or two. It’s even better if you get these filled before your first chemo day. Be sure to fill all prescriptions and start taking medication(s) as directed before you feel ill. You want to stay ahead of the game and prevent side effects from developing if at all possible.
Next time should be a little easier. Now go home and try to get some rest, chemo is exhausting both physically and mentally.
Knowing what to expect on chemo day can help you feel more relaxed. Find out what you can expect.
Stay tuned. My next post will be offering a giveaway of my book!
Are you facing chemo soon, or do you care about someone who is?
If you’ve had chemo, what did I miss?
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For more information about Getting Past the Fear, click on the image.