Questions You May Have Before Chemotherapy
A blood cancer diagnosis is a frightening event in so many ways. The thought of needing chemotherapy or any treatment can be overwhelming. Knowledge can be powerful and help provide the necessary support to battle cancer. After receiving chemotherapy for six months followed by immunotherapy for two years, I thought about the information that would be helpful for other cancer patients anticipating chemotherapy. The following are questions that I found helpful when preparing for my treatment.
How should I prepare for chemotherapy for blood cancer?
Will l be able to drive myself home after treatment or do I need someone to drive me home? Knowing this in advance can give you time to find a ride if needed.
What should I wear? Choose something comfortable with easy access to either your implantable port or arm for the insertion of the IV needle or catheter. You may want to bring a sweater or light jacket should you become chilly.
Can I eat before the treatment? Should I bring a snack? Depending on where you receive your treatment, there may be light snacks available to you.
You may want to bring reading material, books, or an iPad. Consider earphones and music to help you relax and pass the time.
Tell your oncologist or RN about all medications or over the counter products that you are taking, including herbal supplements. I remember purchasing herbs that were supposed to enhance my immune system. Fortunately, I asked my RN, who investigated and discovered that it might interfere with the action of my specific chemotherapy agent.
What side effects should I report after treatment?
You should report any side effects mentioned by your healthcare team or any others that concern you. Side effects that you may be asked to monitor can include bruising or unusual bleeding, burning pain when you urinate, constipation or no bowel movements in 2-3 days, diarrhea or loose watery stools for more than 24 hours, nausea, vomiting or inability to eat or drink for more than 24 hours, redness, pain or sores in your mouth or an unusual cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.
You may be asked to take your temperature and notify your oncologist for a fever over a certain level. I tried to ignore a high fever after my first chemotherapy session. Fortunately, my son remembered the physician’s instructions and insisted that I call the MD. As it turned out, I was admitted to the hospital to rule out sepsis.
What medications do I need to take after chemotherapy?
Your MD may order medication to prevent nausea and reduction in your white blood cells. Be sure to follow the exact instructions as to time and frequency.
How can I prevent infection?
Chemotherapy weakens your body’s immune system. Avoid being around people with colds or other infections. Handwashing is one of the most important things you can do to prevent infection. Ask your healthcare team for any other tips about avoiding infection, such as wearing a mask.
How do I plan for future treatment sessions?
Your MD will explain the schedule for chemotherapy and follow-up visits and blood tests. I found it helpful to add this schedule to my calendar so that I could plan other events and schedule time to rest after my sessions. Most chemotherapy treatments are given in repeating cycles that may range from two to six weeks.
Before you leave your first treatment, be sure to have the phone number of the office and how to contact your oncologist during off hours. Use the above questions to seek the information that will help you effectively deal with chemotherapy.1
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?