Helpful Tips for a Patient Receiving a Chemotherapy Infusion
Receiving chemotherapy can be a frightening experience. Even as a nurse with many years of clinical practice, I really did not know what to expect. I thought it might be helpful to share helpful actions that can make it a little more comfortable.
Chemotherapy infusions may be administered in an oncologist’s office under the close observation of a nurse or in a hospital oncology center. The staff will explain what to expect. Listen carefully and be sure to ask any questions if something is unclear. As I recalled my chemotherapy treatment, I thought about the things that made it easier.
Suggestions for making chemo infusions easier
Find a distraction
Try to make yourself comfortable and try to find a good distraction. Bring reading material such as a book, iPad, or magazine. Reading an interesting book can help distract you and lessen your anxiety. I love the beach and found a series of romance novels that took place on an island. I tried to visualize myself in the warm sun, listening to the birds and ocean waves. You may consider bringing your laptop in order to keep busy. I dressed in comfortable, loose-fitting clothes so that I could move around easily and get comfortable in my chair. Some patients wear fuzzy socks and you can usually ask for a blanket to keep warm. You might enjoy listening to your favorite music on your phone or mobile device.
Rest when you can
You may receive medications that lessen some side effects of the chemotherapy. Some of these medications may make you feel drowsy. Do not fight it. Let the medications take effect. A nap may help energize you. If a loved one has joined you for your infusion, do not feel badly about nodding off in front of them.
Try to eat a balanced meal before your chemotherapy treatment. It is also important to stay hydrated. Consider bringing a snack, gum, or hard candy. I never lost my appetite, so my husband would order me food from the nearby deli.
Be aware that certain chemotherapy agents may cause altered bowel function. Talk with your physician if you experience diarrhea or constipation. Consider keeping a food diary to note if any foods cause you discomfort or are easy for you to eat.
Try to have a friend or companion drive you and offer support during your treatment. You would be surprised how friends and family would welcome the opportunity to help. I enjoyed talking with other patients who were also receiving chemotherapy. Get to know your oncology staff and let them know how you are feeling.
Keep a handy list of medications and supplements
Be sure that your oncologist and staff know exactly what medications including over-the-counter medications, herbal preparations, or other supplements you are taking. This was extremely important for me. I had read about a certain herbal agent that claimed to improve immunity, but fortunately, my RN recognized that this supplement can have a negative effect on people receiving chemo and advised me to avoid taking it.
Ask questions early and often
Consider each treatment as a step closer to the “finish line”. Do not hesitate to ask questions of your healthcare team. My oncologist demonstrates terrific patience as I am always researching treatments and medications. He listens carefully and answers all my questions.
Arm yourself with photos and journals
Surround yourself with pictures of loved ones. I used my iPhone to look at pictures of my family. Seeing the face of my granddaughter provided comfort and strength to help me endure my chemotherapy treatments. It may also be helpful to keep a journal to track all treatments, symptoms, and your feelings.
I found it helpful to consider chemotherapy as a “means to an end.” While I did not enjoy my chemotherapy treatments, I am happy to be in remission and look at each day as a gift. I hope that the above suggestions can make chemotherapy more tolerable.1
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