Updated: Sep 18
What to Expect on Your First Day of Chemotherapy
Being diagnosed with cancer is a scary time and can bring feelings of uncertainty, frustration, anger and fear. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are two of several modalities to treat cancer today. These medications can be given intravenously, as an injection, and some are available as a pill. Before you start treatment, you will most likely have an education session with a nurse to discuss your treatment
regimen, potential side effects, symptom management, and who to call for urgent issues and support.
Below are a few questions I’ve been asked by patients starting chemotherapy:
1. Can I eat before and during my treatment? Yes. Eat a small meal or a snack before your
appointment. Having a little food in your stomach is preferable to prevent your blood sugar from
dropping. No need to fast unless instructed by your doctor. Depending on your length of
treatment, feel free to bring a snack or even lunch. Infusion centers may offer small snacks (i.e.
pretzels or peanut butter crackers) and beverages to patients.
2. What type of clothing should I wear? Comfortable, loose fitting clothing. If you have a port, it’s
best to wear a “v-neck” or button-down shirt so that the nurse can easily access it for bloodwork
and/or treatment. Port shirts have recently become popular. They can be purchased online (i.e.
Amazon, Etsy, CareandWear). Also, dress in layers. The infusion room may be chilly. Many places
offer blankets to patients while they’re receiving treatment. Feel free to bring your own comfy
blanket as well.
3. What can I bring to pass the time? Bring earbuds, a book, ipad, etc for activity. Some infusion
centers have TVs in each room. Noise-canceling headphones are also great to bring if you prefer
quiet or would like to rest during your treatment.
4. Can I drive myself? Have a friend or family member drive you to your first appointment.
Depending on your treatment, you may feel too tired to drive yourself home. If you don’t have
someone to drive you, a rideshare program offered by the cancer treatment centers can help with
Starting treatment for cancer is overwhelming. Keep a journal or notebook of questions and concerns
that may arise and bring to your next appointment. Keep track of side effects that you may experience at
home. For instance, if you feel nauseated three days afterward, write it down. The doctor or nurse
practitioner will want to know how you felt after your last infusion so that they can better manage any
symptoms and effectively assist you through treatment. You are not alone. We are here for you.
Editor; Maryanne Fiorella, BSN, RN, OCN