When facing a cancer diagnosis, there are many new experiences on the horizon–and many of them can seem scary. Fortunately, your first chemotherapy appointment doesn’t have to be one of them.
“When you first come to chemo, you might feel anxious, depressed or afraid—that’s all normal,” says Deneen Ruiz, clinical nursing manager in the hematology-oncology department at Henry Ford Health. “But despite what a lot of people think, our chemo room isn’t a sad place at all. It’s actually very hopeful.”
Still, for first time patients, knowing what to do — and what to bring — for your first chemo appointment can be daunting. Below, Ruiz outlines a few items (and reminders) to ensure you’re comfortable and prepared for your first session.
Items To Bring To Chemotherapy
- A loved one. “Bring somebody,” Ruiz says. “Having a supportive person with you can be a big help, especially on your first visit.”
- Snacks. At Henry Ford, crackers and juice are often available, but patients are encouraged to bring their own. However, foods with strong odors are best left at home since they can irritate other patients or lead to nausea.
- Hard candy. During treatment, some patients can get dry mouth, Ruiz says. Sucking on a hard candy can be an easy solution.
- Lip balm. Another remedy for dry mouth.
- Laptop, iPad or iPhone. “It’s always helpful to have something to do,” Ruiz says. On-screen entertainment can make your treatment go by quickly.
- Knitting. Even if you can’t knit, consider learning from another patient who’s got the hobby down.
- Pillow and blanket. “Many patients bring items of comfort that mean something to them,” Ruiz says. “Don’t be afraid to bring yours with you.”
- Reading materials. Books, magazines, newspapers, tablets, etc.… Don’t rule out a stop to your local library before attending an appointment, either.
- Playing Cards. “I’ve seen plenty of friendships develop in the chemo room,” Ruiz says. “Games can often bring people together.”
- Water. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting. Staying hydrated can help alleviate symptoms. (Note: Water is provided in the Henry Ford treatment room).
Before your first visit, Ruiz says, patients are also encouraged to get a good night’s sleep, drink lots of water and eat a light breakfast or light lunch. Together, those simple to-do’s can help your body and mind prepare for the day.
“We know the first time can be really scary, but it soon becomes routine,” Ruiz says. “There are a lot of people going through exactly what you’re going through.”
As a final reminder, Ruiz adds, staff members like her are always on hand to help you, whether that’s answering questions about treatment or assisting you with the next steps in your journey to recovery.
“Our goal is to keep you healthy and on track,” Ruiz says. “We also never miss a chance to celebrate every little victory with you along the way.”
Whether you are going through cancer treatment or serve a loved one as a caregiver, there are resources to help you. Visit henryford.com/cancer to learn more.
Deneen Ruiz is the clinical nursing manager in the hematology-oncology department at Henry Ford Health.