Preparing for Chemotherapy

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about starting any type of medical procedure, especially chemotherapy. Even though it can be a life-saving treatment, you may feel anxious and worried about how it will affect you. However, preparing ahead of time can help relieve stress and minimize the impact chemo can have on both your physical and emotional health. 

Make Arrangements for Help at Work and Home 

While everyone’s reaction to chemotherapy is different, it is still likely that it will impact your day-to-day responsibilities. Your body will need time to rest after treatment so that it can start to heal. This will affect what you’re able to handle, whether at work or at home. Create a list of tasks you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and then enlist a friend or family member (or several) to help out when you aren’t able to accomplish those things yourself. 

Look After Yourself

Proper nutrition and regular exercise can help keep up your strength and reduce some of the side effects of chemotherapy. Therefore, it’s good to try to stay as healthy as you can before and during treatment. Stock up on healthy groceries like fruits, vegetables, protein-rich snacks, and water to keep hydrated. Also, consider freezing healthy meals ahead of time for the days you don’t feel up to cooking. You might even find it helpful to create a list of your regular (and favorite) items on one of the grocery store websites so you can easily reorder them. In Willamette Valley, several stores will deliver groceries including Safeway and Whole Foods. 

It may seem hard to get out and exercise right after a dose of chemo. But try to plan a short route you can walk once you’re feeling better, or find some simple exercises to do at home. This may be affected by whether you’ve already had surgery to remove the cancer. Talk to your oncologist about what types of exercise may be best for you post-surgery.

Plan Ahead for Side Effects

There are many side effects associated with chemotherapy, and it’s important that you prepare for them. While there are several side effects you can experience, hair loss is often the first one that comes to mind. For many, hair loss can be challenging regarding both physically and emotionally. At Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, our commitment to excellence means providing a variety of supportive services to our patients, such as Believe Boutique. The Believe Boutique is offered through the Oregon Cancer Foundation, where patients may choose a free wig, scarf, or hat. Fittings are by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling 541-632-3654. 

Sort Out Your Finances  

The cost of chemotherapy varies based on various factors. Before chemotherapy starts, a member of the WVCI team called a financial counselor will talk with you about the benefits available to you through your insurance plan. Most insurance plans pay for chemotherapy. There may be some portion that is the patient’s responsibility which varies by insurance plan. This will be carefully explained by our team before you start so you know what to expect.

At Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, we have several payment options. Although we contract with a variety of managed healthcare plans and insurance companies, we want to be sensitive to all our patient’s financial situations. 

If your insurance does not cover the entire cost of treatment, some organizations may be able to help. Our financial counselors have insight into what is currently available. Or you can do online research to find such organizations. Go to the National Cancer Institute database, Organizations that Offer Support Services, and search for "financial assistance." Or call toll-free 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) to ask for information on organizations that may help.

Visit a Dentist

Chemotherapy can severely impact your oral health for many reasons, including dry mouth, painful gums, and mouth sores, to name a few. Some chemotherapy also affects how teeth look. Your dentist can give you more information about this. 

Chemo patients are also more vulnerable to infections. Because of this, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with your dentist before starting treatment to be sure any small infections in the gums or mouth don’t turn into a much larger problem during chemo. 

Prepare a Treatment Bag

A chemotherapy session can last a few hours to most of the day, having some items to keep you comfortable and keep your mind occupied can be helpful. WVCI normally offers some amenities to our patients, including snacks and even iPads (to access movies and cancer education) at our Eugene location. However, due to COVID these amenities may be scaled back or suspended for a time. It is best for patients to pack a treatment bag.

A bag with snacks and drinks can help if you’re feeling hungry or thirsty. Other items like games, movies, or magazines can also be a pleasant distraction while you’re there. Since the air may be cool and dry in the cancer center you may want to bring a blanket, lotions, and lip balms to help with staying comfortable as well as relieving dry skin and lips. 

Bring Someone With You

We recommend bringing a family member or friend to your chemotherapy appointments— especially the first one. Your oncology nurse will cover a lot of information, which can be hard to process all on your own. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a second set of ears and some company during your chemotherapy treatment. Also, this will be the first time to receive chemo drugs, and there’s no way to know how you’ll feel after your treatment. You may be too tired to drive home, or you might feel sick. It’s always a good idea to enlist support these days as often as possible. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID, we’ve had to limit visitors to our clinics. Patients are welcome to bring one visitor to their first appointment with their oncologist. However, visitors cannot be allowed into the clinic for follow-up appointments or for treatments, such as chemotherapy. Our cancer care team recommends that patients still be driven to and from their first chemotherapy treatment. Patients can then determine if they will be able to drive themselves to their remaining treatments.

Arm Yourself With Chemo Knowledge

If you think there’s a lot to learn about chemotherapy, you’re right. Because of this, WVCI offers one on one patient education that provides information on your specific chemotherapy or treatment type. You will meet with a nurse who will provide you with education and connect you with any necessary resources for treatment.

During the one-on-one education, the nurses will explain the effects chemotherapy has on blood cells, discuss the common and rare side effects that can occur during treatment, and provide information on how to manage any side effects. They will also provide resources and contacts to assist during treatment.

The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be on your first day of treatment.