Monday, October 10, 2011

Ten Tips for an Outpatient Chemo Infusion

As I get organized for this round of my cancer treatment, I thought I'd share a few tips for anyone who stumbles upon this link who's just begun his/her journey toward being cured.
Please reminder, this is not medical advice. I'm not a doctor. I'm just a patient who wants to make it easier for other patients.

1. Enjoy a good breakfast. Why not start the day right? A hearty pre chemo meal will give you a little extra stored energy if it becomes tougher to eat in the days ahead.

2. Do something physical. It may be weeks before you feel strong enough to work out again, so make the most of this last opportunity. Plus, the endorphins will make the wait for your appointment a little easier.

3. Wear a shirt with loose-fitting sleeves. When you roll up your sleeve, you don't want your circulation to be cut off. If this happens, the medication will remain concentrated in the veins in your arm. (I learned this the hard way, though luckily with an infusion of a benign drug that didn't cause any damage.)

4. Bring music and headphones. Infusion centers can be noisy, and somehow nerves seem to amplify the noise. Also, if you're not in a talkative mood, and the person next to you is, headphones give you a polite escape from a conversation about the Giants' 1970 pre season (if that's your thing, it's easy enough to set the headphones aside...).

5. Check your dosage. Know the generic and manufacturer's name of your drug, the size of your dose, and what it looks like. Pay attention to the center's protocol for ensuring you receive the correct drug and dose. Errors happen.

6. Suck on ice chips during the infusion. If you are receiving a medicine that can cause mouth lesions, try this tip. The theory is that the blood vessels in your mouth will constrict from the cold ice, causing less of the chemical in your blood stream to reach that area. Thus the sores may not be as severe.

7. If the site of the IV hurts, say something. If your chemo is a vesicant and it leaks from your vein, it will cause damage. Say something immediately if you feel any pain so the infusion can be slowed or stopped. I had a faint pain during my last infusion, and the area hurt for days afterward. Warm compresses helped.

8. Leave the facility with a prescription for anti-nausea medicine. This tip is like the umbrella adage: It's better to have it and not use it than to not have it.

9. Drink A LOT of water. Helping your body flush the chemo out of your system may reduce the side effects. At the least, it makes you feel a little more in control.

10. Thank the nurses and your support system. Though your support team, doesn't feel the physical effects, it's not easy for them to watch you go through this.

11. Bonus Tip: This is not the time to prove yourself. During your recovery period, no one else expects you to be superman or superwoman. Don't expect it of yourself, or you will feel disappointed when you can't make it happen. These life saving medicines are wonderful, but powerful. Let them do your job. When they're done, then you can do yours.

Good luck! Believe in medicine, miracles, and the power of prayer.