Chemotherapy is the use of medications (many of them highly toxic) that either kill cancer cells or prevent them from multiplying. The best ways to prepare for chemotherapy is to educate yourself, set reasonable expectations, advocate for yourself and do what you can to make the best of the situation.
Ask what drugs you’ll be taking, their side effects and how well they’ve worked for other patients in a similar situation.
- There’s a good chance you may only get a fraction of the possible side effects, but you’ll know what to expect.
- Given your cancer and the chemo you’re taking, if you have an idea of its track record you’ll know what the chances of a cure are as opposed to expecting it to temporarily controlling the disease.
Your treatment is an experiment. How well, or poorly, you respond, in addition to the side effects, will only be known after getting the chemo.
- You may, or may not, have a bad reaction to chemo. It all depends on the drug, how your body responds to it and your overall health.
- The effects may be cumulative over time. Something you tolerate well at first may give you problems after several doses.
- Be prepared to advocate for yourself if you don’t feel well. Let others know you’re having problems if that happens. If the staff doesn’t hear from you they’ll assume everything is going well.
Going through chemo treatment will not be an enjoyable experience so to cope you may want to think long term (this is just a short, necessary step to get me where I want to be) and/or short term (What do I need to do to get through today?).
You will probably be on a regular schedule and see the same nurses and fellow patients. If you and the others have the time and willingness, talk to them. Get to know them. As difficult as your situation is, you will probably find someone who is in an even tougher situation and how well they respond may inspire you. The nurses helping you are wonderful people. Make sure they know how grateful you are for their help and don’t be afraid to ask for their advice.
Cancer treatment is a journey and chemo is one part of the trip. You will be cured or not. Accept that you don’t have much control over the situation (other than where and how to be treated) and do your best to relax, avoid stressing out and conserve your energy for killing cancer cells and recovery.