Last Modified: November 1, 2001
Some people with cancer want get deep into every aspect about their disease and their treatment. Others choose to concern themselves with only general information. The choice is yours, but there are a few questions that every person getting chemotherapy should ask. These include:
This list is just a start. You always should feel free to ask your doctor or nurse as many questions as you want. If you don't understand their answers, keep asking until you do. Remember, when it comes to cancer and cancer treatment there is no such thing as a "dumb" question. You may find it helpful to draw up a list of questions before your appointment. Some people even keep a "running list" and jot down each new question as it occurs to them.
You may want to take notes during your appointment. Don't feel shy about asking your doctor to slow down when you need more time to write. There may be teaching sheets on your condition. Ask the nurse if there is any information already written down for you. Many times the staff gets ideas of what to include in teaching information by what questions the patients ask during treatment. So, don't be afraid to ask questions. You will feel better when you understand your treatment and you may help the next patient to come after you! Another way to help you remember is to bring a friend or family member to sit with you while you talk to your doctor. This person can help you be aware of what your doctor says during your visit and help refresh your memory afterward.
Chemotherapy can bring huge changes to your life. It can affect overall health, disrupt day-to-day schedules, and put a strain on your personal life. Many people feel fearful, worried, angry, or depressed at some point during their chemotherapy.
These emotions are normal and understandable, but they also can be disturbing. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with these emotional "side effects," just as there are ways to cope with the physical side effects of chemotherapy.
There are many sources of support you can draw on. Here are some of the most important:
Many people do not understand cancer, and they may pull away from you because they're afraid of your illness. Others may worry that they will offend you by saying "the wrong thing."
You can help ease these fears by being open. Talk with others about your illness, your treatment, your needs, and your feelings. This way, you can correct mistaken ideas about cancer. You can also let people know that there's no single "right" thing to say, so long as their caring comes through loud and clear. Once people know they can talk with you honestly, they may be more willing and able to open up and lend their support.
The National Cancer Institute's booklet "Taking Time" offers useful advice to help cancer patients and their families and friends communicate with one another.
Sources for information about support programs include your hospital's social work department, the local office of your American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service.
Bring reading materials, crafts (needlepoint, knitting, drawing materials), CD player or radio with headphones, and other items that can help pass the time. Some patients get a metal taste in their mouth as a result of the chemotherapy; mints or mint-flavored gum can help eliminate this taste. You may also want to bring small packets of crackers or cookies, depending on the length of your visit. A family members or friend is usually welcome. It is helpful to have a friend or family member drive you to and from treatment in case you are not feeling well. Getting to know the other patients and families who are also going through chemotherapy can be a very positive experience.
Here are some tips to help you while you are getting chemotherapy:
You also can use your journal to record the steps you take to cope with side effects, and how well those steps work. That way, you'll know which methods worked best for you in case you have the same side effects again.