3 Tips to Help Prepare You for Your First Cancer Treatment


When you learn you have cancer, there are so many questions swirling through your mind. Oftentimes, things happen so quickly that you don’t even have time to stop and do a lot of research yourself. Stephanie Bonfilio, RN, MSN, OCN, Nurse Navigator with St. Elizabeth Healthcare Cancer Care/Medical Oncology, has three tips to help you prepare for your first chemotherapy treatment.

  1. Bring a friend to the appointment before treatment begins. At St. Elizabeth you will be scheduled for a teaching appointment with the nurse navigator before chemotherapy treatment. At this appointment, you will have a personalized, one-on-one session with the navigator. The navigator will explain the details of your treatment and answer any questions you may have. Stephanie explains, “Four ears are better than two. A lot is happening to you; if you have a support person with you, they can help you remember the details and ask questions for you.”
  2. Pick up all medications before your first treatment. During your appointment, you may be prescribed medicine or given a list of over-the-counter medicines that will help with the side effects of chemotherapy. You want to have those medicines already at home before you start treatment. It’s best to plan ahead and have these medications on hand instead of being inconvenienced.
  3. Keep a notebook and pen with you at all times to write down questions. You will often think of questions to ask your doctor when you are driving or at the store. You don’t want to forget those questions before you make it home, so be sure to carry a notebook and pen with you to jot them down. Then at your next appointment or your next phone call with the nurse navigator, you have all your questions in one notebook.

What You Should Bring to Your Cancer Treatment

Stephanie also suggests you come to your first treatment with a few things to keep you comfortable.

“During treatment, you may want some of your own items with you,” she said. “Although we have blankets, food and things to pass the time, you may be more comfortable with your own blanket and snacks.”

Stephanie also recommends bringing books, iPads/laptops, or knitting to help you pass the time. Although every area has a television, you could be there for more than 3 hours, depending on your treatment.

You may also want to bring a support person or have someone stop in to say hello during your treatment. Chatting with a friend can make the time go by faster.

How to Navigate the Cancer Treatment Journey

The most important thing to remember is you are not alone. Your entire cancer care team is there to help you through this difficult time.

“Cancer doesn’t just affect your body, it affects your life,” says Stephanie. “We are here for your mind, body and spirit. If you need anything, we are here for you or can connect you with the resources that can help.”

If you have questions or want to learn more, visit the St. Elizabeth Cancer Resource Center or call the Resource Center at (859) 301-5476 to speak with trained volunteers providing information and emotional support as you go through treatment.