What to Expect on Your First Day of Chemotherapy Treatment for Breast Cancer
Dread and fear enveloped me as I walked into the infusion center for my first chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.
My oncology team gave me tons of medical information before my treatments began, but I still had many questions. And I feared the unknown the most.
But, by the end of that first day of treatment, I realized getting my first chemo wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I’d imagined it would be. I’ve had dental treatments that were much worse.
And this is from a gal who’s a big-time wimp!
A Typical First Day Chemotherapy Experience
While I know every person’s experience is different, I hope by sharing my first chemotherapy experience, you’ll be encouraged to be less fearful before and during your treatments.
I’ve seen a few infusion centers during my treatment journey. And while each center has its way of doing things, the procedures are pretty much the same.
Preparing for Your Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Treatment
Pack Your Chemo Bag – Before the day of your treatment, you will want to pack a tote bag with everything you will need. Check this post for What to Pack in Your Chemo Bag for more information.
Wear Comfortable Clothes – Since you will be sitting most of the day, you will want to wear loose, comfortable clothing. If you have a port installed, make sure the nurse can easily access it and attach the IV. Tank tops, shirts that button in front and low v-neck t-shirts work well for this.
Apply Lidocaine – Before leaving to go to the treatment center, I apply Lidocaine to my port area. It makes accessing your port painless. It’s not essential, but it is more comfortable for you. Tip: Make sure to apply it early enough so it has time to numb the area thoroughly.
So, if you’re like me and don’t want to feel the needle going into your port, ask your oncologist for a Lidocaine prescription.
What to Expect at The Chemotherapy Infusion Center
Once I arrived at the infusion center, my nurse checked my weight. She then escorted me to a small private room with a comfy recliner for me and a place for my husband to sit. There was also a TV available to watch, and my nurse offered me a warm blanket.
(I should note that at my infusion center, the private rooms are usually for those patients receiving their first treatment or patients whose treatments last most of the day.)
My subsequent treatments were in a large infusion room with multiple recliners in them. There were curtains you could pull closed for privacy, but I rarely used them.)
Next, my nurse checked my blood pressure and oxygen level. She then accessed my port, drew blood for my labs, and attached my IV tube.
Then while I waited for the labs to be reviewed and okayed. I ate a blueberry muffin with Gingerale and watched TV, played on my iPad, and chatted with my husband.
Once the lab okayed my results, my nurse began a saline solution IV drip through and hung the saline bag on a rolling IV stand. I then waited for my chemo cocktail to be prepared and arrive.
Shortly before the chemotherapy meds arrived, I received Benadryl, a steroid medicine, and an anti-nausea medication intravenously to counter any discomfort associated with the infusions.
Chemotherapy Treatments Begin
When it was time to begin the chemotherapy drip, my nurse and another nurse checked my wrist identification and asked me to state my name and birthdate. They then verified the information on the chemo matched my information. My nurse then attached the chemo to my iv and switched it on to begin the treatment.
At that point, I sat and waited. The Benadryl I received made me sleepy, so I slept a little. However, the steroids gave me energy, so my naps were short. The rest of the time, I watched TV, played games on the iPad, crocheted, etc.
The infusion center provided a light breakfast of muffins, cereals, etc in the morning. At lunch, we had our choice of different sandwiches and chips. And, there was a variety of snacks and drinks available anytime. However, most infusion centers don’t provide meals and snacks, so you will want to bring food/snacks with you.
I received three bags of different chemo medications that day, and as each bag emptied, the next one was attached to my iv.
It took several hours to complete my treatments. I was there from about 8 am until 3 pm. Your first day is always the longest day of chemotherapy because they apply your medications slowly to monitor your reactions.
Once I finished all the medications, my nurse turned the Saline solution back on for a short 5-10 minute rinse or flush. She then removed my iv from the port.
How Do You Feel During and Shortly After Your Chemotherapy Treatment?
I felt okay.
I was a little drowsy from the Benadryl. But I wasn’t nauseous or in pain at all.
And I did feel a little strange during the treatment; however, I’m not sure if it was from the chemotherapy or because I expected to feel something. Or maybe it was fear.
At the end of my treatment, I felt tired and a bit achy. I also felt a little light-headed and found it hard to concentrate. I’m sure part of that was from the medications and chemotherapy, but I also imagine my stress played a role in how I felt.
I’m thankful I didn’t have to drive myself home that day. If possible, it’s always a good idea to have someone take you to and from your chemotherapy treatments, especially your first day of treatment.
Overall, the fear of having my chemotherapy treatment was worse than the chemotherapy treatment itself.
So, if you are starting chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer soon, I hope my experience helps remove some of the fear you may have and assist you in knowing what to expect on your first day of treatment.
And, if you have any questions or would like to share your first-day experience, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.
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