From Tiffany Jones, MSN, RN, Advanced Practice Provider with OHC

January 10, 2023

Your mind is swirling with questions as you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and your first treatment is approaching. What can you expect and how should you prepare? OHC’s cancer experts have several tips for chemotherapy or immunotherapy preparation.

At OHC, prior to your initial treatment, you will have a comprehensive education appointment with your care team to review your written treatment plan which includes goals, medications, and possible side effects. An advanced practice provider, nurse navigator, and financial navigator will address any questions you have about preparation, procedures, and anticipated outcomes.

Preparing Physically for Chemotherapy or Immunotherapy

Preparing your body for treatment involves keeping it nourished and strong while protecting immunity. Good nutrition, adequate hydration, and rest are essential. When it comes to your diet, include a protein source at all meals and incorporate more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains while limiting red meat.

To ward off dehydration, have at least 64 ounces of fluid daily. Your doctor’s recommendation may vary based on your age, gender, weight, and treatment. Hydration can come from several sources including juice, smoothies, milk, and tea.

OHC also recommends light exercise to help condition your body prior to treatment and promote a smooth recovery with potentially fewer treatment side effects. An added benefit to physical activity is the mood boost you will receive.

It is important to discuss the following medical care items with your cancer doctor:

  • Dental care- because infection and bleeding are more likely during chemotherapy, you might need a visit with the dentist to address any tooth decay.
  • Heart health- some chemotherapy impacts heart health so your doctor might recommend a check-up with a cardiologist.
  • Fertility- if applicable, use birth control while receiving treatment as some therapies are not safe for people who are pregnant. Chemotherapy can harm the fetus and affect male sperm causing birth defects. A potential long-term side effect of chemotherapy may be decreased fertility, so consider options for sperm or egg preservation.
  • Review medications- Discuss all medications you take including over the counter, herbal, vitamins, supplements, alternative medicines, and home remedies as they can interfere with treatment.
  • Vaccine recommendations- Ask your doctor if vaccinations like those for the flu and COVID are suggested prior to treatment.

Preparing Mentally for Cancer Treatment

It is natural to feel a multitude of emotions while preparing for cancer treatment. Being informed may ease uncertainty and offer more control over your disease. Prepare a list of questions for your care team. When doing your own internet research, don’t believe everything you read. Refer to evidence-based research and rely only on trusted online resources.

Consider practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. Surround yourself with a support system. Join a support group or seek individual counseling if you are struggling to cope.

Preparing Your Support System

Your loved ones and caregivers will also be affected by your diagnosis and treatment. Make sure they know what to expect during your therapy. While being aware of COVID guidelines, bring a member of your support system with you to your medical appointments. We strongly recommend that a loved one be aware of your schedule of upcoming appointments and treatments.

Your loved ones must be aware of your potentially compromised immunity. They will need to take precautions including frequent hand washing/sanitizing, wearing a mask, keeping your home clean, and staying away if ill.

Many patients undergoing cancer treatment can continue working. If you are employed and require time away from work, make arrangements with your supervisor and co-workers.

Make a list of daily tasks to determine where you need assistance, and don’t be afraid to ask for help with the following:

  • Transportation to and from treatments- We strongly recommend that patients have transportation home from their first treatment at a minimum as they will not know how their bodies will respond to therapy.
  • Preparing and freezing meals.
  • Cleaning your home.
  • Picking up items you may need during treatment like a thermometer, anti-nausea medication, and plenty of fluids.
  • As a result of fatigue, you might need assistance with child and pet care or yard work.

Be mindful of precautions to take at home to minimize contact with hazardous waste associated with chemotherapy (i.e., urine, soiled linens). Your care team will provide guidance.

Preparing For the First Treatment

To make your treatment more comfortable, have the following ready:

  • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and layers as you may feel hot or cold in the treatment suite. Pack a blanket.
  • Beverages, lip balm, lotion- chemotherapy can dry your body’s tissues.
  • Nourishing snacks like whole grain crackers, nuts, fruit, granola bars, or trail mix.
  • Some patients bring a journal to help write down their feelings and/or questions.
  • Treatment length varies for each patient, but it could take a few hours. Pack a good book, tablet, earbuds or headphones to listen to music, and activity books. It can help to bring a loved one with you to help pass the time. Please note, that at OHC because of COVID restrictions and the protection of our patients, a loved one is not permitted in the treatment suite at this time. Patients can have a caregiver come for a physician visit if needed.

At OHC, we understand that receiving cancer treatment can be overwhelming. Our experienced care team of cancer doctors, nurse navigators, treatment suite nurses, supportive care team members, and pharmacists will surround you with all you need so that you can focus on beating cancer. For more information on preparing for chemotherapy and immunotherapy, follow this link to OHC’s Patient Guide to Cancer Treatment. To learn more about the advanced cancer therapies available at OHC or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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