Chemotherapy: How to Prepare and What to Expect

woman sitting during chemotherapy

The truth is, no one is prepared to receive the news they have cancer. It’s a shock to the system, and it takes time to digest the full impact of how it will change your life. You don’t really have much time to do that, so you must temporarily put emotions in a box, and move forward. The next challenge is chemotherapy: how to prepare and what to expect.

Gather As Much Information As You Can

Find out what medications you will be receiving during chemo and how often. It could be weekly or daily. How long will it last? Will you be taking pills orally or getting an infusion?

What other therapies will you receive at the same time as chemo or after chemo? Ask about side effects to expect and when to contact your care team at New Jersey Cancer Care, PA with certain side effects.

Purchase What You May Need

Things like scarves will come in handy. Be sure to have enough loose comfortable clothing to wear for chemo days. Maybe bring a blanket with you.

Get some entertaining books or puzzles, have a good thermometer, and plenty of scent-free moisturizers and lip balm.

Common Side Effects to Expect

The purpose of chemotherapy is to kill fast growing cancer cells, but it also slows down the growth of healthy cells, like the cells that line your mouth, intestines, and cause your hair to grow. You may experience mouth sores, nausea, and hair loss.


Feeling exhausted is one of the most common side effects. Knowing that, plan to rest on the day of chemo and at least the day after. Ask someone to drive you to and from your chemo appointment, and ask for help with meal prep and childcare.

Hair Loss

This one seems to be the one everyone fears, but not all chemo drugs cause this to happen. The only thing you can do is be prepared if it happens. Buy a cute hat or two, learn to tie scarves, and keep an optimistic attitude. It will grow back.

Gastro Problems

Chemotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting. You may also have to deal with diarrhea and constipation. Take advantage of over-the-counter meds to prevent and minimize these gastro issues. If your mouth develops sores, contact New Jersey Cancer Care, PA asap.

Bone Marrow Suppression

This is an important one. Chemo lowers your ability to make blood cells in bone marrow. Should this lower platelet count, it can cause a higher risk of bleeding. Look for pinpoint red dots or blood in your urine or stool and contact your physician immediately. The effect on red blood cells can cause anemia and the effects on white blood cells can lead to an infection. If you develop a fever of 100.5, contact New Jersey Cancer Care, PA.

Don’t stop asking questions. Take each day as it comes and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Find a support group to help you through the bad days, and lean on friends and loved ones. 

Contact New Jersey Cancer Care, PA with any and all questions about chemotherapy and what to expect.