“What can I expect on my first day of chemotherapy, and what can I expect when I get home?”

Oncology nurses and support staff at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center frequently hear these commonly asked questions from newly diagnosed patients.

“It’s normal for patients to try and make sense of what’s happening to them,” said WVCI patient navigator Katie Burke. “Chemotherapy can make you feel anxious and worried about how it will affect you.”

Katie helps guide patients through the cancer treatment process, providing emotional support and connecting them with resources. She’s also a breast cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy as a patient at WVCI.

“When the word chemotherapy comes up, everybody always assumes they’re going to lose their hair and often that is the case, but not always,” said Katie. “As a patient navigator, I give patients information about our Believe Boutique, which we offer through a partnership with the American Cancer Society.”

The Believe Boutique is located inside a comfortable space within WVCI’s Country Club Road location, where patients may choose a free wig, scarf or hat. Fittings are by appointment only and can be scheduled with a Cancer Resource Center volunteer by calling 541-431-9808.

Katie recommends patients bring a family member or a friend with them during their chemotherapy appointments, especially the first one.

“The nurse is going to go over a lot of information with you, so it’s always good to have a second set of ears,” Katie said. “Also, you will be receiving drugs that you’ve never had before, and you don’t know how you’re going to feel after your treatment. You could be really tired and not want to drive home. Its always good to bring somebody for support.”

Getting valid information is important
WVCI offers a chemotherapy class that provides patients with a basic understanding of how chemotherapy works. The class is lead by nurses who administer chemotherapy to patients daily.

During the class, the nurses will explain the effects chemotherapy has on blood cells, discuss the common and rare side effects that can occur during treatment and provide information on how to manage any side effects.

They will also provide resources and contacts to assist during treatment.

“Patients who attend the class leave feeling more prepared, and that helps them feel more comfortable on their first day of treatment,” said Shar McKay, WVCI nursing manager.

WVCI offers a chemotherapy class each week at both the Country Club Road clinic.