The Infusion Area

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

MAY 17, 2017

For virtually all new cancer patients, the first step into the Infusion Area/AKA The Chemo Room is pretty scary. You don't have any idea what to expect and everyone is anxious about the first chemo treatment. Will it hurt? Will the nurse be kind? How sick am I going to be? And, of course, is this going to work?

I think that most Infusion Areas look pretty much the same. They are bigger or smaller, have fewer or more treatment chairs (that usually look like ugly barcaloungers), maybe a few private rooms with beds for people who are going to be there for hours or who are very ill. When these spaces are full, the place really bustles. The chair-side televisions are playing, and people are chatting, and nurses and other staff are moving quickly around. It is all overwhelming.

What is amazing is how quickly it all becomes familiar and comfortable. Of course no one really likes being there, but most people come to like some parts of it: the nurses and other staff, the warm blankets, the chance to talk with others going through something similar.

What helps a lot at BIDMC is the presence each day of our wonderful volunteers. They are men and women who have all been through cancer treatment here, so they have a pretty good idea what it feels like to sit in one of those chairs. Their job is to do anything to make patients and families are comfortable. This includes the tasks like bringing tea or lunch or maybe a magazine. But, much more importantly, it means being available for conversation and, often, for friendship. They are a treasure.

And this is another nice perspective from Heather Millar at WebMd:

What They Didn't Tell Me About the Chemo Ward
By Heather Millar

I just celebrated my sixth “chemoversary” – six years since my last chemo infusion. It got me thinking about my chemotherapy experience, and as I looked back, it struck me that no one—not fellow cancer patients, not doctors, not nurses—really prepared me for the first infusion.
Let’s not pussyfoot around: A chemo ward can be a scary place. Oncology physicians and nurses work around the infusion center all the time, which I think may make them forget how far outside the realm of “normal” it really is.
When you first get diagnosed, your cancer experience is just about you – your test results, your genetics, your prognosis. Sure, you know that there are other cancer patients – you see them in the waiting rooms. But largely, as you go through surgery and/or radiation, it feels like you’re the only one going through treatment. You’re alone in the radiation chamber. You’re alone in surgery.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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