Help Cancer Patients Manage Appointments

As soon as there’s a cancer diagnosis, some upfront preparation will help cancer patients manage their many appointments. The flood of new doctors, tests, procedures, what to do, and what not to do is overwhelming. It’s essential to have a plan. Whether the cancer patient is yourself or a friend, the items and ideas below will help cancer patients manage appointments.

Take a Memory Bag to every appointment

Get a bag or backpack that you are willing to take to all your medical appointments. Inside the bag, carry your “memory” on paper – this is why I call it a Memory Bag. Take it to your doctor appointments, scans, lab draws, chemotherapy, radiation, etc. Read on for the list of items to keep in your bag.

Get it down on paper

Choose a lightweight spiral or journal with a firm back so that you can write on your lap. Before every appointment, write down the date, doctor’s name and any questions you want to ask.

During the visit, record your stats (weight, temperature, blood pressure), what you are told about your condition, and your next steps.

After the appointment, refer to your notes. Appointments can be so emotional that it’s very easy to get confused or forget what was said. Although electronic calendars and memos are convenient, putting everything on paper will help you and your caregivers stay on top of things.

Keep a month-at-a-glance calendar

Cancer appointments and treatments are scheduled in increments of weeks and months, so,seeing an entire month at once makes scheduling easier. Plus, as your treatment progresses, you’ll have a visual of how far you’ve come.

Also, if you put your appointments on paper, your friends will thank you. They can easily snap a pic and know what your schedule is. And always use a pencil because change happens.

Use your own pen and pencil

To protect yourself from germs, germs and more germs, use your own pen when you sign-in and complete paperwork at your medical appointments. 

Take disinfectant wipes – not hand gel

Some medical offices will have you register on tablets or sign with their stylus. And there will always be doorknobs and elevator buttons. So remember to disinfect your hands afterwards. Enough about germs.

Leave a Thank You note

The doctors, nurses, nurse aides, and phlebotomists who cared for me showed the utmost kindness and care. I often felt overwhelmed with gratitude. Because we are not at our best after infusions, surgeries, etc., I suggest leaving a note of gratitude. After my infusions, I gave my oncology nurses a Thank You note and a Lifesaver because truly, they were saving my life.


Take a tangible smile

Find something tangible that will guarantee you a smile. For me, it was a framed photo of my beloved “first born” dog, Star.  I kept her picture on the tray next to my chemotherapy chair and hospital bed. Feelings of love and purpose were just a glance away.

Finally, get and keep in your bag copies of your test results. Should you ever need a second or third opinion (and you will), you’ll have your medical records to speed things along.

We don’t know if our cancer journey will last a few months or a few decades because none of us has a crystal ball. But being prepared and willing to keep track of the details along the way helped me survive the craziness of being a cancer patient. I hope it will help you, too. Check out some other good ideas from cancer survivors at

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