Chemo Room: Make a Difference?


HOUSTON, Tex. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — When cancer patients are administered chemotherapy, it can mean long hours sitting in a chair in a room with nothing more than medical equipment. But now, researchers want to know how nature might calm these patients and help the healing process in a chemo room.

Cancer patients spend long hours alone in a room.

“I need to get chemo and it takes usually seven or eight hours,” Rick Shojaei said.

So, researchers are studying whether views of nature impact a patient’s healing. Using a traditional room, a virtual reality room, and one with a view of a luscious outdoor garden, they are measuring pain, blood pressure and saliva cortisol, which indicates stress.

“We have so many patients, especially first-time coming in here not knowing what to expect, so anxious, so tense. You can see the fear in their face. And then, when you give them such a spectacular view, such a natural view, it instantly relaxes them,” Ashley Verzwyvelt, registered nurse at Houston Methodist, said.

The project is the brainchild of Verzwyvelt and colleague Renee Stubbins, Houston Methodist Senior Oncology Dietician, who secured funding to build the garden on a previously empty rooftop outside the chemo rooms.

(Read Full Interview)

Stubbins told Ivanhoe, “As a dietician, I do believe we have this innate connection to nature.  Our food comes from nature. We are part of nature.”

The virtual reality goggles allow patients to interact with nature scenes filled with animals in the wild.

Meanwhile, in the room with no view, or VR …

“In a room like this, you feel pretty isolated.  But, in a room like garden, that you got view to look out, it is a big difference,” Shojaei explained.

Making a tough time just a little bit easier.

The study, which will include 36 cancer patients, is ongoing and was funded by a nonprofit conservation group, studying how factors in nature lead to better health.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Bruce Mainscalo, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:               MB #4710 

TREATMENT: Chemotherapy is mostly associated with treated cancer. This treatment is a combination of powerful chemicals that kill rapidly growing cells in the body. The use of chemotherapy can be to cure the cancer without using other treatments, prepping the patient for other treatments such as surgery or radiation. This is also called neoadjuvant therapy. Chemo can also be used to after other treatments to find and kill hidden cancer cells, also known as adjuvant therapy. This drug treatment is not only used for cancer. It can be used to prepare patients with bone marrow disease for a bone marrow transplant. In low doses, chemo can help control overactive immune systems in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.


RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS: Chemo causes side effects due to its attack on normal cells that may be rapidly growing as well. The most cells that are affected are hair follicles, blood-forming cells in the bone marrow and cells in the reproductive system, digestive tract and mouth. Effects can also impact the heart, lungs, kidneys or reproductive organs and cause long term damage. Chemo has also been linked to delayed effects such as secondary cancer which shows years later. The most common side effects include infection, weight changes, hair loss, easy bruising and bleeding, fertility problems, vomiting and pain with swallowing. More alarming side effects are rashes, unexplained bruising, intense headaches, bloody stool and intense chills. If this happens, contact your cancer care team immediately.


THE PROCESS: Chemo is given through an IV. Some patients might have a minor surgery to put in a round metal or plastic disk, called a port. This makes it easier for nurses as they will not have to find the vein each time the patient arrives. The session can take minutes, hours or even days if there is a continuous infusion. Houston Methodist, Texas by Nature and Texas A&M Health Science Center are working together to enhance health and healing through nature. Renee Stubbins, senior oncology dietician at Houston Methodist, says that the feedback to the chemo rooms with a view has been positive. She said that the natural view and VR view gives patients something else to look at instead of a screen. The goal of these studies is to influence hospital design guidelines.

(Source: Renee Stubbins)


Ashley White


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Renee Stubbins, Senior Oncology Dietitian

Read the entire Q&A