Managing Treatments

Creating an Emergency Contact List for Cancer Patients: All the Numbers You Need

A phone call can set your mind at ease, whether it's discussing a new symptom with your nurse, or sharing a laugh with a friend.

One way to make life easier for yourself (and others) while you’re going through cancer treatment is to prepare an emergency contact list that you or your caregiver can easily reference as needed. The names and numbers of important contacts may slip your mind under stressful conditions, so write everything down. You’ll want to have many of these numbers saved in your phone as well.

Take a moment to consider what issues might arise that you, or someone else, might have to deal with while you’re not feeling well. Who would you need to call during these times?

Be sure to include context with the contact number as well. Rather than just including a name and a number, add a note about why this person is on the list. Distinguishing between your sister, your radiation oncologist, and the friend who offered to help babysit will help keep things straight, especially if someone else needs to make calls for you.

Primary Contact

Your primary contact would be your main caregiver, the person who is there for you the most, and the person to call first in case of emergency. Perhaps this is your spouse, a parent, a good friend or an adult child. If you become ill while your cousin is visiting, who would you want her to call?

Health Update List

Create a list of family members and close friends who should be updated with crucial news regarding your health. This should be a short list, not everyone you know. And don’t try to contact everyone individually. That’s a lot of work. Designate someone in advance, and let that person be the one to share the news to the rest of the list.

Medical Contacts

  • Your nurse navigator: If you have been assigned a nurse navigator, they will be your primary medical contact. Put their number at the top of the list and in bold so you can find it easily.

  • Your doctors by name, including their phone numbers and their specialties

  • Your oncology nurse, their number and their office hours if they are provided

  • The name, address and main phone number of the facility where you receive your care

  • The name, address, phone number and hours of your pharmacy

  • Your physical therapist and any other health providers

  • Your insurance information, including your group number and a phone number you can call if there are issues

Employment Issues

  • Your employer’s phone number

  • The number for the human resources department at your work

  • Cancer and Careers: If you are concerned that cancer treatment may put your employment at risk, Cancer and Careers is a great resource for figuring out your rights and your options.

Practical Needs

  • How can you get help with housekeeping? Is there a service you can call? A friend who volunteered to help? If you can get help with scrubbing toilets, it’s worth it.

  • Who can you call to arrange rides to and from treatment or the grocery store?

  • Who will bring meals?

  • Who will help out with maintenance around the house, shovel snow, or mow the lawn?

  • The contact information for your landlord, if you’re renting a home

  • The contact information for your homeowners or renters insurance

  • Your utility company information, such as garbage, water, phone, power, internet and cable

Parenting Issues

  • Your babysitter, as well as an emergency or backup babysitter

  • Your child’s school and teacher

  • The contact information for any extracurricular or after-school activities

  • Your children’s pediatricians

Emotional Needs

  • Your therapist

  • Which friend can you call when you need to pour your heart out?

  • Which friend can you call when you need a deep belly laugh?

  • Which friend can you call when you just want someone to sit and watch a movie with, but not talk?

  • Which friend always brings the best snacks?

  • Which friend always makes you feel better?

  • Which friend will take you out for a walk?

Other Contacts to Include

Do you have a financial planner, attorney or other specialist who helps you manage your affairs? Include any relevant contacts that could come in handy.

Print out a few copies of this emergency contact list. Keep one in your purse or wallet, and give one to your primary caregiver or spouse. Having these numbers organized and easily accessible will make things easier, whether you are dealing with an emergency or just rescheduling an appointment.

Consider adding the contact information for UVA Cancer Center’s counseling program to your list. Psychologists and social workers are available for extra support.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley