What should you take to chemo?

What Should You Take to Chemo?

Seven years ago this week I started chemotherapy. To say, I was scared to death, is an understatement, that’s for sure. I haven’t written about this topic in quite a while, although I wrote about it extensively in my memoir. If you’re interested in reading more about my experience, check that out. Let’s just say, brave and courageous I was not. 

When you are about to begin chemotherapy for the first time, it can seem pretty darn over-whelming, frightening and just plain nightmarish, because it is! The questions and worries start filling up your mind, and you might find yourself wondering if you will be the first cancer patient on the planet unable to handle it, or at least this was the case for me. On my first chemo day, I seriously considered bolting out of that recliner I had so carefully chosen, running out the door and never coming back.

But of course I didn’t run.

We do what we must, right? And then lo and behold, I discovered I had made it through the first session and then the next. This doesn’t mean chemo ever got easy. It didn’t. But over time, I learned I could handle it, well mostly anyway.

You will too.

My first experience with chemo was as an observer. When my mother received chemo, my dad, two of my siblings and I accompanied her to infusions. I mention this because it’s important to remember you shouldn’t compare your chemo experience to anyone else’s. Your experience will be yours and yours alone.

Before your first chemo session, along with all your other questions and worries, you might be wondering what to wear and/or what to take with you. As far as what to wear, it’s all about comfort. Enough said. For ideas about what to take with you, keep reading. If you had or are having chemo now, we would all love to hear what your suggestions are, too.

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Of course, some people don’t like to take anything at all along and prefer to just sleep or visit through the whole ordeal. If you can pull either off, that is wonderful. I could never sleep a wink as there was always too darn much commotion, and I never felt much like visiting. This cancer patient introvert was not one bit in the mood to socialize during infusions. Mostly, I just wanted to get in and out of there as quickly as possible.

So what should you take to chemo?

Basically, whatever you want (assuming it’s allowed, of course) that will make you feel more comfortable and at ease.

It seems there are several categories of ‘take with you stuff’:

1 – Another body for moral support

This might be your partner, spouse, friend, sibling, daughter, son, or whomever. Take someone YOU want; that is the key. You need a calming influence and not everyone is suited for this role, which is fine. There are different roles for others to fill. If you prefer (or must) go alone (and it’s allowed), that’s fine too.

2 – Snacks

Packing a few snacks and/or a beverage you like is a good idea. Suggestions might be:  crackers, cookies, lemon drops, lemon heads, pretzels, sweet and sour type candies, hard candies of any sort, mints, granola bars, soup, water, ginger ale, a favorite juice or soda and gum. Of course, most cancer centers offer snacks for chemo patients, but you never know if what they offer will appeal to you, so bringing something of your own is a good idea.

3 – Devices

Does anyone go anywhere without their smartphones these days? I think not. Many wouldn’t consider going without a laptop, favorite e-reader and/or listening device either. Also, don’t forget your charger(s). And headphones.

4 – Warm and fuzzy comfort stuff

Be sure to take a sweatshirt or sweater. Some like to haul along a comfy pillow or favorite blanket. Slippers or soft, cozy socks can be comforting too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take our favorite furry pet? Well, depends on your pet I guess.

5 – Miscellaneous stuff ideas 

Reading material, anxiety meds, ear-plugs (sometimes you just don’t want to hear the nurse telling the patient sitting next to you what her/his expected side effects will be), something warm and cozy to wear on your head, lotion, lip balm, pen and note pad, stationery, crosswords and other puzzles, games to play (with yourself or your chemo partner), deck of cards, and so on. The list of possibilities is endless.

It’s also a good idea for the person going with you to pack a little bag of her/his own. Sitting around waiting while observing your loved one going through chemo is not easy either and often the care giver’s needs and wants are pretty much ignored, so two goody bags might be in order.

Sometimes the smallest things can make a huge difference, so hopefully these tips will help someone just a little.

Have you had chemo, are you having it now or have you been a caregiver to someone receiving chemo?

What were/are your favorite items to take along?

If you’re metastatic and will be having chemo ongoing, what tips of any kind would you add?

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If you or someone you know could use some tips on preparing for chemo, my book, Getting Past the Fear:  A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy, might be helpful.

 

I wrote this guide because I could not find a book I wanted to read about the fear aspect of facing chemo. Click here to learn more about my guide.

 

16 thoughts on “What Should You Take to Chemo?

  1. Because my chemo infusions were in my arm, sweatshirts for warmth were impossible. Instead, a wool poncho that I had was absolutely perfect for warmth and infusion-site accessibility! I have since loaned it out to my sister-in-law who is undergoing chemo and I intend to continue sharing it with others!

    BTW, I have loved all your posts and your 2 books about chemo and your memoir. I found your outlook to be identical to my own and I also am a retired third grade teacher. You called it like it was and I really appreciated it!

    1. Terri, That is a great idea! And it’s lovely you are passing your poncho around so others can use it, too. How nice of you. Thank you for your kind words about my writing. I appreciate them very much. Glad you liked my books. Always nice to know we aren’t alone in our viewpoints, right? And a third grade teacher. 🙂 I taught second and then substituted for years. I still love this time of year when things start gearing up for back to school. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Because the clinic was kept cool, my veins sunk into my body and the nurses had a terrible time finding them when they needed to poke me for the blood tests and the catheter. After my third session with multiple “stab” wounds, one of the nurses gave me a tip. She told me to bring a thermos of warm/hot water and start sipping it twenty minutes before I was going to get poked. It worked like a charm so if you have those issues it’s worth considering.
    I also took a thermos of cold lemon flavoured water with me to sip on (thank goodness for husbands and friends who will tote your pack for you). They had a water cooler but I couldn’t stand the taste and it wasn’t cold enough. All your other suggestions are spot on and I think I used all of them at one time or another.

  3. I stopped at a convenience store each time and got an extra large slushie. It kept my mouth cold so I didn’t get sores in them from my chemo. I also took my sketch pad and pencils, and just concentrated on drawing basic 3D shapes and their shadows. Concentrating on those details really helped ease the anxiety, and helped me focus on my drawing skills too.

    1. Lisa, Slushies, I love that idea! And concentrating on drawing, that’s a great suggestion as well. Thanks so much for sharing what you took.

  4. My husband downloaded stand-up comics for me to watch (headphones on, of course) during my treatments. Watching these programs helped me to pass the time and have a chuckle or two.

  5. When I was in chemo, I brought to each infusion my tablet, earphones, a coloring book & pencils, a book, and a turban. The turban had two purposes. Obviously, one was to keep my bald head warm in the chilly room. However, the second is what made it indispensable to me. In between meds, I was given a Benadryl to minimize reactions. Of course it made me sleepy, but the bright lights made falling gently asleep difficult. I could pull the turban down over my eyes. I’m sure a sleep mask would work too, but it won’t keep your head toasty at the same time!

  6. I always brought my own blanket and pillow with me. I could never count on the infusion center to have enough blankets to go around and the pillows they offered had plastic on them and were uncomfortable and noisy. Snacks were my other thing. I love pita chips that I make myself — store bought pita bread split open and I put melted butter, garlic powder and parm on them. I use scissors to cut them into strips and bake at 375 degrees until golden. I call these pita chips one of my trigger foods and try to stay away from them — mainly because I can’t stop eating them! I allowed myself this luxury every week at chemo because I definitely deserved it!!

    1. Faith, My center always had blankets, but not pillows. I love your pita chips recipe! I’m going to have to try making those! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Even though dear hubby usually accompanies me, I also take my tablet, book and puzzles to each infusion. I like having choices for entertaining myself. Snacks and tea are also important to bring, or pick up on the way in to the hospital. More and more, I’ve been using my earbuds. I download Netflix shows onto my iPad as the hospital wifi doesn’t always allow streaming. Then there is lip balm. I go nowhere without lip balm. I remember it being important when I was in labour too.

    I also usually bring my little “go bag.” It has things I need in case of a longer stay than expected, like toothbrush and paste, eyeglass cleaning cloth, bandaids, nail clippers, hair elastics. I’ve left it behind the last few trips, trying to pack light. Seems like tempting fate.

    1. Kate, A person needs things for self-entertainment, for sure. Earbuds are a great idea and I agree about the lip balm. That’s definitely a necessity. Your “go bag” sounds like a good idea, but I’m glad you haven’t had to use it. Thank you for sharing what you take to chemo.

  8. I wish I had thought of your list. I just brought myself and a book, but I couldn’t focus on the book. The good thing about going alone (not that I recommend that) is that it forced me to talk to other patients and get to share our stories. It’s amazing how many people help each other, and I’m grateful to each person who reached out to me.

    1. Beth, I’m glad you found socializing with other patients to be helpful. I couldn’t do it. I pretty much withdrew during chemo sessions. I just wanted to keep to myself and get them over with as fast as possible. Thank you for commenting.

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