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?
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.