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What Should You Take to Chemo?

What should you take to chemo?

To say I was scared to death upon beginning chemo is an understatement. 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 overwhelming, 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 took turns accompanying 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, keep reading. If you had or are having chemo now, and/or will be for the long haul as a metster, 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 cell phone 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.

What Should You Take to #Chemo? #cancer #breastcancer #chemotherapy


Thursday 10th of September 2020

Lemon drops covered up the alcohol taste when the port needle was inserted. Being very visual, I liked a couple of magazines for short articles. Concentration was not great for reading books. I left the magazines for others. My iPad helped me to pass the time. A relaxation app helped with anxiety the first couple of appointments. No one went with me because I wanted to respect the privacy of other patients and because the room was small. Plus, I wasn’t talkative and rested during sessions. Wearing a top that gave easy access to the port and for the bloodwork was appreciated by the nurses.


Friday 11th of September 2020

Debbi, Those are all really excellent tips. Thank you!

Fran Kimbar

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

I always took a book, but mostly never read it because they had really good magazines. They did reiki on you while you waited which was nice. My friends liked to come with me for chemo at my small local hospital because the lunch they gave us was so incredibly good. I can’t say I always enjoyed it as much as they did because I didn’t feel so good, but they raved about it and if I had been well I would have too! The larger hospital I went to for my pre bone marrow transplant just gave you a dry turkey sandwich. Yuk. What a disappointment. My daughter always drove me there and she would pack us a great lunch.


Friday 11th of September 2020

Fran, It's nice you had friends that were able to go with you. Funny that they enjoyed the hospital lunch so much. It must be hard for patients that must go to treatments alone during this pandemic when that is not there choice. Thank you for sharing about your experience.

Beth Gainer

Thursday 27th of July 2017

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.


Friday 28th of July 2017

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.


Sunday 23rd of July 2017

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.


Monday 24th of July 2017

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.


Sunday 23rd of July 2017

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!!


Monday 24th of July 2017

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.

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