There are many uncertainties when it comes to chemotherapy treatment for cancer. It’s impossible to know how long your treatment will take, anticipated wait time for labs and chemo, and how warm or cold the treatment room will be. We all know chemo isn’t fun, but if you can think ahead and pack your chemotherapy tote bag with things that will make you feel more comfortable, then treatment will be easier for you. And every little bit helps!
What to Bring to Chemo
We’ve compiled a list of things that our own survivors as well as former cancer patients and health care professionals believe are must-haves to include in the chemo tote bag you bring to every treatment appointment. So grab your favorite tote bag and let’s get packing!
Wear a short sleeve or V-neck shirt to make it easier for the treatment technician to put an IV in your arm or a port in your chest. Bring a sweater or sweatshirt that you can take off or put back on quickly in case you get cold during treatment.
Former MD Anderson Cancer Center patient and survivor, Stephanie Madsen, urges chemotherapy patients to wear closed-toe shoes and to make sure that they pack some comfy socks to wear when their feet get cold. For her, the softer and fuzzier the socks or footies were, the more she liked them. We concur!
Hat, Scarf, or Beanie
If your chemo drugs cause you to lose your hair, keeping your head warm is key! Protecting your head from weather changes while keeping it warm in an air-conditioned treatment facility will help you feel more comfortable while you’re there. A hat, scarf or head turban can also be a colorful fashion accessory to cheer you up when you’re not feeling particularly cheerful.
Pillow or Blanket
A pillow and blanket will come in handy if you want to sleep during your treatment. The chemo room is usually temperature controlled and having your own blanket will allow you to stay warm when necessary, while making you feel more comfortable in an otherwise uncomfortable place.
Fluids – Especially Water
Some patients get headaches during treatment. If you’re dehydrated, the intensity of your headache will likely be magnified. Drinking water or juice will keep you hydrated. It’s also a good way to flush the residual chemotherapy toxins out of your bloodstream faster.
Pack a variety of your favorite snacks. You may get hungry during treatment – especially if you travel a long way or have to spend a lot of time having or waiting for treatment. By bringing the things you know you like to eat, you won’t have to stop to get food or rely on the hospital or treatment center food.
Bring some personal care and oral hygiene products. Chemotherapy is notorious for causing a dry mouth or leaving a metallic taste in your mouth. A toothbrush and toothpaste or a small bottle of alcohol-free mouthwash may be helpful for chasing a bad taste away. You can purchase gels, oral sprays and Soothease™ Natural Chemo Drops to minimize the discomfort of a dry mouth. Body lotion can soothe irritated skin. Look for products that are recommended for sensitive skin or products for cancer patients. If smells bother you, stay with unscented products.
Pack a supply of things to combat nausea and queasiness. Crystallized ginger is an excellent remedy for nausea. Likewise, so are Queasy Drops and Pops. You may want to suck on mints or chew gum. Look for products that contain Xylitol because it is also found in products to combat dry mouth.
Pack a selection of things to entertain yourself and make the time go by faster. Bring along a tablet or laptop so you don’t drain the battery on your phone too quickly, and be sure to bring the charger. If you have a tablet that you use as an e-reader, or to watch movies or listen to music, bring that. You’ll get a lot of entertainment out of that one device. Throw in some popular magazines or some other light reading. You might also bring games to play with the person who accompanies you. Scrabble, Words with Friends, and crossword puzzles are great choices because the brain stimulation will help you combat the effects of chemo brain.
Pack a large multiple file organizer where you can keep your medication lists, insurance information, medical records, test results and other important documents for easy access. You’ll be grateful that you can grab the file and go.
Pack Your Chemo Tote Bag
If you haven’t received a chemotherapy tote bag as a gift, there’s no reason you can’t buy one for yourself. Our own Chemotherapy Gift Tote will jump start your preparations, so you arrive at your chemo treatment appointments with supplies to keep you comfortable, well-nourished and entertained.