Chemo-Tip Kit: Packing for Chemo Day
If you’re about to embark on chemotherapy infusions, it can be an overwhelming time.
I over-packed like a mad thing for my first infusion. Honestly, I arrived on ward as if I was going away for the weekend, it wasn't quite a roller suitcase, but very close! I streamlined my chemo bag down to a few more basic items which I have listed below for you.
I recommend that you choose a duffel bag or backpack that you can designate for use as your ‘Chemo Bag’. Keep this bag packed and set aside for each infusion. This way, all you have to do is check through it the day before to make sure everything is there. You’re going to have enough on your plate, my tips are all about making life as organised and therefore, as easy as possible for you.
Items to pack into your chemo bag:
- Phone and charger. If you have a spare charger, keep it in either your emergency hospital bag or your chemo bag.
- Ear buds or headphones. You will be on a ward with other patients. The last thing you want to do is disturb a whole ward with music or audio from what you’re listening to or watching.
- Necessary medications. Bring your anti-nausea medication – infusions can bring on waves of nausea sometimes and it helps if you have some handy to curb the effects. Pack some pain killers – if you’re using the cold cap, they will advise you to take some about 30 minutes beforehand, even if you’re not using the cold cap, having pain killers handy is a top tip when going through chemo.
- Antibacterial wipes. I’m a germaphobe at the best of times. Add Covid-19 into and it’s a wrap! I used these to wipe down all my electronics before and after my time on the chemo ward just to keep everything as clean as possible.
- Underwear. Listen, there’s no point beating around the bush on this one, chemo can bring on some unsettling side effects and one of them can be bouts of unexpected diarrhoea. Hopefully, it won’t happen to you, but there’s no harm in having a spare pair in your bag just in case. It is what it is.
- Hand sanitiser. Obviously, your hospital will have plenty of sanitiser dispensers, but I advise keeping some in your bag for your own use just in case a dispenser runs out or you can’t find one near your bed.
- Hand cream. The constant use of hand sanitiser coupled with the dry skin that chemo can cause, means that hand cream is important to keep in your bag.
- Eye drops. I found that my eyes dried out during chemo, so I always had eye drops in my bag to ease this.
- Books and or magazines. For my first few infusions I was able to read books and it was great. But as I progressed, between being tired and having chemo brain, I just couldn’t concentrate for long enough to read properly. So, I used to bring along magazines instead and even if I couldn’t read the articles, I could flick through the pretty pictures. Choose an image heavy magazine.
- iPad or Tablet. I used my iPad as an e-reader during the first infusions and then used it for watching downloaded TV or movies. But always with ear buds!
- Notes for your team. Bring along any notes you have on side effects and any questions that you may have for your oncology team. They will always chat through things with you and if you have notes ready to discuss with them, it just makes it easier.
- Notebook and pen. Your team will meet with you before each infusion to go through things before you start. Having a notebook and pen with you means that you can take notes from this discussion. Believe me, by the end of the day you will be tired and may forget some of the things you discussed.
- Basic wallet. Like my emergency wallet suggestion, it’s handy to have a basic wallet with you with just €20, a pre-paid bank card, some ID, and your Insurance info if you need it. You may only need it to pay for parking, but you will get to know this yourself as you progress through your treatment cycle.
- Healthy snacks. I used to bring a banana, some grapes, a satsuma, some crackers, and a healthy snack bar. Depending on how long your infusion is and your hospital, you might get tea/coffee and possibly lunch served, but I used to keep my nausea at bay by eating little and often so found the snacks kept me going.
- Water Bottle. The ward should have water coolers available, but I used to bring my own reusable water bottle. That way I could fill it at the cooler and keep it next to my bed which reduced the amount of time I had to get up to get more water. Every time you have to get up from your bed you will need to ask a nurse to stop the infusion and unplug you, and then they will need to replug you again. For me, I was always eager to avoid any extra delays to just get finished as soon as possible.
- Hat. Bring along a soft beanie hat. You can experience temperature fluctuations and get cold, especially if you are losing, or have lost your hair. If you are using the cold cap, your hair will be icy and damp afterwards so you will definitely need to wear a hat when you leave.
- Specialised conditioner. If you are using the cold cap, you will be told to bring along a special conditioner which they will apply to your scalp before the cold cap.
- Extension cord. This was a recommendation from someone on Instagram - thank you @desireefawnaz ! It didn’t even occur to me but what a good idea. If you can get your hands on a short, small extension cord it would be so handy to bring along for your chargers. Just make sure to check with the nurses that its ok to plug it in because the last thing you want is to trip anyone up on the ward or use up an important plug socket. But if you can tuck it behind your bed safely and the nurses approve it, I think it would be great.
- Lip Balm. Your lips can dry out easily. Regularly applying lip balm keeps them moisturised and helps your comfort levels.
- Sucky sweets. The Answers for Cancers Podcast nurses suggested this to me! Some patients can taste the saline solution that is used to flush your IV and sucky sweets can help mask any tastes like this.
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I hope this list and free PDF helps you! If you’re about to start chemo and worried, or wondering about anything, always feel free to get in touch.