8 Things to Pack in Your Chemo Bag

Be Comfortable, Entertained & Occupied

Female patient receiving treatment in hospital
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My chemo nurses were great: positive, helpful and sympathetic. That was a good thing because when I was on weekly chemotherapy, we saw a lot of each other. But nurses have other patients to tend to and don't have time to entertain during infusions, so I would always pack a chemo tote bag full of things to keep me busy.

A Peek Into My Chemo Bag

The chemo center where I had my treatments had comfortable recliners, tables for medicines and magazines, small TVs and a mini-refrigerator full of drinks.

Sometimes patients brought plates full of snacks to share, and the nurses always had crackers and cookies on hand. It was a pretty comfortable setup, but I still wanted to brings things to help me pass the time or make me feel even more comfortable. Here are my chemo essentials:

  1. Scream cream. I'd apply Emla cream, an anesthetic, at least 45 minutes before an infusion because it prevented me from wailing when the needle went in.
  2. Plastic wrap and tape. I used plastic wrap and medical adhesive tape to prevent the numbing cream from getting on my clothes. You can also use occlusive bandages.
  3. Water or juice. I was determined to stay hydrated, and I needed to take my L-Glutamine powder before the infusion to prevent neuropathy. Flavored water and healthy juices were my favorites.
  4. Snacks. Chewy, moist cookies are good, and so are little packages of peanut butter and crackers. Peppermint candies are nice for a dry mouth and ginger candies relieve nausea. A whole wheat bagel is a nice substitute for lunch.
  1. Movies. I know I'm a bit late, but when I was diagnosed I had just discovered Jackie Chan. I went through every subtitled movie of his, as well as his English-language productions. Humor is very distracting and I didn't have to focus on the needles, tubes and bags of chemo drugs.
  2. Mystery novels. The books of choice for me that year were Robert B. Parker's Spenser series about a private eye. I also read Kinky Friedman's crime novels.
  1. Crafts. Small knitting projects like hats and scarves are easy to pack and keep your hands busy. Afterwards, I actually had something to show for the time I spent in that cushy recliner! Needlework projects are very popular amongst patients.
  2. Pen and paper. Sometimes I would bring reading material from the office with me and take notes while I was reading. In the relative peace of the infusion room, I could actually get a good deal of work done.

What to Take to Longer Infusions

A longer infusion calls for more comforts, so bring whatever will make you feel more relaxed. When I had a longer infusion I would bring a soft blanket and a little pillow. On the days I thought nausea might be a problem, I'd pack an emesis bowl, or "barf bowl." A laptop, tablet, MP3 player and smartphone are also great distractions, and packing them practically goes without saying. Above all I never forgot to take my scream cream. What do you keep in your chemo bag?

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