Contributor: Jamie Schwachter, BSN, MSN, NP-C
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When you go through chemotherapy, you can be sure that your health care team will make sure your physical comfort is a priority.
There will be medication to help manage the side effects, and comfortable reclining chairs to sit in while the treatment is given. Your nurses and other members of your health care team will check on you often to make sure that all is going well.
Although the duration of chemotherapy infusion varies from patient to patient, we often suggest that our patients pack a small bag of things to bring to chemotherapy. Having a few familiar items from home can help ease anxiety you might be feeling. These things may also help distract you and keep you comfortable while your treatment is administered.
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Are you confused on what to bring? Look through the following list and choose a few to bring to your chemotherapy session. The next time, bring some different things, along with a few favorites from the last time. You will establish a routine along the way.
This could be a book of poetry, an absorbing novel, a prayer book, magazines, or some other reading material – and it doesn’t have to be related to cancer. Think of this time as an opportunity to read that book that you didn’t have time for before.
Load up your phone or iPod with your favorite music or download your favorite music streaming app, plug in your earbuds and lose yourself in the music. You may want to download a meditation or guided imagery CD. Some cancer centers have a music therapy program which provides an opportunity for distraction, self-expression, comfort, and support.
Find some fun game apps, download them to your tablet and bring your device. Many chemotherapy centers have wireless internet access, which allows you lots of time to sharpen your solitaire or Candy Crush skills. Or bring a board game like Scrabble to play with a friend or family member.
More than likely, you will be able to stay in the clothing you wear to the appointment. Think about wearing comfortable clothes, such as sweats or yoga pants. Also consider bringing a warm hat, or a cardigan or zip-up hoodie sweatshirt to slip on to keep your head warm. Sometime the infusion medicines can make you feel chilly. And you can never predict the temperature of the infusion room. Remember to wear layers of clothing that you can put on and take off and make sure they provide easy access to your port or your arm for the infusion.
Pillow or blanket
Bring a small blanket or a special pillow. Then when you feel like resting you can be surrounded by things that bring you comfort. You can also ask your nurse for a warm blanket.
Writing or drawing materials
Some people use this quiet time to journal or write letters. Another similar relaxation is coloring. Bring your colored pencils or your markers and use the time to relax with your favorite coloring book. Other writing distractions include crosswords, Sudoku or word search puzzles. Or use the time to balance your check book, pay bills, write emails and organize your to-do list. This may be a good time to make a list of things your caregiver can do to help.
Ask your nurse if the chemotherapy suites have a television with a DVD player. Bring your favorite movies or ask if they have movies on DVD so you can watch something new.
Take advantage of the mostly uninterrupted time to make a serious dent in your knitting, crocheting, beading or quilting project. Using your hands is a good way to keep them warm during infusions. Some cancer centers also have an art therapy program, which can improve emotional and physical healing.
It’s important to stay hydrated during chemotherapy. Your infusion center may provide beverages, but this is a way to make sure you have something that you enjoy drinking. There are many things other than water; such as Gatorade, Crystal Light, and decaffeinated teas.
Eating adequate amounts of calories and protein also is important during chemotherapy. While the cancer center may have light snacks such as soup or crackers, you may want to bring something that you particularly like. Hard candy, lemon drops or ginger candy can help to get rid of the metallic taste that some people develop or reduce nausea.
And don’t forget to ask a loved one or a good friend to accompany you to the appointment. Having someone nearby can help to sustain and divert you and can help to make the session a little less intimidating.
It also is a great idea to visit a chemotherapy education class if your cancer center has them to find out where to go on your first day of therapy and what to expect from treatment.