What You Should Bring to Your Chemotherapy Session

10 things that can help ease your mind and keep you comfortable
woman carrying tote bag ready for cancer treatment

Going to chemotherapy can be a daunting experience. You might feel anxious, sad or afraid – all of which are normal. If it’s your first session, you might be even more nervous not knowing what to expect or even what to bring with you. 

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Fortunately, there are several things you can bring to each session to help put your mind at ease

“The duration of chemotherapy varies from patient to patient, so we often suggest that patients pack a small bag of things to bring with them,” says nurse practitioner Mailey Wilks, CNP. “Having a few familiar items from home can help ease anxiety and offer distraction.” 

Here’s what to consider packing: 

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  1. Reading materials. This could be a book of poetry, the latest novel, a prayer book or devotional or even an audiobook.  It doesn’t have to be related to cancer either. Think of this time as an opportunity to read that book that you didn’t have time to before.
  2. Music. Create a playlist of your favorite music and bring earbuds so you can jam out. You can even download a guided meditation app.  Some cancer centers have a music therapy program which provides an opportunity for distraction, self-expression, comfort and support.
  3. Games. Download a few games on your phone or tablet and bring your device with you. Use this time to sharpen your solitaire or Candy Crush skills. Or bring a board game like Scrabble to play with a friend or family member (if visitors are allowed to attend your appointment with you).
  4. Comfortable clothes. More than likely, you’ll 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 hat or zip-up hoodie to keep you warm. Sometime the infusion medicines can make you feel a bit chilly or the temperature in the infusion room might be cooler than you expected. It’s a good idea to dress in layers so that you can put on and take off clothes as you see fit. Also be sure that whatever clothes you’re wearing allows easy access to your port or your arm for the infusion.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 adult coloring book. Other writing distractions include crosswords, Sudoku or word search puzzles. Or use the time to search the internet, log onto social media or check your email.  
  7. Movies. Bring your phone, laptop or tablet to stream movies or TV shows during your session. This can be a great way to pass time and offers a distraction. 
  8. Hobby materials. 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 the infusion and your head busy. Some cancer centers also have an art therapy program, which can improve emotional and physical healing.
  9. Beverages. 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. Try a sparkling water with cut up pieces of fruit added in or decaffeinated tea.
  10. Snacks. Eating adequate amounts of calories and protein is also important during chemotherapy. While your 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 reduce nausea or get rid of dry mouth or the metallic taste that some people develop.

And don’t forget, if visitors are allowed, 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.

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