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13 items to bring to your chemotherapy infusion treatment

It's a good idea to be prepared when you have a scheduled chemotherapy infusion.
Cancer care providers suggest you come prepared to your chemotherapy infusion appointments with a bag of essential and comforting items to use during your visits.

For cancer patients beginning chemotherapy, a chemo bag (a chemotherapy care kit) can help to reduce anxiety and make infusion treatment appointments more pleasant, comfortable and convenient.

Depending on the chemotherapy regimen you’ll be receiving, each visit to an infusion center may take up a significant portion of your day. You’ll be going through required processing and paperwork, other preparations for treatment, plus the time it takes once an infusion begins. Cancer care providers suggest you come prepared with a bag of essential and comforting items to use during your visits.

A well-thought-out bag or kit may have warm clothing, entertainment devices, food and drinks, writing materials and assorted skin and lip care items. The idea is to include products likely to help relieve your stress, keep you active or help you rest when you’re fatigued, keep you from feeling hungry or thirsty, and help you mitigate discomfort you may experience during your chemotherapy sessions.

What to bring to chemotherapy

Bringing your own chemo bag helps give you a feeling of control, especially when filling it with items tailored to your personal preferences and needs. No matter what you include, make sure your bag or kit is small and light enough to carry—or that it has wheels attached so you can drag it along without much effort.

One important option you’ll want to bring that won’t fit in the chemo bag is a companion—a supportive friend, spouse, loved one or family member who can help keep up your spirits during your infusion or just be a reassuring presence for you during the chemotherapy appointment. A companion may be able to help you pack the items you bring and can help make sure your needs are being met.

If you’re not sure what to include in your chemo bag, here’s a list of things to consider:

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are interested in a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment options, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

Snacks and drinks

Some refreshments you enjoy may not be available at your infusion center, so it’s a good idea to bring snacks and drinks you know you’ll like. It’s important to stay hydrated and nourished during your visit. Make sure you include a filled water bottle along with any other liquids you choose to bring, to help your body flush out toxins and reduce the chances of nausea, constipation or similar side effects.

When it comes to food, remember that your body needs healthy snacks, not junk food. And avoid bringing snacks that have strong smells, because the odor may make you or other patients nauseous.

Try to include items you like that are packed with protein or other nutrients.  Some suggestions from the American Cancer Society include:

  • A container of cold cereal
  • Cheese or peanut butter with crackers
  • Cookies
  • Fresh fruit or dried fruit
  • Gummies or other gelatin snacks
  • Granola or trail mix

You may also want to include hard candies—ginger candy, peppermint or other mints—to suck on as a way of relieving dry mouth or throat irritations, and to help prevent nausea and the metallic taste some patients experience.

Lip balm

Some chemotherapy treatments may cause dry lips or sores in your mouth. Having some lip balm or petroleum jelly on hand may help alleviate those common side effects.

Lotions or creams

Skin care is also important during treatment, because your skin may dry out, begin itching or become irritated. Having a cream or lotion may help moisturize your skin and provide a relaxing sensation for you. Look for products that are hypoallergenic and unscented, because you’ll want to avoid potentially nausea-inducing odors.

Electronic devices

It’s fine to stay connected while you’re undergoing treatment. Bring along your smartphone, tablet, laptop, e-book reader or other electronic gadgets—and don’t forget the charger for each of your devices. You can use the phone to talk to someone to help pass the time. Devices also offer opportunities to engage with a wide variety of apps, or they can be used to scroll the Internet or play online games.

Something to listen to

Your electronic devices also enable you to play audio material. You may want to come with a prepared playlist of your favorite songs, a download of a motivational talk or a meditational app to help calm yourself. You could stream a movie or TV show or check out videos posted on social media. Or you may choose to listen to your favorite podcast or watch YouTube or Instagram videos.

Make sure you pack a pair of earphones or headphones so that your listening material doesn’t disturb other patients—and maybe a pair of earplugs if you’re just seeking quiet time and don’t want to be disturbed by others.

A journal or notebook

Writing, especially if you enjoy jotting down your thoughts, can be a great way to spend your time. Having a journal or notebook—and pen or pencil—is one way to be prepared, or you can use a notes app on your phone or tablet.

A notebook can serve double duty during your chemotherapy sessions. It can provide a spot where you can record information about the side effects that you’re experiencing during treatment. You may also use it ahead of time to write down questions for your oncologist or health care team so you don’t forget them while you’re at the infusion center.

Reading material

Reading provides another way to pass the time, so have some reading materials with you—either a book or magazine that interests you, or download something on your e-book reader or other electronic device so you have easy access to it while you’re receiving treatment.

Handheld games or puzzles

If you don’t spend a lot of time on electronic devices—or if you like a more tactile experience—be sure to pack some favorite games. Some possibilities include a book of crossword puzzles, a word search or sudoku. If you enjoy card games, bring along a deck of cards. It may be an icebreaker for spending time with your companion or with another patient.

Keeping your mind active may help stave off potential “chemo brain” or “chemo fog,” a forgetfulness that some patients experience during treatment.

Socks

Key to your comfort is the clothing you’ll wear and bring to the center. You may want to begin with a pair of socks, which won’t take up much room in your chemo bag. Wearing close-toed shoes may help keep your feet warm if the room is cold, but taking those shoes off and putting on some comfy socks can help you relax and be a lot more comfortable.

Comfortable clothes

Make comfort your first priority, whether that means coming in a sweatsuit, wearing pants with an elastic waistband or putting on other clothing made with soft material. A couple of things to remember:

  • Choose clothing that makes it easy for the medical team to access your port site or PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line or to place an IV.
  • Take a layered approach to clothing, so that you can put on items if you’re getting cold, and take some off if you’re starting to feel warm. Layers are a great way to deal with the most important temperature: the one your body feels.

Some extras to keep in mind may sound more like you’ll be preparing for a winter trip: a warm hat or cap—especially if you’re experiencing hair loss—to don if your head starts feeling cold, a scarf to keep your neck and throat warm and a pair of gloves for your hands.

Blanket or pillow

Your infusion center may have basic items to keep you comfortable, but are you sure the pillow it provides is going to be as cozy as your favorite one from home? Or maybe a neck pillow will do, but you’d feel more comfortable with one of your own. And while the center’s blankets may be just as warm, maybe you’d prefer the feel of the comfy one from home that also has sentimental value.

Keepsake mementos

Things that help keep up your spirits may improve your overall experience. One way you may lower your anxiety level is to bring along a few photos of loved ones, or a keepsake that holds a memory of a special time or place in your life.

Crafting materials

If you’re into crafting, bring along some of your supplies to whittle away the time. A stay at the infusion center may also be an opportunity to start developing a craft of your own, whether it’s needlepoint, knitting or crochet. If you like to sketch, think about including a drawing pad in your journal materials.

Infusion centers at CTCA

Infusion centers at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) hospitals offer patients private and/or semi-private bays with a relaxing chair and television. During your visits, your CTCA® care team will help make you comfortable, providing you with heated blankets, drinks and snacks, while addressing concerns that may arise during your treatments. You may also order meals to be delivered to you from the cancer center’s café.

For patients in Illinois and Arizona, infusion services also are available at some of our Outpatient Care Centers. Talk to your care team about which location may be more convenient for you.

At CTCA, your care team will be as proactive as possible in anticipating and combating side effects so you can better tolerate your chemotherapy treatments. Your care team may also offer a combination of supportive care services, based on your individual needs, to help you manage side effects. Nutritional therapy, naturopathic support, behavioral health and other services may help reduce chemotherapy-related symptoms so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are interested in a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment options, call us or chat online with a member of our team.