Patient tips 12 items to pack in your chemo bag

12 items to pack in your chemo bag

​​Julianna C. is a 29-year-old cervical cancer survivor. Now, she’s a big advocate for teaching other young women about the importance of Pap smears and the HPV vaccine. Here, Julianna shares what she packed for comfort during long chemotherapy days.

You’ve already heard those words “it’s cancer.” Now you’re preparing for long days of treatment ahead. You’ve had your chemotherapy class, read your printouts on what to expect, but what do you need for the treatment day and what can you bring for comfort? It can feel like information overload! Here are the things I would recommend for any patient (or caregiver) to pack in their chemo bag. 

  1. A blanket/quilt and socks: Infusion rooms can get quite chilly! When I started my first rounds of chemotherapy, I was given a lap quilt by a family member's church group. They used blue and white patterns and individually tied six ribbons on the quilt. Each ribbon represents a special prayer. It’s my favorite, and I bring it every time. Also, don’t forget the fuzzy socks
  2. Headphones: Music or a good audiobook can help change your focus. Depending on the vibe for the day, I would listen to spa music or even white noise. Sometimes, I just needed something to turn my mind off. On those days where I felt pumped up, I jammed out to my favorite rock song! No one around me had any idea.
  3. Phone charger: Quite a few times, I have been stuck with a dying cell phone or dying headphones with hours of treatment to go. Sometimes, I could find a sweet nurse to let me borrow a charger, but I always like to be prepared and bring my own. Plus someone else may need to borrow it.
  4. Eye patch or earplugs: Infusion rooms can be loud with the beeping of machines, chatter and day-to-day noise. If you’re like me, the pre-med concoction may also make you sleepy. For me to use the time for some good rest, I recommend bringing an eye patch and earplugs to help drown out the sound.
  5. Nausea meds and acupressure wrist bands: Sea-Band® wristbands use acupressure to help stop nausea. I personally loved wearing them. I have many pairs stashed in the car, my chemo bag, purse, by my bed, etc. Even though I’ve finished chemotherapy, the motion sickness after the treatment can be brutal. Wearing the bands along with the relief from nausea medicine, in my experience, greatly calms down that yucky feeling.

  6. Peppermints or peppermint oil: Peppermints and peppermint oil helped me with nausea and dry mouth. Peppermints quickly make me feel better when I start to get that queasy feeling. During port access and chemotherapy, I also recommend sucking on peppermints to try to combat that weird taste you may get. In addition to peppermints, peppermint oil worked for my nausea and relaxation. I have a rollerball and roll it on my stomach, wrists and behind the ears for relief. Plus, I love the smell! 

  7. A good book or coloring book: Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ve either brought books or coloring books to help pass the time and keep my mind busy. Some of my most recent books are Brene Brown’s Rising Strong, Lisa Teurkerst’s Forgiving What You Can’t Forget and Megan Smalley’s Give Grace. When it comes to coloring books, I love coloring flowers and people! 

  8. Snacks and water: Snacks and water during treatment may make you feel better during and after. Snack as much or as little as you want and feel like. My go-to snack during treatment were Cheez-It® Baked Snack Crackers. 

  9. Journal: Journaling may be very therapeutic, especially during treatment. Not to mention, it helped my “chemo brain.” Using a journal helped me keep track of appointments, conversations or important events that I have trouble remembering on my own. In fact, I have three separate ones—one for things I can't remember, one for my ongoing to-do lists and another for big feelings.

  10. Spiritual items: Before my first rounds of chemotherapy, I was given several spiritual items that I cherish dearly. A friend's mom sent me a miniature church stained-glass window. Every infusion, I put that stained glass out on display. 

  11. A caregiver! Surviving chemotherapy and navigating the world of cancer wouldn’t be possible without a loving, supporting caregiver by my side. This journey can feel lonely, confusing and overwhelming. I wouldn’t be able to manage appointments, medication and everyday activities without the help of a caregiver. 

  12. Patience: This one is important to pack. Every infusion can be different. You may be too tired to read a book or color, and that’s allowed, too. You can get your blanket and take a nap while the medicine does its job. 


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