What to pack in your hospital bag for chemo

Be Prepared Part 1: We list the most recommended essentials to bring with you to hospital for chemotherapy

women having chemotherapy

Let’s be honest, hospitals are not much fun. And when you’re diagnosed with cancer, it may feel like you spend more time in waiting rooms and clinics than in your own living room. Whether you’ll be in hospital for a few hours for your chemotherapy treatment, or required for a longer stay overnight, preparation is key. We believe a well-stocked hospital bag can make all the difference during your time in hospital, and we want to help you feel comfortable, entertained and occupied while there.

Today, we’re going to look at the essentials to pack in your chemo bag. Look out for Part 2 where we’ll discuss the Top 10 things to pack in your mastectomy bag.

 Top 10 Things To Bring To Chemo

To say chemo is tough, would certainly be an understatement. We know that chemotherapy can be a long, gruelling and tedious process, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible during your time in hospital. If you can think ahead and pack your chemotherapy tote bag with things that will make you feel more comfortable, then treatment will hopefully be easier for you.

We’ve compiled a list of must-haves to include in the chemo tote bag you bring to every treatment appointment. All the suggestions come from people living with cancer who have gone through rounds of chemo, as well as from experts. So grab your favourite tote bag and let’s get packing!

1) Comfortable (and accessible) clothing

Wear a short sleeve or button up shirt to make it easier for the treatment technician to put an IV in your arm or a port in your chest – ask your nurse or doctor in advance where your port will be. Bring a jumper or cardiga that you can take off or put back on quickly in case you get cold during treatment. Comfy socks and slippers will also keep your feet warm and cosy.

“My temperature changed so many times, so I made sure to wear plenty of layers so I could easily adapt to how I was feeling.” – Brian Schofield, diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2011

2) Hat, headscarf, or beanie

chemotherapy patient woman headscarf

If your chemo drugs cause you to lose your hair, it’s really important to keep your head warm. Also, you may be feeling a little self-conscious, so a colourful hat, scarf or head turban can help you feel more cheerful and comfortable.

3) Keep hydrated

Drinking water or fruit juice will help keep you hydrated while having the chemo. It’s also a good way to flush the residual chemotherapy toxins out of your bloodstream faster.

4) Snacks galore

healthy snacks nuts

It’s good to pack a variety of your favourite snacks. By bringing the things you know you like to eat, you won’t have to rely on the hospital food, which may not be to your liking. Foods with lots of energy, including nuts, fruits and chocolate, are highly recommended by our community.

5) Pillow or blanket

A pillow and blanket will come in handy if you want to sleep during your treatment. Also, if you do want to be able to nap, bring a sleeping mask with you to block out the light, and even some ear plugs to block out background noise.

6) Mouth aids

Patients undergoing chemotherapy frequently complain about a metallic taste and dry mouth after treatment. It is recommended to use toothpaste, oral rinses and gels, which may help alleviate the discomfort.

7) Fight the nausea

Pack a supply of things to combat nausea and queasiness. Ginger sweets, hard boiled sweets and Queasy Drops should do the trick. You may even want to suck on mints or chew gum.

“If you looked in my bag, it looked like I had shoplifted from the local corner shop! I had every kind of boiled sweet and mint you could think of to help with my sicky feeling!” – Mariam Keynes

8) Skin care

Your skin may start to feel dry and irritated during chemo. Body lotion can soothe irritated skin. Look for products that are recommended for sensitive skin or products tailored for cancer patients. Your lips will also feel extra dry, and may become chapped, so a tube of lip balm will be handy too.

9) Entertainment

hands knitting

Pack a selection of things to entertain yourself and make the time go by faster. You may want to read or listen to music. Or perhaps you have a hobby such as knitting, colouring in or creative writing. Why not bring along a tablet or laptop to watch a pre-downloaded TV show or film. If you can’t access a table to rest the device on, also bring a tablet holder like the iBeani cushion, and be sure to bring the charger. Include a few magazines for light reading. You might also bring games to play with the person who accompanies you. Scrabble, crossword, and other word games and puzzles are great choices because the brain stimulation will help you combat the effects of chemo brain.

10) Take note

Your nurse or doctor may hand you copies of test results or advice in leaflets and flyers. Bring a folder where you can keep all your paperwork in one place. When you’re away from the hospital, jot down any queries or concerns that may pop up, then bring the questions with you for your next appointment.


What to pack in your chemotherapy hospital tote bag

Have a peek into my chemo bag…
“The day before my first chemo session, I went shopping and bought a new tote bag – which cost me an arm and a leg! But it was worth the price tag. It had a beautiful floral print and plenty of pockets and zip sections. It may seem quite frivolous to some, but having a pretty bag to look at was almost as important as the things I put in it.
For me, it has been really important to pack home comforts, like my favourite pair of slippers and blanket. They help me feel more at ease, as well as warm. I always take plenty of snacks too. I even formed a group with some of the others, and we swap our biscuits, cakes and sweets to help with nausea.

My advice for anyone getting ready for their first day of chemo – packing your hospital bag can help you feel a little more in control and help with the anxiety you’ll probably be feeling. I suggest to you pick out your favourite tote and get packing!”Janine Norton*, diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January 2017
*Name changed for privacy

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