7 must-haves to pack in your chemo bag

January 14, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

If you are about to start chemotherapy treatments, it’s normal to feel a little nervous as you head to your first infusion appointment.

You’re hoping for a comfortable experience, but you may be there for up to several hours — it all depends on your individual chemotherapy plan.

Ask your doctor in advance what to expect. It also helps to have some ideas in mind for passing the time and keeping your mind off your treatment, especially if you can’t bring a family member or friend.

How can you plan to make your chemotherapy session more comfortable? Below are seven must-haves to pack in your chemo bag:

  1. Healthy snacks and water. Bring a water bottle, as staying hydrated can help flush toxins out of your body and combat chemo side effects like nausea, constipation and fatigue. Bring snacks (e.g., crackers, fresh fruit, chicken broth, ginger tea) to stay nourished. Chemo can cause dry mouth and taste changes so bring mints, lemon drops, ginger chews or hard candies.

  2. Books/tablet or magazines. If you’ve been wanting to escape into a new book, reading is a good way to stay calm and pass the time during chemo. If you’re able to bring along a friend or family member, consider reading the same book so you can discuss it together.

  3. Your phone, laptop or iPad. Listening to music or a meditation app, or watching a movie or TV show, can be a good distraction from chemo and help you stay relaxed. Don’t forget to pack your charger and ear plugs/headphones.

  4. Journal/notebook or coloring book/sketchpad. Journaling can be a great outlet for expressing your thoughts and feelings. Write a letter to someone. Make a list of things for which you are grateful. Bring a sketchpad to draw or doodle. Adult coloring books can help calm your mind as well.

  5. Games, puzzles and crafts. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku and other games are a good distraction during chemo and can keep your mind sharp, which may help ward off chemo brain. You may want to bring a crochet kit to create a scarf or hat. If a family member or friend is with you, a card game or conversation starter game can help pass the time.

  6. Comfort items. It can get chilly in infusion centers so a soft, cozy blanket or scarf can be comforting on chemo days. In addition to wearing comfortable clothes (consider layers), bring warm socks or slippers. Chemo can make your lips and skin dry, so bring lip balm and/or fragrance-free, hypoallergenic hand lotion.

  7. Relaxation tools. Pack items that ease stress and help you relax, such as peppermint essential oil, a neck pillow or an anti-nausea acupressure wristband. Bring your favorite photos or index cards with positive affirmations to help you stay relaxed and positive during chemo.

Learn about support services available to help you through your cancer journey.

Learn more about cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.


Is HIPEC surgery for abdominal cancer right for me?

Dr. Salti discusses who can be eligible for HIPEC surgery, a powerful treatment for patients with abdominal cancers.

Read More

doctor checking patient's lymph nodes

Similar yet different: Hodgkin versus non-Hodgkin lymphoma

It can be easy to be confused by Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These two diseases may sound similar, but...

Read More

HDCancer lungscrop

New method to detect lung cancer eliminates wait-and-see approach

Thanks to state-of-the-art robotic technology, Edward-Elmhurst Health physicians have a new tool to diagnose lung canc...

Read More