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Nov 7, 2016 10:15AM
Not every newly diagnosed person will need chemo, but if they do, this is my list of items that are handy during chemotherapy:
1. A washable tote bag, with some good pockets for storing any schedules or information that your chemo team gives you. I also keep my port information in my bag.
2. If the patient doesn't have a port access, and gets vein access, they won't be able to use one of their hands well during chemo. An e-reader/tablet comes in very handy, as the compromised hand can hold the reader, and the free hand can navigate.
3. Noise cancelling headphones. Infusion suites can be noisy, with small TVs at almost every chair. If you hate TV noise, and I do, a good pair of noise cancelling headphones and a podcast or music service lined up on your tablet can make your chemo session more relaxing. If your chemo suite has no wi-fi, or spotty wi-fi, ask your family for a small device that you can download podcasts or music onto. The headphones don't block out your chemo nurse asking you questions, so you aren't completely cut off from the world. Ear plugs also work well if you just want some quiet.
4. Sleep Mask. If you get Benadryl as part of your pre-meds, you are going to feel nappy. Find a comfortable, washable sleep mask, as the bright lights in a chemo suite will get in the way of optimal napping.
5. Food and Drink. Most chemos require that you drink a lot of fluids to flush your system. Get a big old bottle of water, doctor it according to your taste buds, and keep drinking. Pack a shelf-stable, bland snack in case your chemo suite doesn't provide them. This is not the time to eat something overly sweet, spicy, or smelly - unless you enjoy nausea.
5. A few good magazines and books. I've never been able to read complex stuff during chemo (I blame pre-meds!), but glossy magazines and books that are old friends are great. Don't pack so many that your bag gets too heavy. Remember, when you are done with them, you can donate them to the chemo suite.
6. Chargers for your phone and devices. Running out of juice during a chemo session can lead to boredom.
7. A change of socks, and undergarments. I like to wear house socks with grippy soles for chemo because I put my feet on the recliner chair, and I can zip to the bathroom without putting my shoes back on. When removing the socks, put them in a plastic bag and wash them when you get home. Medical floors can be quite germs.
8. This isn't for the bag, but since you are chugging down the fluids, you'll need to go to the restroom with your IV pole, and a compromised hand, for those of you without a port. Dress accordingly. I have found that pants with elastic waists are the easiest to navigate with one good hand. Those of you with small bladders might want to have some absorbent liners pre-installed in your undergarments, in case someone is in the bathroom and you are forced to wait. Some chemo requires a big bag of fluid to administer, and you might wake up out of your premeds nap with an Urgent Need. Have spare liners in your bag. Learn from my pain - I totally wet myself once waiting on the bathroom, and had no spare undergarments in my bag.
Beyond chemotherapy logistics, a newly diagnosed person should find/have people to talk to. Your head is going to be messed up. It took me six months to become a rational person again. This site helped so much. Thank you breast cancer.org people for being there when my family just didn't know how to support me.
ER/PR+, HER2-, Grade 3. Stage 4, July 2012. Currently on Halaven (again)
5/2006, IDC, 4cm, Stage IIB, Grade 3, 4/12 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
3/2012, IDC, Stage IV, 4/12 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
6/27/2012 Taxol (paclitaxel)
6/4/2013 Faslodex (fulvestrant)
6/30/2014 Xeloda (capecitabine)
8/14/2015 Femara (letrozole)
1/31/2016 Halaven (eribulin)