Dr S Suresh, Consultant-Medical Oncology, VS Hospitals, has provided a practical list of items that you need to carry with you when you go for your next chemo session.
Chemotherapy is one of the treatment modalities for cancer and is found effective at preventing its growth and spread to other body parts. It involves using cytotoxic drugs to kill the cancer cells. It is found effective in many types of cancers. Chemotherapy can be of different types, based on the cancer, and you need to understand your chemotherapy treatment to be mentally prepared to manage the treatment and its side effects.
Chemotherapy involves the periodic administration of specific drugs for several months. Chemotherapy options are individualized for each patient, and involves the usage of either a single drug or a combination of two or more drugs. The type of drug used and the mode of administration depends upon the patient’s overall health, the type of cancer and its severity.
Chemotherapy is administered across a number of chemotherapy cycles, and the length of a cycle depends on the type and dose of the drug used. Each treatment session is followed by a period of recovery, to allow the patient’s body to recover from the side effects of the drugs.
Getting ready for chemo
It is important to prepare yourselves physically and mentally before undergoing chemotherapy. Dealing with chemotherapy may drain you physically and emotionally. Some people may feel it is almost unmanageable. The experience is different for everyone as the chemotherapy treatment depends on the type of medicine and the route of administration.
Try to stay as healthy as you can before and during the treatment session. Before undergoing chemo sessions, following these tips will help you adjust your lifestyle to the side effects experienced during the treatment.
- Eat nutritious food.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Focus on positive things.
- Get enough sleep.
- Practice regular exercise.
- Read about chemotherapy and understand its side effects.
- Trust your healthcare team.
- Ask someone to accompany you for the sessions.
Prepare a Chemo Essentials Bag
Chemotherapy sessions usually take time. The treatment session may take minutes, hours, or even days, depending on the treatment protocol. The lengthy sessions can make you bored, or cause you to focus a bit too much on the drugs entering your body. This may make you uneasy. Planning can make your chemotherapy sessions easier and more comfortable.
Your healthcare team will recommend that you carry a chemo essentials bag for each session. This bag should contain a few items from your home, which will make you comfortable and keep you busy through each session.
Carrying a chemo essentials bag will reduce your stress and anxiety. Here’s a list of some essential things that should be packed for a comfortable chemotherapy session.
In some cases, the chemo sessions may last for longer duration and may involve overnight hospital stays. So, always carry an extra set of comfortable clothes. Try to pack clothes that provide easy access to your arm or the infusion port.
Pillows or headrests
You can carry a neck rest or a soft pillow to put under the legs or behind the head during chemo sessions.
Blankets or socks
The chemo rooms are usually temperature-controlled; carrying your own blanket or socks will allow you to stay warm when necessary. In rare cases, chemotherapy may cause cold hands and feet, keeping socks and gloves in your chemo bag can be of great value.
Load your phone with your favourite playlists or meditation music to distract and relax yourself during the sessions. Carry your headphones, as you may not want to disturb the others in the infusion room. Listening to music can give you a feeling of peace during your session.
Fluids, especially water
Hydration is important during chemotherapy. If you’re dehydrated, it may intensify your headache which is common during chemo sessions. Drinking water or any fluids will help you to stay hydrated. Additionally, staying hydrated will help to flush out the residual chemo toxins from your body. Therefore, always carry a water bottle during your chemo sessions and drink water periodically.
Carry books or magazines or novels in your chemo bag. You can utilize the chemo sessions as an opportunity to read the book that you didn’t have time for before. Reading will help pass the time and will also divert your mind from the stress of cancer.
Healthy meals or snacks
Chemo sessions can be lengthy. You may feel hungry during the treatment. Try to carry healthy snacks from home. Include food items high in proteins and calories as they are very important for keeping up your strength throughout the treatment. Avoid fried or spicy food items.
Chemotherapy can cause nausea, metallic taste in mouth etc. Pack a supply of things like hard candy, lemon drops or ginger candy that can help you to get rid of such side effects of chemotherapy. When it comes to nausea, everyone is different, choose something that will work for you.
Moisturisers and lip balms
Chemotherapy can make your body dehydrated, which may result in dry skin and chapped lips. It may also make your skin extremely sensitive and irritated. Carry skin lotions and lip balms to keep your skin and lips moisturised. You can also use gels or oral sprays to minimize the discomfort of a dry mouth.
Find an escape by revisiting your favourite hobbies during the chemo sessions. You can carry materials needed for drawing, knitting, puzzles and other craftworks. This is the time to learn a new skill.
In addition to the above-mentioned things, there are some essential things that you must pack for chemotherapy. These include:
- Wallet and identification
- Hand sanitizer
- Medical mask
- Your medical records
- Your insurance information
- Notebook and a pen
Take your time and pack your chemo bag thoughtfully. Including the thing mentioned above will keep you entertained throughout the session without having to cope with boredom.