Having chemotherapy as part of your treatment plan can raise many questions and can be difficult to know what to expect.
Chemotherapy session can sometimes take up a better part of your day and in most cases there will be multiple infusions, over many days. There is also alot of “ down time” waiting as many of the medications need to be infused slowly over several minutes or hours. And even prior to the infusion, you may spend minutes to hours receiving drugs designed to reduce your risk of nausea or allergic reactions from the chemotherapy drugs given later on.
Going through chemotherapy can be emotionally challenging, to say the least.
Where do you even begin when preparing for chemo?
Take advantage of your cancer team: asking questions about what to expect, who can come to treatment, what items you will be provided, and what you’re allowed to bring with you is a great starting point.
Sometimes the infusion wards will offer things like warm blankets as well as tea and water.
So what should you pack in your bag or for your loved one?
To start with, having a prepacked bag with all your necessities already in it and ready to go will help ease pre-treatment anxiety.
Bring a friend.
Now this item you can’t exactly pack with you in your bag, but with inviting a friend or a loved one to your infusion is probably one of the most important things on your list. No-one should be facing cancer treatment alone.
Many people hesitate to ask their loved ones to join, but remember your friends and loved ones may feel helpless in not knowing what to do to help, and this gives them an opportunity to really be there for you.
Wear Comfortable Clothing
Be sure to wear comfortable clothing. Infusion rooms are usually rather open spaces and room temperatures tend to be cooler. I recommend wearing layers that way if you are too hot or too cold you can simply add or remove clothing as you need to. And definitely pack socks.
It is also an idea to wear some looser fitting tops or port-accessible tops unzip near the armpit to allow for easy port access. If chemotherapy-related hair loss is a concern, a cozy knitted hat or a beautify scarf can help protect your head from cold hospital drafts.
Bring a Pillow and a Blanket.
Have you ever slept on a hospital pillow? If you have you will understand why I recommend bringing your own. Make the experience for yourself as comfortable as possible, bring something familiar from home. Pillows and blankets can sometimes be your savings grace. Not only does that throw provide physical warmth, but it can fill you with a cozy emotional warmth as well.
Some infusion wards may offer heated blankets so do be sure to ask!
Bring Chews or Your favourite healthy Snack
There are special chews to alleviate symptoms of dry mouth caused by cancer drugs and radiation. Chewing ginger chews stimulates the flow of saliva, and ginger can also help reduce nausea. Chews can also be beneficial for patients who experience a bad taste in their mouth when their catheter is flushed.
Be sure to bring water and other healthy snacks – sugary snacks and biscuits are usually on offer however you may like to bring your own healthy snacks especially if you have preferences or are maintaining a more wholesome diet.
Lymphoedema Compression Sleeve
Cancer-related Lymphoedema can occur as a result of surgery, radiation or infection. Lymphoedema is the swelling or build up of lymph fluid.
It is important that you monitor yourself for any signs of swelling and speak with your Dr as soon as possible. A compression sleeve or compression garment can be helpful to manage symptoms of pain and swelling.
If you have been diagnosed with Lymphoedema be sure to continue to wear your sleeve daily and liaise with your Lymphoedema Practitioner if you have any questions or concerns.
Moisturiser and Lip Balm
Chemotherapy may damage fast-growing skin cells causing dry, itchy skin that peels. Moisturising before and after chemo can be helpful. I recommend Moo Goo however there are many options for rehydrating the skin.
Additionally side effects like dry lips and mouth sores are very common. I recommend using a lip balm that is both natural, fragrance-free and made without any harmful ingredients. Something as simple as a small amount coconut oil can be helpful – Great for applying to the outer corners of lips if needed.
Read a Good Book or Start Journaling
You won’t necessarily read your books, but it’s nice to have them should you want the time to relax.
Read books that offer hope, encouragement, and guidance. They can either be cancer related or anything else that you find inspiring or that you enjoy reading example: fiction, self -help, spiritual or autobiographical. Alternatively you can use an app like Audible that will read the books to you – often read by the author.
Reading not your jam? Fair enough. How about Journaling or sketching? Research has shown that journaling may be able to help people experience a greater sense of emotional well-being as well as help people feel better physically. A journal can also be used to set personal goals and provide self-encouragement.
And journaling doesn’t always have to mean writing. Some people find that sketching and drawing in their journals can help to express emotions.
About the Author Amanda Da- Silva is a Certified Lymphoedema Practitioner and Oncology Massage Therapist. Specialising in Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Breast Health, Mastectomy Aftercare and Breast Cancer Recovery.
Amanda offers both In-Person Sessions (Bangalow clinic) and Virtual Consultation. To book in either an In-Person or Virtual Consultation visit www.recoverymassage.com.au