Patient’s perspective: What to bring to chemotherapy

It can be an overwhelming process as you prepare for your first chemotherapy appointment. What do you pack? What should you leave at home? 

Stefanie Greenleaf is both a patient and a volunteer at Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville. When we asked her to share some items that brought her joy and comfort during her treatments, she jumped at the opportunity to help.

“I think it is important to focus on items that make you smile and make you happy,” said Stefanie. 

Below is a list compiled by Stefanie of items she found helpful to pack for her chemotherapy treatments.

  1. Bag large enough to comfortably hold your personal items. It can be a nuisance when you have to remove too many items from your bag to get what is on the bottom, so make sure you have room to maneuver.
  2. Personal blanket or quilt. Even though warm blankets will be provided, there is nothing better than a very special personal blanket to keep you warm during treatment.
  3. Dress in layers. The infusion area is purposely kept at a cooler temperature. Bring a sweater or jacket that can be removed if needed.
  4. If a port has been given, wear a top that provides easy access to the port. sport stops with a zipper in the front area. Special tops with side zippers for chemo treatments can be purchased online.
  5. Treatment can take several hours. You may be asked to take Benadryl before your treatment. If you become sleepy and light tends to bother you, a travel eye mask will be very helpful.
  6. Have a driver/caregiver. Until you know how the treatments affect you, it is best to have someone bring you to and take you back home after treatment. This person can stay with you during treatments.  Because the 1st treatment has many unknowns to the patient, it is helpful to have your “person” be someone that can comfort you, a person you trust and can express your concerns to.
  7. Snacks/liquids. Bring items that are not too greasy and heavy on your stomach. Also, be mindful of other patients; try not to bring foods with a very strong smell as many patients fight nausea. A courtesy cart is available in the infusion area and volunteers will check with you to see if you need anything to eat/drink.  Also, it is always nice to have a few treats for your caregiver during treatment.
  8. Candy. Chemotherapy can leave an unpleasant taste. Hard candy or gum is a great tool to cover up that bad taste.
  9. Personal items: sanitizer/masks, lip-balm/hand lotion, tissues.
  10. To pass time, you may want to bring a crossword puzzle book, coloring book, magazine, or regular book. If you like to listen to audio, make sure to bring your headphones so that the other patients are not disturbed.
  11. A phone/tablet will allow you to do many things while receiving treatment. Since your treatment can take several hours, be sure to bring a charger.
  12. Always have a notebook/pen with you. Your nurse will provide you with lots of information pertaining to your chemo; it will be much easier to recall info afterward if notes have been taken. Maybe your caregiver/driver can take notes for you.  

You can also watch a video of Stephanie showing you each item she brought on our YouTube channel HERE