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10 Things to Pack in Your Chemo Bag and 3 to Leave Out

Open blue duffle bag showing water bottle, blanket and comfortable shoes, which may be included in a chemotherapy bag.

Mesothelioma patients may receive chemotherapy infusions as part of their treatment plan. Many cancer care teams recommend packing chemo bags for these appointments. But what items could you consider packing?

Chemotherapy bags often have items to help pass the time and make you more comfortable. Examples include simple activities, reading material and cozy socks. But you can fill your own bag with anything that feels comforting or helpful to you.

How to Pack Your Chemo Bag

Bringing a chemo bag to infusions helps to make the process easier and more comfortable. A well-packed bag can ensure you have all the essentials you might need. You can also pack entertaining things to pass the time or personal items to help you feel more at home.

When deciding what to pack, it can help to review paperwork about your infusion process. For example, the length of time for infusions can vary. Knowing how long you’ll be there might impact what you want to bring.

You may want to consider other factors too, like how far you’ll walk from your car. The distance could affect how big or heavy you want your bag to be. Your cancer center may provide certain things, too, so you might choose not to bring everything on your own.

However, you can pack a chemo bag with any combination of items. You should personalize your bag by choosing whatever suits you best.

10 Things to Consider Packing for Chemo

  1. Cozy comfort items: The room for your infusion might be cold, so it’s good to be prepared with warm items. Depending on the length of your session, you might want to get more comfortable. Blankets, pillows and other cozy items may help you relax during the infusion.
  2. Warm clothes: As your infusion progresses, you might find some extra clothing layers sound nice. Depending on what you wear to the appointment, cozy socks and a sweater can be good options.
  3. Snacks: You might get hungry during chemo, especially during longer sessions. Nutritious, cancer-approved snacks that you enjoy are best. Examples include fruit, granola and crackers. Some hard candies may also help with dry mouth and nausea.
  4. Water and other beverages: These drinks can help you stay hydrated during chemo. Water, juice and decaffeinated tea are great choices.
  5. Electronic streaming devices: It can be helpful to watch your favorite comforting shows or movies to pass the time and lift the mood. You can stream or download them on a phone, laptop or tablet.
  6. Reading materials: Bring anything you enjoy reading, like a book or magazine. You may also want to consider an e-reader or tablet for convenience.
  7. Writing tools: Some patients use chemotherapy sessions as opportunities to reflect and write. You can use something simple like a journal, notebook or laptop.
  8. Something fun and creative: This can be anything you find enjoyable, maybe even a hobby you’ve been wanting to try. Examples include coloring books, knitting or crochet supplies, sketchbooks, games and puzzles.
  9. Sentimental keepsakes: Some patients find encouragement in keepsakes during their chemo appointments. These can be anything important to you, like letters from loved ones, photos of pets or special gifts. Having these nearby may bring you some joy and strength.
  10. Unscented lip balm and lotions: During treatment, your skin may feel dry or irritated. Using some unscented lip balms and lotions can help keep your skin hydrated. Unscented varieties are key, as scented ones may worsen nausea caused by chemo drugs.

Remember, there are no rules to packing chemo bags. You can pack anything you want, including things not listed here. Don’t worry about perfecting your chemo bag in the beginning. After you’ve been to a few infusions, you can always adjust what you bring next time. Bring whatever seems most helpful to you at the moment.

3 Things You May Not Want to Pack

While you want to pack things that bring you joy and comfort, a few items may be best left at home. Some things you may not want to bring include:

  1. Anything with strong smells: Scented toiletries are one culprit, but any strong-smelling snacks may also cause issues. These things may worsen some chemo side effects for you or other nearby patients.
  2. Big or bulky items: Avoid bringing anything bulky or hard to carry and opt instead for a more compact alternative. For example, if you like to paint on an easel, it may be better to bring a canvas paper pad and portable paint.
  3. Fizzy or caffeinated drinks: Staying hydrated is important, but some beverages may be problematic for cancer patients. Fizzy or caffeinated drinks, like soda or energy drinks, may dehydrate you and worsen stomach discomfort.

With these ideas in mind, you can create your personalized chemo bag. Once ready, it may be helpful to create a packing checklist. This can help you avoid forgetting important items, which can be a side effect of chemo brain. You might also keep the bag pre-packed and stored, so it’s ready for every appointment. These steps can help make preparing for your infusions as easy as possible.