As a patient on cancer treatment, there are many times where you may find yourself with lots of time up your sleeve. Chemo can be long and exhausting, and the further you are along in your regime, side effects also affect the way you feel.
Staying comfortable, hydrated and entertained is the best way to pass the time and keep your mind happy.
Here we have compiled a list of things you and your support person can bring to treatment to help with self care, mental health and comfort.
7 Things Cancer Patients Need During Chemo
1. Something to keep warm:
Hospitals and treatment centres are often cold and when sitting still for hours at a time, it’s easy to get really cold. Some medications that are given through an IV are also kept in the fridge prior to being given so having cold liquid going through your veins doesn’t help! Some hospitals will be able to give patients a warm blanket which really helps with comfort but some other items that are really useful include gloves, a beanie (especially if the person has lost some or all of their hair), and hand/pocket warmers.
2. Something to entertain:
Chemotherapy can often last for hours, even days. There can be a lot of waiting around including before and during the actual treatment, doctor appointments and blood tests. Having some options to stay entertained when you want to can really help to pass the time. Bring a book, electronic devices, phone, game device or iPad, and don’t forget the charger! Having an extra long charging cable can be helpful as power points aren’t always close by. Be sure to bring headphones or earphones so as not to disturb other patients. Some examples of things to watch and listen to are Netflix series, podcasts, YouTube, Spotify playlists. Most platforms allow you to download files to your device which you can do while on WiFi to ensure you don’t use up all your mobile data.
3. Something to keep comfortable:
Depending on where you receive your treatment you may be seated in a large reclining chair, or a bed while the medication is given. Getting comfortable can sometimes be tricky, so some items that can help include a cosy cardigan, a soft blanket or shawl, a neck pillow, and an eye mask.
4. Something to keep hands and mind busy:
If you feel anxious or nervous before and during treatment, having something to do with your hands can help distract you from these stressful thoughts. If you enjoy crafts like knitting, crochet or cross stitch, they’re a great option to bring along as they are compact and easy to pack. Perhaps you enjoy colouring in, which can be really helpful for mindfulness or like to keep your brain active with crossword puzzles or sudoku.
5. Something for Self Care:
If your treatments are causing side effects like dry skin or cracked lips, it’s important to try and maintain moisture to avoid pain or even wounds and infections if the skin breaks. Look for lips balms and hand creams that contain quality natural moisturising ingredients like shea or cocoa butter, lanolin, seed oils or vitamin E. You could also try a cuticle oil, rubbing it in all around your fingernails to help keep them from splitting and drying out. And importantly, don’t forget to keep drinking lots of water, bring your fave water bottle to keep sipping during the day.
6. Something to write on:
If you enjoy journaling, the time during chemo can be great to get writing. While being really helpful for your mental health, it can also be a way to document your experience and the thoughts and feelings you have about your diagnosis and life as it is now.
Bringing a notebook is another helpful way to remember important details that might be discussed during a doctor’s appointment. Make notes about side effects you’ve experienced and want to let them know about, and any questions to ask them. If possible, bring another person who can take notes during the appointment for you so you can concentrate on what is being discussed.
7. Someone to sit with:
Perhaps the most important thing on this list is having some company during the time sitting in chemo. Cancer treatment can be a lonely experience so having a friend or family member come with you can help you feel supported and make the time go faster. Check with the hospital you attend if visitors or a support person is allowed to come with you and if there are any restrictions (like mask wearing, vaccination status and cough or cold symptoms).
You don’t always need to chat, just being there is enough. Your support person might want to bring a book or device as well to help them pass the time.