Managing Treatments

What to Bring to Chemo: Packing to Support the Cancer Patient

Bringing along a few specific items, like an iPad, can provide distraction and entertainment during chemotherapy treatments.
Bringing along a few specific items, like an iPad, can provide distraction and entertainment during chemotherapy treatments.

If your loved one or friend is going to chemotherapy treatments, it’s helpful to volunteer to accompany him or her to the visit. You can simply offer to drive to and from the appointment, or you can make chemo a bit more tolerable for your friend. To best equip you with realistic ideas of what you should toss in your bag, here’s a list of what to bring to chemo to help keep your friend company. Of course, everyone is different and preferences are unique, but this list will give you a great start.

Something to Read and Work On

Chemotherapy appointments last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours or more, and appointments can be many days in a row, according to the American Cancer Society. Needless to say, if you’re in it for the long haul, it’s smart to find something to read together. Only read the book when you are together, at chemo appointments or later on in the day. You will both share the escape and look forward to continuing together.

If your friend is still working during treatment, chemo is a time when you can become a personal assistant. Offer to read emails to your friend and type out the reply as she dictates it to you. Brainstorm her next project with her, taking notes of the ideas that she likes. Offer to type out an agenda for her next big meeting. Typing an email or staring at a computer screen when you already have a chemo-induced headache seems impossible, so having a friend nearby to pick up the slack is invaluable.

Something to Laugh About and Relax With

Chemo appointments sometimes act as harsh reminders of the constant cancer battle. Pack something that gives your friend a reason to laugh. Download a funny movie or a comedy series from iTunes, or pick up a book from her childhood from the library. You can even snuggle under a comfy blanket while jumping online to find silly memes or awful photos of your ex-boyfriend to keep things from getting too serious and scary.

Appointments can be emotionally and physically draining, and a chance to relax is a wonderful gift for you to give. Consider bringing in lotion for a hand or foot rub — chemo side effects often include dry or itchy skin, so a lotion treatment from a good friend is heavenly. Diffuse essential oils and pair with a cool eye mask, or offer to paint your friend’s nails with a small manicure kit. Just be sure to check with the chemo clinic ahead of time to be sure that you can bring in fragrant items.

Something to Eat

Chemo appointments aren’t exactly the first place you think of when considering snacks. But think again, as food should be on your list of what to bring to chemo with your friend. Chemo patients are often dealing with mouth sores as nasty side effects from treatment. Sometimes, a frozen treat is the perfect diversion and pain reliever. If your chemo center doesn’t already have popsicles available, pack a cooler full of your friend’s favorites. Don’t forget extra ice packs! Your friend’s favorite hard candies or lollipops are also good options to stash in your bag, especially if they cannot tolerate anything cold.

Just being available to accompany your friend to chemo appointments is helpful and encouraging. However, packing a few items in your bag the next time you attend chemo makes you an extra special cheerleader.

Another way to support your friend is to help her look her best. The Flourish Boutique is a resource for both of you.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress