I went for chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre once a week for two years.
Not knowing that they would turn into full days spent there, I didn’t know what to pack at first so I brought along one water, a granola bar, and a book to my first chemo.
After quickly realizing that we’d spend a full day at the hospital on chemo days, the nurse explained to us that although you may have a “set-time” for blood and chemo, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is when you get called in. She told us that it takes a while for the blood results to come back and once they are cleared by the nurse practitioner, then chemo gets ordered.
Once chemo gets ordered, it’s a matter of the pharmacy making the order, which takes time since there are many sections that they provide for.
From that day on, I always made sure to pack my favorite items that I always kept on-hand – not only for chemo, but during my period of treatment whenever I stepped out.
Crackers & other dry goodies:
I was on steroids for two years and a bit.
It was brutal during my intensification phase (30 weeks of high dose steroids) where I usually had heartburn or nausea and needed to munch on something dry to feel better... or y’know, just felt like eating to pass the time.
Crackers were my go-to and always a staple item to have in my bag because I just never knew when I’d get the steroid munchies.
Other dry, salty goodies like popcorn or even bread, made it a lot easier to keep my hunger at bay…most of the time seeing as I was hungry all the time.
Let’s be honest, I always carried some sort of food on me whether it be sandwiches, rice, or left-over pasta.
I would whip it out of my bag when I was bored or thought I was hungry and set myself up with a mini picnic.
I had purchased a wig at the Wig Salon at PMH but I only wore it twice because I preferred to go bald and just wear hats out of comfort.
I purchased pretty much every single hat in that store and then some!
I liked carrying around different style hats to change into whether at the hospital at an appointment or while I was out.
At the point of treatment, changing hats for me was like changing shirts and never knowing which to wear because I just had too many options...yup, that was me! But hey, it’s not like I can’t transition them into everyday hats now that my hair is back.
Chapstick & Moisturizer (LOTS OF IT):
I expected skin changes as one of the side-effects, but because it was the winter time, I had extra chapped lips and extra dry hands. I had to reapply my Chapstick at least three times within the hour and constantly moisturize my hands to prevent them from cracking.
While taking steroids, I found it extremely difficult to keep up with any hydration because everything tasted like metal to me, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try and force myself because then it would lead to other problems…if you know what I’m saying.
At least carrying the bottle with me would encourage me to drink it, not only because it made my bag heavier so anything to finish it and get rid of it, but also because it stuck out of my bag so I knew it was always there right in front of my face.
Anyone and everyone should always make sure to apply some sort of protection to their skin.
I never thought that I’d start wearing sunscreen during the winter months but I had too because I learned about all the risks associated with sun exposure during chemotherapy.
As much as it scared me, it put me in place knowing that I needed to constantly reapply it, even if I was just driving around in the car.
Now, it has just become a habit of mine to always apply it in the morning and carry it in my bag to reapply it throughout the day. The small travel size options, or the ones that come in the Look Good Feel Better goodie bag, are a great size to have on you.
“Disinfect everything!” are the words that stuck with me throughout my entire treatment.
The nurses made it very clear that germs loved me at this point – y’know, being immunosuppressed and all.
I was susceptible to catching anything so I had to make sure that not only were my hands always clean, but also any surfaces.
To be fair, it was embarrassing at first, having to disinfect tables at the mall in food courts if I went to buy a coffee with family or friends, being extremely cautious in public bathrooms, and even if I was having a picnic at parks…people looked at me funny but I knew I had to be careful.
I grew used to the idea of being “safe,” so I made sure to not make it a big deal and embrace what I was going through when I had to do it.
If people looked at me funny or stared, I’d smile and say, “I know, right!? How can someone fighting cancer and going through chemo look this great bald?” or “I pay my oncologist big bucks to look the way that I do." *wink*”
People thought I was ridiculous, but what did I care. I was going through this, not them, so there was absolutely no need for it to bother them in any way, shape, or form.
Just learn to laugh about it and then people will laugh with you.
Books/Magazines & Entertainment:
You need to pass the time somehow, right? During treatment, I grew to love psychology and self-help books. I found them to be quite insightful at this point in my life. I was already going through a life-changing experience, which made me begin to question everything, so I decided to take that time and revaluate my whole life and give it a makeover.
Plus, I always had my cellphone on me…social media, games, texting.
Books, magazines, crossword puzzles, cell phones or what have you, carry them around with you because you’ll find you’ll have a lot of time on your hands while going to treatment or other appointments, so might as well make the most of it.
I always found myself to be out and about at the point when my medication or vitamins were due. I found it a lot easier to just carry them around in a cute little make-up bag that I had purchased solely for that purpose. That kept everything safe, clean, and in a place that I knew would always be in my bag.