Pimp our chemo bag
November 27, 2016 3:24 PM   Subscribe

My mom is starting chemo. Her cancer has already made her VERY sick. She will have IV chemo starting Wednesday and each time will take about 7 hours. What should I consider packing for us?
posted by beccaj to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For the ride home: a cold pack, some ginger ale or seven up, maybe some crackers, and a puke bag. Maybe one of those neck pillows so she can rest more comfortably.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:36 PM on November 27, 2016

My Dad's nurses used to give give him starlight mints to help with dry mouth and a weird taste that came from chemo.
posted by prewar lemonade at 3:38 PM on November 27, 2016

I just did this, exactly a year ago. Daddy Intermod is fully cured, cancer undetectable.

Your mom's doctor probably gave her / you a couple pamphlets about this ... they're more like books.


They provide good information, answering every question you are going to have, providing a higher quality answers than you're going to get from random AskMefi vistors on a Sunday night.

From the National Center Institute:

Chemotherapy and You: Support for People with Cancer
PDF: http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf
HTML: https://pubs.cancer.gov/ncipl/detail.aspx?prodid=P117

Eating Hints: Before, During and After Cancer Treatment
PDF: http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/eatinghints.pdf
HTML: https://pubs.cancer.gov/ncipl/detail.aspx?prodid=P118

Download the PDFs, or bookmark the HTML links, sit down for an hour and READ THEM.
posted by intermod at 4:09 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

My brother used light weight distractions, MP3s of familiar tunes(get very comfortable earbuds); ereader with books he liked 10-30 years ago; SF, action, westerns from the same era and old cartoons. He didn't feel well enough to concentrate on new stuff. Don't be afraid to ask for a bed instead of a chair for a while too.
posted by ridgerunner at 4:13 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Different kinds of chemo produce different reactions. Nausea is much less of an issue with modern chemo regimens than it used to be due to aggressive premedication. Your oncologist or chemo center should have a good idea of what specific side effects people are likely to get.

I agree with having some mints or ginger candies just in case, some not-too-demanding stuff to pass the time (e-reader, tablet with videos, etc. It's going to be a lot of sitting around.

Comfortable clothing with multiple layers--hospitals and medical centers have all the same temperature regulation issues that office buildings do, with the added issue of having to stay in an infusion chair. If she has an infusion port, you'll need to make sure that it's accessible through the clothing you bring. Warm socks are a must.

Often people feel okay through the first few chemo treatments and then get increasingly tired and have trouble rebounding as the chemo progresses, so be alert to that and be ready to make some changes as needed.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:53 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

When Mr. Machine went through chemo, Biotene was clutch when he got dry mouth. He also GO very cold, so a fluffy blanket and good thick socks were clutch.

Also, chapstick (because of all the time he spent panting from discomfort, his lips were very dry).

Also, a snack food that you guys do not eat regularly, preferably from a store you don't normally go to. After the chemo regimen was done, Mr. Machine couldn't look at trail mix or anything from Dunkin' Donuts for months. Even walking by a DD would make him have a chemo flashback, because I would bring him stuff from Dunking Donuts during or before his sessions.

Good luck.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:55 PM on November 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

A nice blanket and an iPad: these are the things that got me through chemo. Depending on how I felt, I used the iPad for Netflix, reading, screwing around on the internet, or just listening to music.
posted by something something at 4:55 PM on November 27, 2016

You need a tote or bag for supplies to bring in, and a tote or bag for each of you to keep in the car.

There's a lot of suggestions for what to bring in already.

In the car you should have a spare set of clothes for each of you (preferably including shoes), appropriate for the current weather, and a plastic bag for dirty clothes. Include "indoor clothes" for her if she is going to be changing into yoga pants or something after she arrives.

It would also be good to have something in the car for vomiting that won't look like it's very obviously for vomiting. Also an old towel and some bottled water. (If it's below freezing, bring the bottled water in with you)

You should have a bag ready for her in case she ends up unexpectedly needing to spend the night in the hospital (sometimes there are complications). Put some things in the car for yourself that you would want if you are staying with her, or if you live far away bring what you would need for both of you if you decide to stay in a hotel overnight. (There might also be patient housing available near the hospital if you need something cheaper than a hotel, ask for a hospital social worker if you are looking for that)

Exercise your personal judgement as to whether your mom would want to know you have prepared these things.

Your mom might or might not want you to stay the whole time. It's ok to go out to eat or take some time to yourself to relax. Try to avoid anything that would cause you to end up with a strong scent on your clothes.
posted by yohko at 5:13 PM on November 27, 2016

Oh, hi. I'm feeling for you so much right now. My bestie was diagnosed with cancer 3.5 years ago and has been in chemo ever since. I have spent many, many, maaaaany hours in chemo suites. People really have it covered up above, but I just want to chime in and say that every chemo suite is different. Some places have it nailed -- comfy chairs, a bit of privacy, some light snacks for patient and companion, a selection of blankets in case patient is cold, a selection of hats knit by volunteers, in case the bald-headed cancer patient needs one. Even selections of wigs that have been donated. Other places aren't as...warm, I guess. Some places the staff are all business. Some places the staff are very nurturing. You're not going to know until you get there.

My suggestion is about stuff for *you* because maybe you haven't thought about taking care of yourself in this moment. So: bring a sweater; wear comfy shoes; bring several snacks for yourself, and don't forget a water bottle or similar; bring some reading material that doesn't require too much concentration (your mom may fall asleep, but there will still be plenty of interruptions); bring knitting or the like, if you do that and don't have to concentrate too hard on it; *****bring a charger for your phone*****.

If expensive parking is an issue at this hospital or office, ask around for long-term patient discounts. The nurses may not know about this, but contact the hospital's administrative offices or look on their website. Lots of places do discount for their repeat visitors.

Good luck to you and her. Fuck cancer.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:18 PM on November 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

warm hat, warm gloves, warm mittens, warm socks, warm slippers, warm blankies, etc

Mix baking soda with a bit of salt, or just use baking soda, add to water, and have her rinse out her mouth several time a day. Chemo can make the body very acidic and destroy the gums, tongue, and teeth.

posted by Neekee at 6:52 PM on November 27, 2016

Guided meditation recordings if that's her thing. It may be very relaxing and even bring on sleep, even if she's never done that kind of thing.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:20 PM on November 27, 2016

If she has a private suite, a bunch of incandescent white Christmas lights (don't get LED lights, they cast an ugly cold glow. You want classic white small Christmas lights). Plug them in and leave them in a messy pile on the floor or roughly lay them out behind her seat - it will create far nicer soft lighting than the overhead lights.

Or bring a little lamp that's easy to transport- maybe something like this. Again, make sure to use incandescent bulbs, not fluorescent. You're going for warm ambience here.

A heated blanket if she tends to be cold- I have the model I linked and it is just incredible- very soft, very warm, very luxurious.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:26 PM on November 27, 2016

Smell is more important than we typically realize. One thing that was reportedly great for a chemo-enduring friend was one of those microwaveable buckwheat or rice pillows, but with an extra pocket inside where you would slip one of a few different scent sachets that they were gifted with as well. This was a handmade gift from her cousin, apparently. The different scents were all slightly unusual and not her favorites, so she had something to smell that wasn't hospital or sick or industrial cleaners, but not something she would associate with other happy things like christmas cookies or lavender soap or pumpkin spice lattes.

Maybe instead of a handmade thing you could just confer with your mom about her favorite and least favorite smells and gather some lightly scented things that fall into neither of those categories.
posted by Mizu at 12:40 AM on November 28, 2016

Best answer: I work for a cancer treatment center. I recommend:
Magazines, books, or a tablet of some sort.
Headphones, if needed for a tablet/TV in the area.
A fluffy, warm blanket
Any snacks she can tolerate - crackers, bananas, apples sauce, etc
Something to drink that can settle her stomach, likely carbonated would be best.
Chapstick for dry lips
Cup for ice if needed
Fun quizzes/games to keep her mind occupied. I also recommend some kind of family history questions. You can find prompts online also. (Ex: Tell me about something you did when you were younger that you're totally embarrassed by) and then write the answers down.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 9:29 AM on November 28, 2016

When my spouse was undergoing chemo, she didn't have problems with nausea during her infusions (Thanks Ativan!). About halfway through the infusion, I would walk down to a nice deli that we both liked and bring back lunch. We would have a nice meal together and sometimes she could take a nap after with a full belly. It really broke up the day.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:28 AM on November 28, 2016

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