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After going through 14 rounds of chemotherapy to treat triple-negative breast cancer, I made a list of nine items I’m happy I had with me in the chemo chair.
I celebrated my 29th birthday just weeks before I got the dreadful call, “your biopsy results confirm that you have triple-negative breast cancer and need to start treatment right away.”
If you’ve received a call like this, then you know how paralyzing it feels but also how important it is to spring into action.
Within a few days, I was in surgery getting an infusion port inserted so that I could begin chemotherapy as soon as possible. The day after surgery, my husband and I attended a “chemo class” where we were educated on the ins and outs of chemotherapy and the long list of side effects I could experience from treatment. I remember having a lot of anxiety around what infusion days would be like and what side effects I would have.
Now that I’ve recently completed 14 rounds and am officially done with chemotherapy, I’ve learned a lot of tips that helped make infusion days much more bearable. Below are 10 essentials that I brought with and used at every infusion.
It’s likely that you’ll be at the hospital for a good portion of the day for the infusion, so wearing clothes that are comfortable is key. During my infusion days, I would always wear layers to help stay comfortable in changing temperatures from hot flashes or cold air conditioning. Also keep in mind that you will be sitting in a chair for most of the day, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing any tight or restrictive clothing that could dig into you uncomfortably.
2. Hand Sanitizer or Sanitized Hand Wipes
Staying as healthy as possible and minimizing exposure to germs is so important throughout treatment, especially as chemotherapy starts to weaken your immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. I found it helpful to bring my own hand sanitizer and sanitized hand wipes to clean my hands after touching surfaces throughout the check-in process.
3. Lidocaine Cream
You’ll need to talk to your doctor to prescribe this, but I highly recommend that you do. As you undergo treatment, you’re going to be poked by a lot of needles whether it’s for labs, IVs or the infusion, and the lidocaine cream can help numb the area in advance to minimize the pain. I applied the cream to my infusion port area 20 minutes before being hooked up, and it worked like a charm to where I could barely feel the needle!
Since you’re likely going to be sitting in the infusion chair for at least a couple of hours, it’s helpful to bring a blanket to help keep you comfortable and cozy. I highly recommend taking a little nap if you’re able to, especially if you’re getting steroids because they might keep you awake at night.
5. Gum, Mints or Hard Candies
It’s not uncommon to get weird tastes in your mouth from the pre-meds or chemo. The pre-meds always left an unpleasant chemical-like taste so I would chew fruity flavored sugar-free gum to help, although you could use mints or hard candies as well. I personally opted for sugar-free gum to prevent getting unnecessary cavities since my medical team advised me to avoid going to the dentist for cleanings during treatment and preferred a fruity flavor since the chemo made my mouth sensitive to mint and citrus.
6. Hand Lotion
There are a lot of culprits that will dry your hands during treatment: the dry hospital air, washing them constantly, using hand sanitizer, etc. so I found that bringing a little tube of hand lotion was helpful to make sure they didn’t get overly dry or cracked.
Despite being pumped full of liquids during your infusion, chemo does not help hydrate. I found it helpful to bring two drinks: water and something flavorful. I personally opted for something that had electrolytes in it, but don’t recommend bringing your favorite drink in case you can't keep it down.
If you’re able to eat, do it! Bring snacks that can be tolerated by a sensitive stomach, but don't bring your favorite snack because if you vomit then that snack might be ruined for you forever. I also recommend trying to eat a little something before you go to chemotherapy, that always helped me tolerate the infusion a bit better.
With the infusions typically taking at least a couple of hours, I highly recommend bringing some form of entertainment with you. Bringing a book, computer, journal, etc. can help pass the time. Don't forget headphones if planning to listen to music or watch videos!
Going through cancer treatment can be challenging and chemotherapy, in particular, can take its toll. My hope is that these essentials will help make your infusion days more bearable so that you can keep up the fight. Stay strong, you got this!
This post was written and submitted by Elizabeth Hicks. The article reflects the views of Elizabeth Hicks and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.
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