As an advanced nurse practitioner who answered patients’ calls for the help line of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute for seven years, I found that one of the most common questions patients ask is what to bring to chemotherapy infusion sessions.

To prepare for your infusion, stock your bag with familiar and comfortable things from home, including:

1) Extra clothes. Infusion rooms and treatment can make you feel cold, so bring layers. Pack a hat or hoodie to cover your head, especially if you have experienced hair loss from your chemotherapy. Wear comfortable clothing that gives easy access to your arm or port so nurses can administer the infusion.

2) Reading materials. Find an escape in a long novel, magazines, poetry or religious readings.

3) Blanket and pillow. Medical facilities and chemotherapy suites are usually chilly, so bring a warm blanket and your favorite pillow for comfort.

4) Music. To distract and relax yourself, load your iPad or smartphone with your favorite playlists, or listen to meditation or guided imagery podcasts. Headphones can help drown out the noise of the infusion center.

5) Movies. Most cancer centers have televisions with DVD capabilities in the infusion suite. Ask your nurse if they have a movie selection or download movies to a mobile device.

6) Journal or coloring books. It can be therapeutic to write your thoughts down. In addition, many adults are finding their inner child with coloring books that include intricate designs, including mandalas. Finding your inner artist can be calming.

7) Stationery, checkbooks and other materials for checking to-dos off your list. Use this time to catch up on letter writing, emails or balancing your checkbook. Sometimes focusing on tasks that make you feel productive can help when things feel out of control.

8) Snacks. Usually you’re able to eat during chemotherapy infusion, but you should always check with your doctor. Protein and calories are very important for keeping your strength up throughout the course of your entire treatment. Cancer centers usually have light snacks available, but bring your favorite healthy snacks from home. Remember, your tastes may change as you continue treatment.

9) Water. Hydration is crucial during chemotherapy. Always carry a water bottle and drink periodically.

10) Craft materials​. Revisit your favorite hobbies, whether knitting, crocheting or beading. Drawing can be a great outlet. Moving your hands can help keep them warm.

11) Lip balm. Dry skin and lips are a side effect of chemotherapy. Keep your lips moisturized to help prevent cracking.

12) Candy or mints. Certain chemotherapy treatments cause nausea. Others cause dryness and leave a “metallic” taste in your mouth. Treats such as lemon drops or ginger candy may help with these side effects.

13) Support. While you can’t really pack support in a bag, don’t forget to ask a friend or loved one to accompany you to your infusion. Having someone with you can help the time pass and offer a diversion.

If you feel anxious about starting chemotherapy, try to learn as much as you can about your treatment and what to expect. Some hospitals ​and cancer centers offer chemotherapy education classes or tours of the chemotherapy suite, so take advantage of these services if they are offered.​ 

Jamie L. Schwachter is a nurse practitioner and co-author of The Complete Cancer Organizer: Your Answers to Questions About Living With Cancer.