What to Bring to a Chemo Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on July 23, 2023
3 min read

When you go to the hospital for chemotherapy — or chemo — your appointment may take a while. Packing a bag with necessities and comforting items can help you feel more at ease during your chemo. But, what items should you bring?

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses one or more drugs to kill cancer in your body. It is often called “chemo” for short. Cancer cells in your body grow and multiply very quickly, and chemo slows this process. The drugs used in chemotherapy block cancer cells from being able to split and multiply.

Chemo is especially effective when cancer is identified and treated early on. It is often used at the same time as other treatment options like surgery or radiation.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a chemo treatment that targets cancer cells exclusively. So, chemo may also kill your healthy cells that grow quickly like your hair roots and those in your intestinal lining.

You may receive your chemo drugs using an IV inserted into your veins or pills that you swallow. Your doctor determines the type and dosage based on your overall health and the severity of your condition‌.

Chemo usually lasts for six to twelve months. You’ll have periods of rest between treatment sessions so that your body can recover.

Comfortable clothes. You’ll likely be allowed to wear your clothes from home during your treatments. Make sure what you wear is comfortable. If you do need to change into a hospital gown or other attire, you’ll want a comfortable change of clothes in your chemo bag to put on when you leave. Make sure your outfit is easy to get on and off in case you feel tired after your treatment.

Other medications. If you’re taking any medications, be sure to pack them in your chemo treatment bag. It’s important to take your medications on time. Even if you don’t anticipate taking medication during your chemotherapy, pack them in your chemo bag just in case.

Drinks. When you are going through chemo treatment, staying hydrated can help you feel better. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages like soda, energy drinks, and some teas. Instead, pack water, fruit juices, or decaffeinated tea.

Snacks. Maintaining a healthy weight during chemo is important. Pack your chemo bag with your favorite snacks. Calories and protein help your body replenish healthy cells that are killed during chemo. You can also include things like lemon or ginger candy to help prevent nausea.

Comfort items. If you have a favorite pillow or blanket, bring it with you. Having something that smells and feels familiar can help you stay calm and relaxed during your treatment.

Something to read. Whether it’s a magazine, book, or audiobook, your time in chemotherapy is well spent reading. You can think of your chemo session as an opportunity to read a book you wouldn’t have time for otherwise. Reading can help to lift up your spirits during this difficult time.

Music. If you don’t feel like reading, listening to music is a great way to keep your mind off your treatment. You can include a music listening device in your chemo bag, or use the music player on your phone or tablet. Besides music, you can listen to motivational speeches or podcasts or use meditation apps that help you keep calm during your treatment.

Games. You can download digital games on your phone or tablet before your appointment. Find a fun game that challenges you and keeps you busy. If someone is able to accompany you to the treatment session, consider playing a card game or other small two-person game that fits in your chemotherapy treatment bag.

Journaling. Writing can be a wonderful way to relax. You can use it to get your feelings out onto paper or as a creative outlet. You can also take this time to write letters to friends and family.

Hobby. If you have an activity you love, like crocheting or quilting, bring your project with you in your hospital chemo bag. Keeping your hands busy on a project also keeps your mind busy.

Other ways to prepare for your chemo treatment include:

  • Getting enough sleep the night before your appointment
  • Eating a healthy meal before your treatment, keeping in mind that chemo may make you feel nauseous. Something light is best.
  • Making arrangements for someone to drop you off and pick you up