What to Bring to Your First Chemo Treatment: 6 Tips

Preparing for your first chemo treatment can unsurface a variety of emotions. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is stressful, let alone preparing for an intense treatment. Know that any intimidation or apprehension you feel surrounding chemo is completely normal and valid. 

To help soothe any fear or nervousness you might be feeling, we asked the CaringBridge community to share their best tips on what to bring to the first chemo treatment. Knowing what to bring can help you feel more comfortable. Plus, surrounding yourself with what you know will make this new and often overwhelming experience a little less foreign. 

1. Comfortable Layers With Zippers or Buttons 

When it comes to clothing for chemo, two things are important: access and comfort. You’ll want to wear a shirt with buttons, a hoodie sweatshirt with a zipper down the front or something similar so your healthcare team can access your port. You’ll also want to make sure you’re cozy no matter how cold you’re feeling, so layers are always good. 

“Wear a shirt with buttons or zipper so they can access your port. I also brought something to eat like crackers, a granola bar, and water. Don’t forget your charger for your cell phone. Stay positive and God bless you.”

Stella P. 

“I brought a quilt that was made for me, and a stuffed animal from my kids. My chemo is 3 hours so it’s nice to be comfortable.”

Amanda N. 

2. Friends and Family  

Pictured above is Caroline Wright, whose story is part of the CaringBridge How We Heal Series.

Not all centers allow visitors, so we recommend checking the visitor rules where you’ll be going. When you can, bring a family member or friend who can support you. Know that even if you need to go to an appointment alone, you can always call, facetime, or text with a loved one during treatment. Sometimes having someone to chat with can help keep you entertained and in good spirits during chemo. 

“My daughter and when she couldn’t go, my son and a friend for a sense of humor!”

Maxine P. 

“I went to the first day of my wife’s chemo, we had each other and never missed an appointment and we were always together through it all – including surgery and radiation. My heart and prayers are always with all of you and your families Amen!”

Minnie S. 

“I was a chemo companion for my mom and a friend. I felt that was the best I could provide.”

Mickey F.

3. Drinks and Snacks

Chemo treatments can take a while, so it’s a good idea to be prepared with plenty of snacks and drinks. Chemo veterans recommended bottles of water, fruit, granola bars, crackers and other munchies. Some cancer care centers offer snacks for patients. You might find things like crackers, juice, coffee, toast and tea already there.

It’s worth noting that greasy or spicy foods are not recommended because they could increase your risk of nausea. It’s better to avoid those just before and during chemo.

“My treatment was 4-5 hours, so I had something to drink and a snack.” 

Kathy A. 

“My first chemo I took two water bottles, fruit, and a crossword book.”

Cathy R.

4. Books, Music and Games 

Often when we’re nervous about something, we tend to fixate on it. Pretty soon, it’s all we can think about. Introducing a little healthy distraction will help you shift your focus so you’re not circling around your fears throughout your chemo treatment.

For many, sitting still while feeling anxious can be difficult. Hands-on activities can often help to alleviate anxiety. Consider bringing crossword puzzles, knitting projects, board games, crochet, cards or even coloring books to your appointments. 

If you love to read, books, magazines and newspapers are a good option. If you have a comfort book, consider bringing it with. Getting lost in a familiar story can often add some comfort to a stressful situation.  

You may also bring your phone or tablet, along with a charger and headphones. Try an audiobook, podcast or listening to music to soothe your nerves and take your mind off things. You can even play games on your device, or download your favorite movies and shows to watch.

“I brought someone with me to talk to. A game, blanket, coffee, cold drink. The nurses were amazing and very compassionate. You got this.”

Marie S.C.

“A companion/gofer, fleece blanket, chargers for devices. Download things to watch or listen to. Earbuds or something like that.” 

Maureen O. 

“A comfy blanket, maybe a book if you like to read, or your cell phone so you can play some games.”

Robbin K.

“I brought coloring books! It was very relaxing and helped pass the time.”

Amy N. 

“Headphones (more to kill the noise than to listen to anything), water bottle with water and few ice cubes, reading material (my friend sent me every week throughout my chemo, a few pages from Digest Readers with interesting facts/stories and a few jokes. Bless her heart!).” 

Agata D.P. 

5. A Journal 

Journaling is often a good way to work through thoughts and emotions during tense situations. Consider choosing uplifting or positive prompts to write about during treatment. This can be as simple as making a list of everything you’re grateful for, or writing about a time you were proud of yourself. 

If you’d like to write online, use the CaringBridge free online journal. You can keep posts private, or share them with family and friends on your CaringBridge site. This is a completely safe space for you to express yourself during your health journey.

6. Patience

You are going through a significant life experience, it’s okay to have days where you feel frustrated or off. While it may feel difficult to be patient when you have a long day in the clinic or aren’t feeling well, know that it’s important to give yourself and your body grace. 

“[T]he three most important things [to bring are] patience, a strong sense of humor, and your power to believe in possibilities.”

Maureen O. 

What Did You Bring to Chemo? 

Chemo treatments aren’t easy, but there are many things you can bring to your first appointment to help you feel comfortable and pass the time more quickly. Know that you are incredibly strong, and you can believe in yourself and new possibilities. 

If you or a loved one have experienced chemo treatment, what advice do you have for those going through it? Feel free to leave pieces of advice and encouragement in the comments below.

Don’t Go Through Your Health Journey Alone

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

  • Barbara

    I brought crossword puzzles and EASY sudoku, enjoyable stuff to read, and a combination of relaxing music and guided meditations on a tablet (and earbuds). Plus always my husband, or a good friend or my son. Water and crackers. The nurses were amazing. I used guided visualizations each time, visualizing the chemicals blasting [only] the tumor.