The concept of a chemo kit or chemo bag only ever occurred to me after my second round of chemo.
I was sat at home recovering and thinking ‘Ooh, I could do with this right now’ or ‘I need to buy one of those…’. Before you knew it, I had products left, right and centre piling up on the side table in the lounge (a place I’d go to lie down and watch The Real Housewives Of Cheshire after a chemo session. I know, guilty pleasures and all that!)
So I dug out my favourite bag (do you like it? It’s from TK Maxx) and started to collect everyday items that I’d use on a regular basis.
So it got me thinking – if you’re about to go through chemo or know someone who is facing chemo, here’s some great items that you – or they – would come to appreciate. Plus I’ve also listed some bonus ideas relating to things you appreciate while going through chemo.
Let’s dive right into the dream chemo kit!
1. Sugar free boiled sweets
When you have chemo, the after affects might be that you develop mouth sores and a sore throat. This happened a few times to me and it’s not pleasant.
But what really helped was boiled sweets – and I'd go through a pack of these Sula boiled sweets at least every week (the Pear Drops were my fave!)
It makes sense to keep any meds in your chemo bag. During my first chemo stage (when I was on the EC drugs), I had to take anti sickness meds an hour before I had the chemo.
The chemo suite would give it to me in advance ready for my next session, so I kept them in my chemo bag along with paracetemol and Domperidone (prescribed sickness tablets).
3. A thermometer
When I was about to embark on having chemo, I was told by a chemo suite nurse that I would have to take my temperature every day – and that if my temperature went below 36°C or above 37°C it might be a sign of infection which my immune system might find difficult to fight.
That was actually quite scary and it was the first time that I actually felt vulnerable. What I actually learned (after days of taking my normal temperature every day) was that I was getting down, really down. I didn’t like constantly checking my temperature and worrying about every tiny nano degree. So I stopped doing it. The next time I went to the oncologists I admitted that I didn’t take my temperature every day and was shocked at what she told me.
“Who told you that you have to take your temperature every day? You know your own body Lauretta and I’m sure you’re pretty sensible in taking your temperature if you feel a bit off. Other than that, you really don’t need to.”
Oh my goodness, the relief I felt – I could have hugged and kissed her for telling me. It meant that I could start feeling normal and living life normally without feeling that I should be watching my temperature 24/7. However, when I did feel unwell, I would take it – and thank goodness I did. It detected a couple of infections that I ended up needing hospital treatment and medicine for. Here’s the digital one I used – fast and efficient (and very affordable).
4. Nail nectar
With chemo there’s a chance that you can lose your nails or that they’ll end up really weak and brittle. Mine didn’t and I put it down to this little beauty – Organic Nail Nectar from Tropic. I heard a story about this product from a friend who had been through chemo and had used this on her nails every day. And she didn’t lose them, so I decided to give it a go.
Every day (usually while I was watching telly in the evening) I’d apply Nail Nectar to my fingernails. I deliberately didn’t apply it to my toenails as (1) I usually kept them hidden and (2) I wanted a comparison!
So what did I find? My fingernails lasted beautifully until the last two months of chemo. They didn’t look or feel any different and they were strong. In the last two months their shape changed (they became flatter) and there was a dark yellow tinge in them. Not attractive! (By the way, six months after chemo they are now firmly back to normal thank goodness). On the other hand, my toenails started looking disfigured not long after I had chemo. They were brittle (keeping them short helps) and they discoloured quite quickly. I’m not saying the Organic Nail Nectar is a miracle potion, but I do believe that it meant I prolonged the life of my healthy nails.
5. Antibacterial gel
To reduce the chance of getting an infection (having chemo wipes out your immune system), it was suggested that I take all precautions in getting any sort of bug – and I did. I had a flu jab, I washed my hands meticulously and I made sure anything I ate had been washed thoroughly – and cooked properly, avoiding things like
And apart from a breast infection (due to seroma) and a severe reaction to penicillin (I was never allergic to penicillin – but developed an allergy to it while I was on chemo!), I never once got ill while being on chemo (by ill I mean no colds, viruses, bugs etc…). I kept an antibacterial gel next to my bed, in my handbag and in my chemo kit. Any antibacterial gel is fine – I’d usually pick some up at Lidl, but I’d also Neal's Yard Remedies Organic Defence Hand Spray as it had a great scent.
6. Lip balm
This is a must to keep in the chemo kit – your lips WILL get dry and sore while on chemo. My go-to product (which remains my favourite) is Dr Paw Paw. It’s not cheap but I’d find it on offer in TKMaxx and on Amazon. They have different coloured tubes, but the one I recommend is the yellow one – Original Balm for lips, skin, cuticles and hair.
I’d apply it to my lips and any dry patches of skin and it works a treat. I’d keep a tube of it next to my bed, in my handbag, on my desk and in my chemo kit. Now I have one next to my bed and in my handbag as I still use it every morning and night – it’s great at keeping my lips soft.
7. An eye massager
This isn’t necessarily an essential item for your chemo kit, but I bought it online and I’d use it on my eyes when I felt tired. It was my five minutes of pampering and treating myself and it felt lovely – like I was having a mini facial!
You can use oils (I used bio oil) while you’re using it and it just made me feel a bit more revived (and human) after I’d had chemo.
8. A healing crystal
Again, another item that isn’t essential as such, but this was given to me as a gift, so I kept it in my chemo bag in the hope that it would give me some energy and healing. And how strange – I had just started a new publishing business when I got diagnosed with breast cancer and I was able to work and grow the business all through having my op, chemo and radiotherapy. I was adamant that I was going to do this from the start though – I just wanted to feel as normal as I could and for me this meant carrying on as normal.
9. Lip fudge
This was a little treat to put on and again, made me feel a bit more human. It’s from Tropic again and tastes AMAZING (it’s not for consumption obvs), but it does taste nice. A friend of mine, who’d had breast cancer twice, gave me some words of wisdom while I was recovering from chemo. She said (when I felt like it) to put some nice clothes on and put some makeup and perfume on. “It will make you feel much better” she told me. And do you know what? She was right.
Although I lived in tracksuits for most of the time while going through my cancer treatment, when I made an effort to put on makeup or dress up a little, it helped me mentally. I felt ‘normal’ and that feeling of normality was very important in helping me get through my treatment. Everyone’s different of course, but it’s important to treat yourself every now and then – even if it just means applying some Lip Fudge!
10. Body cream
I used REN Neroli and Grapefruit body cream – a deep hydrating body cream (no parabens, SLS etc) as my skin was very often dry. It’s important to keep your skin hydrated – especially if you’re spending most of your time indoors.
But my absolutely favourite product was Tropic’s Soothe The Senses Luxury Body Oil. I used it every day after I’d had my shower and I kept a bottle downstairs in the lounge to apply to dry bits of skin on my knees, elbows and feet. It smells amazing and, to date, is my favourite body oil.
It doesn’t really matter what body cream/moisturiser you have in your kit, although I’d urge you to use a natural one – something that doesn’t contain parabens/SLS etc..
11. Aromatherapy rollers
I had two aromatherapy rollers in my chemo kit – one from Aroma Home (100% essential oil blend) called Revive and one from Neal's Yard called Relaxation. I didn’t use them all the time, but when I felt myself flagging or needing a quick ‘pick me up’ they would help.
12. Inhaler stick
As I continued working throughout treatment, one of my favourite products was an inhaler stick from Go2 called Focus. I’m deeply affected by smells as I have a condition called hyperosmia, meaning that strong smells affect me. I can’t have flowers in the house as they give me a headache (a great excuse for VIP not to buy flowers!) and smells can also evoke certain moods, feelings and emotions.
So when I was offered the opportunity to trial the inhalers, I jumped at it – and even now I sometimes rely on having a good old whiff of Focus to help get me through the day (almost always the afternoon slump!) – and best of all, it’s completely natural.
And that’s it for the chemo kit. Here are a few other items that I found useful to have to hand:
– A cosy, soft blanket. Straight after chemo, I would come home, put the kettle on and then lie down on the sofa and put the telly on. After my cuppa (and grabbing something to eat while my taste buds were still working properly!), I would lie down under a blanket and watch the telly to take my mind off how groggy I was feeling. Having the blanket felt comforting; it was soft, warm and I could hide underneath it if I wanted to. I still keep a blanket to hand on the back of the sofa – and when I’m tired or in the evening when it cools down, I’ll snuggle underneath. Mine is from Habitat, but make sure you choose one you really like and that’s comforting and soft.
– A favourite magazine. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like working on the day of chemo – or indeed when the slump hit two days after I had a session. I felt wiped out, lethargic and uninspired. So a favourite magazine on hand was always nice to turn to during this time.
– Ice lollies. Sometimes my mouth was so sore and I wasn’t in the mood to eat anything – and that’s when ice lollies helped. They soothed my mouth and throat (the coldness helped numb the pain) and they were also good for keeping hydrated.
I hope this insight into the after affects of chemo – and what’s useful to keep in a chemo kit has helped. Everyone’s different of course – and everyone reacts different to chemo so it’s important to find what works for you and stick with it. Hopefully some of my essential chemo kit items have given you some idea on what you’ll need to prepare for – and best of luck!
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