Here are a few practical tips that I can offer to new or prospective chemo patients. This is based on my own experience and what I’ve learned from others. I’ll add to this as I think of more tips to offer.
Metoclopramide – This is usually given to patients to take home as an anti-sickness drug to be used up to three times a day. If you find yourself often feeling sick when you get up in the morning, try taking one tablet as soon as you wake, then stay in bed and sleep, if possible, for another half an hour or more to give the drug some time to take effect. This should result in less sick feelings when getting up.
Filgrastim – These self-administered injections are often given to patients to take home after the initial three days as an inpatient at the beginning of each BEP cycle. The drug stimulates bone marrow to produce more white blood cells, as these can easily become depleted in chemo patients. The syringes need to be refrigerated. To ensure that they are more comfortable to inject, take a syringe out of the fridge twenty minutes before use. This will allow the content to adjust to room temperature and save you from injecting an icy cold blast under the skin!
It’s important to keep your PICC line and dressing dry, if you have one, but this can be awkward when washing. To ensure that you can shower normally and prevent your line from getting wet, it is well worth buying a waterproof cover for it (if your hospital cannot provide you with one). The only highly-rated cover I’ve come across is the LimbO Waterproof Protectors PICC line cover. It’s available from Amazon in the UK for £16.35 (at the time of writing). Shop around though and ask your hospital if there’s anything they can offer, as I have heard reports of people getting waterproof PICC covers on prescription.
Hospital Packing List
Here are a few things that I find good to have with me at the hospital:
Eye mask – Depending on the type and location of room you’re in, there will always be a number of different light sources that may be visible to you throughout the night, not to mention the day. If you are quite light-sensitive, a good eye mask will help to block out the light no matter what time of day you want to get some sleep.
Ear plugs – There will likely also be noises at all hours, from staff, equipment and other patients. To switch off, particularly when you want to sleep, a set of cheap ear plugs is invaluable. Some people have found noise cancelling headphones to be effective, but these are expensive to purchase if you don’t already have a set and they may not be so comfortable to sleep with.
Slippers or flip flops – Although you may spend much of your hospital time barefoot in bed, you will no doubt be frequently visiting the bathroom or walking around the ward. A pair of slippers or flip flops will make this more comfortable and hygienic.
Waterproof PICC cover – If you have a PICC line, bring your waterproof cover in case you want to take a shower (more below). And don’t forget your PICC Passport, or log book, if you’ve been give one.
Tea bags – If you like drinking green tea or any other herbal tea, you may be out of luck unless you bring your own. A little stash of herbal tea bags never goes amiss.
Something to do – If you’re going to be an inpatient for a few days, that means a lot of waking hours to fill. You may be able to leave the hospital at certain times, if you’re feeling up to it. But you’ll likely still spend a lot of time at your bed, and may get bored if you’ve not prepared for this. Bringing a book is a good start, but bear in mind that depending on how you are feeling, you may not be able to concentrate on reading for long stretches. Bring something you like to do that can keep you busy, whether that be something to watch, listen to or keep your hands busy with. Something that is not too mentally taxing can be preferable, in case you find yourself lacking energy or concentration.
Chargers – If you are bringing any electronic equipment, phone, laptop, tablet, etc, don’t forget to bring mains chargers or backup batteries. Some hospital rooms have USB charging points, but don’t count on it!
Clothing – You’ll get a feel for this after your first inpatient visit. Pack clothes that will be comfortable to wear when sitting or lying a lot. Remember that hospital rooms can often be quite warm, so a pair of shorts may be very welcome. Likewise, short sleeve t-shirts or tops may feel more comfortable in warm rooms. If you have a PICC line in your upper arm, then short sleeves are easiest for being connected to a drip. Despite what I’ve just said, not all hospital rooms are warm, so things like tracksuit pants and a hoodie can be both warm and comfortable. Some people like to bring a dressing gown, but I haven’t felt the need – go for it though, if you do!