Chemotherapy? Pack a bag.

Chemotherapy (chemo) is the use of extremely strong medicines to treat cancer. It has been used for many years and is one of the most common treatments for cancer. In most cases, chemo damages the cancer cell’s ability to grow and spread.

Because the medicines used in chemo can be so strong, the treatments can take anywhere from two to six-plus hours while the medicine slowly enters by an infusion port. During that time, you are seated in a comfortable chair in an infusion bay.

Kelly Desmarais, an oncology nurse navigator with OSF HealthCare, has some helpful hints to help pass the time during treatments.

Things to pack

  • Books and magazines
  • Cellphone
  • Coloring book and markers/crayons
  • Electronic chargers
  • Hard candy
  • Headphones
  • Favorite blanket or pillow
  • Lap table
  • Lip balm
  • Puzzles
  • Sleep mask
  • Socks or slippers with anti-slip grippers on them
  • Tablet or electronic book (Wi-Fi is available)
  • Water bottle or mug


“Unless there is an issue, Wi-Fi is available. I do recommend headphones. Our patients like to listen to a variety of things, at a variety of levels,” Kelly said. “It’s important for you to bring your chargers. We do not stock all the different chargers.

“There is a TV in each area. However, there could be times in which the TVs might not work, so we encourage you to bring other activities.”


“As long as you don’t have any dietary restrictions, we recommend even packing a lunch if you will be there for a while,” Kelly said. “I would also encourage something such as peppermints, as this can help with any potential feelings of nausea and can be calming. Be sure to check with your nurse about restrictions on hot or cold substances, as it can cause complications for certain types of treatments.”


“You may have a visitor with you, however in the times of COVID-19, this policy fluctuates due to different protocols in place, as this population of patients is generally more at risk for infections,” Kelly said. “Check with your care team. They will let you know what the current guidelines are.”

Reading materials

“Bring your favorite novels, magazines, puzzles and crosswords. Bring anything you enjoy doing at home to relax,” Kelly said. “Also, a lap table is great for doing puzzles and coloring.”

Make yourself comfortable

“Dress comfortably. Wear something you can relax and nap in. Wear your favorite slippers but try to have a pair with a good amount of tread on them,” Kelly said. “If you have a favorite pillow or blanket, bring that with you. There will be enough time for you to nap. If you have a sleep mask, bring that with you, too.

“If there are other questions, always ask. The staff is more than happy to help and want to make this a pleasant experience. The feeling of being comfortable with those caring for you and in your surroundings is important. Our team understands that going through treatment is not what you want to be doing, so we want you to be comfortable and feel as if you are at home.”

About Author: David Pruitt

David Pruitt is a writer for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare. He has a bachelor’s of journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a reporter before joining OSF HealthCare in 2014.

An avid golfer and fisherman, David was born and raised Alton, Illinois, which is where he currently resides with his son, James.

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Categories: Cancer