My checklist before leaving the house used to be wallet, keys, phone, glasses and oystercard. That seemed long enough but in the last few weeks I’ve gradually been adding to it. To remind my future self of what these days were like, here is a record of the additional things that I rarely leave home without.
- Bobble bottle – It’s recommended that you drink 2 litres of water a day to counteract the side effects of the anti-sickness drugs they give you before chemo, which is four refills of this bottle. I find I’m really thirsty a lot of the time so it helps to have water with me, although some days my chemo brain struggles to count to four so I just hope that I’m drinking enough.
- Seasalt handyband – My sister sent me this, and it’s what I wear on my head most of the time when it needs to be covered. I can put it on without needing to look in a mirror, or easily pull it off when it gets too hot on the tube.
- Hand sanitiser – Before my first chemo I had to watch a scary DVD about the risk of infection when your immune system is low. I have never washed my hands so much in my life. I chose one that claims to kill 99.9999% of all bacteria rather than the more standard 99.9% ones, just in case one of the 0.0999% gets me.
- Nuts and raisins – I’ve been told I mustn’t lose any more weight and so I’m trying to eat as much as I can. My box of nuts and raisins keeps me going when vegan options are in short supply, plus they remind me of the cycle rides I’ve done with a bag of nuts and raisins in my cycling jersey pocket. I took the photo above when I did the C2C ride a few years ago, when Marks and Spencer’s luxury fruit and nuts was my faithful companion for the whole journey.
- Phone charger – My iPhone is only a couple of years old but the battery hardly lasts for half a day. I don’t want to risk not being able to contact someone if I need help, so my charger comes with me everywhere.
- Digital thermometer and chemo book – actually I don’t take these everywhere, although I think I’m probably meant to. The thermometer is to try and monitor if I’m getting an infection; the chemo book means I don’t have to explain my whole history if I do have to go into hospital.
- Puzzle book – Kat, my daughter-in-law, is a pediatric oncology nurse and she gave me a bag of really useful presents for my first chemo appointment which included a book of killer sudoku puzzles. On the days when I need to go to hospital there’s generally lots of hanging around to be done, but I find it hard to relax and get lost in a good book. Puzzles that require the right amount of brain power – not too little to be boring; not too much to be taxing – are ideal. And they also help to while away the night when insomnia strikes at three in the morning.
And then at home, these have all been added to the household
- Nutribullet – my in-laws bought me one of these just after my first treatment, and it gets used every day.
- Plain chocolate – see above for needing to eat a lot. I make sure there is a regular supply in the cupboard.
- Baby shampoo – the grown-up shampoo, conditioner, curl cream and hair wax are all hidden in the cupboard waiting for my hair to make a reappearance, but apparently it’s good to keep washing your scalp even if all that is left is a bit of stubborn stubble.
- Various medicines – most of which seem relevant to my bowels or stomach. I have hardly been ill for the last 50 years, and our ‘medicine cabinet’ has consisted of paracetamol and a box of plasters. Not any longer, but hopefully only for a few months. I will be so pleased to throw out the lactulose when I no longer need it.