One of my favourite past times is watching five-year-old children turn up to the first day of school carrying everything they could possibly need for the entire year. The backpack itself is inevitably way bigger than the kid themselves and threatens to unbalance them as they approach the classroom.

Another classic is the first day of year 6 camp. Anxious parents scour the list of supplies with a fine-tooth comb. Debates are had at home over the need for four pairs of fresh, dry socks and intense googling over the definition of a ‘wet shoe’. Is it possible that a second pair of trainers will do the job of being the wet shoes or is this pointing to a full-on last-minute rush to Kathmandu situation?

Either way, one doesn’t want to be seen to be lacking essential stuff on the first day of a major milestone. Cue meltdown in car on the way to the drop off zone and the child in question is either wailing:

“Mum!!!! This bag is massive! Everyone is going to be staring at me!”


“Mum!!! I TOLD you I needed a chamois towel as WELL as my bath towel AND the beach towel!”

I’ll admit this:

I too wanted to seem to be cool and prepared about turning up for the first day of chemo. However, given the fact that I felt like poo, I was happy to leave this in the capable hands of my crew, who went about pimping out my backpack so that my every possible need would be met over the course of the day. I approved every item on this list and concurred that all were ESSENTIAL to my first successful day of Kicking Alan in the Dick.

List of stuff:

  1. Laptop – apparently I would find the concentration, time and emotional stability to write another blogpost or complete my leave application
  2. Brand new Sony headphones – for watching Netflix, listening to guided meditation or music. Despite my home coaching sessions, I couldn’t work out how to connect the bluetooth so for an awkward three minutes I thought the podcast was coming through the headphones but it was, in fact, just blaring out of my phone on maximum volume. Way to make friends, Gibbo.
  3. Packet of ginger nut biscuits – ginger is known for its anti-nausea effects but given that I was unlikely to experience any nausea while the treatment is being administered, it might have been overkill. Further, the clinic provides meals.
  4. A blank moleskin notebook, packet of coloured pencils and a new set of coloured markers. Doesn’t everyone feel like making intricate artwork whilst being flooded with cytotoxins!??
  5. The most gigantic water bottle known to mankind. This sucker holds over 2 litres and can be slightly overwhelming at first glance. My goal was to flush out the chemo before I left the chair. Note to other rookies: this isn’t a thing.
  6. Lip balm, moisturiser and hand cream – the attack on my high proliferating cells could happen at any instance and it just made sense to be prepared.
  7. My Treatment Diary which had been supplied by the hospital. I actually asked if people fill it in and this is the response I got from the nurse, “You can. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.” Translation: “No, that’s a bit dorky. Our marketing department just makes us give them to every patient.”
  8. Spare batteries.
  9. Laptop and phone charging cords – which apparently don’t take priority over the medical equipment in terms of accessing the power points.
  10. A novel. “Yes, hi, I’m so relaxed I’m just going to devour a couple of chapters of this contemporary hardcover while you access my portacath a dozen times and explain a million potential side-effects to me.”
  11. Vomit bags. I know. We even questioned that one.

So when I walked in the front door of the Day Oncology Unit (early of course because…nerd), I had to sit down pretty much straight away. My big backpack of chemo merch was weighing me down.

As the day progressed, the contents of the bag were gradually revealed. The nurses (actual real-life angels) had some giggles. One of them commented that my backpack merch was so thoughtful and cute and obviously curated by people who really care about me. She made no argument about it being completely unnecessary.

What did I end up doing with all the stuff, I hear you ask? Absolutely nothing. I didn’t read, draw, write or listen to anything. I spent the whole morning taking in what was happening around me, to me, within me.

But here is what we do when someone is really, really fucking scared. We take care of everything they could possibly need. We put our energy into giving to that person, doing for that person, and reaching out to that person. I see you all doing that for me – in all the ways – even if I don’t respond.

My friends and partner pimping out my chemo backpack was another expression of love. And I’ll take it.

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0 thoughts on “Chemo Merch

  1. Such thoughtful friends. It’s better to be prepared for anything I guess. Hope the treatment goes well. Thinking of you. Xx

  2. Love it Kristie! They say it take a village that refers to many areas in life.
    That positive and humorous approach is certainly helping all of us on the receiving end I hope it is doing the same for you xx

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