Packing for a hospital stay is never an easy task. Unless your family can bring items from home or make a run to the corner store, you need to think ahead about what you may need.
The basic list of what you need for a hospital stay is simple: personal toiletries, shirts, jeans or pants, socks and shoes, underwear, pajamas, robe and slippers.
But the list becomes longer for an extended stay like mine. During my acute myeloid leukemia treatment, I was in isolation for 30 days. I had a suppressed immune system and could only have doctors and staff enter my room after they were gowned, masked and gloved. I could see my family and friends through the window of a connecting room, and we could talk by phone.
In a situation like that, 30 days can seem like an eternity. Here are items that were essential to my physical and mental comfort.
Lotion and creams -- and lots of them. My skin was never dry before cancer. But it began to dry out with chemotherapy, and it’s remained that way more than a year later. My family bought every 'makes your skin so soft' advertised product on the market. I tried many brands before finding the one that worked best for me.
Button-down shirts. Having wires and tubes inserted into your body makes it very hard to dress comfortably. Your arms and chest may need to be easily accessed by medical staff, and a T-shirt or pullover sweater or sweatshirt inhibits this. Buy some stylish button-down shirts that help you feel good and that will work well during treatment.
Lounge pants. Cheers for elastic waists! Not only are they comfortable; they are practical. You will gain and lose weight, and these pants will fit you. You will have procedures done, and these pants will adjust up or down easily making it better, easier and quicker for you and the staff.
Pajamas. I was so happy to learn that I could wear my own clothes, especially my pajamas. You are not required to wear a hospital gown at all times, though you may wish to because of the ease of use. If you bring your own pajamas, just remember to bring button-down tops.
Electronics. My children surprised me with an iPad to help pass the time. I checked emails, wrote, finished all of my holiday shopping early, downloaded books and played games. What a lifesaver!
Hobbies. Bring your supplies and complete all those projects you never had time for at home. A deck of cards is always a favorite activity. Perhaps you knit or craft. Whatever you choose, you'll have such a sense of accomplishment!
Sense of humor. This is a must. Being hospitalized is not easy. Be thankful for the kindness and expertise available. Set a personal goal to laugh every day. Find something beautiful each day -- the sunshine, someone's kind words, encouragement from your doctor, a funny blog or TV show, someone's smile. Just look -- there's happiness around you. Join in!
Belief system. Bring along whatever calms you and gives you courage -- religion, prayer, a higher power, meditation. This will help you get through each day.
Kindness. Even on your worst day, try to smile and be kind to others. Greet your doctors, nurses and other staff with a smile. Take an interest in their days, and don't dwell on yours. Things will get better.
I know that packing for a hospital visit may not be your idea of a trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t mine. But as I told myself, you’re going to the hospital to get better. Try to make the best of it. Be appreciative of the care you get at MD Anderson, and do your part to work toward your recovery. Force yourself to get out of bed even when you think you can't. Comply with instructions, and give the treatment a fair chance to work. You will see improvement every day just by doing your part. Best of luck!