What’s In Your Chemotherapy Bag?

Joy Yang, 36, diagnosed with stage III inflammatory breast cancer, finds support during treatment from her care team, led by Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, director of Dana-Farber’s Adult Survivorship Program and Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer, and another, unexpected source: her bag.

“I’ve perfected my chemo bag,” shares Yang, who is now cancer free after multiple rounds of chemotherapy, two surgeries, and many rounds of radiation. Here are the things that help her through long days of treatment.

The contents of Joy Yang's bag that she brings with her to chemotherapy.
The contents of Joy Yang’s bag that she brings with her to chemotherapy.

On keeping busy. I am a very crafty person. It’s one of my favorite ways to stay busy during an infusion. Right now I am knitting this “tiny sushi” kit. Sometimes I sell what I make on my Etsy shop.

On electronics. On my iPad, I like to watch some of my favorite shows such as Scandal, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Jane the Virgin. I also use it to read. I am currently in the middle of Faithful by Alice Hoffman.

On her journal. My whole life is in this. I love writing everything down and making lists just to check things off. Recently, I have been bulleting things that I am grateful for, what I did that day, and food I have eaten.

On snacks. You have to bring snacks with you – you just never know when you may need one. Granola is one of my favorites. I also bring ginger mints with me. These calm your stomach when you are feeling nauseous.

On beauty products. I love my Burt’s Bees chapstick and hand lotion. Both were given to me as gifts – and I like how they smell and that they are all natural.

On her furry friend. His name is Juju and my friend’s daughter, Meron, gave him to me. She said that I “absolutely needed something to cuddle with” during my chemotherapy appointments.

On jewelry. I am a very sentimental person, so I try to bring things that really mean something to me. The heart necklace was a gift from my college friends when I was first diagnosed, and the hummingbird bracelet stands for healing and eternity. I always have these with me during chemotherapy. It’s nice to have a reminder that people have faith in you and are supporting you even if they aren’t there physically.

On what she wishes she knew during her first chemotherapy treatment. I’m not sure there is anything I wish I knew. I was very pleasantly surprised by how many people came out of the woodwork to express their love and kind thoughts.

If you are a Dana-Farber patient interested in sharing what items help you through chemotherapy, email insight_blog@dfci.harvard.edu.