Breast cancer lesson number 65: Don’t expect to make a quick getaway

The Easter holiday weekend has brought with it a rather interesting and unexpected challenge. It seems chemo has turned the simple – and hugely tedious – job of packing for a trip away into task requiring military precision.

I was not born to pack. I like writing kit lists, but when it comes to running round the house and gathering my belongings, it’s a task from which I am always hoping to be distracted.

Packing with a chemo kit list certainly makes the process quite entertaining. Limited to a light overnight bag and rucksack, given my car is already at the destination (and heavy bags are on the banned list), I had to be selective.

For me, packing usually involves picking colour coordinated items to give me choice without volume. Trouble is, with pills and creams, mouthwashes, hats, sleep caps, scarves, a wig, big knickers and PICC armbands to pack, there’s not much room for anything else. Excited as I am about the novelty of choosing a hat to match my outfit and my mood, I almost forgot my trousers and my socks (I have one t-shirt and about seven hats with me). And, left with room for just one pair of shoes, I opted for tatty trainers over pretty pumps so I could get some exercise in. Cancer, what have you done to me?! At least I didn’t have to worry about shampoo and hair straighteners!

Thankfully, going to the family home means the digital thermometer, toothpaste and paracetamol didn’t have to travel (I can’t imagine packing for a weekend in a hotel). I’m also happy I don’t have to go through customs and undergo a bag inspection (they’d probably think I was a spy, the number of disguises I have tucked away in my overnight bag).

I had to laugh when leaving the house. Instead of opening the door three times to check whether I’d switched everything off or packed the right chargers, I was forced to unlock the door only to retrieve my LIMBO. Without this lovely piece of plastic to cover my PICC line I would have been unable to shower for three days (without a bit of well-placed cling film). It’s amazing what suddenly becomes essential when even basic daily activities are no longer straightforward.

So, if you’re planning a trip over the coming months and chemo is still on the agenda, I recommend you start packing now (or writing your kit list). Don’t expect to travel light and certainly don’t expect to be able to squeeze in a few nice-to-haves (unless it’s a hat or seven).

Cancer brings with it a lot of unwanted baggage. I, for one, can’t wait to unpack it all.