Chemotherapy cheat sheet

Gabriella Kourie offers a chemotherapy cheat sheet for loved ones to show their support to a person going through treatment.

When thinking about gifts for a patient undergoing chemotherapy, they should be helpful in nature to make the treatment process easier. 

The following suggestions below can be used as a chemotherapy cheat sheet to prevent and help diminish some of the side effects a person may experience.

Chemotherapy cheat sheet gifts

Ice Packs 

These are useful for patients undergoing intravenous chemotherapy as certain chemotherapy drugs can cause the sensation of pins and needles in the hands and feet.

Warm Socks and Gloves 

These can be used in conjunction with the ice packs to help control the pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet as well as to keep patients warm when sitting for long periods of time receiving chemotherapy. 

Note: Heat packs can also be given as a gift but should be used with caution. Never place a heat pack directly on the skin or to any dry and damaged skin. It should only be used to relieve pain felt in the arms during and after chemotherapy administration.


Providing headwear in the form of hats, beanies, or even booking a session with a wig provider may provide comfort for the patient if they have any insecurities with regard to losing their hair.

Sucking Sweets and Mouth Care 

Chemotherapy can often cause a harsh, unwanted metallic taste in the mouth. Having something to suck on to eliminate the taste may be a useful gift. Lemon and ginger sucking sweets are best advised as they both have anti-nausea properties, however, you can purchase the person’s favourite or preferred sucking sweets. 

Another added tip for taste and keeping the mouth clean is mouthwash. The strong minty flavour keeps the metallic taste at bay as well as keeps the mouth clean (preventing mouth sores). Using warm water and salt has the same antibacterial properties as a mouthwash and should also be used after meals and throughout the day to prevent mouth sores.

Nail and Hand Cream 

Nail and skin changes are common, but keeping the hands and nails soft and moisturised can prevent changes as well as damages, such as cuts and scrapes. It’s important to ensure that the cream is scent- and colourant-free as everything is absorbed through the skin and interacts with the chemotherapy drugs.

Make-up Products 

Eyebrow pencils and eyeliner may be something to consider to give as a present to help a patient to disguise the loss of hair. If they are interested in microblading, please be aware that this needs to be done before starting chemotherapy.

Button-Down or Zip Sweatshirt 

Clothes bought should be comfortable and easy to take off, button or zip down for patients that use a port for chemotherapy. Alternatively, sleeves should be loose and comfortable for patients who need to push them up when receiving chemotherapy in the arms.

Soft Tooth Brush 

A soft tooth brush is recommended to prevent bleeding and damage to the gums as patients become more susceptible to bleeding due to their low platelet counts.

Pillows and Blankets 

Pillows to consider buying are neck/travel pillows to support their necks when they are sitting for long periods of time. Smaller pillows to rest their arm on while receiving chemotherapy, or to be used to protect their port from a seatbelt when traveling, to and from chemo, in the car. A warm, thick blanket can also provide added comfort while sitting in the chemotherapy chair.


Puzzles, magazines and novels are all some activity ideas to buy for patients to help them pass the time during a chemotherapy session.

Metal Water Bottle 

Staying hydrated is imperative during treatment. A metal bottle is more hygienic than plastic as it can be soaked and cleaned in boiling water. If the metal bottle causes a metallic taste then disposable or recyclable plastic bottles may be a better option.

Lip care 

Lip care is important as skin may be dry and cracked. Products, such as Bepanthen, is gentle and very effective in keeping lips soft.

Gabriella Kourie is a qualified occupational therapist. She further trained and qualified 
as a PORi oncology and breast cancer rehabilitation therapist and is currently qualifying in Lymphoedema Assessment 
and Treatment.

MEET THE EXPERT – Gabriella Kourie

Gabriella Kourie is a qualified occupational therapist. She further trained and qualified as a PORi oncology and breast cancer rehabilitation therapist and is currently qualifying in Lymphoedema Assessment and Treatment.

Header image by Adocbe Stock