When the Hospital is Home – A Packing List

At just one year old, little Izzy was diagnosed with a germ cell yolk sac tumor, a rare form of cancer. After many difficult rounds of chemo, Izzy’s tumor shrunk significantly, and her parents, Amanda and Jeremy, thought the end of her treatment might be near – until the unthinkable happened. Her scans at the end of July revealed her tumor had returned.

Her parents had to pack their bags and head back to the hospital – something they hoped they’d never have to do again. Below is Amanda’s packing list, which she’s complied to give others an idea of what it’s like to live part-time in the hospital while your child is fighting cancer.

Here I sit, contemplating what to put in our hospital bag, remembering what I packed the first time. I didn’t want to ever put this packing list together again, because that would mean we were heading back for more treatment. Although necessary, and important, it’s hard to think about going through it all again. So, here goes another chemo protocol, and here are some of the things I’ll pack to make hospital life a little easier.

  • Snacks (healthy & silly) – you’ll eat out of boredom, out of hunger and out of frustration, so be prepared!
  • Pillow – pack your own pillow, so you don’t have to sleep on the plastic hospital ones.
  • The longest phone charging cord you can find.
  • Entertainment – favorite toys for the kiddo and games or distractions for parents and guests (coloring books, cards, journal, iPad, movies, music).
  • Toiletries/makeup/blow-dryer – sometimes getting “ready” in the morning makes all difference in your attitude and outlook. Plus, it’s nice to have your own soap.

    The contents of Amanda's typical hospital bag.

  • Food (other than snacks) – you’ll likely have a fridge, so bring some nutritious food to get you through, and help save some money.
  • Comfort items – favorite blankets, loveys and other snuggly things.
  • Pajamas and a robe – the nurses are in and out 24/7.
  • Slippers or sandals – for easy on and off when you want to roam the halls.
  • Stroller – if you have an itty-bitty one, they will appreciate strolling the halls.
  • Water bottle – you will want to stay hydrated, it’s very dry in there!
  • Chapstick – see above.
  • Camera – these are important times and you’ll want to look back at photos of this time and all the warriors on your journey.
  • Your med box – the nurses will want to review your med list.
  • Your “binder” – the documentation you have on your child’s diagnosis, so you can review questions with your doctors.
  • Pictures/décor – to brighten up the space and make your kiddo feel at home.
  • Appropriate clothing for your kiddo – they can wear their own clothes, and they should. Sometimes you’ll need to adapt their clothing to work (e.g., foley, port access), but it will be worth it to help them feel comfortable.

I hope this list is helpful. Of course, it’s always evolving and changing with each visit, but these seem to be the things that stick out as I look back, and prepare for moving forward on our journey.


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