Packing for your first visit: Advice from veteran MD Anderson patients and caregivers

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Whether you're traveling one mile or 1,000 miles to get here, packing for your first visit to MD Anderson can be a little daunting. After all, you've got a million other things on your mind, and you're not sure exactly what to expect when you get here.

So, we asked several veteran cancer patients and caregivers what's on their must-bring list. We hope their answers -- shared below -- will help making packing for your first visit a little easier.

1.  Patience and calming distractions
A lot of patience. Families are under a lot of stress when they come to MD Anderson, but it's important to understand that you may have to wait a while before seeing the doctor or getting your scans. Bring a book or headphones or something that will help calm you during the wait. 
-- Sandra Bishnoi, breast cancer patient

2. Your list of questions 
I always bring a written list of questions for my doctor, as well as a book, mobile device, laptop or something that will allow me to be productive and make the waiting more bearable.  
-- Ed Steger, head and neck cancer survivor

3. Note-taking materials
Other than warm, comfy clothes and something to do while you wait, it's a great idea for caregivers to bring note-taking materials for appointments. It's very difficult to remember everything members of your care team said even an hour later, and detailed notes can be very helpful down the road.
-- Katie Narvarte, chronic myeloid leukemia caregiver

4. Warm, comfortable clothes and walking shoes 
Pack a sweater or sweatshirt that zips or buttons up the front so you can have half of it on if you have an IV and get cold. MD Anderson always has warm blankets, but this makes it easier if you want to walk around. Also bring walking shoes and, most importantly, the person who makes you laugh the most. 
-- Linda Ryan, cervical cancer survivor

Comfortable shoes, an extra change of clothes, snacks and something to read.
-- Mike Snyder, chondrosarcoma survivor  

5. Healthy snacks, a list of medications and vitamins and a bag for jewelry
In addition to what others have suggested, I recommend bringing healthy snacks and a refillable water bottle, a list of all of your medications or other drugs and vitamins, as well as a list of your medical history of procedures. 

If you are having tests done that require you to remove jewelry, bring a smaller bag to place jewelry in. This way, your jewelry won't get lost or you won't forget where you put it.
Perhaps most importantly, bring patience and a sense of humor.
-- Marcy Kurtz, breast cancer and uterine cancer survivor 

6. Things to make your hospital room feel like home
If your first visit will be an overnight stay, bring things to make your room feel more like home. Bring your favorite pillow and pictures. If you have kids, bring one of their stuffed animals or some of their art to have them there with you as well.  

If your first visit is a day visit, wear comfortable clothing and shoes. MD Anderson is large, and there's a lot of area to cover.
-- Jennifer Martin, melanoma caregiver

7. Pack lightly -- or bring a bag with wheels
I rely a lot on a book and my smartphone while I'm there. It helps to bring bottled water and fruit to snack on since there are usually many appointments in one day. I also always bring a sweater or blanket in case I get cold while waiting. That said, I make sure my bag is not super heavy or, if it is, that it has wheels. 
-- Brandie Sellers, two-time breast cancer survivor


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