Making the Most of Appointments

Making the Most of Appointments

None of us have as much time as we’d like when we see the oncologist, primary care physician, or any member of our healthcare team. Maximize those precious few minutes and make the most of your visits with these hacks:

Before you go: 

    • Prepare for the appointment at least a few days in advance. Complete any online research you want to do (Our Resource Center has reliable cancer websites).
    • Use My Appointment Summary Log (found in My Companion Guidebook)
    •  to organize what you need to bring and discuss, where and when you are going.
    • Write down your questions (use the small journal or sheets provided). 
    • Leave room to write down the answers you are given.
    • Prioritize your top 3 questions to ask the doctor. (Other members of the healthcare team can answer or obtain answers for the other questions for you).

” I still use the bag…it is a Godsend, I am always using it. It has taught me to always take notes, whenever I have a question for ANY doctor I write the question and answer down. I use it as a reference for dates and other information regarding any of my medical history.”

At the visit: 

  • Bring someone with you. Let them know how they can help you: extra set of ears, take notes, give info you may have forgotten.
  • Good communication with your healthcare team is key! Click here for tips
  • Consider recording the visit (ask permission first) to replay it at a later time.
  • Bring your Bag It My Companion Guidebook or appropriate pieces within to refer to questions, forms and logs you prepared. Write down the answers and other info given to you so you don’t have to try to remember it.
  • Ask for copies of your reports, labs, information from the visit. Add them to your notebook.

Click below for questions to ask your healthcare team from Paths to Survivorship booklet.




We’re excited to announce that the Spanish version of the new Bag It bag is now available. Each printed booklet and the entire contents of My Companion Guidebook (Mi guía acompañante), including the forms, instructions, and glossary, have been professionally translated into neutral Spanish to be easily understood by all Spanish speakers. This is especially important as Bag It expands distribution across the country this year.
See it here

Wait – there’s more!

Check out the Resource Center on our website for a list of Spanish resources covering many cancer-related topics such as information about cancer types and treatment, coping with side effects of cancer treatment, emotional support for families, communicating with children, nutrition and eating tips, complementary and integrative medicine, legal rights, financial assistance, cancer survivorship, and more.

Order a bag today


Estamos muy contentos de anunciar que la versión del bolso Bag It en español ya está disponible. Cada carpeta publicada y el contenido completo de My Companion Guidebook (Mi Guía Acompañante), incluso los formularios, las instrucciones, y el glosario, han sido traducidos profesionalmente al español neutral para que cualquier hispanohablante pueda enterderlos fácilmente. Esto es especialmente importante debido a que este año, Bag It expandirá su distribución por todo el país. Véase aquí


Pero espere… ¡Hay más!


Revise el Centro de Recursos en nuestra página web para obtener una lista de recursos en español que cubren una variedad de temas relacionados con el cáncer, tales como información sobre los tipos de cáncer y sus tratamientos, cómo enfrentar los efectos secundarios del tratamiento contra el cáncer, cómo obtener apoyo emocional para familias, cómo hablar con los niños sobre estos temas, sugerencias sobre la nutrición y la alimentación, la medicina natural e integral, los derechos legales, asistencia económica, la sobrevivencia del cáncer, y mucho más.


Ordene su bolso de Bag It

Breathe in deep…breathe out peace

Breathe in deep…breathe out peace

This mantra was one of many gifts received during my stay at the Miraval Arizona resort.

I sponsored a Bag it bag to help an individual impacted by cancer feel informed, empowered, and supported throughout their treatment journey. I never imagined this donation would also result in my own wellness journey and lasting benefits.

I was fortunate to be the winner of Bag It’s 2018 drawing and booked my stay at Miraval Arizona in December, looking forward to a relaxing weekend to reflect on the year. The experience at Miraval was so much more that I expected, and the people and activities left a positive impact that I appreciate daily.

  • Relaxation: Exploring the beauty of the resort property and visits to the labyrinth provided the ideal mental space to decompress.
  • Expansion: Encouraged to step out of my comfort zone, I participated in my first Zumba class which was the most fun, accepting, and laughter-filled fitness experience I’ve ever had.
  • Reflection: Through meditation activities, I explored emotions and strengths, vowing to reprioritize
    neglected passions.
  • Connection: I enjoyed truly meaningful conversations with staff and guests, reinvigorated by the kindness and compassion shared in these interactions.

We have all been impacted by cancer. Some have experienced it personally, others through a family member or friend, or a hero or celebrity we admire. Last month I sent a Bag It bag to a colleague recently diagnosed with cancer. While she thanked me, she indicated she had received information from her doctors. A few days later, she reached out to share how comprehensive the Bag It resources are, expressing how they have been a helpful addition to the information she previously received. The resources developed by Bag It are invaluable. I appreciate Miraval Arizona’s support of Bag It’s important work to inform, empower, and support individuals impacted by cancer.

Sponsor a Bag It Bag

Is there a doctor (Google) in the house?

Is there a doctor (Google) in the house?

Is there a doctor (Google) in the house?

Most of us immediately want to search online when facing a cancer diagnosis. The internet can be a good source of reliable and helpful information. At the same time, unfortunately, fake medical news and misinformation spreads further than the truth – and can lead to serious consequences.

Best Practices for Internet Research:

  • First ask your health care team for trusted websites they recommend for you.
  • Visit Bag It’s resource center to find over 150 resources on all cancer topics.
  • Websites from these organizations are generally reliable:
    • Government agencies (web address ends .gov)
    • Major cancer centers (web address often ends .org)
    • Medical schools and universities (web address ends .edu)
    • Large nonprofit organizations (web address ends .org)
  • Look for easy-to-read information written by medical professionals.
  • Check more than one source for the same information to verify that the results are the same.

Things to consider when evaluating a website:

  • Be critical – is the content objective and free of opinion?
  • Who sponsors the site and its content? Who wrote the content and what are their credentials? Who approved it? Reading the “About Us” and “Who We Are” pages can be insightful.
  • What is the source of the information presented? Particularly if scientific in nature, was the content written within the last three years and is it supported by the scientific literature?
  • Be aware that information on sponsored websites or .com websites may be biased or have a conflict of interest, though the information could still be reliable (such as a drug company’s site)
  • Think carefully before sharing personal/health information in online communities. Does the community safeguard your privacy? Refer to the privacy policy, if any.

Remember that the internet is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Discuss any information you find with your health care team to help you determine if it is right for you.

Friend of Bag It Becomes Fly On The Wall

Friend of Bag It Becomes Fly On The Wall

Looking for the Breathe in deep…breathe out peace blog? Click here.

Written by a Bag It Friend

Recently, my older widowed neighbor was diagnosed with cancer. She was shocked by her diagnosis and knew nothing about cancer because “no one in the family had cancer.” I offered to accompany her on her upcoming appointments as another pair of ears and a scribe. This began a journey where I learned, first-hand, how hard it is to manage this diagnosis, and how incredibly important the right tools and the right information can be. I knew how her soon-to-be-received bag could help Mary and her family through this difficult time, and that put a smile on my face. The solid cancer information found in the printed pubs and reliable cancer websites found in the resources section of the binder and Bag It’s website will help them navigate during and after treatment.

Einstein Quote

On appointment day we had to arrive 30 minutes early for Mary to deal with the sheaf of paperwork that greeted her. Her cancer pain visible on her face, it was a struggle for Mary to fill out her extensive medical history from memory. While Mary had received a full printed list of her meds from her smart PCP, she could not find it in her wallet. As I sat there watching her try to recall all the names and doses of the meds she took, I visualized how much easier and less stressful it would have been for Mary if she could have just copied all of her personal medical information from the pre-filled forms in her Bag It binder onto the provider’s forms. Ten minutes tops. As it turned out the forms were incomplete when we were called into the exam room 45 minutes later. The MA filled in some of the gaps. The kind doctor confirmed the cancer diagnosis, specifying the location, stage and grade of the tumor. It was described as an “aggressive” cancer, and surgery was necessary. A sentinel node biopsy would determine the extent of the surgery. The need for chemotherapy and/or radiation would be known after the full pathology results were in. The doctor spoke in a straightforward manner that provided the basic facts without much elaboration. Things moved quickly as surgery timing and next steps were discussed. Mary posed one or two questions about post-op home care needs but nothing about her cancer or treatment – she didn’t know what to ask.

Since then, I think about all the ways Mary could have benefited from receiving a Bag It bag at the initial time of diagnosis or during this early appointment. From the forms, calendars and glossary of basic cancer terms in the navigation binder to the printed pubs with tips on how to prepare for appointments/questions to ask about diagnosis/treatment, ways for patients and families to cope with their diagnosis, how to be an active member of their health care team, and so much more. The Bag It resource center on the website offers more than 150 reliable sites for patients and their families to find credible information and resources right when they need it. Topics include cancer types, clinical trials, side effects, supportive care/emotional support, caregivers and family resources, insurance, and financial assistance, legal rights, advance care planning, and survivorship. Check it out These advantages also serve the healthcare team as Mary would have the tools and knowledge to be more prepared, organized, and better informed. By using her Bag It bag Mary would ideally take a more active role in advocating for herself and likely improve her quality of life as a result. The early window of opportunity to provide a Bag It bag can easily be missed for a variety of reasons but remember it is helpful at any point in the continuum of care and for any type of cancer.