Cancer Inspired Her Soothing Treats

A cancer survivor created a candy that would temper at least some of chemo’s notorious side effects.

Orange-flavored barley lollipops
Orange-flavored barley lollipops
Photo courtesy of Greg Kowalcyzk

Samantha Kowalczyk was no stranger to cancer when she was diagnosed with the disease in December 2013. Her sister, Michelle Machado, had died of lung cancer in 2011. Her maternal grandmother had had breast cancer, the same kind that pitted Kowalczyk against a double mastectomy and five months of chemotherapy at Overlook Medical Center in Summit in 2014.

The disease also sparked the Scotch Plains resident’s entrepreneurial side.

“I remember saying to myself after I got the results of that mammogram, I am not doing those side effects,” says Kowalczyk, 46. Particularly upsetting was the prospect of no longer enjoying food. After her sister died, Kowalczyk trained to be a nutritionist, and launched a holistic, organic-food business, SJ Holistic Health. The clientele for her carrot-ginger soup and cookie dough hummus gave her the confidence to cook up a candy that would temper at least some of chemo’s notorious side effects.

“I couldn’t do anything about my hair falling out, but I could mess around with ingredients to try and stop the metallic taste in my mouth and get rid of cold sores,” she says. Honey was a balm for the cold sores. Barley got rid of what she called “that nasty chemo taste.”

Kowalczyk launched Soothease in 2015; the candies are sold on Amazon, in hospital boutiques and in holistic pharmacies. Lollipops ($1.50 each) and hard candies ($11.99 for 10 pieces) come in peppermint barley and other flavors to help food taste better. The honey lavender and chocolate brown rice help with mouth sores.

“Customers come in all the time specifically to buy them,” says Jackie Esteves, manager of Tiffany Pharmacy in Westfield.

Kowalczyk, now cancer free, will never forget the experience. “If I can give people going through it even a little comfort,” she says, “I’m glad to do it.”

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