Cancer Inspired Her
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 metal-
lic 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 hospi-
tal 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 spe-
cifically 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.”—Tammy La Gorce
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