Haims column: Managing cancer therapy side effects

Judson Haims

There are many types of cancer treatments. Some are quite taxing on the mind and body and others, perhaps less. Cancer poses many known and unknown challenges — the disease alone can be daunting to wrap your head around, and treatments may drain both physical and emotional levels.

Over the years, we have assisted many people through their cancer treatment recovery. We are one in a handbag of tools used to help people through this challenging time. While much of the supportive care we provide helps people manage the practical parts of their day to day lives, we also advocate, share education, and acknowledge our clients’ feelings — it’s all about improving quality of life.

It’s in advocating for others that we have learned much from the doctors, nurses and nutritionists who provide care for our clients. Here are some tidbits of information I hope may be helpful for people managing their cancer recovery.

Cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy often find that the treatments can affect eating habits, tastes, weight management, and sometimes cause mouth and nose sores.

As weight fluctuations can affect one’s recovery prognosis, we have learned to be mindful and proactive. When we hear clients state that “everything tastes like cardboard” or that “nothing seems fulfilling,” we collaborate with their medical providers and nutritionists to develop a meal plan. Good nutrition is integral in promoting a better recovery.

For breakfast, we have found that oatmeal, yogurt smoothies with fresh fruit, cottage cheese, pancakes (particularly banana pancakes) and cereal seem to sit well. Foods that seem to not sit so well are bacon, sausage and sugary items like donuts and cinnamon muffins.

For lunch, many people seem to enjoy vegetable, bean and chicken soups. Whole wheat pasta with a marinara or alfredo sauce also have proven to be popular midday meals. One of the most widely well-received midday snacks people enjoy is an ice cream shake made with a high calorie ice cream, fresh peaches, banana and half an avocado.

A number of months back, one of our patients shared with me that her medical provider at the Mayo Clinic suggested she consider using rose geranium nasal spray to help with the soreness and dryness that had developed in and around her nose — a symptom called nasal vestibulitis.

Lo and behold, for her, this worked out quite well. I am aware of other clients (and family members) that have also had similar symptoms after cancer treatments, so I tucked this knowledge in my bag of tricks to share with others. A few months later, a different client who had visited Johns Hopkins had mentioned rose geranium nasal spray as well.

Recently, I was informed of an article posted in the both the British Medical Journal and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about rose geranium oil nasal spray. It seems that researchers at the Mayo Clinic have researched the efficacy of rose geranium oil nasal spray. They found informal evidence indicating that “Rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray appears to be quite useful for patients who experience nasal vestibulitis from cancer-directed therapy.”

Another treatment option used by cancer patients is CBDs derived from cannabis. While research in the United States is limited, CBDs have been found to be an effective and safe option to help patients cope with nausea, vomiting, sleep disorders, pain, anxiety and depression. Israel, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and a couple other countries have been exploring the risks and benefits of marijuana for about 40 years.

In Israel (considered the global leader in marijuana research), researchers at the Israeli Ministry of Health have conducted extensive research with over 3,000 cancer patients between 2015 and 2017. After six months of investigation, they found that of the 1,211 patients that had not dropped out or passed away, almost 96 percent reported that sleep problems (78.4 percent), pain (77.7 percent), weakness (72.7 percent), nausea (64.6 percent) and lack of appetite (48.9 percent) had improved.

The recently passed Farm Bill signed into law by President Donald Trump legalized hemp production. This will assist the sales, research and hopefully help us understand more about efficacy of CBDs and how they may assist in fighting the side effects many age-related ailments.

If any of these suggestions intrigue you, you should speak to your medical provider(s) to see if they may be a viable option for you and your specific treatment. While everyone’s recovery and treatment is specific and personal, by sharing what has worked or not worked for you, you may be able to help others with their recovery options.

When used wisely and properly researched, information shared of successful and unsuccessful treatment options may promote better recovery options/knowledge. However, when used carelessly and without the collaboration of your medical provider(s), dangers to your health and that of others could be formidable.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Aspen and the surrounding areas. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is,, 970-328-5526.

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