Finding Alternatives to Help With Nausea During Cancer


When my sister experienced nausea and vomiting during her Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, we tried alternatives that seemed to help.

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It was difficult to watch my sister struggle with so many side effects throughout her Hodgkin lymphoma treatments. Ultimately, she needed the medications that were being dosed because they were what was treating cancer. Still, I would be lying if I wondered if the side effects were worth it. When my sister was enduring cancer for the first time, she had many side effects outside the norm. Many of the drugs she received caused the rarest of side effects, and so often, the treatments stopped working, and we were left to seek hope through experimental therapies.

So, we tried to find alternative ways to help her work through these side effects. We landed on one way that was an unexpected remedy for her. A common treatment-related side effect that my sister dealt with was nausea.

At the peak of her treatment cycles, she took upwards of 30 medications a day. Regardless of how often I questioned the efficacy of the treatments, I knew that her care team was utilizing modern medicine as best it could to treat her. Therefore, we tried to be creative regarding remedies and sought alternative treatments to make her feel better.When I say alternative, I do not in any way mean to suggest that we shunned traditional medications. What I mean is that we tried to use anything that would make getting through cancer a little easier for my sister. 

Like so many things about cancer, it is incredibly overwhelming. Most of what we came to learn about what was and was not sufficient to help my sister came through trial and error. So much about cancer requires one to be creative, have a different perspective, and be open to the concept of something altogether different. During cancer, I had to practice an entirely new level of open-mindedness because there were so many times that the norm did not apply to my sister.

When a suggestion that her care team gave us did not work, I would often turn to Google to research what other cancer patients and their families had tried hoping that the remedies they had tried would work for my sister. Sometimes they did, and sometimes they did not, but sometimes was better than no times. Initially, I tried the most offered suggestions I could find.

We tried the usual suggestions of peppermint candies, ginger drops, breath tabs and chewing gum. Sadly, none of them worked for her, and there were many times that she would take prescriptions of several anti-emetic drugs (anti-nausea and vomiting medications), but none of them worked. Instead, we used vanilla wafers, specifically generic vanilla wafers. I have no idea why that variety worked for her, but it did. And so, we used to keep boxes of these cookies in the house so that when she was nauseous, we would already have what she needed to feel better. This was the first unorthodox remedy and would not be the last.

Regardless of all the complications that my sister endured, I am still a huge proponent of modern medicine. Like everything we tried, we always consulted with her care team to ensure that what we were doing and trying did not affect the treatments she was given. Sometimes I thought I was silly for asking them; they appreciated the open communication, though, because it allowed them to monitor her better and gave them new suggestions to offer other patients who may have been experiencing similar issues that my sister was. I am also a big advocate of alternative remedies because cancer has shown me that sometimes the best approach is the one you may never have considered.

This article reflects the views of Kim Johnson and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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