The role nutritional support plays in children and teenagers diagnosed with cancer or a life-threatening blood disorder

A message from Lawrence Mbuyane, a CHOC Social Worker at Chris Hani Baragwaneth Academic Hospital 

The majority of children diagnosed with childhood cancer are from lower socioeconomic family backgrounds.  The lack of resources often becomes a huge challenge which can hinder the success of treatment.

The journey of cancer does not only require medical and psychological intervention, but it also involves other important elements of the healing process such as a balanced diet. Without a balanced diet, despite all interventions in place, the healing process cannot be possible. Medical studies have revealed that children who are malnourished are unable to tolerate the effects of chemotherapy and as a result may not have a successful outcome, when they could have had an opportunity to survive if they had good nutritional support. So, by making nutritional support a standard practice to children diagnosed with cancer, it minimises the risks of children passing away and helps them with chemotherapy drug tolerance and results in a higher survival rate.

Proper food may seem like just a meal, but it is not. Food or nutritional support form the basis of positive outcomes in cancer treatment.

For CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA, providing nutritional support to families of children diagnosed with cancer does not only influence a positive healing process of the child, but also positively contributes to the larger family’s food security.

Yours in Hope,

Food for Thought

Our food assistance is critical for children and teenagers who have been diagnosed with cancer or a life-threatening blood disorder.

So what does this mean in our CHOC Houses…
At our CHOC houses caregivers alternate in cooking meals. Many caregivers sometimes insist on cooking even when it’s someone else’s turn. For breakfast, it is usually maize meal porridge or bread with peanut butter and jam. Sometimes boiled or scrambled eggs. Lunch is also provided and often depends on what the families feel like eating. Dinner consists of either Phuthu, rice, dumplings or Samp with a different gravy or curry for each. Sometimes chicken or lamb curry, beans and chutney. The popular favourite at the house is brown beans and dumplings.

In other cases, the preparation of meals is no ordinary affair. Caregivers like to experiment by trying out different recipes that they have found on the internet; curries, desserts and muffins. If the results turn out well, everyone gets to enjoy the meal and if not, we have a good laugh and still enjoy the beautifully ruined meal.

Because their children are going through such a difficult time, many of the caregivers find cooking to be therapeutic more than just a chore. Many families are also grateful for the nutritious meals offered by CHOC, that they otherwise would not get in their own homes. Our food program remains important for this very reason.

​​​​Lerato Kortjass
KwaZulu-Natal Region

Join us this Mandela Day

Help us keep our tummies full!

CHOC has seven regional offices offering services and support to the nine provinces of South Africa. The regions are demographically positioned to ensure that we reach every child, teenager and their family battling cancer or a life-threatening blood disorder in South Africa.

Join us this month and help each region tick off the food items on their wishlist for Mandela Day.

Click here to view each regions wishlist.

Share this campaign: #GiveWhatYouCAN #DonateToCHOC #CHOCSA #childhoodcancer
Read more about Food for Thought here

Thank you Old Mutual!

“Old Mutual is honoured to be a part of this worthy initiative! The support that CHOC provides to the kids and their families is truly admirable and we are overjoyed to be helping CHOC through their journey.” – Samika Ramtahal, Group Tax Young Executive Board

The reality of childhood cancer from a house supervisor in KZN

Childhood cancer is not pretty. Its hurts physically and leaves devastation in its wake. It’s a tsunami that ravages everything in its path.

I was busy doing a frosty design on our glass doors at CHOC so that the children and adults do not sustain serious injuries by walking into the glass, the day I met 7-year-old Apalile.  Just coming from radiation, she was drowsy, she could not walk, and she was as thin as a rake.  Apalile looked me up and down and asked me to keep quiet when I greeted her.

Apalile has an inoperable brain tumour on her cerebral cortex. To be exact it’s the anterior insular cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for empathy. This is the impact of the tumour on her personality. She is on chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumour.

Prior to her diagnosis, she was a sweet little girl and then her behavior changed. The pressure of the tumor on her brain made her lose her empathy. She has no idea that she is cold and hurtful and lacks compassion and she says everything with a broad smile. Her character is amazing!

On Friday I walked into the lounge to visit her, and I could not believe, how thin she looked, and she was shaking. I asked her mom what was wrong, and she said Apalile refused to eat. So, I started to chat with her and asked her what she feels like eating and she asked for a particular brand of cereal and ice cream. This was duly purchased and today the team tells me she is her bright and chirpy self.

Whilst she at CHOC, she will enjoy all the services that we offer and we have to make exceptions when there is a child in need. We will love her and laugh with her. Support her mom and keep them going, just like we do with every child that walks through our door.

Ways to get involved

Upcoming Events

Join us at one of our many events throughout South Africa, from online webinars to Crazy Cow events, to help us make a difference!

Neuroblastoma – CPD Webinar 6 July View Details
Leukaemia / Lymphoma – CPD Webinar 3 August View Details
Come Dine with Me 3 August View Details
Sani Pass 6 August View Details
Comrades Marathon 28 August View Details

Peter Pan will be brought to life at Canal Walk, come watch with us!

Click here to read more

To watch our webinars please click here

​​​T​​​o view more upcoming events, please click here

Ultra runner Sewell gears up to run 1 800 kilometres to the Comrades for CHOC

While thousands of runners prepare for the 2022 Comrades Marathon on Sunday 28 August, a solitary runner dressed in the distinctive running kit of The Cows will leave Cape Town nineteen days before the world’s biggest ultra-marathon in an attempt to complete twenty Comrades Marathons back-to-back as part of his quest to raise money for the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.

44 year old Johannesburg adventurer Mike Sewell is aiming to raise R1 million by completing the staggering feat, and in the process complete the arduous 1,800km challenge that he and five others failed to get right in 2018.

Sewell got further than any of the other runners on what they dubbed The Long Road to Comrades, managing to complete a total of 1,100 kilometres over 20 days.

Now, inspired by the chance to make a real impact on the lives of children confronting cancer, he wants to try again, and says he is wiser than he was four years ago.

“I had seen The Cows at other events and they intrigued me,” said Sewell. “On connecting with them it just all felt right. Great energy, great community and of course – a great cause. I’ll be treating the charity element as a second parallel project – as big as the run.”

Sewell is adamant that the monumental challenge of doing twenty consecutive Comrades’ can be achieved, and he wants to remedy the disappointment of 2018.

“Mostly The Long Road to Comrades V2.0 is about unfinished business,” he said. “ I’ve always challenged myself with ever growing challenges and this one still needs to be conquered. I love testing my limits, both physically and mentally and I relish in the adventure of a task this big.

“The best part about a second attempt is the benefit of experience. And with such a big challenge, that experience is invaluable. There are a few very significant changes that I have made from the first attempt.

“Firstly, quitting is not an option. It was too easy to get in the support van last time. This won’t be an option this year. I will just have to suck it up.

“Then, keep moving forward! We spent too much time in 2018 not moving forward. This time, only lunch and CHOC house visits will be static stops. All other non-running events in the day must be “rolling”.

“This run will be a solo effort. The task is so big that it needs the focused effort of a team to get one person over the line. I hope to eliminate additional dynamics and challenges that come with multiple runners.

“Then I have fine-tuned everything for success,” he added. “From flattening the route to adding a masseuse to an acute focus on nutrition and even being aware of the road camber.

“But vitally the charity element gives me an additional reason if not THE reason to finish this thing!” he concluded.

Anyone keen to support Sewell on The Long Road to Comrades V2.0 can make a contribution via his fundraising account at

More information about The Cows can be found at

​​​​From the Pasture,

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