When a child develops cancer, it is natural for the parents to look for reasons, or something to blame.
They ask questions about the food they have been eating and can become confused by the conflicting research that they read on the internet.
Mandie Erasmus, from the Little Fighters Cancer Trust (LFCT) knows this better than most. The LFCT works in 14 paediatric oncology wards around the country as well as in outpatient and treatment clinics.
They also support 60 families as well as helping children who are in places of safety because their home situation is not conducive to getting better.
“Some of the parents worry that dairy products are not good for their children,” she says. “But we know that dairy products – in particular those which do not contain added hormones – are an important part of the diet of all children, especially those who are recovering after their cancer operations,” she says. “The dairy products give them the protein they need to speed up their healing, and the calcium is vital too.”
Cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, can cause mucositis, a painful inflammation and ulceration of the digestive tract, including the mouth.
“When we see these kids, we try to make sure that they have yoghurt. It is often the only thing they can eat, but more than that, we know that it helps them to get better,” Erasmus says.
Fair Cape Dairies has been supporting LFCT for the past two years, as part of the Fair Cape Cares Initiative, with a special emphasis on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.
“We are branding all our 175ml yoghurts with a special foil cap and donating 20c from each yoghurt sold to LFCT,” says Louis Loubser, Fair Cape Marketing Director.”
Fair Cape Dairies is unique among major dairy companies in South Africa as all its milk comes from a single farm.
“This means that we know exactly where our milk comes from,” Loubser said. “We know the health of each cow and we know that the growth hormones which have been associated with some cancers are never given to our cows.
If a cow is not well, our computerised monitoring system picks it up and her milk is immediately separated until she is completely well again.”