Diet is key, says cancer survivor

Natasha Johannes, a cancer survivor, lives off her garden.

A Westgate cancer survivor has turned a dumping site into an organic garden which provides a source of nutrition to the community.

Natasha Johannes, 41, mother of two sons, aged 20 and 12, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015.

She had two surgeries and underwent 33 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

She strongly feels that eating a diet rich in organic fruit and vegetables is important for recovery from cancer.

“An alternate to all the medication was a plant-based diet, which I still do today,” said Ms Johannes, who cut out red meat and sugar.

“I had this dream of greenery and that I had to start planting and stop eating genetically modified foods. I had to think of planting my own vegetables, eat organic food and noticed how it helped me,” she said.

Last year she cleared a dumping site behind her house.

Her husband Jerome Johannes then inquired by the City of Cape Town whether they could grow vegetables on the 800 square metre plot.

Permission was granted and Ms Johannes has since been working in the garden. They have started building a greenhouse to grow and nurture seedling and saplings. Ms Johannes has also started growing medicinal herbs.

She has harvested quite a bit of her garden, including more than 40 bunches of spinach, which she distributed to members of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) support group at Westridge library.

Earlier this year she completed a course through NPO Soil for Life, in Mitchell’s Plain, with trainer Sandi Lewis. She learned to prepare the soil, plant, nurture and harvest a home garden.

Soil for Life, based in Constantia, teaches people to grow healthy, organic food using simple, low-cost, environmentally-friendly methods.

She said she suffered bouts of fatigue but vegetable juices gave her energy.

“I feel terrible if I have not had a vegetable juice for the day,” said Ms Johannes.

She said being diagnosed with cancer left her indoors and not wanting to go out much, but since working in the garden she had found peace of mind.

She also supplies some produce to a soup kitchen in Eastridge, where she grew up.

Ms Johannes said two cancer survivors, who come to work in the garden, have made a safe space for them to let their hair down and not think or say the word cancer.

Ms Johannes is looking for volunteers to work in the garden three hours a day. For more information call her on 071 826 7587.