By Melissa Walsh
Three years ago Elle Halliwell was faced with the news that would change her life when the fashion journalist was diagnosed with leukaemia. As if that’s not enough, two days later the 30 year old discovered she was pregnant with her first child. Forced with a heartbreaking decision, the author and media personality had to decide whether to terminate the unborn baby and begin treatment, or continue with the pregnancy and have treatment once the baby was born, knowing that could be a course that would lead to her death. Peninsula Kids talks to Halliwell about her unusual journey into motherhood, dealing with cancer, clean living, and being an ambassador for Australian Organic.
“I was terrified when I found out I was pregnant, having just received the diagnosis 48 hours before.
I didn’t know what to do and couldn’t stop crying,” said Halliwell of the rare cancer that affects around 300 Australians every year. “Those first few days are just a blur but a friend of mine suggested I keep a video diary. It is raw and emotional and lots of tears but I think it helped to process the whole thing.”
Halliwell decided to keep the pregnancy and delay any treatment until after the baby was born, focusing on eliminating any toxic chemicals and pesticides from her life, and knowing the medication for her cancer could not be taken during pregnancy.
“I knew my body was battling a life threatening illness and needed to give it the best nutrition I could. My son, Tor, was born a month premature but was still three kilos which I attribute to good living,” said the young mother, who then started on her cancer treatment.
It was December 2016 when Halliwell began the treatment which was in tablet form, a type of oral chemotherapy.
“The medication I took meant I only had to get tested every three months so that was great. I did have some side effects like some bone pain and went through a period of very low energy which was challenging with a new baby but I had a great support network which helped me get through the tougher times,” said Halliwell, who went on to write her memoir, A Mother’s Choice, and recently became ambassador for Australian Organic.
“I continued on the path to detox my life, mine and my family’s diet and rid the house of chemical products, and recently I found out that my cancer is undetectable,” she said. “I’m really excited to be working with a trusted organisation such as Australian Organic. Given my health issues I embraced an organic lifestyle which I feel has benefited my family’s well-being. I feel it makes better health sense to consume foods that are free from chemicals, pesticides, preservatives and artificial additives. In particular, I believe it’s important to give kids
a healthy start in life by introducing them to organic products. I’m now in remission and will continue on my organic journey. I hope to inspire others to welcome organic products into their lives.”
These days, Halliwell thinks of herself as an average mum, trying to do the best for her family.
“I am just trying to do the right thing like everybody else. Cooking from scratch isn’t always possible so I try to choose organic snacks. If you look for certified organic natural logo you cannot go wrong,” she said. “It is so important to not let our kids absorb chemicals so I also use natural products and have found going back to basics is the best like using lavender oil in Tor’s bath. There are so many more organic choices these days as well, with our food, toiletries and skin care even.”
Halliwell says some of the things she has learnt to maintain a chemical free lifestyle are to buy fruit and vegetables in season, buy Australian and local produce that are organic, and return to the basics before the pre-packaged food.
“If you keep it as simple as choosing natural food and products, you cannot go wrong,” said Halliwell.
“I found out the hard way with my diagnosis and then immediate pregnancy, but it has actually been the best thing to happen to us. To be cancer free now makes me appreciate life so much more. I think I have been lucky to have learnt from a young age not to take life for granted and I am very passionate that there is a reason this happened to me.
I know to appreciate everything, don’t let work rule your life, and I am fortunate that I found this out early on.”