Elle Halliwell had a dreamy life. As the fashion writer for the Daily Telegraph with a Sunday night gig on Nova, she’d recently gotten married and was looking forward to starting a family with her husband. Then she found out she had leukaemia. Two days after that, she found out she was pregnant.
Talk about a whirlwind of emotions.
Her 2018 memoir, “A Mother’s Choice” documents her journey of choosing to continue with the pregnancy rather than terminate it for lifesaving cancer treatment.
“They wanted me to end the pregnancy and freeze my eggs, then go on the treatment. It would have been three to four years before I’d be able to consider getting pregnant again - through fertility treatment. So we decided to wait and see. It was terrifying that I couldn’t go on lifesaving treatment for another eight months. I tried to take it day by day. I didn’t think the baby would survive. But here we are.”
She made it through the pregnancy and her son Tor, is now two years old.
Elle is still on cancer medication. But there was cause for celebration when she recently found out her blood cancer had reached “undetectable” levels - something she'd been hoping for ever since diagnosis. She will continue with oral chemotherapy for the unforseeable future in order to suppress the cancer.
It's the kind of stuff that makes you grateful for the every day and through all of this, her interest in natural health and nutrition has grown: she’s studying Naturopathy at the Nature Care College. Her beauty routine and household cleaning products underwent an overhaul. “My husband would come home to boxes of products at the front door and I’d say, "we’re throwing them out! They have chemicals in them! I try not to get too crazy about it though.”
Here’s how she keeps healthy.
“I do a lot of walking and yoga - I moved back to Bondi last year and feel like just being here is healthier. My body needs exercise and relaxation at the same time at the moment. I go walking every day, a couple of kilometres in the morning and on the days when it’s just Tor and I, I’ll wander from park to park. I also recently signed up to the F45 Bondi Beach 8 week challenge. Since getting my negative test results I’m more confident about pushing my body further with exercise, so we’ll see how we go.
“I have suffered from fatigue since taking the medication, and just walking up the stairs used to be an ordeal. But I’m now tolerating it much better and have noticed more consistency in my energy levels.”
It changes depending on what my body needs and at the moment I need to address quite specific things, like the past couple of months my phosphorus levels have been low and I’ve been told to eat more meat. I’ve developed an intolerance to eggs and milk and that required a change - my morning coffee is now oat milk (when I can find a café which serves it!) and now I have to try and find a new breakfast, What I’ve learnt is to be intuitive - listen to what my body’s craving and what it needs. At the moment that’s veggies and meat.
Breakfast - coffee and supplements
11am - Avocado on spelt toast or porridge if I’m hungry in the morning. I have to fast as part of my medication two hours before and one hour afterwards so it can really upset my whole day of eating, so I usually just have brunch instead of lunch and breakfast.
Lunch - Salad with a protein or a wholemeal sandwich or a soup, I make a lot of bone broth at home so something like chicken bone broth soup and lots of veggies.
Dinner - I used to battle with my husband because he thinks a piece of meat is dinner and I think dinner is veggies. When it was his turn to cook I’d come home to a chicken breast! So now we get Marley Spoon (home delivery meal recipe service) which has been fantastic and on the other days we just cook something similar, usually healthy.
I see a naturopath regularly but am studying naturopathy myself so have begun to learn what supplements and herbs I need to keep my body and mind feeling good. As you’d imagine, I have more needs than most people right now! My immune system is low so we’re working on that. I take probiotics, zinc, vitamin C, a herbal astragalus-based tonic (which is great for anxiety and levelling mood), turmeric in some form, either tablets or a latte, and a I do a daily hydrolised collagen drink.
I took a vedic meditation course with The Broad Place last year which really improved my meditation practice, and can’t recommend taking a course more highly if you are serious about daily practice. After I was diagnosed I’d wake up in the morning for months thinking “was this just a nightmare? Did I dream this whole thing” then I’d realise this was my reality so I made a point of walking somewhere in the morning, like a serene park, and meditate there. Just being able to go outside and do that was really important and helped me get in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.”
“I think having a baby has made me a lot more conscious of the footprint I’m making on the earth. Everything that I buy tends to be with the environment in mind and I go for natural with almost everything.
I have a great book, “Mother’s Little Helper, Wendy Nissen’s old-fashioned guide to raising your baby chemical-free” It has great recipes for homemade soaps, face washes, laundry powder and other stuff. I also try and avoid buying things in plastic, I use those reuseable wax wraps instead of cling wrap, and I do a bulk wholefoods shop instead of buying everything in packets.
It has totally changed! In the mornings I use an amazing face wash my sister makes - it’s foamy and pepperminty and makes my face cold and tingly. For body wash I’ll buy Dr Bronner’s or steal Tor’s Sukin when I run out. I have a Kora face mask that I love and Tor and I both share the Trilogy almond body oil, I’ll put lavender in it before bed. Moisturiser is an oil like jojoba or a serum by Shemana, and I’m obsessed with Lux Aestiva’s sugar scrub right now. My deodorant is Black Chicken Axilla Paste.
For makeup I use a mineral based foundation like Bare Minerals or Ilia, and I take it off with a Face Halo. Most of my makeup is natural but I still use things like mascara.
WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER?
I’m a great juggler (literally and metaphorically!)
Interview: Nedahl Stelio
Photos: Chris Mohen
Elle is wearing We Are Kindred