Who is Mel? Before cancer, before Moonshine Mama's. Walk us through your childhood —milestones and turning points.
I grew up in a small town in Ontario, and my first job was as a clerk in a health food store. After that, I gravitated towards natural medicines and herbology. I met my partner at 20, married and had our first child at 21. I taught myself landscape design so I could work in the family business. I would design, and my husband did all the installation work. We specialized in garden and hard landscaping like flagstone, etc. We used a lot of natural elements and native planting where it was appropriate. We moved to Salt Spring Island in 1996 after closing our garden centre in Ontario. I wanted a change, and the west coast always called me! We were part of a yoga group that had a land project here (Salt Spring Centre of Yoga), and that is where we ended up! For two years, I ran the kitchen. Our guru, Baba Hari Dass, always encouraged my entrepreneurial spirit. He told me that you're always working to move up, or you're crashing into the ground! I think about that as I grow this business —keep the momentum up!
We moved off the 'land' and moved to a rental but never left the community! We were in love with Salt Spring Island and the people we came to consider our neighbours and friends! We opened a skate shop/clothing store geared towards younger people. Teens would shop there regularly and use it as a base while in town after school and on weekends. It was great but not sustainable.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in 2012 and had to take time off work to go through treatments. I devoted every waking hour to researching natural anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting ingredients and incorporated them into my diet. There was a lot more to it, but consistently these powerful ingredients kept coming up. Turmeric, ginger, lemons I was on a low-sugar diet and honey was the only sweetener I could have in small amounts because of its immune-supporting qualities and lower glycemic rating, so I added it in. I wanted a remedy that was an easy daily concentrated commitment that would be easy to build into a routine. With turmeric especially, it's the daily consumption that does the real work! In the beginning, I made the elixirs for myself. The store was a significant source of financial stress. I had to cut all stress out of my life as it is not suitable for good health! So I closed the store. But I had bills to pay and time on my hands, so selling these elixirs to friends and family made sense! I sold the first bottles through a Facebook post to my friends. I had accidentally made a double batch, so I posted, "I made too much! Who wants to buy some?" I sold 20 bottles and drove all around the island, delivering them in person! That gave me the confidence to sell at the market that spring. I would get enough ingredients to sell at the next market, show up on Saturday and sell out. Then, I'd take that money and buy more ingredients, bottles, etc., show up the following week, and sell out again! I knew I had to keep the momentum going when fall came, so I approached a few local stores. They took our elixirs, and for the next five years, it's been mainly sales calls, and we've expanded to stores throughout BC, Calgary and Ontario. This year, we've got a sales team, and we're launching with a distributor and making our debut in the USA.
When diagnosed with cancer, the biggest battle is with one's mind. People tend to lose hope and perspective in life. How did you deal with this? What (or who) helped you steer towards light and healing?
II was young (43), and my youngest had just turned 6. When you are told you have cancer, there are five stages of emotions that you can go through. I think some people get stuck in one of the stages, but I cycled through them all.
- Denial: "I am not sick. Not me. There is nothing wrong."
- Shock: "What? I have cancer? This happens to other people, not me!"
- Sadness: The phase of feeling helpless and lost, having no control over your life, and feeling like you've let everyone down. No words. Just blank.
- Anger: "Fuck this! Fuck everything! Fuck cancer!" I swore so very much when I got to this phase! Anger leads to…
- Determination: "I am a warrior goddess, and I am going to take back control of my body, my mind and my life!"
"I'd be telling every healthy cell in my body to direct that treatment to the cancer cells. I knew I had two tumours, and I visualized them taking all the force of the treatment."
Once I got to that fifth phase, I devoted myself to getting well. I knew that I could not necessarily tilt the odds as cancer seems to take who it decides to take, but I would not make it easy! So I chose to stay in that mind frame. Every day I woke up, I donned my warrior mask and boots, and every breath I took through that day was a chant to be well —to live and to kill every cancer cell in my body. I used lots of visualizations and meditation. For example, every time I went for a treatment, I would be waiting for my chemo or radiation. In my mind, I would be taking out a can of white paint and visualizing painting every healthy cell in my body with that paint while chanting, "This is to protect you from the treatment we are about to receive."
I'd be telling every healthy cell in my body to direct that treatment to the cancer cells. I knew I had two tumours, and I visualized them taking all the force of the treatment. I would say a small prayer, blessing every cell in my body, the people in this room caring for me, my family, my fellow patients, all the people in my community, the world, the universe.After the treatment, I would reverse that same prayer. Instead, I would bring all the energy back into my body and blast the unhealthy cells, mentally crushing them with all the force of the universe! So yes, my mind played a significant role in the process of getting well. After the treatments were done, I had to fight with my mind and force it to be positive, as you can get depressed when your whole life revolves around cancer. I forced myself to walk every day, even though I had no gas in the tank. I had so little energy. Walking up the stairs was draining. Getting off the couch was draining. I slept a lot or pushed myself to walk. That was my life. But, I wanted to show my body I was vital and alive by walking every day. Or I would sleep to allow my body to heal. All of this was a full-time job.
When did you first hear or come to know about your superstar, turmeric?
I had already incorporated turmeric into my diet, but I was just using the powder. I would sprinkle it on everything, and finally, I was bored of that. One day I was in the local health food store, and they had brought in some fresh turmeric root. I picked a root up and held it in the palm of my hand. I had an instant connection to it! I had already been juicing and consuming approximately two litres of fresh organic vegetable and fruit juice per day. That was part of the protocol that I had developed. But at that moment, as I stared at that root, I knew I could incorporate it into my diet easily. My commitment was organic ingredients in the most natural form possible. That seemed likely now! I made a deal to buy some in bulk along with some ginger and a case of overripe lemons that the grocer needed out! I had purchased a second-hand juicer for $60 at a garage sale, so I pushed it to the max with a decision to get all the benefits these superfoods had to offer in a concentrated juice shot. I learned later that there are more tricks to getting all the benefits of turmeric, as it needs to be activated and it's water-soluble. It needs something to make it more bioavailable, but at that moment, I was set!