By: Grace Back
Whether you know Elle Halliwell through her candid memoir, follow her incredibly brave and open presence on social media, or know her personally, you’ll have already instantly sensed she’s a rare find — an inimitable force that is both equally gentle and fierce. A combination that has been uniquely shaped by her personal experiences. In 2016, Halliwell was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), a rare type of blood cancer, and while that might be hard enough to imagine, just two days later, she and her husband Nick Biasotto, learned they were expecting their first child.
It’s a battle that Halliwell has covered openly in her memoir, A Mother’s Choice, detailing the early days of her diagnosis, where she was told that the best chances of surviving were to terminate the pregnancy, have fertility treatments to freeze her eggs and try again when she was healthy. But, that wasn’t an option for Halliwell. Just eight months later, she and Nick welcomed their beautiful and healthy son Tor.
Since her memoir’s 2017 release, Halliwell has become something of an open book for her community, sharing the continuous ups and downs of her health journey. That includes, most recently, releasing a video detailing that she’d “fallen out of remission” and would have to begin treatments again. “I am not that upset,” Halliwell frankly admitted. “I’m not devastated.” It’s a mindset she has been slowly building ever since first being told she had CML, one that actively looks to the positives of every situation.
“I'm just in the middle of this whole unknown thing again, so it's a little bit triggering in a way, because I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again.’ But I also feel like, you know what, I handled the first one all right,” Halliwell tells Her Black Book.
Admittedly, Halliwell is in a completely different place compared to the first time around — where she was not only grappling with the unknowns of treatment for the first time but navigating life as a new mum.
“Back then, it was really hard to know what was new motherhood versus starting treatment. The exhaustion, that was the main thing. Then obviously, I had all of the other symptoms from the medication on top of it. I was tired, I was losing my hair, dealing with bone pain and fatigue, so this time, I don’t have to wrangle the whole concept of being a new mum with the start of treatment again.”
As she embarks on the next stage of her illness, Halliwell will continue to do what she’s always done, share updates and insights into her treatments through her completely unfiltered and brave lens.
“I think one of the things is, especially right now for me, is just being mindful, practising mindfulness. I've always suffered from anxiety and getting cancer actually taught me how to manage that. Trying not to fortune tell, in a sense. I try and live moment by moment and not think too far ahead in the future and that just helps to reduce those feelings of anxiety, and to really appreciate the small things in life."
And while much of her healing comes through the supportive and encouraging community she’s built, something that’s long been a driving force and inspiration behind her transparency, Halliwell admits that sometimes it comes with overwhelming responsibility.
“There are two aspects. When I was diagnosed, I had no idea what CML was, I knew nobody with it. So being able to reach out to people and say, ‘This is my story. This is where I'm at. Can you tell me it's going to be okay?’ That was a massive lifeline for me. So, I felt like I had this responsibility to pay it forward. Since then I've made so many wonderful friends online who have shared with me their journeys with CML and with other cancers.”
“Emotionally it takes its toll,” Halliwell adds. “But what balances it out is hearing the wonderful outcomes from people who say, ‘I was diagnosed five years ago and I went off treatment pre-remission, and I just had my first child.’ Things like that are so life-affirming. If I can be a comfort in someone else's time of need, or if they're going through something then I feel like I have an obligation to do that.”
Halliwell would eventually use her experiences to kickstart her ‘side hustle’, Auricle Healing, which was a swerve she’d never imagined taking. Born from her home in Bondi Beach, the collection of acupressure seeds take touchpoints from the ancient art of auricular reading and healing, to offer a gentle, non-invasive form of pain relief.
“It all started when I was pregnant and had morning sickness, and I'd just been diagnosed, so I was a bit stressed out,” Halliwell explains. “A girlfriend of mine, who's an acupuncturist, gave me these acupuncture bands for my wrists. I was a bit sceptical at first, but I put them on and it was this incredible, instant relief.
“I wore the bands during my pregnancy, and then once I had Tor, I ended up getting a few acupuncture appointments and my girlfriend would put the seeds on after I had the appointment. They did such a good job at maintaining and regulating my anxiety, so I became a big fan of them, but I didn't really wear them that often because I didn't like how they looked on my ear.”
As Halliwell describes, Auricle marries her love of both fashion and holistic treatment, becoming the first company to bring luxe gold and silver acupressure seeds to the Australian market. It’s an unsurprising leap for the journalist, who not only has an extensive career in fashion and beauty, currently writing for The Australian and Vogue, but has also ventured out to become a health coach, certified Integrative Natural Health (naturopath) practitioner, auriculotherapist, and is about to finish a degree in clinical herbalism.
With absolutely no experience in creating a business, Halliwell admits that “it was all very shoestring” at the beginning, but just two days after launching, Auricle sold out.
"I think that with knowledge comes power, and it’s so important to arm yourself with the tools so that you can figure out what’s best for your body.”
One thing Halliwell notes from her Auricle venture, was the welcoming small business community, a group of like-minded women who were incredibly “supportive and inclusive.”
“I think for anyone starting a small business, I would say to them, don't be afraid to just reach out to people who are doing something similar to you but might be a few years ahead, because most of them would probably be happy to help knowing they were in that position a couple of years before and would've really appreciated having a little bit of mentorship and a little bit of support.”
That’s exactly what Halliwell did to ease the feelings of doubt she was facing, joining Facebook groups and reaching out to people in similar situations, asking simple things like “Does anyone know where I can get boxes?”, which she said made all the difference.
“I've made so many mistakes, so many mistakes. But it's great because every mistake actually gave me more confidence because now I know better.”
As is with most things Halliwell does, whether it be loaning her time to charities close to her heart or collaborating with brands to bring awareness to important causes—most recently teaming up with Aje and Adopt Change, which sees profits from a limited edition t-shirt go to support permanent, nurturing and safe homes for vulnerable children in Australia—Auricle Seeds follows suit. Each month a portion of profits from Halliwell’s business is donated to Nature Conservancy Australia.
“In my personal life, I support so many charities that involve cancer and my own personal health journey, and, for my whole life nature, animals and the environment has been so important, I think now more than ever, having a son and knowing that what we do today can impact the next generation's future. That means so much to me, and I think that it's everybody's responsibility to give back in some way, shape or form. Having a small business that involves shipping and bringing in items from overseas, there's going to be a footprint, and so I feel like if I can negate that by supporting an organisation that helps to preserve our environment, I'll do it.”
It’s also not about conquering the world of small business, as Halliwell explains, but having something that fills her with joy.
“I think that sometimes we have to look at areas of our life, whether it's a hobby or a passion, and ask ourselves, is it worth growing to the point where it doesn't bring you as much joy. I'm at that point where right now I'm happy to see Auricle grow slowly, but also to the point where it's still manageable for me to do when I have the time.”
On top of everything Halliwell has accomplished over the years, writing for some of Australia’s most recognised publications, interviewing famous faces like Miranda Kerr and Oprah Winfrey, battling cancer, publishing a memoir, her greatest is undoubtedly her and Nick’s adorable son, Tor.
“Not a day goes by where I don't think how lucky I am that he's here with me today and he's healthy. I'm just so grateful that we're at this point in life where he's healthy and I'm healthy enough to take him to the park. Life's good. We can't complain. I feel very lucky.”
“My most regularly repurchased beauty item is a body oil, I use it like water in the shower. That, and beauty supplements, like a good probiotic or a good peptide powder or collagen.”
“I don’t have a signature scent, but I like to look at perfumes like a book. I will wear a new perfume whenever I do anything significant in my life. For my wedding, I wore Balenciaga, and so now every time I smell it, it reminds me of my wedding.”
“Four of my favourite Australian brands are Camilla and Marc, Aje, Rebecca Vallance and Bassike.”
“My favourite self-care ritual are ear seeds, because I really make it into a ritual. I'll light a candle or incense, take some deep breaths and then apply them. A couple of minutes out of my day to tune into my body and ask, ‘Okay, what areas do I need to look after this week?’ It also keeps me present and aware of the areas of my health that I need to take care of.”
$500 has been donated to the The Leukaemia Foundation through the making of this article.
Images of Elle Halliwell shot by Charles Grant.