The tale of Elle & Tor Biasotto



If you were to pass Sydney-based journalist Elle Biasotto (nee Halliwell) on the street you’d probably look at her and think how gorgeous she was. Or how fresh-faced she looks for someone who has just given birth. Stop and talk to her and you’d discover there’s far more to Biasotto than a pretty face: she’s one of the bravest women you’ll ever meet...

Last May she discovered she was pregnant. It should have been the happiest moment of her life. Yet just 48 hours prior, she had been diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML), a rare blood cancer. She was advised that the safest option was to terminate the pregnancy, undergo fertility treatment and then begin treatment straight after. She was in an inconceivable situation. It was her husband Nick, who gave her the hope that they could potentially keep the baby. “Knowing my illness had been discovered in its early stages, we decided to speak to world expert in CML Timothy Hughes at South Australia’s SAHMRI institute, who gave us the confidence to continue with the pregnancy,” recalls Biasotto.

They were able to go ahead with the pregnancy, and their beautiful son Tor arrived last December. “Meeting Tor for the first time was surreal. You dream about meeting them for months and there are so many emotions when you finally do; joy, wonder and complete adoration. There was also an incredible sense of relief for me, knowing he was healthy despite the challenges we had both overcome since he was conceived.”

When we visited Biasotto at home, Tor was six weeks old and she was due to start her cancer treatment the following day. It meant she’d have to stop breastfeeding, which as all mothers know is an emotional experience. Despite all the challenges she has faced and continues to face – she’ll be on medication for the rest of her life – Biasotto is uplifting and positive. She’s radiant and inspiring and you can’t help but think how lucky Tor is to have such an extraordinary woman as his mother. “I’m a fairly positive person. I think the past year has made me realise this. My husband nicknamed me ‘Happy’ when we first started dating 12 years ago, and I think I’ve maintained a positive outlook despite a few challenges along the way. I will always stop to pat a dog or cat, smell a flower or look at a beautiful view; it’s a trait I share with my mum, who taught me to be present and appreciate the little beauties of life. I practice mindfulness more so now since my diagnosis,” she says.

We spent the morning with the beautiful mother and son to talk more about everything from health and wellbeing to motherhood to her career in media.

Photography: Grace Alyssa Kyo | Hair and makeup: Sarina Zoe


I grew up on Sydney’s Northern beaches, the youngest of three girls...

I was a total tomboy. I loved catching bugs, exploring the local national parks with my dad, fishing for yellowtail and mud crabs at the jetty in front of our home and spending hours in the swimming pool, no matter the weather. Growing up by the beach has ruined me in a way; I don’t think I could ever live far from water. It grounds me. I was also a voracious reader. I received toys on special occasions like my birthday and Christmas, but my mum never denied me a book if I wanted one. Reading sparked my love of writing and story telling, and if there is one thing I hope my son inherits from me, it’s a voracious appetite for the written word.


My advice to first time mothers is to relax…

I think many first time mothers stress out trying to navigate advice from books, well meaning relatives and Dr Google, when they should be more intuitive. A girlfriend of mine recently had her first child and while she didn’t give me advice per se, I found her relaxed attitude towards motherhood really inspiring, and something I’ve tried to adopt with my baby.


On May 1 2016, I found out I was four weeks pregnant with Tor…

I feel sad thinking about that day, as it’s supposed to be such a joyful time for a couple, but there was only dread in my mind as I saw the positive response on the test. 48 hours prior I had been diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, a rare blood cancer. So the idea of carrying a baby for the next nine months seemed like an impossible dream. I had no symptoms at the time, so the entire week felt like a strange nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I was advised the safest option was to terminate the pregnancy, undergo fertility treatment and then begin treatment straight after. It was my husband, Nick, who gave me the hope that we could potentially keep the baby.

 


Doctors were worried about my condition towards the end of my pregnancy…

My BCR-ABL level (the cancer marker) began to rise so it was decided I would be induced at 36 weeks. I gave birth at Camperdown’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and, considering my condition and the early delivery, it went quite smoothly. It was a six hour labour, natural delivery, and he arrived weighing a healthy 3.1kg and needed no special care. I recovered very quickly too.


The first week at home was really tough…

I struggled with the lack of sleep. There were a few teary mornings; I questioned whether I was cut out for motherhood and somewhat mourned my old life (which involved a solid eight hours a night). But once I became accustomed to the erratic sleep I felt much more self-assured and excited about being a mum. Now every day I grow more confident as I get to know my son. Tor is a great baby. He loves his food and sleeps pretty well. I had to stop breastfeeding at five weeks. I was fortunate to have been given that time to do so as initially I was due to start my new blood cancer medication immediately after birth, however my levels dropped drastically at the next blood test so I was able to breastfeed him for a while. I felt so blessed to have that time to breastfeed, as with my compromised immunity I wanted to ensure he had the best start to life as possible. I now feed him a combination of my own breast milk (which I pumped and stored), Munchkin grass fed and Holle organic formulas, and milk generously donated from a friend who has an oversupply.


I'm a week into my new treatment, and apart from severe fatigue and some bone pain I'm feeling ok…

I’m nervous, as some of the side effects can be quite brutal, but I’m hopeful my age and lifestyle will put me in good stead to handle whatever happens. I’ll most likely be on the medication forever, or until a cure is found, as my illness is at this stage incurable by modern medicine. But considering 15 years ago people with CML had a life expectancy of just three to five years, it’s a small price to pay to stay alive. And being a strong mum to my son is the biggest motivation to live.


My husband and I were planning to start trying for a baby a few months before my diagnosis, but not until later in the year…

I wanted to be in top health before we conceived so had been following tips from Lane and David Asprey’s The Better Baby Book, which suggests eating a diet high in healthy fats  and plenty of vegetables. After finding out about my cancer and pregnancy, my whole mindset shifted dramatically. I completely overhauled my diet and lifestyle. I began walking seven kilometres each day, and followed an organic, alkaline diet high in fermented foods and probiotics. Out went the plastic containers and Teflon cookware, replaced with glass and stainless steel. My cleaning cupboards were cleared of harsh chemicals and products that weren’t organic or naturally derived. I became a bit of a nightmare, but my husband was very patient and understood I needed to do it for my peace of mind. I remember looking at each product and thinking ‘was this the cause of my cancer?’ It did my head in, but a health crisis really does make you aware of the incredible amount of chemicals we absorb and ingest, many of which haven’t been properly tested for safety.


My eating plan now revolves around my medication as I have to fast for three hours twice a day…

After my morning fast I will have a green juice and either eggs or smoked salmon and avocado on spelt toast, followed by a coffee. If I’m hungry before my afternoon fast, I’ll have whatever is left over from the night before, otherwise I’ll wait for dinner, which is generally a protein such as steak or chicken with salad or steamed vegetables. I’m not allowed to eat bitter fruits which can interact with my treatment, and I’m doing my best to lower my salt intake. I’m no saint and I love food so if I want to eat a burger or a piece of cake I will, as long as it’s made with quality ingredients. I very rarely eat highly processed foods, which is tough as I’m a sucker for gummy bears and red frogs!


Elle wears Pippa Holt Kaftan from Pam Pam Swim


I always loved writing, and it was my dad who planted the seed with regards to a career in journalism…

I undertook an internship at Channel [V] when I was studying, and after college I landed a role as an editorial assistant at The Sunday Telegraph. I’ve always loved fashion. As a child I would raid my sisters’ wardrobes and style fashion shoots with my girlfriends, and steal their fashion magazines. At the paper I quickly developed a knack for breaking fashion news stories and within six months of becoming a cadet journalist, was appointed the paper’s fashion columnist. I’ve been at News Corp for almost a decade, covering fashion and entertainment. I also host a national weekly radio show with Jonathon Moran, Confidential On Nova, every Sunday night.


I’ve always been ambitious…

I think it stemmed from my desire at an early age to be independent. I got my first job at 13 and have never stopped working (until now)! I like the security of knowing I can always look after myself. I hope I can instill the same work ethic in my children.


My husband knows how to make me laugh better than anyone…

It was one of the reasons I fell in love with him. We met in 2005 when I moved in next door to his unit in Bondi. Fast forward one year and I had moved my belongings across the hallway and we were planning our life together. We’ve been making each other laugh ever since.


I didn’t really know what to expect from motherhood…

Aside from things I had learned at the birthing class (swaddling techniques, how to breastfeed etc). I didn’t know it would be so tough emotionally; I don’t think anything can prepare you for it. It’s scary and stressful and at the same time incredibly rewarding and beautiful. It’s made me become more selfless, patient and intuitive, and I’ve been a mum for been less than two months. I can only imagine how much more we will both grow in the years to come.


I transitioned to a natural, organic-based beauty regimen following my diagnosis, and have found brands such as Kora Organics, Bohemian Skin, Sukin, Ilia, Ocinium and RMS great natural options for my skin…

I’m also obsessed with the app Think Dirty, as I can scan beauty and cosmetic products to find out if they contain questionable ingredients. It’s my beauty bible now!


My mum is the most amazing woman...

If I can be half the mother she was to me I will be incredibly happy. She was advised not to carry me to term, but got a second opinion and continued with the pregnancy despite the risks. Knowing this gave me the strength and resolve to go with my gut and continue on with mine. Her support during the past year, and that of my in-laws, has been incredible and I’m so grateful to have such a wonderful support network.


I’m really fortunate as I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight…

So am wearing most of my old clothes again, with the exception of dry-clean only styles (for obvious reasons)! I’m also still wearing my black Mavi maternity jeans, which I found invaluable during my pregnancy as they didn’t look like maternity wear and were such a great fit.  My go-to mum uniform these days consists of a white T-shirt from Bassike, a pair of jeans, Gucci sneakers or loafers, my Claudine & Ash Kalani baby bag and a black Wandersling to carry Tor. And of course a spew cloth over the shoulder, haha!


Elle’s little list of loves:

Tor’s scent.
Netflix
My husband.
Sentimental jewellery.
Diptyque Baies candles.
Organic delivery services.


COMMENTS

Comments

comments