I was just pulling on my jacket and heading for the door of the doctor’s surgery when I suddenly mentioned, “Oh, I’ve got this little itchy thing on my bottom,” and I turned back to show her.
I thought nothing of it. As a part-time model I’d been seeing the same dermatologist for years and had come in for a totally unrelated skin issue.
She removed the little mole on my skin for a closer investigation – and off I went, forgetting all about it.
I was 24, living in New York and applying for journalism school, and I’d just done a modelling campaign with Donna Karan, a family friend.
I was athletic and I felt invincible. So I was completely floored when a few weeks later I was diagnosed with stage three [out of four] lymphatic cancer.
Suddenly, I found myself in a very different and serious world to the one I was used to.
I had surgery to remove some lymph nodes, but the results showed they were still cancerous, so I had more taken away, and then more again.
Ultimately, I needed four surgeries on my left groin for the doctors to go deep enough to remove the cancerous lymph nodes.
I was the youngest person they’d ever treated with lymph cancer to this degree.
Later I would learn that because my skin is very pale and because I was then quite thin, the cancer was able to travel more quickly through my body.
Because of all the operations I then contracted a bone infection. It was agony.
I was transferred to a different hospital in Boston, and I was in so much pain I even started losing my hearing. It was scary, feeling I was losing control of my body.
The one good thing that happened to me during that time, and in the most unlikely of circumstances, was meeting Jamie, who I went on to marry.
Looking and feeling horrific, I had begged doctors to let me visit a friend, dragging my IV drip and nurse along with me.
Jamie was also there as a friend of the family. I don’t think we even registered each other as man or woman at that time, but we became friends.
While the Boston hospital had succeeded in killing the bone infection, it was obvious just looking at my body that I wouldn’t be able to undergo radiology or chemotherapy.
So that’s when I knew I had to try something else.
While my friends were out leading normal, 20-something lives, I got into Buddhism and yoga, and began taking care of myself.
I poured all my energy into a kind of scavenger hunt of alternative medicine. I tried everything.
Any time someone said, “Oh, there’s this seed in Brazil,” I was there. “There’s this amazing specialist in France,” I was there.
You name it. Chinese tonics, healers… but in the end I went back to basics with food, spending hours at farmers’ markets and health food stores.
I was eating more healthily than ever before – spinach, kale, blue green algae. My skin colour returned to normal, my hair got stronger and my energy levels rose.
I could walk three blocks and not be nauseous and sweaty.
Alongside my health, my relationship with Jamie also strengthened.
After four years together, we married in 2015 when I was 30. We came to live in England, where he’s from.
I always longed to be a mum, but the doctors were very, very concerned about me getting pregnant and my hormones being messed up.
So I felt so blessed when Alexander, now 10, and then Leo, now seven, came along.
By this time, green foods had become trendy. I’d spent so much time learning about their various benefits, I assumed everyone else already knew too.
But when friends from big cosmopolitan cities began asking basic questions, I realised they didn’t.
I said to Jamie, “I’ve got all this knowledge, I’ve got to use it.”
So I went round different farmers, scientists and manufacturers, determined to formulate a sugar-free way of ingesting the things I knew worked – spinach, wheatgrass, kale, blue green algae, spirulina, aloe vera, chlorella and barley grass.
I wanted the real greens, not extracted powders, in a tasty, non-clumpy form.
The more people said it couldn’t be done, the more I persisted.
Over the next five years I tried 264 prototypes before finally reaching the one that eventually became the effervescent tablet 8Greens.
The final test was whether super picky Jamie would drink it. Once even he deemed it palatable, I knew I had a winner.
I never intended to launch a huge business. I imagined I’d sell the product to local families. But it just grew.
Friends gave it to other friends, and so on, until suddenly various big department stores in New York got wind of it and there was a bidding war to market it as a digestible beauty and health product. It was surreal.
Ultimately, a luxury store called Nordstrom put in a big order and helped me with the business side of things.
I was determined that it would be affordable, aiming for roughly a dollar or a pound
It flew off the shelves and the head of the store rang me, saying, “You’re on to some serious magic here, we need to give you more support.”
By the second week, some major celebrities were talking about it.
A very well connected friend I have went to a dinner at the White House, and 8Greens was mentioned by Michelle Obama. Zac Efron posted about it on social media.
Then Kim Kardashian had a birthday party, giving away 8Greens as a party favour for her guests. It just exploded.
I felt so relieved that all my hard work had finally paid off, although the celebrity market was never my aim. I move in those circles anyway, and count Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore and Helena Christensen as friends.
What really makes me buzz is seeing regular mums, kids and stressed out city workers drinking my creation.
When a nurse or a grandma writes, saying they have more energy, or a mum whose kids normally refuse vegetables is pleased, that’s when I get goosebumps.
We launched in the UK this year. I absolutely drink one every day myself.
Once you’ve had cancer there is always a fear it will return, and after all my ops I don’t have any sensation in the top of my left leg.
But I’m no health freak, I’m a normal woman with a sweet tooth and I enjoy drinking wine, too. Everything in moderation.
Of course, I don’t ever claim to have “cured” my own cancer.
But it was that experience that sent me on this incredible journey. And for that I will always be grateful.
- 8Greens Effervescent Tablets are available at Selfridges, Daylesford and Amazon.co.uk, with a retail price of £14 for a tube of 10 tablets. Also available on subscription at uk.8Greens.com for as little as £1 a day