MasterChef's Minoli De Silva was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30. She lost her sense of taste.

Minoli De Silva faced two obstacles during her time on MasterChef.

The 34-year-old from the Northern Territory was eliminated early on in the competition, only to return during Second Chance Week. Last night, she went home for the last time during a double elimination. 

But those obstacles can't compare to the hurdles she faced before the competition.

Watch: Things I say while watching MasterChef. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

At 30, Minoli was diagnosed with Stage 3A breast cancer.

"In January 2016, I went and got a breast examination because there was a small lump. Then towards the end of that year, it started to grow noticeably bigger and I went into the doctors and immediately they were like, 'Go get checked'," she told Mamamia.

"I did a biopsy that day and literally within a week, they had harvested the eggs, they went through the egg preservation process and I went straight into chemotherapy treatment."

"[There was] no time to think," she added.


Following her diagnosis, Minoli went through six months of chemotherapy treatment, surgery and radiotherapy for five weeks. She handled it in the best possible way she could.

"I didn't really have time to think about," she said. "The worst-case scenario, which I guess is death, I just didn't feel like that was going to be my path even though the cancer was quite far progressed."

"I just know that your mental frame of mind really impacts how your body responds to stuff," she added.

"So I found when I went through treatment, I became this super zen version that I've never really seen before in myself. And I was like, hang on, why am I worrying about this? 

"Stressing about this doesn't matter. Family's important and staying present and positive - all of that stuff kind of clarified during my chemotherapy treatment.

"I was really proud of how I then handled it because I didn't know that I would have been able to handle something like that so well."


During last Wednesday night's episode, Minoli explained that during her chemotherapy treatment, her mum would cook her these beautiful Sri Lankan curries but she couldn't eat them. 

"I just didn't like eating my mum's food while I was going through treatment because you've still got this metallic taste in your mouth," she said. 

"[But] when it's so full of flavour and so many yummy spices, it's so hard to say no.

"To tell her that I couldn't eat food that she made, because she put so much love into it, and she was only really doing all of that because I wasn't in a state to cook - it was heartbreaking on so many levels."


Minoli is now cancer-free, but she gets monthly checks and takes a hormone suppressant. She also froze her eggs. 

"It's really interesting how all of this stuff impacts your body, because my body's actually in the state of perimenopause," she said.

"It's so strange to be in my mid-30s and on an induced form [of menopause]. Sometimes I get hot flashes. And I'm like, oh gosh, I really feel for people going through menopause."

Minoli hopes talking about her experience will normalise it and remind people cancer can happen to anyone.

"Anything that is not really commonplace in conversations is fantastic to try to encourage people who normally put things on the back burner, to get checked and look after themselves," she said.

After cancer, Minoli's approach to food and flavour changed.

"When my sense of taste started to return to normal, it happened gradually," she said. "I started to reintroduce foods that made me feel good, both physically and taste-wise. 

"By going through that process, I think I was able to recognise the nuances of flavour in different foods and cuisines, and I then started to cook based on flavour rather than just cuisine. 

"So if I was searching for salt, I'd look for things that were salty. And if I searching for spice, I would look for different things that provided spice; I didn't try to stick to a specific cuisine."

"I think it's a really important lesson for anyone that loves cooking, or anyone that's getting into the kitchen, to not be limited by a certain type of cuisine," she added.


It was her experience with cancer that pushed her to apply for MasterChef. Then she got two opportunities in the competition.

"It was amazing to get a spot back in the kitchen," she told Mamamia

"I was so proud of myself for having been eliminated so early on in the competition, but then having the mental strength to be like, I don't know, if they're going to call me back to do this but I'm just going to keep practising."

Throughout Minoli's whole MasterChef experience, one of the most important things for her was to highlight Sri Lankan cuisine, which is underrepresented in Australia.

"The whole MasterChef journey has shown me that there are so many people who are appreciative that I stuck to my guns and cooked Sri Lankan food," she said.

"You can get people saying, 'Ugh, you're doing Sri Lankan food again'. But that's what I love doing and that's what I want to be known for."


These days, Minoli's landed a job with renowned chef Jimmy Shu at his restaurant, Hanuman.

"We're opening up an outdoor, South-East Asian style tapas bar called The Terrace," she said.

She will also be volunteering at the Melaleuca Centre in Darwin on a program that will help refugees gain training that would help them secure jobs as chefs.

"It's such a wonderful thing that the city of Darwin is crying out for," she said.

Feature image: Supplied and Mamamia.

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