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On the same day Minoli De Silva got the call to return to MasterChef, she found out her cancer was back.

I’ve been sitting here for days trying to figure out how to tell you this.

I’ve decided the only way is to tell you everything. I’m sick of holding onto these feelings, so here goes. 

I received two calls, the first from a private number. I answered, unaware how much the next minute would impact my life. It was my doctor, but he didn’t have his normal optimistic tone of voice. 

A week earlier, I had had a routine mammogram, an ultrasound, and an MRI. The sonographer detected an abnormal-looking area, and the radiologist rightfully requested a biopsy, which is what I assumed this call was about. 

During the biopsy, the doctor had said it’s unlikely that the cells were invasive, but we should do a biopsy just to be sure. Now call me a sceptic, but doctors don’t call me to tell me how awesome I am. Instead, it’s generally to deliver important news, quickly. 

"Hi, Minoli," my doctor said, followed by a pause. A pause long enough for me to know that his news was not good. 

He said the cancer had been caught quite quickly. It was DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). However, due to the location of the cells, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or lumpectomy wasn’t an option.

Listen to this episode of No Filter with Sharon Johal, all about how she kept her TV career alive while everything else was falling apart. Post continues after podcast.


The last time I went through breast cancer, I was 31 years old. I was diagnosed with stage 3A triple positive breast cancer, and underwent egg preservation, six months of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, and six weeks of radiotherapy.

All in all, the hospital treatment took a total of 12 months, and I was put on monthly dose of a drug called Zoladex and Letrozole. These two combined suppress my ovarian function, stop my body from releasing estrogen, and put my body in a temporary state of perimenopause

This means I get to experience all the symptoms of a woman going through menopause without properly going through it - hot flushes, mood changes, diminished libido, fatigue, weight changes, you name it. Estrogen is vital for healthy bones, so a lack of it can lead to things like early-onset osteoporosis if not managed properly.

Read more: MasterChef's Minoli De Silva was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. She lost her sense of taste.

Now the cancer had returned, and my only remaining option was a mastectomy or an elective double mastectomy.

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I got off the phone, and I thought, "What the hell just happened? Did I just get handed the cancer card for a second time? Am I going to die? Will I look normal? Will anyone want to date me?" So. Many. Questions. I realised I couldn’t answer a single one of them, so I let my body feel the gravity of the diagnosis.

I felt overwhelmed, helpless, angry, sad, and broken. The more I thought about it, the more embarrassed I got about potentially losing my breasts. They made me feel like a woman.

I’d barely come to terms with my current body looking different after the first surgery and I was broken knowing I had to work through all of that again. There were too many thoughts in my head, so I stopped and I let my body just feel. Nothing else. 

After my first bout with cancer, I realised I’d spent my life sweating the small stuff. Why did I care so much about what someone thought of me? It didn’t benefit me to pander to people’s expectations. So that was it. It had to stop. No longer was I going to be bound by the shackles of people’s expectations, especially those that didn’t even know me. They never served me well, anyway. 

I learnt that other people’s perception of me was theirs to own, and not mine to wear. It seems straightforward enough now, but my brain had to work bloody hard before I could truly understand that. 

Minoli De Silva. Image: Supplied. 

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In truth, what I was most worried about was the change to my body. I felt I hadn’t appreciated my body and scars from the previous cancer treatment. My battle wounds, if you will.

You know that annoying voice in your head that makes you doubt yourself? That voice was telling me I wasn’t woman enough because I had breasts that didn’t look like that of any woman in a magazine. I felt like I was hiding a deformity and doing a very good job of it. It’s a strange feeling to not feel womanly. 

Whilst reorganising my priorities, I finally decided to put my health first. Not a guy, not my friends, just me. It was time to lean into the next life challenge and take each day as it comes, be a bit selfish, and allow myself space, especially as a woman, to do everything that makes me happy. 

This next step of dealing with the cancer became just another opportunity in life to grow stronger, and if I was to tackle it effectively, I need to be in a strong mental headspace. I took a deep breath and let out the loudest roar! I started to repeat this mantra to myself from this moment:

"I love me, I respect me, I accept me, and I will back myself, every single day!"

The rest of the afternoon was quite calm. I called my family and told them the news. After some reassuring chats, I realised I had a lot of love around me, and even though I was physically alone in Darwin, I had an army of supporters who would drop everything to make this experience an easy one. 

Once the dust had settled from the news of the morning, I received my second call of the day. 

This time I had the number saved in my phone. It was the MasterChef Australia team. 

Watch the new MasterChef trailer. Post continues below.


Video via Network 10.
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"Hi Minoli! We have some news that may shock you. MasterChef season 14 Fans and Favourites is going ahead, and we would love for you to be a part of it."

Okay, I wasn’t expecting this. In this moment, it felt like I was on the receiving end of a tennis ball machine that mechanically ejects the ball for you to hit, except this one was faulty and ejects a ball every two seconds. 

I got off the phone and yelped with excitement. I said yes to MasterChef season 14, of course. Easiest decision ever. And if I was going to deal with cancer, MasterChef was going to be my reward for getting through it, but I didn’t have much time before shooting started. 

I needed a team of surgeons who understood that being a woman was important, and who didn’t take the easy route for my surgery. I needed my family, and my support network, I needed to be in Melbourne. I had MasterChef to look forward to, and now I had to figure out a way to make it all work. 

Image: Supplied. 

What followed that week was nothing short of hectic, with multiple decisions being made daily, and multiple opinions from medical professionals, leaving my mind saturated with statistics and more surgery options that I could poke a stick at. 

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I spent the next week on Zoom calls with doctors in Melbourne, and all my family and friends pulling out all the stops to find the best team of surgeons to meet with, discuss surgery options, and complete the surgery.

When I started putting my health and wellbeing first, the decisions became easier and easier to make, including the one about the mastectomy, and which doctors I needed to go with. Finding the medical team was easy. I went with my gut and how the doctors made me feel. 

Next was the decision about a uni versus bilateral mastectomy, basically, one or both breasts. There were so many factors in the decision-making process, and you have to just do you, and for me, I want to live a long happy life. So, the decision was simple: it had to be a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. 

I needed to remove the risk, and the greatest risk to my health was my breasts. 

I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, if I had kids one day, as the nipples had to go too. I was losing a healthy breast, but from experience, I realised I never wanted to think about the what-ifs – what if it came back? What if I had just done both? Without my health, I couldn’t live life freely, and this was the chance for me to get my complete freedom back, so that was it. Take them both off.

The surgery to be performed on me was a bilateral mastectomy using the gracilis muscle, surrounding tissue and fat to recreate two new breasts. I felt like I was online shopping. I got to pick the size, shape, and that was it. Time for the operation.

The thought of being cancer-free was energising and when I finally got into the hospital bed and went in for surgery, I couldn’t have been more excited. The surgery was about 12 hours and extremely complicated, but I knew that I was in the best hands possible, and when I woke up, I would be a free woman.

I had six drain tubes across four surgery sites, both breasts and both inner thighs. I felt like an octopus for about three weeks, inspected daily by the wonderful nurses to monitor and check my drains.

Image: Supplied. 

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They were all out in three weeks and I could move again... slowly. It would be six weeks before I could go on a proper walk, and more intense recovery began after that. I had one week to chill before filming for MasterChef would begin. 

I knew that I was the person who had been dealt the cancer card last time, but I didn’t want anyone knowing whilst filming that this had happened again. I was afraid that if I told people, I would be given pity, which I wanted none of. I’ve realised that by keeping it a secret, I was only making it more taboo, and I wanted everyone to know that cancer doesn’t have to hold you back. 

I thought the public needed to know more about what life is like after being diagnosed with cancer. Life doesn’t have to stop, the fun doesn’t have to end. Yes, it is very difficult, and sometimes you may not survive the fight, but acceptance is key to facing the challenge head-on. 

There needs to be more awareness around breast cancer. Breast cancer diagnoses are far too common for a young woman like me, and they shouldn’t have to feel alone in the public space. Let’s talk about it in day-to-day conversation. Let’s take the taboo away from the "c" word and create a safe space. 

The moment I woke from surgery, I felt free. I feel free to this day. I feel like a new woman.

I continue to have my monthly Zoladex and Letrozole, incorporate yoga and strength building into my life, practice being present, rid my life of things that don’t serve me well including people, and put myself first. I became a bit selfish to become selfless, and that process was life-changing. 

Image: Supplied. 

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I went into the MasterChef kitchen knowing that the only thing that could push me forward or hold me back was my mindset. The more mistakes I made, the more I would grow. I know what kind of food makes me happy, and I am ready to take on the world.

If I can beat breast cancer twice, I reckon I can do anything.

I’ve shed myself of all the rules society has placed on me, and I feel powerful. I feel strong. I use my moral compass to drive my decisions and have learnt to listen to the authentic me. My body is just a vehicle for my soul, and what’s inside is what truly counts. I have scars that I love more than ever and feel womanlier than I’ve ever felt in my life. 

I always tear up knowing how much love I have put into myself, and how much space that has given me to share my love with others. I am so excited for what life holds in store but first, let’s get into the MasterChef kitchen and give it a red hot go, shall we? 

Catch MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites Sunday to Thursday at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 Play on demand.  

Feature Image: Channel 10/Supplied.

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