A pair of trainers sits ready for action by the side of Violetta Painter’s bed in her Calvià home. For this former yachtie and founder of Nourish The Guide – an online portal to Majorca’s health, fitness, and nutrition resources – hiking is not just exercise, but also a therapy and way of supporting causes about which she’s passionate.
“I always have to give back,” she says, bright eyes fixed on me. When she was 18, shortly after breast cancer claimed her mother’s life, Violetta donned her trainers for a 25-km sponsored walk from Genova to Es Capdella. She raised a substantial sum for local cancer charity AECC and even featured on the front page of this newspaper.
Violetta had then already met her future husband Adam and taken up sailing as a hobby. When she was 21, she and her yacht-captain sweetheart started working together. They circumnavigated the world on a private sailboat for two years, visiting places that feature on bucket lists. “We did a lot of travelling and always ran a boat together.”
In 2012 Violetta’s life took a new direction, when she found a lump in her breast; the 36-year-old went straight to the doctor. “My daughter Leila Storm was just three at the time.”
When her doctor phoned on a Friday with her test results, she put him off until after the weekend. “I’d organised a huge party at home and was expecting around 120 guests.” On the Monday, Violetta found 13 missed phone calls from her gynaecologist, Dr Miguel Terrassa. “I knew it wasn’t going to be good news.”
Two days later, surgeons removed the lump and all her lymph nodes. Eight rounds of chemotherapy over six months and a month of radiotherapy followed.
“I had so much to live for,” the mum-of-one tells me. Determined to beat the disease, she turned to the Internet for research. “I was always thinking, how am I going to nourish myself? How am I going to nourish V?” (‘Nourish’ is one of her favourite words). Her tendency to refer to herself in the third person – I hear it a few times during our interview – suggests a remarkable objectivity. She concentrated on finding ways to counter the gruelling effects of conventional treatment, rather than dwelling on her feelings about the disease.
V took eighteen months off work to disconnect and concentrate on taking care of herself. She adopted a vegan plant-based diet, which she followed strictly for about two-and-a-half years. Research led her to the importance of exercise; she took up yoga and hiking.
“I was always thinking, how am I going to nourish myself?
How am I going to nourish V?”
The latter was unexpectedly therapeutic. “When you get a cancer diagnosis, you think you’re going to die,” Violetta says. “I used to get massive panic attacks.” Whenever they happened, she went for a hike; even in the middle of the night, she would get out of bed, put on her trainers and head off. “Being outside in nature would switch my mindset and, when I came back home, I’d be in a happy place, able to sleep.” When she has problems sleeping, she still gets up to walk.
Violetta also sticks to some of other self-care practices she researched – including tongue-scraping in the morning to remove toxins, drinking lemon in hot water, and dry-skin scrubbing before her shower.
This open-minded woman explored many alternative therapies, including reiki, reflexology, and massage. “Adam gave me the space, freedom, and support to try anything I needed to get better. He was just there for me and still is – rock solid as a partner and soulmate. He’s my best friend.”
Having grown up in Majorca and been part of the close-knit yachting community, Violetta also received a lot of other support. Even though she wasn’t communicating with the outside world, thoughtful gifts arrived daily. “If it wasn’t prepared meals, it was flowers, it was headscarves.” One friend sent her eight notes: one for each chemo session, delivering a positive affirmation. She pauses as she reflects on this emotional time. “I think love got me better – and it came in so many different ways.”
Violetta researched and interviewed her “incredible team of doctors”. Between every chemo session she had high-dose vitamin C mineral therapy to improve her blood count. She still has ozone therapy to oxygenate her blood and sees her doctor of biological medicine (Dr Aleix Prat). After chemo and radiotherapy, she didn’t need further medication – such as Tamoxifen. Her protocol was a vegan high-alkaline diet, exercise, and “the remarkable things this doctor did.” Her treatment was therefore a mix of orthodox and complementary medicine.
She would take the same approach again, if she had to. “It’s what worked for V. I’m not saying it would work for anyone else.” What could be helpful for others though is a dose of her positivity, determination, and focus. And the knowledge gleaned from her extensive research.
“Nourish The Guide was a way of giving back – to help other people in a similar position and anyone wanting to find out about the many wellness resources in Majorca.” Violetta launched the platform in June 2017 – five years after her cancer diagnosis – with the help of Pippa Davidson, her long-term friend and former nanny to Leila Storm.
Violetta’s desire to give back continues. This year she joined a group of women – including another breast-cancer survivor – hiking the GR221 through the Tramuntana to raise money for Cancer Support Group Mallorca “There’s a massive sense of achievement, completing a walk like that.”
“Nourish The Guide was a way of giving back – to help other people in a similar position and anyone wanting to find out about the many wellness resources in Majorca.”
Does she think about the future? “I think it’s important to live in the present – make the most of every day.” She’s teaching now-eight-year-old Leila Storm “some really good life skills” and her daughter understands the meaning of ‘nourishing’. “I wish schools taught more about self-care,” Violetta adds.
For this amiable woman, cancer was a catalyst for a major lifestyle change. She understood that the disease was a lot to do with stress and diet. “You’ve also got to help yourself get better.” The diagnosis was a shock, but she believes now that the outcome was positive. Anyone who has benefited from her Nourish The Guide website would surely agree.
Written by Jan Edwards
About the author
Jan is an English freelance writer, blogger, and radio broadcaster, who moved from Oxfordshire to Mallorca in 2004. She and her husband – aka The Boss – have since lived in rural tranquillity in a solar-electricity-powered finca near Manacor. They share their property with six ‘adopted’ cats.
A former BBC local radio presenter and journalist, Jan hosts gastronomy and hospitality show ‘Table Talk’ on Saturday mornings from 10 on English-language station Mallorca Sunshine Radio.
Jan has had numerous Mallorca-related articles published in print and online and is delighted to be a Nourish The Guide contributor. She also blogs about her country life on www.livinginruralmallorca.com and about food, drink, and places to stay, on www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com. She has had several short stories published and is currently writing a novel.