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'I started to question everything': Cancer survivor launches natural supplements company

Well Told Health focuses on labelling transparency and organic ingredients — ideas that stemmed from Monica Ruffo’s own experiences as a supplement consumer and breast cancer survivor.

Monica Ruffo, a cancer survivor, started her own supplements company ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Monica Ruffo, a cancer survivor, started her own supplements company ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A breast cancer survivor searching for “truly natural” supplements ended up creating her own after she wasn’t satisfied with what was on the market.

Monica Ruffo, who was diagnosed more than two years ago, launched Well Told Health on Sept. 18 ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The supplement company focuses on labelling transparency and organic ingredients — ideas that stemmed from Ruffo’s own experiences as a supplement consumer and cancer survivor.

“Basically it’s that backdrop that really motivated me,” she said. “(After the diagnosis), I started to question everything about my lifestyle — everything," she said.

Although Ruffo was eating pretty healthy, she also started to look at creams she was using and supplements she was taking.

Health Canada’s mandate now includes oversight of natural health products and has a database to identify which ones have been authorized for sale in the country. In 2010, it approved almost 30,000 natural health product licences, according to its website. However, an Ipsos study released the same year showed customers were confused about products labelled as “natural,” with 39 per cent of Canadians questioning safety and quality.

Ruffo is working to banish the uncertainty surrounding supplements and said people have a right to know what they’re ingesting, especially if they’re relying on a product to help with their health.

“It’s really this idea of complete transparency and empowering people to take control of the supplements they’re taking, why they’re taking them, where they come from,” said Ruffo.

A list of ingredients — including lemon balm, mushrooms, goji berries, turmeric, beets and matcha tea — is available through Well Told Health online and on their packaging. The supplements are made without synthetics, fillers, isolates, dairy or soy, and they’re also gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO certified. Even the capsule is organic because it’s made of tapioca.

Ruffo doesn’t want others to have to struggle to find products like hers and said her approach was inspired, in large part, by her cancer diagnosis. She feels incredibly fortunate that breast cancer is "no longer a death sentence," she said, and that she was able to “come out of this stronger."

The survival rate for women with breast cancer is now 87 per cent, said Shawn Chirrey, senior manager of health promotion at the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It’s mostly because of early detection and treatment,” he said. “We have a decision aid tool. It’s called mybreastsmytest.ca, to help women decide if mammograms are right for them.”

Heading into Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Ruffo said she wants women to know they have the power to take control and decide what works for them when it comes to treatment.

“My biggest advice to anyone going through any kind of cancer is to really get there and educate yourself and advocate for yourself," she said.

“Anyone else that I can help, whether it’s with this company, or just giving them hope and inspiration ... it’s part of what I want to do, too.”

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