“I started a plant-based diet because I got breast cancer.”

Armed with tupperware filled with homemade vegan goodies, Melanie travels around the world working as cabin crew. She’s friendly, Irish and her journey to adopting a vegan lifestyle began in March 2012, we were surprised to hear, when she had breast cancer.

If you follow @6milesup, Mel’s Twitter account, you’d probably be as curious as we were to get chatting. It’s clear she knows how to prep to be vegan on-the-go and, because of her job, knows some of the world’s best places to get a plant-based meal.

“I went plant-based for my health.”

“I got breast cancer,” Mel tells us. “And I decided, from all the research I did, that dairy was really bad.”

“I was vegetarian anyway. So I just thought: Well, I've got to follow this whole food, plant-based diet to look after my health.

“For me, the easy part was giving up dairy, because I knew it was bad for me. That was easy. It was overnight.”

“I’m a firm believer that the food you eat can heal your body as well as harm it.”

Melanie tells us about multiple books she read while researching the health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. These included:

  • Your Life in Your Hands by Professor Jane Plant. “She herself had breast cancer. She goes through how you can adapt your diet to help.”

  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell “Have you read it?” Mel asks us? We have, we tell Mel. “Once I read the dairy and breast cancer statistics ... I mean, that surely says something doesn't it?”

“So I follow a whole-food plant-based diet to try and stop the cancer returning,” Mel explains. “I mean, so far it's worked.”

“And then I started looking into it more.”

“Once I started watching documentaries I was like: oh my god. And it became a bit more of an animal cruelty thing reinforcing the health side of things."

“The first documentary I watched was What The Health,” Melanie tells us.

(If you haven't checked it out yet, you can watch What The Health on Netflix.)

“When I watched that, I realised actually there's much more to it. It's not just about your health.”

“So I realised how much cruelty there is behind animal agriculture. And then I watched Cowspiracy. And that pretty much nailed it.”

“My transition from plant-based to vegan was quick.”

“I was much more aware of what I had. Clothes I already wore.”

“I became serious about, not just food, but my whole lifestyle. Making sure that everything was ethical and, you know, not buying any leather or wool.”

“I didn't know anyone who was vegan at the time. None of my friends were. And my mum and dad were a bit, you know: 'Why do you want to do that?'”

“I got of support online from people who I didn't know.”

“I've been vegetarian pretty much all my life. But I wish I'd done the vegan stuff earlier.”

"It's hard being cabin crew and vegan.”

“It's difficult because there’s nothing provided to eat on board. I have to bring my own food.”

“So I cook all my own food and bring it with me. And I have to be aware of any restrictions. If I’m landing in a country I have to have eaten all of my food or, you know, I have to throw it away.”

“And when you go through security, I have to make sure none of my food is liquid. I couldn't bring soup or anything like that! But I'm used to it now."

“The crew are a bit like: ‘Mel, you're vegan ... is that not difficult?’”

“I do find that most vegan travellers are very well prepared,” Mel laughs. “We're all kind of used to bring our own snacks, aren't we?"

“I do get a lot of questions about it. But I'm surprised by how more aware people are now compared to when I became vegan seven years ago. People were a bit like 'oh' and didn't engage with it at all.”

“Now they're like: 'Mel why did you go vegan?'. They're interested. There’s this curiosity about, like, why you are. And obviously the main questions is: 'Oh, isn't that difficult?' or 'Don't you miss cheese?’”

“I just say, you know, I've found a great replacement for everything. Everything that I liked beforehand. I still enjoy the same things as before, just with a few replacements.”

“I really really liked cheese. But it’s really weird now. If I smell cheese, it smells horrible.”

“I do all my own cooking from scratch. And when people see what I'm eating they're like: 'Oh that smells nice, what have you got there?'”

"And they've got, you know, plane food."

“Everywhere I go I seek out where the vegan places are. And I visit all of them.”

“Happy Cow is my favourite app,” Mel tells us.

(Don’t have it? You can download Happy Cow from Google Play or the App Store, so you can find plant-based places to eat nearby.)

“If I was going to say one particular place I can't miss. When I'm in New York I have to go to Beyond Sushi. Oh my God, it's amazing. They do gyozas and dumplings and sushi and it's all plant-based.”

Talking about Beyond Sushi, Mel says: “I go there and order a starter, main course and I take away stuff as well to eat on the plane. I could eat it all day long.”

“I try to inspire people with my food and my cooking.”

“All of my Twitter feed is mainly food and where to go in whatever country. I'll post where I've been and what I've eaten. It's the same with my Instagram, it's just all food.”

“I had a message from someone on Twitter last week saying: 'Just to let you know you inspired me to try Veganuary. And I stayed vegan.'”

“That was a random stranger that I've never met, but I hope that I inspire a few people.”

“I feel quite proud that my daughter has decided off her own back that she wants to be vegan.”

“I do the encouragement,” Mel says, as our chat sadly comes to a close. “Let's look at how good our food is. You don't need to have animals on your plate when you could have all this lovely food instead.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Need more vegan inspiration? Get following Mel on Twitter! You’ll thank yourself later, we’re sure.

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