When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2016, Tina Thoms started to research what she was putting in and on her body.

She found she was making too much estrogen and progesterone.

"My own hormones became so destructive, they wanted to kill me," she said.

Thoms believed many of the store-bought body products had harmful chemicals in them that can disrupt the hormonal balance and can cause cancer.

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After completing surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy, Thoms looked at making her own soap, working out a recipe through trial and error with natural and organic ingredients with no hidden chemicals.

Tina Thoms with her dog Lunar in her home Gypsy McGee boutique store
Tina Thoms with her dog Lunar in her home Gypsy McGee boutique store

And thus, Gypsy McGee was born – the brand name under which she sells her products.

McGee is Tina's maiden name and Gypsy comes from her great-grandmother, Ester Faa Blythe, the last gypsy queen of Scotland, who died in 1883.

The hormone therapy Thoms is on, Tamoxifen, really dries out her skin. She found her soap was really nourishing and moisturising, counteracting the effects.

Each bar of soap is wrapped in fabric, being environmentally sustainable which is important to Tina. The fabric wraps have a story too.

"One had to do something with all the scarfs I had collected during my chemotherapy," she said.

Being passionate about finding a cure for breast cancer, $1 from every bar of soap she sells is donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

From making soap, Thoms has expanded her Gypsy McGee range to include shampoo and conditioner bars, body bars, moisturiser, organic kawa kawa and lavender balm, deodorant, rose quartz beeswax candles, natural dish soap, foaming hand soap and lip balm.

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Some of Tina Thoms' soap products she produces under the name Gypsy McGee.
Some of Tina Thoms' soap products she produces under the name Gypsy McGee.

All Gypsy McGee products are tested on friends and family. Her husband, Patrick, is her best critic.

"Patrick used to take my products to work and handed them out to the ladies – my guinea pigs," she said.

All the products are made in a separate area in the Thoms' rural property in Gladstone Rd, Levin.

She has converted a series of rooms on the ground floor of their home as a boutique shop for her products.

As well as selling online through her Facebook shop and at local markets, she will be opening her home store on designated days. A photograph of the young gypsy queen, Ester Faa Bythe, is proudly displayed in her store.

The Thoms' chemical-free lifestyle extends to food and drink.

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"Patrick is a hunter so we have lots of venison," she said.

Tina enjoys walking through the supermarket passing the toiletries and cleaning products thinking to herself, "I don't need any of that." She even makes her own toilet cleaning bombs, all natural of course.

While continuing to work four days a week as a nurse, her ambition is to be able to make her natural chemical-free products full time.

Rose Geranium soaps from Gypsy McGee.
Rose Geranium soaps from Gypsy McGee.

"For me, it is not about making money. I want people to use stuff that is good for them," she said.

She says prices can be kept low as she has no overheads, producing everything from home.

A big bar of hand-poured castile soap made with saponified olive and coconut oils, fragranced with essential oil or unfragranced, costs $10 with $1 going to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

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