On the go: Lucianne Attard and Jovan Pejic, owners of The Fix: Cold Pressed Juices, where the juices are handcrafted. Photo: Jay Cronan
As a 25-year-old judo athlete who was used to occasional knocks and bruising, Jovan Pejic didn't think much of it when he came across a lump in his groin. Fast-forward three months and a scan revealed the lump was, in fact, stage three follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
''I was quite fit and really active and never got sick at all - the diagnosis came as a complete surprise,'' says Pejic.
The type of cancer typically affects people over the age of 60 and was extremely rare in a person so young. The fact Pejic didn't have a history of cancer in the family meant it came as even more of a shock.
The cosy carrot. Photo: Jamie Grill
''There was only one more stage to go where it could progress into the bone marrow, and by that stage it's considered non-treatable. So I was lucky to catch it when I did.''
After visiting a string of specialists who said there was no treatment, Pejic found a hospital prepared to give him an intense dose of radiotherapy.
He started researching cancer and alternative therapies, and came across extensive claims about positive experiences with cancer and juicing.
''I wanted to see for myself if there was any legitimacy to the claims being made. I had nothing to lose,'' he says.
Pejic bought a cold-press juicer and drank four litres of vegetable-based juice every day for six weeks. Almost immediately, Pejic says he noticed a visible reduction in the size of the tumour, and by the time he had scans three months later, the tumour had reduced by 30 to 40 per cent.
''The doctors couldn't really confirm or deny anything, but the tumour isn't a dynamic or aggressive cancer, so they didn't expect it to change that significantly,'' he says.
Pejic went ahead with the radiotherapy treatment, as well as keeping up his new diet and drinking juices. Supporting him through his treatment, Pejic's now-wife, Lucianne Attard, also took an interest in plant-based nutrition and started juicing.
''After she started drinking the juice, she has barely ever been sick since - and she has lost eight kilograms,'' Pejic says.
The duo continued juicing, but found the labour-intensive task difficult to fit in around their lifestyles. Working long hours as an accountant, Pejic found it hard to find time to make the juices. Instead, he saw a chance to turn his passion into a business.
''We decided to stop trying to fit the juices into our life, but to instead fit our lives around the juices. So we made juices our life,'' he says.
And thus, The Fix: Cold Pressed Juice was born. With juices pressed on site at Fyshwick, there are six flavours - the delightfully named Zingiber Hot Spice, A Cabadge of Honour, Slim Leafy, All Hale Kale, Beet Boxer and Turmerific.
The juices are available for order online, or at a number of locations around Canberra. Keeping with their aim of promoting health and wellness, as well as being stocked at cafes, the juices are sold at a wholefoods store, a health supplements retailer and a yoga studio.
By the end of the year the duo plan to open a shopfront in Fyshwick, where people can hang out, use the free Wi-Fi and try the juices.
Attard says that to create their six juice combinations, they started by selecting vegetables with high nutritional value, or those that offered something a bit extra.
''Beetroots, for example, are an actual mood elevator, so we needed at least one juice that had beets in it. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic - it's anti-everything,'' she says.
''So we knew which type of ingredients we wanted - but then we had to make them taste good.''
Spending their weekends experimenting, Pejic says they invited friends to come over and try each of their creations, to see what people would actually drink. Especially when it came to A Cabadge of Honour.
''The cabbage one was purely experimental. Cabbage is a superfood - it has more vitamin C than oranges, it lowers your blood pressure, it's super-high in antioxidants - so it's a great food. But who's going to eat cabbage?'' she says.
''We did a fair bit of work on that one, and introduced pears and fruits. And we landed with a bit of lemon.''
On top of their existing creations, Attard and Pejic continue to experiment and plan to expand their menu, with a focus on green juices.
Pejic says that juices are a great alternative to snacking.
''They're a great way to substitute for treats - you get an energy hit, and also a vitamin and mineral hit at the same time. Some of our juices are still surprisingly sweet,'' he says.
Nutritionist Kate Freeman, from The Healthy Eating Hub, says recent alarming statistics on the dietary habits of Australians mean that anything encouraging a higher intake of natural produce is a positive step.
''The latest Australian health survey showed that 50 per cent of Australian adults aren't meeting the daily requirement for fruit, and only 10 per cent are meeting the quota for vegetables,'' she says.
''It's very clear we need to eat more fruit and vegies. So juicing encourages getting the nutrition in that people wouldn't otherwise be getting.''
She says that while there are more positives than negatives to juicing, she always advises her clients to eat whole foods.
''When you're juicing fruit, you're concentrating all the energy and taking out the fibre. But when you eat the whole piece of fruit, the sugar comes in a really healthy package of fibre and antioxidants,'' she says.
If you are going to drink juice to help meet your daily nutrition quotas, Freeman says to look at the method.
''Cold pressing does retain more of the nutrition, so it's a better way,'' she says.
So, what is ''cold-pressed'' juice?
''It's the most effective way of extracting juice from whole fruits and vegetables. It preserves the nutritional, vitamin and mineral content, as well as the enzyme activity, because it's a cold product,'' Pejic says.
''In traditional extraction with a centrifugal system, the blades spin really fast, which applies a lot of heat that is, in effect, cooking the juice - and this damages the nutritional content.''
Instead, a hydraulic press is used to slowly extract the juice from the fresh produce, releasing the nutrients inside without compromising their quality.
For their juices, Pejic and Attard strive to keep things as local as they can, and are working towards being as sustainable as possible by finding a use for the fruit and vegetable pulp left over from the juicing process.
''Whatever is left in terms of pulp and mush, we just found a local farmer and he wants to take our leftovers to feed to the animals,'' says Attard.
''We're keen not to throw the stuff away, because it's still good stuff.''
To fulfil his vision to run a cold-pressed juice company, Pejic has quit his day job and now works on the business full-time, while Attard still works full-time in the public service.
''We make the extra effort - it's handcrafted juice. We hand-label everything. When the caps go on, we twist the caps. And we personally wash the bottles,'' she says.
It has been 2½ years since Pejic finished his treatment and he is now considered to be in his second year of remission.
If you're keen to try juicing, cold-pressed juicers are now readily available and can fit neatly into your kitchen. ''There will never be a substitute for you making it at home and drinking it straight away.''
But for those with better ways to spend their time - trust us, the clean-up is on the time-consuming and unpleasant side - The Fix claims to be the next-best thing.
The cosy carrot
Jovan Pejic says the cosy carrot is a great introduction to juicing. ''It's the perfect recipe as we move into the cooler months. The juice has a nice warming effect and is on the sweeter side."
1 small piece of ginger
1 small piece of turmeric
1 tiny pinch of dried cinnamon