Whilst the ideology behind My Little Panda is universal in wanting to help make the world a little better, the real story of how the idea was planted in my head is a little rawer. After 7 years, I feel ready to share my story. It all started in 2013 when I received a phone call from my brother, and best friend, Panicos Michailidis. I was living in England, with my wife Kelly and young daughter Andriana, and he in Cyprus with his son Nicholas.
"I also came across a BBC article about plastic particles from water bottles causing cancer BBC link>> and the association was sown in my mind"
The CallIt was a simple phone call, my brother had rung because he’d been to the optician about dots appearing in his vision. Having checked out his eyesight, the optician saw something was touching the optic nerve and immediately advised my brother to go and see a doctor about the situation.
Doctor’s AppointmentAfter the initial checkup, the doctor suggested my brother get an MRI scan to further establish the cause of the issue. My brother was claustrophobic so this was a nightmare scenario for him. Scared about being in a confined space, and what the scan might reveal, my brother reached out for support but his wife was on a business trip and he had no desire to tell our parents as mum had been showing early signs of dementia since 2013. They had enough on their plate already. I jumped on the next flight from Gatwick to Cyprus so I could be by his side.
The MRI TestI landed in Cyprus on a Thursday evening, with my brother’s scan supposed to take place the next day. He failed to do so though because he couldn’t bring himself to do it so we explained to the doctors the situation. They rebooked his scan for a different day and agreed to sedate him this time around. After the second, successful, scan we nervously waited for the results to come the next day. I wanted to keep my brother’s mind off of things as best as I could. The next morning we received the call from the clinic confirming that they showed it was MS causing the loss of vision but when we returned to the clinic, they asked if my brother would be happy to do an MRI on his chest as they had noticed something in his first scan. Of course, I had to do a little convincing to get my brother back in the machine but he agreed. As I watched through the window, we kept eye contact all the way through, and once it was finished we waited outside. Within an hour we were called back in for the results. It was Stage 4 lung cancer of which the average survival rate was 6 months. (2013 - Treatments has advanced since then)
What Next?In the following days, his wife returned home and started suggesting things like drinking only water for 15 days to kill the cancer, and not to do chemotherapy. My brother loved his wife very much and I had to bite my tongue when some of these suggestions were made, she had done some ‘research’ on the internet and it just goes to show what the web can do to people at a time like this and how it can make them feel hopeless. A month before my brother received his news, a friend of mine called Nigel had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer too. He lived for nearly another two years with regular treatment. I flew back to London filled with regret. (2013 - Treatments has advanced since then)
Back In The UKI too turned to the internet searching for solutions, wanting to try and help whilst also not interfering too much. As time passed and no decision could be made by the family in Cyprus, I offered to get a professor from Harley Street to see my brother. He agreed and we went ahead with his visit. The doctor wanted to put him on a course of radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy but whilst my brother and his wife agreed to radiotherapy on the head they were reluctant to undertake chemo. Emotions, desperation and love blinds you and you end up believing all the nice words on the internet instead of the harsh reality a doctor will give you. Everyone has the right to protect their family and do what they see is best for them but I urge people to keep an open mind and not cling to certainties they find on the internet. This option does not guarantee survival but no one has the right to try and convince others of what is best for them just because of what they read on the internet. My brother passed away on the 6/11/2013. He tried to beat cancer in a natural way, without chemo, for four months. He then had three chemo sessions back in Cyprus. Over a six month period, I flew to Cyprus more than 30 times, and to Greece once where my brother had accompanied his wife on a business trip. We ended up taking him to the hospital where they drained five litres of fluid from his chest. His wife didn’t let doctors check on him for four months and it took a lot of persuasion to get her to take him in. I hold no ill will towards her, she was trying to do the best for him, but it was still a very difficult time. In 2016, my father was also diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, he lived for 6 months. Again, I flew from the UK to Cyprus for regular visits. Around the same time, my mum’s dementia deteriorated. I was hating the world, I had a lot of anger and was constantly thinking “Why me, why us, why so much?”
“My brother and father both lived in Cyprus and were drinking 3 - 5 bottles of water a day. I have no proof of this being the cause but my anger could now be channelled and I saw plastic in the food chain everywhere"
Taking Positives From Negatives and The Birth of My Little PandaDue to my family history, I found myself paying a lot of attention to news stories about cancer. I stumbled across many pieces about unhealthy products, such as Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder that was found to cause cancer due to asbestos and resulted in a $4.7bn fine BBC link>>. I also came across a BBC article about plastic particles from water bottles causing cancer BBC link>> and the association was sown in my mind. My brother and father both lived in Cyprus and were drinking 3 - 5 bottles of water a day. I have no proof of this being the cause but my anger could now be channelled and I saw plastic in the food chain everywhere. I saw a lot of corporate hypocrisy with brands and companies claiming they wanted to do more but taking no action, so I started my search into how I could minimise plastic consumption. I knew it was too vast an area to try and tackle it all at once so I focused in on plastic use on the move and how you could combat single-use plastics that are there for convenience. From that point, My Little Panda was born. There are no investors behind the company apart from myself and my business partner David. We didn’t want to sacrifice our vision in order to return a greater profit to shareholders. We are the only company in the UK to test every one of our products for toxic chemicals and our mission is to make handmade and natural products acceptable and more mainstream once again. We will convert consumers one by one as we know machine-made products for convenience, and a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mix. We all have hobbies but it is time to convert, or at least try, and that’s what we are here to give you that option.
To the Mirror Newspaper for featuring our products, BBC Breakfast and the BBC News.