An open letter to Belle Gibson.
My name is Allie. I am 21, and I have endometrial cancer which is incredibly rare for somebody my age. I have only been diagnosed recently but have been suffering with crippling, debilitating pain and blood loss for months. I realise that there are other cancer patients and survivors who have suffered longer (or more) who might be more qualified to write this but I need to get a few things off my chest.
Before I was diagnosed, I bought your app. I followed you on Instagram. I believed in the positivity and wholeness that you promoted. I felt empathy for you, and while I could never quite bring myself to believe in curing a sickness with a specific diet I had respect for what you were doing. In some ways, I looked up to you – you were a strong woman overcoming odds and making a name for yourself while battling a terrible illness. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one - I was told by another sufferer that when you posted that your cancer had spread to your liver, uterus, spleen and brain they sat on their bed and cried for you. But at the same time, wondering how you managed to look so good so sick while she was a “bald, feverish, yellow mess”. Which takes us forward a few months, where your web of lies begins fall apart. (As were most people) I was shocked and somehow personally offended because I believed in you and supported you. The fact that you could so blatantly lie about something that has affected so many people is disgusting to me, but even worse is the fact that you capitalised on it. THAT is unforgivable.
That then leads me to your most recent interview. Was there even an apology in there, or was it just you playing the victim? I’m stuck on the fact that you first of all used your childhood as an excuse for your actions. Everybody reacts to things differently, but as somebody who lost their sister (to cancer) at a young age and their dad to a heart attack all before I reached high school I can tell you that it is absolutely not an excuse for your abhorrent actions. Again, in the next few paragraphs you play the victim – of course the public backlash has been horrible, what did you expect? It’s as though you have no grasp of what you’ve done. You still expect a level of respect? What exactly have you done to deserve that? I can’t bring myself to respect somebody that has created a community based on a lie, and made thousands of dollars from that same lie.
Not to mention the cancer patients that would have followed your lead thinking they themselves could cure their cancer. This is the worst part of it all – that these people believed in you, and there is a chance some of them turned away from traditional methods and instead followed your pseudo-science. In the time since I have been diagnosed, I have been bombarded with messages recommending certain diets to “cure” my cancer or that if I do two coffee enemas a day it will fix me. These are all messages that you helped to perpetuate with your Instagram, your lies and your entire social media existence. And the fact that you had the nerve to do that when you never had to sit in a doctor’s office and hear the words “you have cancer” is something beyond disgusting. You don’t know how scary it is to hear those words, or hear that you will become infertile at 21, or have to undergo chemotherapy.
The public hasn’t received a proper apology from you yet, and until they do I’m certain you won’t receive the respect you so think you deserve. To prey on vulnerable people who are desperate for hope, or a cure is the lowest of low and I’m actually astonished at the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any legal ramifications so far.
But really, all I feel in this situation is sadness. Sadness that you are so deluded, sadness that you can’t see how badly your actions have affected people all around the world and mainly sadness for those people that believed in you. I hope that one day you can begin to recognize how harmful your actions were (and continue to be) and that you accept accountability, own responsibility and offer the people you have affected a real apology – not one sandwiched between cries for more sympathy.