Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Open Letter To Candice-Marie Fox

Dear Candice-Marie Fox,

First let me tell you how glad I am that you corrected some lies about your story, namely that the "cancer" in your liver was actually a benign tumor and that Mark Simon is not really an oncologist.  I wanted to clarify that I believe you that you had thyroid cancer at one point.  Since you admitted that your thyroid cancer was successfully treated using reality-based medicine, I take no issue with that part of your story.  However, there are still some things that need to be made clear.  Did you really get a prognosis of five years to live after your thyroid cancer was successfully treated? Please either answer yes or no.  If yes, then please post irrefutable proof.  Do you have pre-cancerous cells in your lungs and in the back of your neck that were treated using a pineapple protocol?  If yes, please post irrefutable proof.   These were all things that were posted in various media articles about you.  I am going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt that the media simply got your story wrong or misquoted you.  After all, only a person of extremely low character would ever be so unethical as to lie about having cured terminal cancer using pineapples (and other stuff, I know).  So if these are not true, then you would be very unethical and dishonest to not contact these news sites and make sure that the correct version of  what happened to you is put out there.

Unless you provide irrefutable proof that you cured malignant cancer using pinapples, then I must insist that you put up a permanent and conspicuous disclaimer on both your facebook page and your website which clarifies what is and is not true about your cancer and your treatment.  Your current "disclaimer" is buried in your facebook page under a link to a website.  There must be a clarification which is permanent and obvious to any person who visits your facebook page or your website. If you do not do this, then this blog post will follow your business around the internet until you do so.  I know that the quintessential reaction from "wellness" bloggers like you is that I am "bullying" you.  I am not bullying you; I am merely requesting that you are transparent about something as serious as being able to cure cancer using nutritional means.  The truth is not negative or mean or bullying in any way whatsoever.  If telling the truth prevents white light from reaching your chakras, then that is your problem and the people suffering from cancer should not have to pay the price for it.  On your facebook page and in the media you use a lot of words like "compassion", "understanding", "positivity", "finding your truth", etc.  Since that is what you are about, I am sure that you can understand where I am coming from.  My demand for a truthful accounting of your cancer story is 100% motivated by my compassion for people who have cancer.  It is not motivated by "picking on you" or anything else that "wellness" bloggers say in order to avoid being completely transparent and truthful.

If you are the decent person you present yourself to be, then I am sure that I will immediately see either an express point-by-point clarification of any falsehood about you, or irrefutable proof of your claims.  One final time: I am only asking for the truth, and there is absolutely nothing negative about the truth.

Thanks,

Violet

36 comments:

  1. Well put Violet!

    I no longer use FB - but I had a peek at her remaining FB site yesterday. The quote about "Having 100 friends is one thing, but to have one friend who always supports you no matter what others throw at you" (I paraphrased) actually made me quite angry as it is the 1st line of
    defence for disingenuous "wellness" types if cornered about the veracity of their extraordinary claims. I dearly hope that I'm mistaken.

    I hope that everyone has a lovely Easter weekend :)

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    1. Agree. That quote put me off too. I have never been a fan of the concept of a friend being one who "supports you no matter what".

      I don't have a large number of real life friends. (Twitter followers don't count.) The few friends I have, I've known for a long time. And I hope that they are good enough friends that they would be willing to pull me aside if necessary and say quietly, "You are behaving like an arsehole. Stop it. I know you. and you're better than that."

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    2. Yeah she is already saying that we are just mean people who a picking on her for the sake of being mean. This is how they all react. It is childish and obnoxious. All we have ever asked for is the truth. If telling the truth means that you cannot make money off your business, then you need to find another line of work.

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  2. This Jess Ainscough link doesn't quite belong here, so feel free to move it to a new post if you like, Violet.

    http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=db7e8301d4c33d1834bf478c5&id=af13f997ad&e=3c6fb37a87

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    1. Oh, FFS. Where to start.

      "...my willingness to stop controlling my healing path..."

      There's that word again. HEALING. Healing used to mean getting better. Recovering. Being cured. Until the wellness blogger community stretched the word out of shape and, like Humpty Dumpty through the looking glass, began using it to mean just what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

      Jess never healed. She was never on a "healing path". She was never "recovering" from her cancer. Her attempts at treating her cancer were unsuccessful. She may or may not have been happy and giggling up until the day she died, as this blogger claims, but it is a flat-out lie to continue to use the word "healing" in connection with her cancer.

      " and surrender to whatever the universe has up its sleeves to help me..."

      Jess Ainscough didn't deserve to die at 29 or whatever she was. No one does. That she got cancer at such a young age is terribly sad and unfair. But if the universe had anything up its sleeves to help her, it would have. She'd still be alive. It didn't.

      "Finally the walls were broken down between conventional and unconventional medicine - I don’t know why as a society we feel we must choose one or the other."

      We don't. False dichotomy. There is stuff that has been proven in randomised controlled trials to work better than a placebo. We call that "medicine". Then there is stuff that has no evidence that it works any better than a placebo. This is not "alternative" or "complementary" or "integrative" or "unconventional" medicine or whatever the woo-spruikers are calling it this week to try and give it legitimacy. IT IS NOT MEDICINE.

      It doesn't matter where something comes from or how wacky it seems: if it worked, it would become mainstream medicine. If I ever manage to prove via an RCT that drinking bat's piss and howling at the moon at midnight cures cancer, that will become medicine. Ordinary medicine. There will be nothing "alternative" about it.

      I could go on and pick this blog post apart almost line by line, but I'm too angry. Someone else can take over.

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    2. I just wish that for once someone in Jessica's circle would admit that Jessica tried a program that failed her and did not cure her cancer and that's it. Why must everything be made into something it is not? As you say, a "healing journey" would imply that the person on it is going to get better. Jessica was never healing and she was never getting better. She had a slow-growing yet indolent cancer and she died from it. That is the truth. It is very sad. There is no reason to make it anything different than what it was.

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    3. I can't see anyone in Jessica's circle admitting that any time soon, Violet, for two reasons.

      The first is that their beliefs about Jessica's "wellness" regimen are unfalsifiable.

      I don't believe that Gerson works. My belief is well founded, because I have seen no evidence that it works. I have no more reason for believing in Gerson therapy than I do for believing in Santa Claus.

      But I can say what it would take to change my belief: large-scale, well-designed, repeatable RCTs that show Gerson therapy works better than a placebo. Come up with those, and I will be forced to admit that it works. Likewise, my belief that Santa doesn't exist would change if you could produce the old boy in person, and let me and a number of other reliable witnesses watch him fly round the world on a sleigh drawn by reindeer, popping down chimneys and distributing presents. Thus, my beliefs could, theoretically, be proven false. They are falsifiable.

      In contrast, Jessica's family and friends, and especially this Tallon person, are clinging to beliefs which cannot be shaken. A few people may eventually drop away, but there is a hard core of supporters who will never be moved. Medical science has already said, loudly, clearly, and repeatedly, that there is no evidence supporting Gerson. This has not swayed them. If you were to ask them, "What evidence, hypothetically, could change your mind about Gerson and make you conclude that it doesn't work?", I'll bet their answer would be "Nothing". Their beliefs are unfalsifiable.

      The second reason is that they have a lot to lose. If you prove me wrong about Gerson, or Santa Claus, the worst that will happen is that I'll feel a bit embarrassed. No big deal. It wouldn't be the first wrong belief I've held, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

      But for Jessica's friends and family, this admission would come at a terrible cost. It would mean their loved one died embracing a delusion. It would mean she died for nothing; if she'd taken a different course of action, she might have lived. They can't admit that. And to be fair, I'm not sure I could, in their shoes. We try to construct meaning out of people's lives, and it's terribly painful to admit that someone's chosen life path was all for nothing.

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    4. I agree it would probably be too painful to admit it, and indeed Jessica could never do that when it came to her own mother. What they could do, however, is stop promoting it.

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    5. It would be interesting to know what was going inside Jess' head all those years, as well as the heads of her parents and her boyfriend. Every single one of them knew, that with or without conventional treatment (or amputation), Jess could very well live for 7-10 years, that was the nature of her specific cancer type. They also were afforded so many years to fully research (and thus opportunity for numerous second opinions to validate the conventional treatment *may* have afforded more time, or even more manageable disease). It would be interesting to know how many of them had doubts, and when, and what they chose to talk about those doubts. I cannot imagine being Jess' father, having to abide by his daughter's and soon after, his wife's decisions for gerson therapy. Did he just go along with it because he was misled as well? Or was he wracked in guilt and pain because he couldn't convince them they both had a better chance with conventional medicine? If only one could truly look into the psyches of every single one of them. What really gets to me is not so much Jess' stubborness (which is obvious she bore a dislike for authority, in that last tirade written by her boyfriend or some looney from their circle of quacks), but I feel sadly that she probably knew all the while the serious gamble she was taking, and let herself be overtaken by those who are experts at telling you what you want to hear (gerson, her so-called soul-sisters, her circle-group, anyone who never questioned her treatment and just gave her all the love and light and adoration she asked for), the sadness how easily she was fooled (and her mother, which is even worse sadness). I don't feel sorry for her boyfriend, he obviously intends to carry on the cherade at whatever cost, and continue to rake in the cash.

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  3. Oh, well done, Violet. I can't decide if my favourite part is the "white light and chakras" thing, or the following:

    "If you do not do this, then this blog post will follow your business around the internet until you do so."

    It was only because of your efforts that the truth about Candice's "liver cancer" came to light. If you hadn't persistently requested clarification from Candice on this matter, I'm sure she would have kept quiet about it as long as she could. Also, when you Google "Candice-Marie Fox" now, the fifth and sixth results are posts from this website: "Demand The Truth From Candice-Marie Fox" and "Candice-Marie Fox Clarifies That 'Liver Cancer' Was Benign."

    I also wholeheartedly affirm this:

    "My demand for a truthful accounting of your cancer story is 100% motivated by my compassion for people who have cancer."

    I really hope we can bring all this nonsense to light before Candice's revamped website is up and running. People are already falling for the pineapple thing. Here are some of the responses from commenters below the Daily Mail article, if you need further convincing that the media needs to be more responsible about what medical info they publish as fact:

    "These things are always worth a try and look what can happen."

    "People need to realise that food can cure horrible diseases like this...All these medicines and procedures are crap and only fix the symptoms. Eating healthy food and juicing IS the best way."

    "There are more and more stories like this popping up. They give me faith."

    "Of course cancer can be cured with a raw and healthy diet!...They're are [sic] a lot of people who have cured themselves."

    "Dont believe the food mafia, folks. Veganism is the Light."

    "Cancer is an oxygen deficiency at cellular level due to acidosis : the latter due to the effects of animal protein consumption . The reversal of the disease is a concentrated version of that needed to avoid cancer in the first place."

    "Not only by healthy living, but by BELIEVING that you will survive is a sure cure for any disease!!"

    "Maybe the answer to these things does lie in very good diets and fighting the illness using natural products."

    "By keeping her alkaline levels at an all time high, the cancer was starved...to death literally. This is something that the pharma companies don't want people to know..."

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    1. I saw those posts in the Daily Mail too. It was very sad. This is why we need to keep doing this. These lies have gotten out of control and people like Candice-Marie Fox need to be stopped before their message results in death. I can tell by the hearts and smiley faces that she does not take this very seriously but we do, and we must continue to pressure her until she tells the truth, and if she refuses to tell the truth, then we must be relentless in our campaign to constantly remind people that Fox has refused to be honest.

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    2. I have a friend who is a newly-turned vegan who now spouts 'consuming animal protein gives you cancer', like it is the cancer sufferers own fault for eating incorrectly in the past. She is a huge follower of Freelee the Banana Girl and her partner Harley, who claim that veganism is the only way, and that it cures everything. I don't know if they have any relevance to this blog (as her initial claim is that veganism cured her weight problems), but if you want to read some very *interesting* opinions from her devoted followers on how fruits and vegetables can cure everything and meat causes cancer then I would definitely suggest you just on their Instagram and read the comments.. it is mind blowing. Her account is @freeleethebananagirl.

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  4. Hey Violet, I posted a comment here earlier today but it seems to have disappeared. Can you check the spam folder?

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  5. Good news, everyone! The Daily Mail updated their article on Candice-Marie and made it slightly more factual! The pressure worked (a little).

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  6. Hi violet. Do you have the link for the updated article? I can only see the original one where it claims spread to the liver etc. Well done by the way.

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    1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3017683/Former-model-cancer-turned-chemo-claims-cured-eating-three-PINEAPPLES-day-ditched-husband-well.html

      This is the only one I have seen that was updated. It would be great if everyone could help out and tweet or email the other journalists who did not properly do their jobs and insist that they change or remove the articles on her.

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    2. I'm confused, how is that one updated? It still says she had cancer in her liver!

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    3. Plus they closed comments...

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    4. Yeah that is why I said it was "slightly more factual". I am giving the other journalists until Tuesday to update or correct the other articles. After that I am going to publicly call them out here on a post. It is not to be mean or anything like that, it is simply to motivate them to fact-check next time. This is too serious to treat as fluff.

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  7. This is s good one....

    http://m.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/belle-gibson-amanda-rootsey-jess-ainscough-and-others-fight-cancer-with-wellness/story-e6frg8h6-1227288347595

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    1. Ugh. Paywall. Can you copy/paste and email it to me? violetrealitybased@gmail.com I keep your email and name totally confidential.

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    2. If you copy the headline...
      Belle Gibson, Amanda Rootsey, Jess Ainscough and others fight cancer with ‘wellness’
      ... and paste it into google you should be able to find a readable version.

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    3. Janedj, I just did that, and was unable to find any version that wasn't behind the Australian's paywall.

      While looking for it, I did find this, though (in response to Ainscough's "I'm not doing so well" post of late 2014. From someone called Phoebe Hutchison:
      "Jess, I am so sorry to hear you have cancer. I did not know. I send you love, and healing. May you allow your beautiful self to simply radiate inside the current moment, and use all the universal power and magnificence, to heal you. If you have any resistance (intuitively/in your subconscious) you may need to work with a kinisiologist or hypnotist, or do gestalt with a trained counsellor. As you have previously walked this path, with success, and as you are so loved, and such an inspiration to thousands, you hold the power to overcome cancer. I know you would be giving your body the absolute perfect diet of alkaline producing foods. I just wanted to check with you in relation to any subconscious blocks. Due to the tragic loss of your mother, this may have caused a fear based block, in your subconscious, that needs to be examined, then removed, for you to walk forward in your cancer free path again. Please, allow yourself to simply be. You are a spirit, in a body, and you have proven to be such a gift to the world already. This is just a break from life, as you re focus. Inside this moment is where the magnificence and the healing power is. Enjoy your pug (I have one too). Enjoy your mini holiday. When the timing is right, you will be back, stronger than ever, to keep healing many. Sending you loads of love. You have a huge purpose on this earth, which you have started, and after your 'cancer break', you will continue. May your love for yourself, and your life, deepen more daily. Love Phoebe xx"

      How does one even begin to argue with such twaddle.

      As the person who reposted it pithily observed:
      "Buy my shit. http://www.areyoulistening.com.au/About-Me.aspx "

      Given that Jess didn't "come back stronger than ever", but died from a nasty fungating cancer, I would like to think Ms Hutchison has the good grace to feel like a bit of a git right now. Somehow, I suspect not.

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    4. Some more twaddle from Hutchison's website:
      "This book includes all the subsequent research I did, and includes simplified information on: psychological theories and strategies, universal laws and life’s rules, the supernatural, energies, mind/body/spirit connections, dreams, and quantum physics."

      Phoebe Hutchison, I challenge you even to DEFINE quantum physics in a way that won't make the particle physicists of my acquaintance burst out laughing.

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  8. Part 1
    About 200 young women filled the conference room in Prahran’s Italianate town-hall building when the Self-Love & Sisterhood tour came to Melbourne in April 2013.
    They’d paid $65 each to hear inspirational talks from four 20-something women who had turned their natural-living philosophies into thriving online businesses. Sitting onstage on a row of stools were the “spiritual practice coach” Tara Bliss, meditation teacher Melissa Ambrosini and fashion model Amanda Rootsey, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and declared she was avoiding chemotherapy in favour of natural healing. The headline attraction, however, was a vivacious, blue-eyed 27-year-old dressed in an apricot-coloured top and dark pants.
    Jess Ainscough was a former magazine journalist who had built a global following for a blog called The Wellness Warrior in which she, like Rootsey, wrote of her resolve to fight cancer without medical treatment. But Ainscough had gone further, declaring in 2011 that she had cured herself by adopting Gerson Therapy, a controversial alternative treatment involving daily coffee enemas and pure juices. Her website had made her an inspirational figure in the world of “wellness” blogging, a fast-expanding zone of the internet where young women in particular flock to share information about alternative medicine, diet and spirituality. In June 2011 she had revealed that her mother, Sharyn, was suffering breast cancer and had also embarked on Gerson Therapy.
    At Self-Love & Sisterhood, the four women were introduced by the tour’s promoter, Yvette Luciano — herself a cancer survivor — and at the conclusion of the one-hour show, audience members flocked around Ainscough. Among the admirers was a diminutive 21-year-old by the name of Belle Gibson, a relative newcomer to the wellness world who had just launched a blog in which she claimed to have survived terminal brain cancer without any medical treatment for four years. Ainscough was “immediately enchanted” by the younger woman’s story, she later recalled. “Here was this bubbly, ambitious, enthusiastic wellness sister chatting to us about creating her app, The Whole Pantry, who also happened to be harbouring a tumour in her brain,” she wrote. Gibson returned the praise in spades, describing Ainscough as one of her “greatest teachers and champions”.
    Today Gibson is accused of falsifying her claims of cancer to promote her online business. Jess Ainscough and her mother, meanwhile, are both dead, having succumbed to the cancers they vowed to fight through natural -therapy. By ¬contrast, Amanda Rootsey and Yvette Luciano are both alive and thriving after undergoing ¬conventional medical treatment. That Gibson’s extraordinary alleged fabrications were made public only two weeks after Jess Ainscough died has made the reverberations doubly seismic in the world of alternative medicine.

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    1. Part 2
      “There are too many people out there who say ‘I can blog’ or ‘I can build an app’ and think that entitles them to offer health advice,” says Leah Hechtman, president of the National Herbalists Association of Australia, the country’s oldest ¬professional body for natural therapists. “It’s not reasonable for the level of advice a lot of them are offering.” One naturopath, whose publisher cancelled her book project in the wake of the Gibson scandal, puts it more bluntly: “The wellness bubble had to burst. It had become sensationalistic. The big discussion in our industry is whether it might be a good thing that these underqualified people come under scrutiny.”
      Tony Barry, the gravel-voiced character actor most recently seen in the ABC series The Time Of Our Lives, was rushed to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane in May 2013 after a melanoma as big as a mandarin burst through the skin on his lower left leg. Barry, 73, was suffering what’s known as a “fungating tumour”, and ¬surgeons were so alarmed they amputated his leg above the knee. For more than six years the actor had been refusing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery for the melanomas erupting on his legs, opting instead to treat himself with a caustic ointment known as Black Salve which is sold on the internet as a “magical cancer cure”.
      Barry took the alternative medicine route after visiting the Hippocrates Health Centre on the Gold Coast, an alternative clinic run by the retired Hollywood actress Elaine Hollingsworth. On her websites the 86-year-old denounces doctors as murderers and promotes Black Salve as a 2000-year-old cancer cure; she claims to have sold a million copies of her book Take Control of Your Health and Escape the ¬Sickness Industry, which argues that cancer patients can increase their life expectancy by avoiding ¬medical treatment. Barry himself is careful to avoid such extreme statements: he did seek medical treatment for his first melanoma but says surgery failed to stop the disease’s spread, and he became convinced that chemotherapy and radiotherapy would do more harm than good. So for eight years he has lathered Black Salve on his legs to burn off what he says are ¬hundreds of skin cancers.
      Black Salve is banned from sale as a cancer treatment in Australia because the Therapeutic Goods Administration says there is no evidence that it has therapeutic value. Professor John ¬Thompson, executive director of Melanoma Institute Australia, acknowledges that the salve’s active ingredients will burn off skin tissue, but warns that people have injured themselves using such unregulated products, and may wrongly believe they have removed a tumour when the underlying malignancy remains. “You might as well use drain cleaner,” Thompson says.
      Barry remains steadfast, however, despite losing his leg; he has appeared in street protests and videos supporting those who supply Black Salve, and argues that his survival shows that “the cancer industry” doesn’t have all the answers. “People need to take control of their lives,” he says, “because if you put it in the hands of these buggers, their model isn’t based on wellness, it’s based on sickness.”

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    2. Part 3
      That, in a nutshell, is the guiding philosophy of a movement that has swept the West in the past two decades. At its core the wellness credo holds that conventional western medicine is ¬limited by its mechanistic view of disease, ¬ignoring the connections between body, mind and environment. From its roots in 1970s ¬alternative health, the movement has sparked a flowering of research into practices such as ¬meditation, herbal remedies, Chinese medicine and acupuncture. But its fringe thinkers have gone further, arguing that cheap and natural cancer cures are hidden from the public by the vested interests of the ¬capitalist medical system.
      With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the past decade, those conspiracy theories migrated from the fringe into the mainstream via bloggers who found a global audience for their stories of ¬cancer and healing. Amanda Rootsey and Jess Ainscough, for instance, both began blogs in 2010 that poured scorn on conventional medicine while documenting their quests to beat cancer naturally. Rootsey was then a 25-year-old model who had been diagnosed a year earlier with Hodgkin’s ¬lymphoma, an often slow-developing cancer of the lymphatic ¬system. An oncologist recommended chemotherapy and radiotherapy but ¬Rootsey “didn’t like what she had to say” and turned to the internet. There she encountered the writings of Don Tolman, a ¬Stetson-wearing wholefoods advocate from Utah who argues that chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are “weapons of mass destruction” of a “ruthless and dangerous” medical system.
      “I have to say that I was very resistant to what I read and heard in the beginning,” ¬Rootsey wrote on her blog A Modern Girl’s Life in March 2010, “but there is only so much you can try to ignore before you begin to understand that most of the ranting and raving is probably true.” ¬Having avoided the “dreadful” path of conventional treatment, she resolved instead to heal ¬herself through meditation, veganism, juice-fasting and coffee enemas. It was to be a short-lived experiment because a year later Rootsey developed a tumour on her spine which threatened to ¬paralyse her within weeks. In mid-2010 she was admitted to hospital in Brisbane to begin a course of chemotherapy which resulted in her cancer going into remission. She has since expressed her gratitude to the staff at Princess Alexandra -Hospital and resumed her modelling career.
      Rootsey still has a blog, and offers her services as a holistic life coach, but demurs when asked to comment on her abandonment of all-natural healing. “I’ve been in remission for four years now and to be honest, to go back and reflect on the ¬difficult decisions that had to be made and the pain and suffering of that time is not something I’d like to revisit,” she says in an email. “One thing I really believe from my experience is that there is no ‘right’ way for every person.”

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    3. Part 4
      Jess Ainscough proved to be a far more resolute advocate of natural healing, in part because the alternatives she faced were so awful. She was only 22 when doctors told her the lumps appearing in her arm were epithelioid sarcoma, a rare ¬condition for which they offered only two -treatments: amputation of her arm, which might prevent the cancer spreading, or an infusion of chemotherapy into the limb. Ainscough opted for the latter but it failed to stymie the cancer and damaged the mobility of her arm. Refusing amputation, she opted instead for Gerson ¬Therapy, a natural healing protocol that involves a strict daily regimen of 13 organic juices and five coffee ¬enemas. Within 18 months of starting it in 2010, she was claiming miraculous results.
      “After sticking to the strict Gerson Therapy for 18 months I cured myself of cancer,” she claimed in a short biography on her website in 2011. That same year she told her followers: “It’s kind of shocking to think that even though Dr Gerson discovered his cure way back in the 1930s, many people have still never even heard of him — let alone know that his legacy holds the answers to curing cancer.” In other posts she wrote that Gerson Therapy had “saved my life” and helped her “beat” cancer. She was also ¬scathing of conventional treatment, describing it as a “scam” and arguing that women should avoid biopsies and mammograms because they spread the disease.
      “Once upon a time you had to do a lot of digging to find out the truth about how to really heal cancer,” she wrote in May 2011. “These days, as more and more people are fed up with conventional options, searching for something better and discovering that there is something better, they are doing everything in their power to make sure the word is spread far and wide. I thank Facebook, Twitter and the mass inundation of awesome blogs out there for this.”
      Ainscough was only 25 at the time; in later years she retreated from her harsh view of ¬doctors and denied she had ever claimed to be cured. But those early posts generated the intense interest which led more than 2.5 million people to her site, and the persuasiveness of her story became evident in April 2011 when her mother Sharyn was diagnosed with breast -cancer and also rejected medical treatment.
      “Jess, I am so sorry to hear about your Mom,” said one of the many followers who sent her ¬messages of support upon hearing the news. “I am currently on the Gerson Therapy, almost done 4 months, diagnosed with breast cancer. I am inspired by you, we all are, and just know that you are a grand example as to how our bodies heal …”
      In the wellness movement, people find comforts that are often lacking in conventional medicine. Where doctors can be cautious and emotionally reserved, bloggers engage in the high emotions of gushing praise, tearful sympathy and boundless positivity. Where oncology and radiology offer mere increments of hope — survival for five years; a chance at remission — alternative treatments often promise nothing less than a total cure, complete with testimonials as proof. Whereas modern medicine is an intimidating edifice of multibillion-dollar drug companies, richly paid specialists and scientific argot, the blogosphere welcomes you into an extended family of -ordinary individuals telling intimate stories of their journeys through illness.

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    4. Part 5
      But wellness has become a lucrative business thanks to social media, as Jess Ainscough herself candidly admitted. After completing an online course at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition — a much-criticised for-profit academy in New York — she set herself up as a “holistic health coach” in 2011 and learnt the secrets of monetising her blog from the US business guru Marie Forleo, whose B-School program at the time operated under the slogan “Rich, Happy & Hot”.
      “I knew I had the potential to change lives,” Ainscough later quipped. “The head-scratcher, however, was how I was going to make enough money to fund the lucrative, laid-back lifestyle I desired to live. Keeping the fridge stocked with fresh organic produce is pricey; let alone my penchant for nice clothes.” Ainscough mastered the language of feel-good salesmanship, telling her followers that $979 might seem a steep price for her Lifestyle Transformation Guide, but “‘I can’t afford it’ is one of the most dangerous and disempowering things you can ever say”.
      As well as selling her own products — e-books, jewellery, online life-coaching — she earned money spruiking the products of others, and enthused on her blog about cosmetics, clothing and other merchandise sent to her for free. ¬Ainscough seems to have been more transparent than most bloggers about her commercial tie-ins and freebies, but the seemingly personal nature of the wellness world is precisely why so many marketing companies use people like her as proxy promoters. By 2013 she had made enough money to repay her father for her ¬medical bills and buy a $585,000 four-bedroom home on the Sunshine Coast with her fiance, plus a $30,000 SUV. “I earned six figures within a year of completing B-School and have doubled my income every year since,” she boasted in one post, adding that the program had taught her how to “organically attract an amazing tribe of people who trust me”.
      Jess and Sharyn Ainscough appeared on the cover of this magazine in September 2012, as part of a story on cancer sufferers who have declined conventional treatment. “I have total trust in the Gerson Therapy,” Sharyn Ainscough said at the time. Thirteen months later she died, aged 57, prompting medical commentators to lament that she had put herself through a punishing regimen while declining treatment that might have saved her life.
      Jess Ainscough was “rattled” by her mother’s death, according to her friend Jason Wachob, founder of the MindBodyGreen website, who says she began to have doubts about healing without western medicine. Yet that wasn’t evident on the national speaking tour Ainscough undertook in January and February 2014, when she continued to advocate daily enemas, according to those who attended, and gave one interview in which she said: “My health is great.”
      Only 11 days after the tour ended, Ainscough shocked some of her followers by revealing that her own cancer had “flared up” in late 2013, and that she was consulting two GPs and a surgeon. “I’ve never claimed to have cured myself,” she said in a long message on her blog, adding that she was often misquoted. In subsequent messages she revealed that a fungating tumour in her shoulder had begun constantly bleeding as early as February 2014. In June she announced she was taking a break from her blog but promised “big projects” in the works.
      By then, however, the wellness movement in Australia had a new star with an even more extraordinary story.

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    5. Part 6
      In one of her earliest messages on Instagram in May 2013, Belle Gibson introduced herself as a young mother with a background in marketing who had moved to Melbourne in search of treatment for a malignant terminal brain tumour. Four years earlier, she said, a doctor had delivered her the devastating news that she had only four months to live. “my life kept shattering to pieces, blow after blow from there in,” she wrote, “but here i am today, still with cancer … still malignant, with my team still uncertain of how I’m doing it or what my future i[s] and damn, i woke up this morning feeling absolutely blessed.”
      Thus emerged Gibson’s sassy online ¬persona that would earn her an admiring global audience. Like Jess Ainscough, she wrote darkly of conventional cancer treatment, saying she turned to natural therapies after collapsing and vomiting in a park from the effects of chemotherapy. Like Ainscough, she said she used organic nutrition and Gerson Therapy to heal herself, although she added craniosacral, Ayurvedic and oxygen treatments to the mix. Like Ainscough, she used blogging to build a devoted following of young women, to whom she then sold a “wellness, lifestyle and nutrition” guide called The Whole Pantry, which came in the form of an iPod and iPad app.
      Launched in August 2013, Gibson’s app was such an immediate hit that within months she was being feted by Vogue and Cosmopolitan. ¬Ainscough promoted her on her Wellness Warrior blog, and Penguin Books signed her up. By then Gibson’s Instagram account had become a real-time drama in which her 200,000 followers hung on every new development in her escalating medical crises — she was in hospital, she had collapsed at her son’s birthday party, she now had cancer of the uterus, spleen, blood and brain. In outpourings of mutual adoration, Gibson assured her followers they were revolutionising the world, even if she might not be around to see it, and they in turn told her she was amazing, inspiring, breathtaking, beautiful, genuine, courageous and angelic.
      As Gibson jetted to and from California in late 2014, working on her Apple Watch app and arranging international publication of her book, Jess Ainscough disappeared from public view. Bedridden with cancer for the last quarter of 2014, she resumed her blog in December to reveal she was in the care of an oncologist. “I’ve discovered that when we completely close -ourselves off from something, the universe will sure enough give us an experience that makes us see that everything has a place,” she said, alluding to her late return to conventional medicine. Hundreds of messages flooded her website, some of them suggesting she try anthroposophic medicine, or Emotional Freedom Technique, or the “Heal Thyself” program. One woman ¬confessed that she, too, had felt guilty about abandoning natural treatment for her cancer, until she discovered that conventional medicine works “surprisingly well”.
      When Ainscough died from her cancer in late February, Belle Gibson flew to Queensland to sit among several hundred mourners gathered at a Baptist church on the Sunshine Coast. It was nearly two years since the two women had met at Self-Love & Sisterhood, and no one who saw Gibson sobbing in her seat that day could have suspected the storm that was about to break. Four days later, The Australianrevealed that ¬Gibson had a long history of unlikely near-death stories, and had admitted some of her cancer ¬claims were dubious. In follow-up ¬articles it was revealed that friends had doubted her cancer claims since high school, and had confronted her last year, demanding proof of her illness. Gibson went to ground, precipitating the vaporisation of her business; within two weeks her Facebook and Instagram pages had disappeared, her app was withdrawn and her book was being pulped.

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    6. Part 7 (final)
      Amid the anguish that ensued, Jess Ainscough’s management released a statement asserting that her only relationship with Gibson was on -Instagram. That has not stopped Ainscough’s name being drawn into the wider debate about the ethical responsibilities of bloggers who have encouraged thousands, possibly millions, of people to believe that cancer can be cured naturally.
      Ainscough’s manager, Yvette Luciano, insists there is no evidence that conventional treatment would have prolonged the lives of Jess or Sharyn -Ainscough, as some medical commentators have argued. Luciano — who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and survived thanks to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment — says amputation of Ainscough’s arm was only ever an “experimental” option. “I have known many women with cancer who do conventional treatments and still sadly pass away,” she says.
      The National Herbalists Association’s Hechtman hopes that the controversy engendered by ¬Gibson’s exposure will push health regulators to consider more stringent registration of people offering nutrition and health advice. “There’s been resistance to that, because the big challenge is demonstrating that there is potential harm — otherwise why bother with the safety requirements? I think a situation like this is evidence that you can show potential for harm.”
      Dr Ranjana Srivastava, a Melbourne oncologist who writes on health issues, is not so optimistic about reform. The week the Belle Gibson scandal broke, a female patient came to her with a hole in her breast after trying to treat a tumour with natural therapies. “What has happened is a profusion of more extreme therapies, and that is troubling,” Srivastava says. “Things like enemas, exclusion diets, smoking ceremonies, there’s been an alarming rise in things like that. There is an extreme false reassurance offered by alternative therapies that promises nothing less than a cure, which no oncologist does. So you have a dichotomy between what conventional medicine offers and what alternative therapies offer. But this is a very old conversation, and therein lies the resignation of the medical profession.”
      In the foreword of her book The Whole Pantry, Belle Gibson was asked for the secret of her enormous popularity. “Authenticity and integrity,” she replied. “It really is that simple … There’s not enough honesty out there.” Ironically, Gibson may end up being a force for more candour in the world of online health advice — albeit not in the way she envisaged.

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    7. What a fantastic article. It sums it all up and re-inspires me to keep up with this blog. Who wrote that?

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    8. Janedj, thank you SO much for posting the entire article!! Too bad it's behind a paywall, there are millions that could benefit from reading it and having a real chance at evaluating the "evidence" behind the so-called "warriors".

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  9. RICHARD GUILLIATT

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