Jessica Ainscough once lead a life most girls dream of as a writer at one of Australia’s most popular teen mags, Dolly. But after being diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer in her left hand and arm, called Epithelioid Sarcoma, she knew her life had to change.
She promptly packed up her glamorous Sydney life and returned to the Sunshine Coast in search of answers and a way to heal.
“After having a high dose of chemo pumped through my arm (the) following scans showed I was clear of cancer. Little did I know it would come back, not even a year after going into remission,” Jess says. “After being told by the scary men in white coats that my only real chance of long-term survival would be to have my arm amputated at the shoulder I decided to take matters into my own hands — the way I saw it I had two choices. I could rely on the slash, poison and burn method offered to me by the medical profession and become stuck in the “cancer patient” category for who knows how long, or I could take responsibility for my illness and bring my body to optimum health so that it can heal itself. For me it was an easy decision.”
Two years on and Jess’ lifestyle has completely changed, from the food she eats to the products she puts on her skin. She says, “I ditched a diet that consisted mostly of champagne, canapes and late night Maccas to become a carrot juice-guzzling, lentil-loving vegan.” She now spends her time meditating, practicing Bikram yoga and learning everything she can about healing.
Through her blog, The Wellness Warrior, Jessica Ainscough shares her journey in the hope of helping and inspiring others.
Your life has drastically changed in the last few years, after being diagnosed with cancer. You went from champagne and caviar at beauty launches to green smoothies and meditation. What has that journey been like?
It has been scary, unpredictable, emotional and full of so many amazing lessons and opportunities I don’t believe I would have been able to experience otherwise.
Do you feel that modern day stresses had something to do with your cancer diagnosis? If so, why exactly?
I don’t think they were the main cause of my diagnosis, but I definitely believe they played a part. Cancer is a multi-faceted disease that is manifested when all of your defense mechanisms are compromised. When you suffer from poor diet (from too much processed, nutritionally-devoid food), environmental toxins, unbalanced emotions and unmanageable stress levels I think cancer is your body’s way of telling you that something’s got to change.
How have you changed? Do you feel like a different person in any respect?
I am the same person I’ve always been, but I feel like all the bullshit has been scraped away from the surface. I am more compassionate, more in tune with myself and more aware of what is really important in my life.
You used to work in magazines. How do you feel about chemically-produced beauty products now?
I wasn’t a beauty editor, but I was always surrounded by beauty products from working in magazines. I feel that chemically-produced products are an added toxin we just don’t need. A lot of women wear make-up all day every day and they have no idea of how many chemicals they are willingly pouring into their bodies.
“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens to us, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.”
Can you chat a little bit about hair dyes. We know they’re toxic, but what do you think is the best alternative? How do you colour your hair?
Hair dye was one of the hardest for me to give up. I’m blond, but my natural hair color is mousey brown. I searched everywhere for a natural solution, but the best I found was hair salons that offer organic colors and clay foils, but they are still not totally free of nasties. So I’ve had to resort to my trusty bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide. I have it in a spray bottle and I spray it on my hair to lighten it. My hair did go through a bit of an orange stage for a little while there but now it is a natural blond shade. And it is only $10 a bottle!
What does your beauty routine look like these days?
I use mostly Mukti skin care and hair care products. They are organic and all-natural and so beautiful to use. Once a week I apply a natural clay mask to my face. I use 3% hydrogen peroxide to remove blackheads. I use coconut oil as an eye cream and sunscreen. I use a dry body brush every day and bathe in apple cider vinegar once a week to draw out toxins and soften the skin.
Why are certified organic products important to you? What’s one product you take everywhere with you?
They are important because they are the only true indicator of safe, natural products. There is so much green washing on product labels these days where “natural” and “organic” claims are made with hardly any basis. The one product I take everywhere is my Mukti lip balm or natural paw paw ointment.
What’s your take on beauty?
Beauty is something that begins on the inside and is radiated on the outside. I have never felt more beautiful than since I completely cleaned up my diet. I have so much energy, my eyes are bright and I am so much more comfortable in my own skin.
You’ve had a major diet shift. How so?
I went from eating a lot of meat, dairy, white bread, white rice, white pasta and processed food – I couldn’t cook anything that wasn’t already pre-prepared for me – to eating an organic, vegan, mostly raw diet. I completely love my new diet though and can’t imagine ever going back to the former.
What foods can’t you do without and why?
I love starting the day with a big bowl of rolled oats topped with fruit and sultanas. I have to have a massive salad for both lunch and dinner complete with roast pumpkin, grilled asparagus, chickpeas and homemade pickled beetroot. And I love my fresh veggie juices. I can’t wait until I can reduce them from 13 a day, but I don’t think I could go without them anymore. Especially the green ones, they are so alkalizing.
What therapies do you swear by and why?
Massages are a must for me. I believe regular massages should be a crucial part of your routine, not just for special occasions. I also love coffee enemas. They are unbeatable when it comes to detoxifying your liver.
If you could recommend three approaches to achieving real beauty, what would they be?
1. Eat a clean, fresh diet full of organic living foods.
2. Exercise on a daily basis. Sweating is great for your skin, Bikram yoga in particular.
3. Establish a regular meditation practice. Taking the time to sit and mindfully check in with yourself with will help you get your head straight, balance your emotions and reduce modern day stressors.
Life doesn’t always give you what you want, but it will give you what you need