Shannon's Edit

Why Belle Gibson is no Jess Ainscough

July 2, 2015

I don’t know Belle Gibson. She commented on one of my Instagram posts once. I had a peek at her profile and had the distinct thought that for someone with brain cancer, she was certainly spending a lot of time posing for glam-style selfies. Each to their own, I thought.

But I did know Jess Ainscough. We’d been blogging buddies since 2010, often appearing in magazines together, chatting about our love of raw food or how we’d adopted holistic therapies to get to the bottom of our respective health issues.

Mind you, Jess and I never met, but knew each other through a mutual friend. We’d chatted on Skype, emailed and supported each other’s blogs with deep respect for each other’s journeys, however different they were. I was fiercely protective of her when trolls would vomit hate on her website. How could these people attack one of the kindest, bravest souls I knew?

I’ll often visit her website, just to see if her leaving was just a mistake. But she is gone, at least in physical form. And her strong, loving voice not able to defend herself against those who compare her stance, her message with that of Belle Gibson – a woman who, as it turns out, doesn’t have any idea of how profoundly nurturing and healing natural therapies can be— or how holistic treatments can be the support for someone who chooses to thrive with an illness, instead of succumb to medications with health-sapping side effects.

Belle Gibson is no Jess Ainscough.

Belle Gibson promoted a lifestyle she didn’t really know anything about. Jess Ainscough lived her message, until the very end. People can argue that Jess promoted a cure. But I disagree. She promoted a lifestyle of self-love, respect, healthier choices and the message that there is more than one treatment available for cancer. If she ever said she was cancer-free, and I don’t ever recall such a time, it could only be because she thought she was.

Many are aghast that Gibson led people “astray”, away from conventional treatment, such as chemo, and into the “woo-woo” world of original and holistic treatments. But here’s the thing. Gibson may have lied about her own journey, but why are people saying she put other lives in danger? Have we all become sheep where we blindly take another’s journey as a carbon copy of our own? Why is it suggested that people can’t think for themselves?

I don’t agree at all with what she did, but I also don’t think it gives people permission to shit all over natural therapies. I know from my own journey that they work—for me. And they worked for Jess by helping her thrive with cancer. Natural, holistic therapies have been around for thousands of years. Modern medicine is a newbie on the block, yet taken as the gospel of all healing because paid-for media tell us it’s the way. We’ve forgotten how to abide by nature’s laws and Jess was a major catalyst in helping us remember.

I don’t agree with what she did, but I also don’t think it gives people permission to shit all over natural therapies.

As individuals, it is up to ourselves to decide what treatment path to take. It’s not for anyone to tell anyone else how to do it. We can share our stories in the hope of inspiring someone to think for themselves, we can look at people like Belle Gibson and realise she too has an illness – it may not be cancer but we also need to stop finding a poster child for blame—and comparing apples to oranges.

Belle Gibson is not Jess Ainscough.

We are our own doctors and the sooner we realise that and stop hoping we will be saved—by conventional or natural therapies and the experts who sing the praises of either—the better off we’ll be. Know yourself, know your body and do what feels right for you. It all exists within us.

We’ve forgotten how to abide by nature’s laws and Jess was a major catalyst in helping us remember.


  • Templeton
    July 10, 2015 at 2:33 am

    This post is misguided.

    For a start, Ainscough DID lead people to believe that her Gerson “therapy” was treating cancer: “I was diagnosed with a rare, ‘incurable’ cancer at 22. At 26, I am healing myself naturally.”

    This was the basis for her web business and her celebrity.

    But Ainscough’s cancer progressed as expected. There is no evidence that she “thrived” with it any differently than other sufferers of the same cancer. In fact, she took to covering her arm and it’s obvious from photos that the cancer was, predictably, winning.

    Nobody knows what was going on in Ainscough’s mind. We do know that her mother followed the same quackery and died from breast cancer–one of the most treatable of cancers.

    The fact is that Ainscough AND Gibson peddled quackery and nonsense–and made money doing it. We must assume that a meaningful portion of their followers suffered from cancer. The dangers of misleading vulnerable, desperate people are very real.

    It’s sad that Ainscough threw away her best options to fight cancer, but that doesn’t give her a pass for promoting quack therapies.

    Diet can help manage cancer, within very narrow ranges–but it’s no substitute for REAL medical treatment. Nobody is going to cure their cancer with fruit smoothies.

    Sources: and

    • Shannon
      July 10, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Hi Templeton,

      I wouldn’t say my post is misguided, as it’s my opinion and insight – and ultimately that is for everyone to think for themselves, to listen to their bodies and make informed choices that feel right to them, whether that’s through holistic treatments or radiation/chemo. No one way works for everyone. I’ve had personal experience to show natural therapies very much work—for me. But I’m not you, or anyone else. What works for one may not work for another as we have different constitutions, experiences, beliefs, emotions and environments in which we live from which dis-ease may manifest… there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. Jess inspired people, gave them courage to believe in themselves, to think for themselves. She is no longer here to speak for herself, so it is time that people showed respect and let her rest in peace and stop dragging her into someone else’s story. She was a loving, caring, giving, respectful person in life, so we should now afford Jess the same.

      • Templeton
        July 10, 2015 at 12:49 pm

        I hear you, Shannon–but when your life is at stake, when you have kids and family depending on you, it’s not a question of choosing treatments that “feel right”. The right thing is to study the data and make high-probability decisions. It’s about getting the odds in your favour. You have to play to win. Feelings must take second place to data, expert advice and probability.

        Now to another point you’ve made: yes, you may have had positive experiences with alternative treatments, but unless those are documented and fully disclosed it’s impossible for readers to assess them. Are you saying you were cured of cancer by some kind of alternative food regime? If that’s true it’s medical history! You should seek out experts, validate that and pass it on to the world, with evidence and scientific support.

        The fact is that medical science has produced enormous improvements in life expectancy and quality of life. The ancient Roman and Greeks were happy to live into their forties, and they ate a fully natural Mediterranean diet. Today people can realistically expect to reach their nineties: that’s over a 100 percent improvement, thanks to modern medicine.

        Good diet can help reduce the risk of cancer and good diet can support cancer treatments–but good diet alone will not push cancer into remission.

        Finally, nobody is demonizing Ainscough. The problem is with her actions. Her choices are troubling. There was a lot of marketing involved. It’s disturbing. Ainscough’s choices and methods in running her online cancer-based wellness business may have led people to make disastrous decisions.

        My theory is that Ainscough was like a startup founder who gets investor money and really believes she’s going to make a hit product. At first things look great. But then time wears on and she sees the product is failing, but still she acts positive to the media and her investors, who sadly believe in her. She cons herself and others. Eventually reality catches up and the company collapses and everyone loses.

        But that’s speculation. Only those closest to her know for sure.

      • Templeton
        July 10, 2015 at 1:24 pm

        Basically someone who has cancer faces this choice:

        1. Go with the proven therapies, each of which has statistical data behind it, so one can judge one’s chances and trade-offs; or

        2. Conduct uncontrolled experiments using oneself as a guinea pig and hope for the best.

        When people say “do what feels right”, they forget that cancer is a cunning dastardly enemy that tricks the body non-stop. Even our immune system is blind to cancer and does nothing to stop it. You can feel OK and still be losing to cancer. It’s an evil insidious disease. Most times people only begin to feel symptoms when the cancer is already far along.

        The other problem to “do what feels right” is that the right thing is often hard when we’re doing it. It’s uncomfortable to run, stretch or lift weights; it’s uncomfortable to study or practice–but initial pain and difficulty is often the price of progress.

  • Templeton
    July 10, 2015 at 2:36 am

    The fact that Gibson and Ainscough were both promoted by beauty-oriented media, without anyone challenging their claims, is most of the problem. We will always have deluded people and hucksters–but the media is supposed to be skeptical of crazy claims, not promote and validate them.

    Cancer is not a game.

    You cannot cure cancer with kale salads.

    This is worth reading, for people who care about the effect of cancer frauds on real treatments:

  • Templeton
    July 10, 2015 at 2:59 am

    The last thing I’ll say here is this: if someone wants to blog about “treating” an otherwise treatable cancer without using real medical therapies, then they owe it to the public to be honest and open about it. And they have to be loud and clear with disclaimers.

    What do I mean by honest and open? This:

    • post the results of your checkups, with doctor comments

    • get regular commentary from the monitoring physicians

    • have certified oncological doctors discuss your case and its progress relative to the statistical averages

    • when media come calling, offer them interviews with your doctors and copies of your cancer-related medical records

    It’s wildly irresponsible (and immoral) to claim you’re showing the public your “journey” with cancer, using alternative (unvalidated) methods, unless you show the whole works and get objective medical assessments all the way. You can’t just Instagram a bunch of celeb and food pics and say “I feel good”. That’s not good enough.

    The trouble is, the wellness blogs are businesses. They’re run for money. And showing your medical records and tumor pictures will drive down traffic and income.

    But it’s the only responsible, honest and open thing to do.

    Steve Jobs delayed his cancer treatment for months while he chased off after quack “therapies”. He later regretted it terribly when he realized he’d wasted precious time on nonsense.

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