Let This Be A Lesson

In this post, written in February 2014, I threw out a challenge to the media to dig a bit deeper and report on the actual story of Jessica Ainscough and her story of vegetable juices, coffee enemas and cancer survival. I wrote:

“And media. When is someone going to call her out and report on this situation for what it is instead of fawning over the beautiful young girl who drinks green smoothies? It is time someone in the media took a close look at this situation and exposed the cold hard facts.”

It would only have taken a scratch on the surface to reveal that all was not as it seemed, but no one bothered. The media reported her story, as told to them by Jess, without question. Until she died, then there was quite a few articles examining the futility of the treatments she chose to undertake. Too little too late though, that same media had already made into a minor celebrity as “the girl who cured her cancer”.

Over the past few weeks another ‘amazing cancer survivor’ Bell Gibson is taking a fall from grace with revelations that her cancer story appears to have been a lie. At the time of writing Ms Gibson is yet to provide evidence that she ever had brain cancer, and has suggested that the other four types of cancer that she claimed to have developed were ‘misdiagnosed’.
Penguin Books has pulled her “The Whole Pantry” recipe book off the shelves in Australia, and the app with the same name has been quietly removed from the app store. 

I like what Media Watch had to say on the issue:

“Now what’s remarkable about Belle’s remarkable story is that no one who swallowed it apparently bothered to check it was true.

Not the publishers at Penguin. Nor the chaps at Apple. Nor a parade of media admirers at The Sunday Telegraph, News.com.au, Cosmopolitan, Australian Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Elle, and Channel Seven’s Sunrise among others.

So when you see a story like this in future, whether you’re a journalist or a reader, it’s worth remembering this tip from the ABC’s health expert Dr Norman Swan, who told Media Watch: “The general rule in health and medical journalism is the same as any other form of journalism, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

Bell shares her story on Sunrise.

Bell shares her story on Sunrise.

I couldn’t have put it any better myself. I hope that media take stock and learn from this embarrasing situation. The consumers of Australian media deserve better. They deserve due dilligence in health reporting.   

Fan Mail From The Wellness World

It has been one hell of a week around here. When the news broke last Friday that Jess Ainscough had passed away from the cancer she attempted to cure with Gerson ‘Therapy’, I took a few moments to pause and reflect on what the response should be on this blog. I decided to acknowledge her passing with this brief post, but to give her loved ones  respect and space by not making comment on their loss at this time. We all know what it is like to lose someone we love, and I did not want to exacerbate their pain in any way.

But then, fans and followers of Jess started googling her name and found this blog in their thousands. I guess considering the amount of traffic that has been here this week,  the amount of unpleasant and nonsensical comments left is actually quite low. In any case, there has been too many of these comments to keep up with and moderate so I have numbered and collated them in one document for anyone who cares to spend their time reading the whole 25 pages of them, and I’ll share a few highlights here. One comment in particular sums up exactly how nefarious Gerson ‘Therapy’ is. Put simply, by ‘France ‘ (comment #98): if it doesn’t work, its your own fault.

“If it didn’t work for you, it is because you have done something wrong or because it is not working for you. Jess has stopped the ferson (sic) therapy 2 years before she passed away and used other natural treatments. The gerson therapy is powerful. It is helping a lot of people out there. It is dangerous when it is not done properly like you probably have. No need to blame the therapy for your own mistakes.”

The comments generally fitted into the following categories, and I have included some excerpts for your reading pleasure. You can use the numbers to locate the full comments in the document here.

1. Outright insults and abuse, some even included passive aggressive ‘concerns’ or ‘well wishes’ for my troubled self.

Bex: (6) “Cold, heartless person u are.”

Bec: (7) “You should be absolutely disgusted with yourself, people like u make me sick.”

Drmschafer: (8) “What a horrible human being… Your ignorance and hate are what’s wrong in this world.

John: (96) “you are a complete troll utter gutter crap fuck off with your big pharma deluded nonsense”

Sarah: (13) “My sympathy to you for the hurt you must be experiencing in your life causing you to want to take it out on others around you.”

And finally, Kate (15). She wins ‘best on ground’ for the insults section with this sterling effort:

“You are a Dog shit person.”

 

2. People who miss the point (being the spread, and profiting from health misinformation and the concealment of her actual condition), and think the issue is Jess’ freedom to make her own personal medical decisions.

Deborah (31) “Last time i checked Australia was a democracy were people are free to take whatever medical journey they choose. “

Nichola (32) “Jess exercised her right to choice. To judge this is absurd. “

Cat: (38) “Why the outrage – are we a democratic society – do we not have choices available to us? Why vilify someone for their medical choices?…”

Kate (39) “Honestly how dare anyone judge Jess and her choices…. She had every right to make choices for her body and her life.”

 

3. People who thought Jess had never made any claims about being in the process of curing, or having cured herself.

I moderated most of those through and responded with a link to this post detailing all the instances I could be bothered finding of her making such claims.

4. Fans of alternatives to medicine or those with  anecdotes about cancer ‘cures’.

Jim: (30) “…people die from cancer. Even people who choose only conventional treatment – thousands die undergoing medical treatment for cancer just as they do with natural therapies. This is not an excuse to discredit natural therapies. There is a place for both natural and conventional treatments in cancer.”

Grahame (34) “Alternative therapies do work but it’s not a magic bullet for every case.”

Katie (44) “Nutrition CAN reverse many cancers and truly has. I have no experience with the Gerson therapy, but my aunt cleared cervical cancer that threatened to take her cervix and uterus in 1990 by eating a raw vegan diet, taking supplements, quitting smoking, quitting caffeine etc.”

 

5. People wanting to tell me how unsuccessful or bad conventional treatment is, how evil doctors and pharmaceutical companies are.

Mike (37) ” Ive stopped my melanoma with quakery… open your eyes to GP system and Big Pharma..you are blind to death by chemicals….”

Gisele (50) “Right, because every cancer patient treated with chemotherapy did survive… It is sickening that people prefer to throw a chemical bomb into their body in the hope to stay alive… CHEMICALS!”

Anon (61) ‘I don’t want to knock doctors here – I believe they truly want the best for their patients but at the end of the day they are obsequious to the drug companies who peddle chemicals to treat cancer. Can’t make money from a carrot juice can you? So there’s no incentive for them to promote it or test it? You can’t blame them either, they have shareholders who need a return – that’s just way the world works.”

Elk (78) “Why not pick on the non successful Chemo, Surgery and Radiation treatments which only serve greedy multi-national pharmaceutical corporations and radiotherapy corporates who make huge profits while patients who choose these treatments suffer terrible side effects. Sadly the medical establishments dont want to know about alternative treatments and instead pander to greed when it comes to cancer.”

B.D (93) “for those of you who think the Oncologists and Surgeons have all the answers and have your best interest at heart, I hope you never have to find out how foolish you are.”

 

Then there was Michael (46) who simply asked “Rosalie, who pays you?”

Because I couldn’t possibly have an opinion without someone telling me what it is and paying me to express it. Right?

And when I failed to moderate all this nonsense through, then came the cries of “CENSORSHIP!”

Pomona (55-59) “I bet you don’t publish my comments ! You appear to only publish those comments that are in line with your ‘ideal’ world & agenda.”

“Just curious ???? Where’s the comment I posted half an hour ago ????? Didn’t you like it ??????

I guess It’s too controversial ,its SAD as too many people are afraid to talk about what I just commented on (shame I wasted my Sunday afternoon writing to you). Please post it ! I’m sharing some very important TRUTHS !”

Cayley (73) “wow you are just as selective with with comments you publish – and you cpmpain to Jess about deleting yours. Seriously this is not cool. Dont you have the guts to publish my comment because you know its the truth.”

Toni (75) “Interesting how comments against Rosalies beliefs are not showing…”

I had to chose an overall winner, I think the prize would go to Sarah (42) for her armchair psychiatry. Enjoy:

“…the explanation for these people’s apparent complete lack of compassion toward another human being that has made the most sense to me is the research brought forward by leading psychologists and the National Institute of mental health. Having studied psychopathy in depth, they claim to have come to the conclusion 1 in 100 people have psychopathic, sociopathic tendencies. This can be as simple as an inability to feel empathy for others.

If you research these tendencies, it begins to make sense how the majority of us feel a deep sadness for the loss of Jess and an immense compassion her family, and others, seemingly a small minority, display a complete lack of empathy instead choosing to cause further harm. We cannot understand how they see no problem with their behavior however we don’t know that they have the capacity to feel this compassion. It makes it easier not to take it so personally. People with these tendencies have brains that are wired differently. they don’t know what they don’t have the capacity to feel. This post is not intended to cause offence, it is presented for consideration of a very real problem. The concern is the damage inflicted by these people in our communities as demonstrated by pages such as this. …”

 

So these folks are the kind of folks who watched Jess waste what time she had left on this earth following restrictive diets and pointless rituals. They cheered her on in their smug, superior, ‘knowledge’ that they all knew better than science and medicine, thinking she was infallible due to this superior ‘knowledge’. What they actually did was enabled and encouraged a young woman to squander the only chance she had. Jess may have made different choices if she didn’t have legions of google ‘researchers’ wellness warriors cheering on her every foolish utterance. She may have made the same choices. We don’t know.

What we do know is that the wellness industry isn’t quite as full of positive, vibrant, healthy souls full of love and light as they would have us think. The mail received here in the past week is evidence of that.

Even more predictable is they way The Gerson Institute washed their hands of her with this tweet.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 7.15.26 pm

They took $5,500 per week, for three weeks to host Jess at their institute and convince her that she could  cure her cancer with their ridiculous regime. They used her in publicity and she raved about them endlessly, no doubt raising their profile in Australia. Just like all health charlatans though, once it became apparent their quackery doesn’t work they pulled out the tried and tested method of blaming the victim. These people have blood on their hands, but most certainly no conscience weighing them down.

 

Edited to add: The Gerson Institute have issued a defence of their therapy tribute to Jess. Apparentley their ‘therapy’ isn’t a cure now, and it “can’t save everyone”. But they think it is important that people are free to chose pointless, expensive ‘treatments’ that won’t help them. Yup. No conscience at all. (Thanks to Alice for the tip).

An Open Letter to the Wellness Warrior

It is becoming clearer every day that your cancer has taken its expected course, (give or take a year or so, Drs can’t be exact), in spite of all your time at the Gerson retreat and the promises of Gerson ‘Therapy’. In spite of the arduous juicing and organic dietary regime, the coffee enemas ‘removing toxins’ from your body, all the natural ‘therapies’, the powers of your ‘medical intuitive’ all your hard emotional and spiritual work, self-love and self-focus. It appears that you were lied to and misled by the very people you turned to for ‘care’. The people who convinced you that if you only do everything right, you will be cured. It also appears that the only ones who were ever honest with you were your real, medical doctors, and what they predicted is currently playing out.

In the beginning you publicly shared everything about your condition, your ‘treatment’, your daily routine. It seemed like nothing was off limits. Making and publishing a video demonstrating how you do coffee enemas made a lot of us cringe, but not you. Your readers were treated to daily updates and stories of your chosen path and how well it was working. Now that things have taken a turn for the worse, you have retreated with little explanation, stopped the information flow to those same readers who cheered you on, supported you, purchased your products and essentially have made your current lifestyle possible. They have been unceremoniously shut out and dumped from your journey now that reality is setting in and life is no longer sunshine and roses.

cat not speaking

You have a unique and important opportunity right now. You can admit to your followers, and those you have influenced to follow your path that you were lied to, and taken advantage of by dishonest cancer entrepreneurs when you were at your most vulnerable. You have the opportunity to speak to people with cancer, in your situation, and tell them that their cancer is not their fault for living an impure life or not being positive enough. You can tell them that having cancer that progresses it is not their fault for not eating exactly right, or thinking the right thoughts. You have the opportunity to use your influential platform to warn people that there are those who will take advantage of them. That just because conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers, doesn’t mean that alternative methods will work.

The choice is yours, keep trying to project the lie, keep misleading your followers and blame yourself for not doing all the things right, or admit that cancer is a bastard. It is not a message or a blessing, it is a disease and its aim is to kill people.

What do you want your legacy to be? The girl who deluded herself and as a result, misled thousands of people – some vulnerable cancer patients themselves, until the bitter end? Or the girl who stood up and was bravely honest. The girl who spoke out about how unscrupulous people took advantage of her vulnerability, and saved others from going through the same?

Why We Need to Search for the Truth in Cancer Cure Stories

I’d like to share this podcast about truth in cancer stories with you. It features Grace Gawler of The Grace Gawler Institute and ethicist Dr Julie Crews who happens to be a reader and commenter on this blog. 

Description:

 “Ethicist Dr Julie Crews takes an investigative look through the magnifying glass to examine new trends in cancer entrepreneurship where patients who are either still in recovery themselves or who claim they have beaten the odds without medical evidence, are influencing the treatment choices of millions of other cancer patients around the globe. Another group of patients influencing choices are those who have had adequate medical treatment for their cancer, but then champion their ‘cure’ to the use of dietary regimens, alternative medicine, meditation and other healing forms. Authentic hope is a powerful ally, but false hope as a recent article published in the West Australian suggests, provides More Hype than Hope. Dr Crews contributed to that media piece. If asked about buying a product in a store – do we accept being lied to about its efficacy? In cancer the stakes are high-do we want lies or truth? The search for truth in healing stories is imperative for patients whose lives really depend upon it.”

I hope you enjoy it. Dr Crews raises many important issues. Click here to listen.

The Wellness Warrior: Denial, Delusion, or Dishonesty?

I’ve been observing a young lady who goes by the title ‘The Wellness Warrior’ and calls herself a ‘Cancer Thriver’ for quite some time now and I’ve come to the point where I can no longer stay silent out of sympathy for her tragic situation. The reason for this; she is lying to herself, lying to her followers, lying to the public about her situation and deliberately hiding the truth of her condition. This can not continue, she is influencing people’s health and cancer treatment choices by misleading them. It is unconscionable. I will probably get slammed for speaking out about this but I don’t care, someone has to.

Jessica Ainscough was diagnosed with Epithelioid Sarcoma in her left arm in 2008 at the age of 22. According to her own account of the story she had an isolated limb perfusion (high dose chemotherapy just to the arm), but was advised by her oncologist after relapse that amputation, although possibly not a cure, was her best option for survival or living a long life. Jess didn’t think this was an ‘attractive option’ and she decided against it and turned to the Internet looking for better options, which is where she found Gerson Therapy. In short, Gerson Therapy is a cancer ‘cure’ scam that costs thousands of dollars and involves a restrictive diet and lifestyle of living on juices and doing up to five coffee enemas per day. You can see Jess demonstrating her method for doing the enemas here.

A friend who works in oncology informs me that since Jess abandoned conventional therapy there has been huge advances in treatment. Newer targeted therapies have just about made isolated limb perfusion obsolete. Sadly for Jess, her adherence to Gerson Therapy and other nonsense for so long has almost certainly cost her any benefit she could have gained from the newer therapies.

Epithelioid Sarcoma is a slow growing cancer. Without treatment, it has a 50-70% 5 year survival rate, and a 42-55% 10 year survival rate. Jess has been living with this cancer for 6 years now, so it is no surprise that she is still alive. In fact, it is almost expected that she would still be alive at this point. Her cancer is simply taking its natural course. There is no miracle here, no story of miraculous survival, and no ‘remission’ as she claims. Just normal disease progression. How do I know the disease is progressing as expected? By monitoring her endless stream of photographs. That is no easy task because she makes every effort to hide her diseased arm, behind other people, inside shirt sleeves, and more recently, inside a bandage, but I have seen enough to form an opinion on what is going on here.

For instance, see this lovely photograph of a young beautiful, vibrant Jess in 2008. Her arm and hand look great. There is no denying she looks well, even healthy and there is no obvious sign of the cancer in her left arm.

image

Fast forward to 2011, and here we can clearly see lesions on the outside of her left arm and hand, and underside of her left arm as well.

Red obvious lesions, 2011.

Red obvious lesions, 2011.

And pictured here in 2013 Her arm started to look decidedly worse. No longer just lesions on her hand and arm, the arm is looking quite misshapen with the lesions turning into wounds. I’m told the medical term for this is fungating wounds.

image              image              2013 Left arm clearly misshapen.

Despite the tragic loss of her mother to breast cancer in 2013 (she took the same ‘treatment’ path as Jess), she continues to promote Gerson Therapy as the reason for her own survival, with the caveat that ‘Like conventional treatment, it doesn’t work for everyone because every person, and every cancer is different.’ I can’t imagine what kind of mental and emotional gymnastics she has had to perform to be comfortable with the fact that her mother died following the very same protocol that Jess claims saved her.

None of this has stopped Jess from turning her circumstances into a career. And by her own admission, a very lucrative career, but that is OK because money is energy after all.

image

Jess Ainscough: “I drink green juice, eat an organic diet, and I meditate; however the thing that adds the most weight to my wellness regime is the fact that I do something I love every single day. I wake up every morning and get to live the life of my dreams, doing work that never feels like work. And the sweet kicker is that I earn way more now than I could have ever achieved working for somebody else in the corporate world. Everyone deserves this kind of freedom, support and love in their life!!”

image

Jess Ainscough: “Hey lovely Chloe, I kind of used to have that same belief when I started considering my blog as a career. I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t in keeping with my new identity to want to make money. But I quickly realised that money is just another form of energy, and when we are being of service and living our purpose the money will easily flow to us. Plus, we need money in order to make a significant difference in the world. To me, money means I can look after my health, look after my family, and build my biz and team up so that I can spread my message far and wide. I hope this helps! Xxx”

 Just recently Jess completed a national speaking tour, charging people around $100 per head to come and hear her story of cure through Gerson Therapy, good food and positive thinking. Photos from the event were revealing, especially in what they did not reveal. Her left hand and wrist were hidden by a bandage. When a fellow observer asked about it on her Facebook page this was her response:

Jessjess-arm-lie image

Commenter: “Jess, I think a lot of people are concerned about how your arm looks in these images compared to the past few years. Would you consider seeing a doctor about it? What do you think is going on?”

Jess Ainscough: “Hi, my arm is swollen in these pics because of all the flying I’ve been doing. It’s going back down now. I have lymphedema in my arm, and I am working with two doctors and a naturopath to do everything I can to help it. Lymphedema is something people have to deal with their whole lives when they have had lymph nodes removed and the kind of treatment I’ve had on my arm.”

Lymphedema? Possibly. But that is not all that is going on here. Having never engaged with Jess before, I couldn’t remain silent so I raised my concerns:

Fiona and I to Jess

 “Jess, this concerns me. My mum had lymphedema after treatment for breast cancer that included a mastectomy and  removal of lymph nodes (no chemo). She had to wear a full length  compression stocking, not a little bandage like you have. It is my  understanding that lymphedema doesn’t leave a limb lumpy with red  lesions, but affects the entire limb equally. And it doesn’t cause lesions  like you have. Jess I’m really worried, please see an oncologist, this  looks like disease progression to me.”

Jess’ response? She deleted my comment. So I tried again:

 “Jess Ainscough, why was my comment expressing concern about your arm deleted? It was polite, and expressed genuine concern about the condition of your arm, and you. You have 55,000 + fans here, many who admire what you are doing and some who are following your lead in one way or another. It is disingenuous to delete something honest like what I wrote. I lost my mum in exactly the same way you did – to cancer, except she chose conventional therapy which gave us an extra 20years. Your arm looks diseased, with lesions on it, not like a case of lymphedema. Please don’t lie to us about it, the amount of influence you have demands honesty.”

Her response this time around? Hide the comment and reply. You can see the response for yourself, and my follow up comment as well but the crux of what Jess has to say is:

” I’m not being dishonest. I don’t claim to have cured myself of cancer. I’ve not once said this… I’m working with a team of medical professionals.”

image

Jess Ainscough: “Hi Rosalie, I’m not being dishonest. I don’t claim to have cured myself of cancer. I’ve not once said this. I live with cancer and I manage it to the best of my ability. Many people believe that I refused medical treatment, but this isn’t the case. There was nothing my doctors could offer me in the way of a cure, so I choose to manage my condition. Thank you for your concern, but I’m not complacent when it comes to my health and I’m working with a team of medical professionals. Xx”

My reply, which went unanswered:

“Jess Ainscough, you may never had said the word cure in public but everything you say and do leads people to think you have cured yourself. Only a couple of weeks ago you claimed to be in remission in the Sydney Morning Herald and based on your photos, looking at your arm, that is clearly not true. You can play semantics all you like, but you and I both know that you have been hiding your arm and the progression of the cancer in it for quite some time now, and that is dishonest. Did you talk about the disease progression on your tour? Have you ever? I have only ever seen you say that the lesions on your arm are the ‘cancer coming out’. Something no one else will probably say to you too is that your type of cancer is a slowly progressing cancer. Your disease would be in the exactly same state it is in now without all the torture and expense of Gerson Therapy. Please be honest with your followers. People are choosing Gerson Therapy to treat their cancers because of you. People who might otherwise be saved by conventional therapy. Sure, it is their decision, but you are influencing their decisions. And that requires you to be upfront about your own condition and you are not. I know this thread is hidden and no one else can see it, but I hope you will give some consideration to what I have said.”

So Jess says she does not claim to have cured herself. She sure likes to give that impression though. Here in an online interview Jess allows the claim that she cured herself of cancer, naturally to stand.

image                  image

“You cured yourself of cancer, naturally. It’s a “stop the press” kind of moment, yet, because we find it so amazing, what does it say about our relationship with our bodies?
[Jess] We definitely don’t trust ourselves enough, or give our bodies the credit they deserve when it comes to healing. We are designed to self heal – as long as we provide the right environment to do so.”

And here we have a perfect example of the impression jess gives. Without actually saying ‘cured’ of course. Cancer free / cured. Tomato / tomato.

image

I was also sent a private message by one of her handlers to say that she is consulting Doctors about her arm and it is a private matter. I’m sorry Jess, but everything you do and say publicly implies that you have cured yourself. Your wide eyed, adoring followers think you have cured yourself. I despair about how many people have chosen Gerson Therapy to ‘treat’ their (possibly otherwise treatable) cancer due to your wonderful, positive story.

The elephant in the room here? Your left arm. If you are being so honest about your condition, why all the effort to hide the arm? Why haven’t your followers and fans been told about the problems with your arm? Why did you lie and say its just lymphedema from flying? When are you going to talk publicly about the state of your arm?

You are being dishonest, by hiding the whole story.

You are lying by omission.

You are misleading people, for profit and adulation.

 Does her focus on making money from her new life eliminate any sense of decency she might have once had? I know what I think, but one thing is for sure – she has zero tolerance for any honest public dialogue about her condition, and doesn’t want her wide eyed believers to be exposed to it either.

Over to you Jess, your move. Will you continue to mislead the very people who have contributed to your success? Or will honesty and human decency win out and see you speaking the real truth about your condition?

And media. When is someone going to call her out and report on this situation for what it is instead of fawning over the beautiful young girl who drinks green smoothies? It is time someone in the media took a close look at this situation and exposed the cold hard facts.

Edited to add: Jess has responded by writing a blog, which I will write a reply to over the next few days as time allows. Here is her response.

 

If you liked this post, you might like to see how Jess’ tribe responded when she passed away.