Disease and Choice

Jess Ainscough

Jess Ainscough

I have been following the storm of Australian media reports about the sad passing of Jess Ainscough, and also the exposure of Belle Gibson. 

Jess, the self titled Wellness Warrior, having a rare form of cancer (epithelioid sarcoma) chose to follow the alternative Gerson Therapy, which is based on an organic plant and juicing diet, rather than have arm amputation to treat her disease.

Belle Gibson, a highly successful health writer, claimed diet and lifestyle cured all sorts of terminal cancer and is now being revealed as a fraud, which is incredibly alarming.

I have been concerned reading these many reports, especially as I continue my work into health counselling, of the damaging effects these sensationalistic headlines can have, and how they may affect people with serious illness and how they approach it.  And even if you are not suffering from a debilitating illness, how it may make you change your opinion on how good eating habits can have positive results on our health.  

The thing is, I do believe in food as medicine, especially as preventative medicine.  There are many reports on how the way we are eating is contributing to the increasing disease in our culture, however I would not go on to say that I believe it is a cure, more so that I believe it is a part of tackling illness from all angles. 

When I was very sick with autoimmune disease I changed my diet radically, and I 100% believe it helped me on the path to recovery.  I continue to eat in this fashion because I think it is best for me and my body to prevent any reoccurrences, as well as to live a healthy and vibrant life with lots of energy. 

However this was not my only approach, I also saw an integrative doctor, which by definition takes into account the whole person and includes all aspects of lifestyle.  They practice conventional medicine, but aim to treat the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. 

For me this involved him encouraging me to see a psychologist, acupuncturist, changing my diet, energy healing and cessation of work for a long period of time... however it also included being on heavy doses of prescribed cortisone medication for over 2 years.   

It was a slow recovery, and I believe all of these aspects contributed in some way.  There were also some things I tried that I don't feel worked at all, and I tended to let these go quickly and move on to something that felt right for me.  In some ways I had to work on gut instinct about what my body was responding to and adjust accordingly. 

I know I do say this a lot, but the thing is everyone is different, and our bodies are going to respond differently to medications, treatments, diet and various other therapies.  There is no right way for everyone. 

Rather we are left with many choices and options in what can often be a very scary and distressing time.  My strong recommendation to anyone who faces a serious illness is to become as informed as you possibly can, and find practitioners who are willing to look at it from all angles, rather than follow an indoctrinated formula.  Especially seek out conventional medical doctors or an integrative doctor, who are open to assisting you find many ways of recovery.  Look outside the square, ask for guidance from those that have gone before, however make your own decisions on what is best and right for you.

Jess chose to follow an alternative route, rather than have her arm and shoulder removed in an incredibly invasive and disfiguring surgery.  Would the amputation have worked?  We will never know, it was a situation in which the rates of survival are slim.  She also combined her alternative treatment with isolated limb perfusion, which is targeted high dose chemotherapy, however this was often not as well known.

It saddens me some of the responses to her death, as I respect her choices and I totally believe that all the positive things she did gave her a better quality of life during the span of her illness, than if she had continued on with her self confessed poor diet and party lifestyle, and with this she touched many lives - including mine greatly.  To me she was an inspiration.

So I finish with this to Jess.... As in life, may your passing go on to encourage discussion, so that we all are better informed in this world about ways not only to approach good health, but also how we tackle illness and disease that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.   

Rest in peace - thanks for all you shared with us.