health

"I have lost everything ... I have not been intentionally untruthful": Belle Gibson faces the questions we all want answered.

Image via Channel Nine

In February, Belle Gibson was a woman hundreds of cancer sufferers looked up to.

She built her ‘The Whole Pantry’ wellness community on the claim alternative therapies, detoxes and cutting out meat, gluten and dairy had cured her of five forms of cancer. Inspired by her story, many followed her advice and chose alternative therapies over conventional methods to treat their cancer.

In March, her claims of ever having had cancer were called into question, and after a frustrating silence were finally confirmed in an interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly. Tonight, the “disgraced” Gibson was interviewed again on 60 Minutes — for a reported five figure sum – and the bizarre depths of her deception were uncovered.

RELATED: “Belle Gibson, you said you cured yourself. I thought I could too.”

“I am really sorry. It hurts me and I beat myself up. For all those I’ve hurt who mean a lot to me,” the mother-of-one told reporter Tara Brown, marking her first public apology for misleading her many followers.

However, Gibson claimed didn’t “trade in [her] story or in other people’s lives”, and claimed she hadn’t intentionally lied about her experiences because she truly believed she was living with a terminal illness, and that alternative therapies were making her feel better.

“I have not been intentionally untruthful. I’ve been openly speaking about what was my reality and what is my reality today – it doesn’t match your normal or your reality,” she told Brown.

“Nobody wants to live with the fear of a terminal illness or dying. I lived for years with the fear I was dying and that was horrible.” (Post continues after gallery.)

Although she took responsibility for “how this has unfolded”, Gibson also denied the commonly-held belief she is a pathological liar, or suffering from mental illness or Munchausen syndrome – a psychological disorder where people feign illness or trauma in order to gain attention or sympathy.

“I’ve been really transparent … I’m not trying to get away with anything, and I’m not trying to smooth things over. It’s not easy for me to relive the details,” she told Brown.

‘Healing Belle’, as Gibson came to be know, rose to prominence in 2009 when Gibson claimed a cervical cancer vaccine caused her to have a stroke and then develop a terminal brain tumour. According to Gibson, a doctor called Dr Mark Johns told her she had just four months to live, which is when she turned to alternative therapies such as detoxes and oxygen treatments to overcome her illness.

However, Gibson admits there was no doctors’ office – this ‘diagnosis’ was delivered in her loungeroom, using a “box with lights on it” that monitored her “frequencies”. To top it off, there’s no evidence to suggest immunologist and neurologist “Dr Mark Johns” is a qualified expert… or even exists.

ADVERTISEMENT

RELATED: “What a load of rubbish.” Belle Gibson’s mother speaks for the first time

“I thought being open and telling it how it happened would not be understood and that people would be disappointed or angry,” Gibson explained when asked why she gave this inaccurate version of events, adding she now accepts she had no brain cancer.

Puzzlingly, the Melbourne resident said she requested a brain scan from a local hospital, but was given a ‘positive’ scan that wasn’t hers. On investigation, the 60 Minutes team uncovered a report from a 40-minute medical consultation in 2011, in which Gibson was told her brain scans were normal. This means she knew there was no tumour for two years before she launched her wellness empire – and the consultation had been sought not for cancer confirmation, but because Gibson believed she had multiple sclerosis.

Gibson had also claimed she underwent months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy before abandoning this treatment in favour of alternative approaches; again, she says this wasn’t untrue: “[It was] true, I believed I was having radiotherapy. When I was given medication I was told it was ‘oral radiotherapy’ and I believed it.”

Belle winning the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Female Award.

In 2014, Gibson announced to her now huge following she'd been received more bad news from a second doctor, writing: "It hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and forth cancer… I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus and liver."

Gibson says she was "devastated" at the time and didn't seek a second medical opinion. Yet when approached by 60 Minutes, the 'doctor' in question denied ever giving Gibson this cancer "diagnosis" because he wasn't qualified to do so.

When asked how she felt about her story inspiring other, genuine cancer sufferers to turn away from medical treatments in favour of alternative therapies and diet, Gibson said: "That would be really heartbreaking for me, I never intended to do that. I accept that it might have happened."

Gibson also claimed she had intended to clarify her story with her online community just days before a series of media investigations rapidly unravelled it earlier this year.

RELATED: This fraud trial is the one Belle Gibson should have had

"Once I figured out where I stood and what reality really was ... and I'd received a definite, 'No, you don’t have cancer', it was something I had to come to terms with ... it was traumatising, I was feeling an enormous amount of grief that I’d been lied to and felt I’d been taken for a ride."

The cracks in Gibson's story began in March, when the Sydney Morning Herald reported she had failed to hand over thousands of fundraising dollars she had promised to donate to at least five charities. "Cash flow" issues were blamed and Gibson disappeared from social media. On 60 Minutes, Gibson maintains she's "keeping those promises".

ADVERTISEMENT

Soon after, The Australian uncovered a series of contradicting medical claims she had made over the years, including the claim Gibson's five forms of cancer had been based on a "misdiagnosis". Apple and Penguin both faced huge backlash over their failure to verify her claims before supporting her The Wellness Pantry ventures, and the app soon disappeared from the Australian and US app stores and the cookbook sales were ceased.

Belle’s exclusive interview with The Australia Women’s weekly last month.

Gibson finally addressed allegations in her AWW interview, claiming she was "preyed upon" by two men who told her she had cancer and continued to "treat" her for the disease.

As to why she misled her followers, Gibson told the magazine: “I think my life has just got so many complexities around it and within it, that it’s just easier to assume [I’m lying] … If I don’t have an answer, then I will sort of theorise it myself and come up with one. I think that’s an easy thing to often revert to if you don’t know what the answer is."

Gibson also blamed her "troubled upbringing" as a contributing factor, claiming her mother had multiple sclerosis, her brother autism, and that it had been her responsibility to care for the family. In a later interview with the AWW, Gibson's mother and brother (who were no longer in contact with her) said the claims were "rubbish".

"Belle never cared for me, her brother is not autistic and she’s barely done a minute’s housework in her life," Natalie Del-Bello said.

RELATED: Another day, another ‘natural cancer treatment’ is proven to be a tragic lie

In the 60 Minutes interview, Tara Brown uncovered yet another bizarrely hazy turn in Gibson's story - when asked how old she was, Gibson couldn't give a definite answer. She attributed this to an "identity crisis" from having two birth certificates in her name, and having her name changed four times throughout her life.

"I’ve always been raised as being currently a 26 year old. I live knowing as I’ve always known I would be 26," Gibson said.

Unsurprisingly, her deceit has caused outrage, anger and frustration among her former fans and cancer sufferers alike - and doesn't seem to be disappearing any time soon.

"I would gladly trade the life of my mother who died at the age of 49 from cancer than have this poor excuse for a human being around," commented Tricia Bourgoure on the 60 Minutes Facebook page.

"It's disgusting. I am in a REAL current cancer battle for my life and there is NOTHING this girl can say that will every justify or explain her lies," writes another.

What did you think of Belle Gibson's interview? Do you think her being paid for it was justified?