health

"Wellness advocate" Belle Gibson admits she lied about her cancer diagnosis.

Image: Belle Gibson and her son, Olivier (Instagram).

Belle Gibson, the ‘cancer survivor’ behind the enormously popular Wellness Pantry app and cookbook, has admitted she lied about having cancer and treating it through healthy living.

The Melbourne-based entrepreneur had claimed alternative therapies, detoxes and diet adjustments, like cutting out meat, gluten and dairy, had enabled her to fight off a suite of cancers: blood, spleen, brain, liver and uterus. However, a series of media reports last month began casting serious doubts over the authenticity of  her story.

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

In an exclusive, unpaid interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, her first since these allegations emerged, Gibson has finally answered the million dollar question: Was she ever diagnosed with cancer?

“No. None of it’s true,” the 23-year-old admits. “I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”  (Post continues after gallery.)

Since details of her admission emerged yesterday, there’s been a furious response across the nation, particularly from those who had supported and admired Gibson throughout her ‘journey’.

On the Today show this morning, Jesinta Campbell — who began following Gibson’s blog and app after meeting her at an event last year — joined the chorus of people voicing their disgust.

“I am so disappointed and shocked and on every level, this is so irresponsible on her behalf,” the model said.

“I was actually at an awards ceremony – the Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Female Awards – and she was awarded with one of the big awards there. She was on stage and she was giving this speech, and she was crying, and I was crying, and I just feel like she’s really let everyone down.”

Jesinta Campbell

According to The Weekly, Gibson’s narrative involves being “preyed upon” by two men who told her she had cancer and continued to “treat” her for the disease.

When asked to explain why she misled her followers, Gibson says: “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.”

RELATED: My cancer journey: “Why I chose to go against convention”.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, the mother of one believes her "troubled upbringing" - she says she had to take care of herself from age five - may have been a contributing factor.

“When I started school, my mum went, ‘My daughter is grown up now’ ... It was my responsibility to do grocery shopping, do the washing, arrange medical appointments and pick up my brother. I didn’t have any toys," Gibson tells the magazine.

The AWW's Belle Gibson feature (via aww.com.au)

AWW writer Clair Weaver speculates Gibson suffers from Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder where people feign illness or trauma in order to gain attention or sympathy. Weaver also said she found Gibson frustrating to interview, as she often muddled her words, was incapable of providing names, dates and locations, and generally behaved irrationally.

“It’s just very scary to be honest,” Gibson says in the article. “You know, I’m blonde and I’m tall, I’ve got hazel eyes and I’ve got cancer. And all of a sudden you take away some of those high-level things and it’s really daunting.”

The now disgraced 'Healing Belle' legend dates back to 2009, when Gibson claimed a cervical cancer vaccine caused her to have a stroke and then develop a terminal brain tumour, which doctors predicted would kill her within four months. From there, Gibson turned to alternative therapies, including colonics and oxygen treatments, and detoxes to overcome her illness.

RELATED: Jess Ainscough has passed away, aged 30.

In the ensuing years, Gibson amassed a huge social media following and launched a popular iPhone app and cookbook called The Whole Pantry, which she was planning to expand overseas this year.

In 2014, she announced to her followers that she'd received subsequent cancer diagnoses, writing: “With frustration and ache in my heart ... 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. I am hurting… I wanted to respectfully let you each know, and hand some of the energy over to the greater community, my team and @thewholepantry… please don’t carry my pain. I’ve got this.”

A screengrab of the now-defunct Healing Belle Instagram page (via Mashable.com)

However, her story began unraveling earlier this year when local journalists exposed some major holes in Gibson's claims.

In March, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed the 26-year-old had failed to hand over thousands of fundraising dollars, solicited from her social media followers, that she had promised to donate to at least five charities. Gibson blamed "cash flow" issues, and The Whole Pantry issued a Facebook statement, which has since been deleted, saying it intended to follow through with the payments.

ADVERTISEMENT

RELATED: Questions to ask yourself before considering alternative cancer therapy.

Gibson quickly deactivated her social media accounts, just in time for an even bigger bombshell hit the media. As The Australian reported, Gibson claimed the announcement she suffered from five forms of cancer  had been based on a "misdiagnosis".

The newspaper also uncovered a series of contradicting medical claims she had made over the years; in addition to this, it turns out she had also been lying about her age.

Although Gibson has refused to comment on the reports until now, her business has rapidly crumbled around her. The Whole Pantry app, which was to feature on the new Apple Watch, has since been removed from the tech giant's Australian and US app stores; while Penguin Australia has ceased sales of the cookbook equivalent.

The Whole Pantry has now been removed from sale.

"Despite our best endeavours, we have not received sufficient explanation from Ms Gibson, author of The Whole Pantry recipe book, in response to recent allegations. As such, we have been left with no other option but to stop supplying the book in Australia," the publishing house said in a statement.

Gibson says she's been shattered by the furious public backlash against her. “In the last two years I have worked every single day living and raising up an online community of people who supported each other... I understand the confusion and the suspicion, but I also know that people need to draw a line in the sand where they still treat someone with some level of respect or humility — and I have not been receiving that,” she tells The Women's Weekly.

RELATED: This is what it’s like to have cancer when you’re 24.

Gibson and her partner Clive Rothwell are still together, but she says he is "obviously very devastated" by her deceit. “He’s been very stern, along the lines of, ‘I just want you to acknowledge where you’ve f***ed up and try not to smooth over that'.”

She also says she's not asking for forgiveness from the fans and customers she betrayed. “I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘Okay, she’s human. She’s obviously had a big life. She’s respectfully come to the table and said what she’s needed to say, and now it’s time for her to grow and heal.’”

Judging by the stunned, angry reaction to Gibson's interview overnight, that's not how the rest of the country sees it.

The May issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly is out now.