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The Wellness Warrior, Jess Ainscough has died, aged 30.

It is with much sadness we report the passing of Jessica Ainscough, an Australian wellness blogger who spent the last eight years pursuing an experimental treatment for her rare cancer.

Jess passed away on Thursday, the 26th of February, after a long battle with her disease. Jess suffered from epithelioid sarcoma, an incredibly rare form of cancer, and refused conventional medical treatment despite doctors’ advice that she should have her left arm and shoulder amputated. Instead, she pursued an alternative, natural treatment called Gerson Therapy.

Gerson Therapy involves consuming a large quantity of juice and supplements. There is no medical proof that it is an effective treatment for eliminating cancer.

Jess’s mother, who died from breast cancer in October 2013, was also undergoing the same controversial treatment.

This is Jess’s story…

It was 2008 and Jess Ainsough was just 22. Living and working in Sydney, Jess described herself as a party girl: “A rising magazine writer [at teen magazine, Dolly]. A champagne-guzzling, drug-poppin’, sleep-deprived, perpetually hungover party girl.”

That year, she found lumps on her left arm. A biopsy revealed the worst news – a cancer diagnosis. The cancer growing in her left arm and shoulder, epithelioid sarcoma, was extremely rare – affecting only the smallest percentage of the population (0.1 sufferers per million).

Doctors recommended that her arm be amputated. Jess refused, but agreed to undergo a targeted, high-dose burst of chemotherapy confined to her arm (a procedure known as an isolated limb perfusion). While the treatment worked initially, the tumours returned 12 months later.

Jess was again told by doctors that her only choice at survival was a drastic operation that would take her arm above her shoulder.

Again, she refused. She wrote on her blog about her confusion at the diagnosis:

Essentially, my condition was incurable. None of this made any sense to me. I felt so healthy, and I looked healthy. I could not understand how my life had come down to a decision about whether to have my whole, fully functioning arm chopped off.

Instead, Jess opted to travel to Mexico to undergo a controversial cancer treatment known as Gerson Therapy. Gerson Therapy involves consuming large quantities of juices and supplements coupled with a “detoxification” regime involving four-hourly coffee enemas.
Jess wrote:

I swapped a lifestyle of late nights, cocktails and Lean Cuisines for carrot juice, coffee enemas and meditation and became an active participant in my treatment.

This research led me to Gerson Therapy… The therapy involves drinking 13 fresh organic veggie juices per day (yes that’s one an hour, every hour of my waking day), five coffee enemas per day and a basic organic whole food plant-based diet with additional supplements.

For two years I devoted my entire life to healing, to the extent that I was effectively housebound.

I am ecstatic to report that it has worked for me. I have had no cancer spread, no more lumps pop up (they were popping up rapidly before) and I can actually see some of my tumours coming out through my skin and disappearing.

In April 2011, Jess’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. In light of her own success, when Sharyn Ainscough’s cancer diagnosis was made, Jess said the family knew what to do:

Following her diagnosis, my mum refused any sort of conventional interference. She said no to a mammogram and a biopsy, told them that she wasn’t interested in going down the path of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and instead chose the same therapy as me.

Mother and daughter undertook the treatment together.

She is now drinking 13 juices per day, having five coffee enemas per day and – much to her disgust – taking castor oil every second day. We’re now in this together! Our solid routine gets us through, but it’s just days like yesterday when I was sick and mum was feeling crook from castor oil that the pressure is on my dad to care for us both.

The Gerson treatment seems to have been more difficult on Sharyn than it was on Jess. Jess described some of her mother’s “flare-ups”.

My flare-ups have been quite mild. My left arm swelled up (about a year ago and still hasn’t deflated), I’ve had headaches, a little nausea, a few days where I’ve been too exhausted to get out of bed, and countless days where I’ve cried uncontrollably and been moodier than a storm season, but the physical symptoms have been limiting. My mum, on the other hand, is having ALL of the textbook reactions. If we hadn’t gone to the Gerson clinic or spoken to fellow Gerson patients, I don’t think we would have been quite as prepared for what she’s been going through.

Sharyn’s Gerson doctor considered these reactions and diagnosed her with toxicity and yeast over-growth. Jess was enthusiastic about her mother’s response to the treatment.

If Mum had followed conventional orders and had surgery or drug interference, there is no way that these underlying issues would have been addressed. Yet another reason why it is SO important to deal with the cause and not just eradicate the symptom. Lumps in breasts are not the issue. It’s the toxicity and deficiency of our bodies that cause an imbalance and lead to dis-ease.”

In the meantime, Jess’s infectious enthusiasm and passion in the pursuit of health made her somewhat of a celebrity. She became ‘The Wellness Warrior’, with a popular website, a book deal and speaking tours. She shared her story openly and people responded quickly to her message of self-care and alternative treatments .

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As she wrote on her popular blog:

Somewhere along the way, I realised that I was more than a ‘cancer story’ — I was a leader, a role model, an educator, and a champion. Part of an empowering wellness revolution, sweeping the planet. Someone who could change lives & provide HOPE — simply by showing up, and telling my story.

It is hard not to be moved by her commitment to living a positive life, filled with self-love and openness. Her attitude pervades every page of her much loved blog.

Tragically, in October 2013, Sharyn Ainscough lost her battle with cancer. Eschewing all pain medication, she passed away with her family by her side.

Jess, devastated by her mother’s passing, wrote on her blog:

Although Mum had been very sick, we never once gave up hope and right until the very end we kept expecting things to turn back around and for her to get better. My family and I are heartbroken and absolutely devastated to have lost the leader of our team and the woman who was the driving force behind everything I’ve learnt, implemented and achieved over the last six years.

Clearly heartbroken by her loss, Jess was at pains to point out that she was still committed to Gerson therapy:

I know some of you have cancer and are on Gerson Therapy or you love someone in this position, and I don’t want this news to deter you from believing in what you are doing. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past few years it’s that no one cancer therapy is right for everyone, just the way no one diet is right for everyone…. While I thrived through Gerson, my mum faced obstacles along the way, which complicated the healing process.

Jess took time out to grieve and heal following her mother’s death. In February 2014, she wrote a post on her blog to correct some misconceptions about her story that had popped up in the media.
In particular, she said that she had never professed that Gerson therapy had cured her or that she was cancer-free. In fact, she wrote, she was experiencing symptoms of her cancer again.

[Gerson Therapy] was what I needed at the time I went on it, in order to detoxify and nourish my body. There was a time when it appeared that everything I had been doing physically had stabilised my condition, but in recent months it has flared up again.”

She talked about feeling like she needed to go around saying “I have cancer” and that she had come to accept it as a part of her lived experience:

In the beginning, I was desperate to call myself a survivor and I put so much pressure on myself and my body to heal and heal fast. I’ve come to peace with the idea that I may live with cancer forever… It’s part me, here to guide me and teach me. However, at the same time I have faith that my body will completely heal once I’ve completely learnt the lesson that my cancer is here to teach me.

Aware that her passionate advocacy had drawn criticism, including from members of the medical profession and bodies like the Cancer Council, Jess spoke of her tolerance for her detractors and asked for their understanding:

Your latest onslaught caused me to step back and look at how I’m being perceived, and motivated me to look for ways that I need to increase the transparency I have with my tribe. If you ever looked at my website for anything other than ways to condemn me, you would see that authenticity is my highest value.

Jess posted less and less during 2014 and in December 2014 she wrote a very sombre post, which had a tone at odds with the irrepressible joy that permeated her other writing. It was brutally honest and raw. And it was clear that Jess was desperately ill.

After my mum died at the end of last year, my heart was shattered and it’s still in a million pieces. I had no idea how to function without her, and it turns out my body didn’t either. For the first time in my almost seven year journey with cancer, this year I’ve been really unwell.

Jess’s symptoms seemed to have progressed significantly, deeply impacting her quality of life. It was a sign of bravery that she allowed herself to feel the full emotional impact of what had happened over the past year and what was happening now.

I’ve had scans to detect what’s going on in my body, and I can report that the disease is still contained to my left arm and shoulder, however I do have a big fungating tumour mass in that shoulder that’s causing me dramas. Over 10 months of non-stop bleeding from the armpit has rendered me really weak (and uncomfortable) and as a result I’ve had no choice but to stop absolutely everything and rest.

I’ve always been numb to my emotions, coating everything in positivity, so this has been a game-changer for me and also very strange. Some weeks I’ve felt nothing but overwhelming sadness, others I’ve been really bitter and angry.”

But it seemed that this reflection had led her to a different direction in her treatment:

I’ve been speaking to doctors, healers, and specialists and I’ve been completely opening myself up to attracting the right people who will help me heal – whether they are from the natural medicine world or conventional. My beliefs have been completely shaken up and I’ve had to drop any remnants of fear and ego that were preventing me from exploring these options sooner.

Jess passed away on Thursday, the 26th of February.

Regardless of what you think about the decisions that she made about her health that she made or the treatments that through her website she encouraged others to pursue, it is clear that her motivations were always rooted in kindness and unbridled optimism.

My motives are not sinister or dangerous. You would also see that I am simply a young girl, doing her very best grieve the loss of her mother, to live for as long as she can and the best that she can with a “terminal” cancer diagnosis, and to leave this world better than when she came into it…

Medical professionals do not support Gerson therapy and Cancer Australia encourages patients to seek the advice of their doctors in regards to their treatment.

The National Cancer Institute says this about Gerson therapy:  “The data that are available are not sufficient to warrant claims that the Gerson therapy is effective as an adjuvant to other cancer therapies or as a cure.” Research by the Institute also makes clear that “adverse events associated with coffee enemas raise concern about their use. Three deaths that seem related to coffee enemas have been reported in the literature.”

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