Blogger Faked Cancer To Sell Book Claiming Gluten-Free Diet Cured Her
Australian “wellness” blogger Belle Gibson built herself a small but significant empire based mostly on a single premise–that she cured her terminal brain cancer–as well as several other forms of cancer–with diet and “lifestyle changes.” She published a book and even created a popular cellphone app, “The Whole Pantry,” and made a crap ton of money from people also hoping to cure cancer or whatever ailments through changing their diet.
The problem? Well, as it turns out, she did not ever actually have cancer.
Her whole thing started to fall apart earlier this year when it was discovered that while she had promised to donate some $300,000 in profits from her phone app, she had actually kept all of that money for herself. Soon after, people started delving into her life and figuring out that no, she did not actually have cancer.
Last month, Gibson, 23, admitted that she had been taken in by a German “magnetic therapist” (not even Googling it, don’t need to know) who told her she had cancers in her “blood, spleen, uterus and liver.” Now, she is admitting to the Australian Women’s Weekly that she never had brain cancer either.
Speaking out about the controversy in an exclusive interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, Gibson was asked outright if she has, or has ever had cancer.
“No. None of it’s true,” she confessed.
“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,” she said.
Gibson fails to explain in detail how and why she lied about her condition.
“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],” she said.
“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.”
I have no idea what the hell half of that means, but some experts are suggesting that she may have a factitious disorder like Munchausen’s, possibly as the result of having an unhappy childhood.
To be honest, my first instinct here is that, well, if a 23-year-old tells you that she cured terminal brain cancer with a gluten-free diet and your first instinct is to hand her some money to learn her secrets? That is a reasonable price to pay for learning not to be an idiot in the future. However, I also understand that people in desperate situations are often willing to try anything – and taking advantage of that is a really shitty thing to do.
Right now, Gibson is particularly hurt by the backlash, and the fact that she now has to actually give the money she said she was giving to charity to charity.
The recent controversy has put Gibson in a difficult financial position. Penguin Australia has stopped supplying her book and Apple have dropped her app.
She has returned her rental car and will soon move out of her beachside home. Accountants have been instructed to give any leftover funds to the charities Gibson pledged money to.
Gibson says the public backlash against her has been “horrible”.
“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.”
I’m sorry if this is cruel, but I’m going to say that Gibson deserves what she’s getting. She didn’t deserve to make money off of any of this in the first place. She earned that beachside home by conning people and lying. She paid for her rental car with money she said would be donated to charity. I don’t feel bad for her, and I certainly don’t respect her.
If she genuinely has a factitious disorder, then I feel bad for her–but Munchausen’s doesn’t make you a thief. Munchausen’s doesn’t make you say you’re going to give money to charity and then use that money to buy yourself a house on the beach. Munchausen’s means you fake diseases in order to receive comfort, sympathy and attention. Not money. In fact, it seems as though it would make more sense, with a factitious disorder, for her to have donated the money to charity as she said she would–as it would lead to praise, attention and people thinking well of her. So while she may very well have Munchausen’s, that particular aspect of her con-artistry is a separate thing.
Via The Guardian:
“During the interviews, whenever challenged, Belle cried easily and muddled her words,” the Women’s Weekly reports.
“She says she is passionate about avoiding gluten, dairy and coffee, but doesn’t really understand how cancer works.”
This, to me, suggests that Gibson thought she was telling a “noble lie.” It seems as though she felt like it was really important for people to not eat gluten, dairy and coffee, and figured the best way to convince them was by saying that not eating gluten, dairy and coffee cured terminal brain cancer. I think she also probably felt as though she “deserved” all of that money.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned here–the most important of which is that there are no easy fixes, and that it’s a stupid idea to take medical advice from a random person on the internet who has not been to medical school.