An Australian social media sensation, whose story of miraculous survival from terminal cancer helped launch a global "health and wellness" business, has admitted her claim of suffering several life threatening cancers may be false.
Melbourne-based businesswoman Belle Gibson created The Whole Pantry recipe and health app after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She first entered the social media sphere launching an Instagram account in 2013, introducing herself as a young mother who had moved from Perth to Melbourne to seek medical treatment for "a malignant, terminal form of brain cancer". She has over 197K followers.
Her popular blog attracted global interest, followed by an app of her recipes which was voted the best food and drink app of 2013. Her spin-off cookbook was published in Australia last year and will next month hit shelves in Britain and the US.
Gibson claims to have shunned traditional treatments to combat her cancer, instead opting for a wholefood and holistic approach after trialing chemotherapy and other modern medical procedures.
However, The Australian, have today revealed that Gibson had admitted her announcement last year that she was suffering from cancer of the liver, uterus, spleen and blood was based on a "misdiagnosis" by a doctor she won't name.
"It's hard to admit that maybe you were wrong," she said in an interview, adding that she felt "confused, bordering on humiliated".
Gibson stands by claims she used alternative therapies to beat an aggressive, malignant brain tumour for five years. However, The Australian has reportedly uncovered a series of unusual medical claims by the blogger, dating back to 2009 when she claimed to have undergone multiple heart surgery operations and momentarily died on an operating table.
"Gibson has also stated that in July that same year, when she was 20, a doctor told her she had terminal brain cancer and would be dead in four months. But according to the birth date on her own corporate filings, she was 17 at the time," The Australian reported.
"Gibson posted a message on Facebook that she was consulting cancer specialists after being diagnosed with a 'stage two malignant tumor of the brain'. Brain tumours are measured in grades rather than stages, and several cancer specialists contacted by The Australian said that a grade two tumour was relatively slow-growing and would be unlikely to result in a life expectancy of four months.
"...Last March she announced that she was being tested for two 'neurological' cancers.
"Then in late July she elicited an outpouring of sympathy from her Instagram followers when she reported that she had been diagnosed with several additional cancers.
"'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 (sic) cancer,' she wrote.
"'One is secondary and the other is primary. I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver. I am hurting.' Later in the post she spoke of handing over the business to others to carry on her legacy."
Gibson has publicly claimed that 25 per cent of The Whole Pantry's profits were being donated to charity, last year claiming that $300,000 had been donated.
The $3.79 app, which has been downloaded over 300,000 times, proved so popular Gibson was flown out to Silicone Valley last year where she was told her app was to be one of the first to be included on the Apple Watch.
However, at least five charities who purportedly had money raised for them through a number of campaigns run by Gibson never saw any funds, Fairfax Media reported just days ago.
Gibson told Fairfax Media that those donations had never been made, citing disappointing app sales and miscalculated profit margins.
Apparently only $7000 had reached charities so far, after campaigns flopped and profit margins were miscalculated.
There were also revelations that the business nor Ms Gibson were lawfully registered as fundraising enterprises, which could draw huge fines and potential jail time.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted The Whole Pantry for comment and while they could not be reached at the time of publishing, they had earlier posted a lengthy response on social media addressing claims made in the original article.
In the post to their Facebook page the company clarified they were a "for-profit" company to the surprise of many of their followers, and claimed the discrepancy in funds was due to their inexperience in the industry.
"We have, like all start ups, struggled with managing all facets of a new business, biting off more than we could chew, juggling internal and external priorities with little staff.
"We have since passed our overdue business records and accounts over to an external Business Manager and Accounts team, an issue we are reassured arises often with overwhelmed new businesses.
"They have been working over our finances for the last five months, and are still proceeding with a resolution in close sight. We were advised by this team to follow their process and allow them to finalise the donations once all business keepings were accounted first and brought forward,' the post read in part.
"Our books are taking longer to bring up to date than anticipated. TWP forecasted income in October 2014 which was not fulfilled, creating cash-flow issues and unforeseen delays on finalising three discussed charitable donations," another section of the post read.
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- Daily Mail, nzherald.co.nz