When Belle Gibson’s wellness empire came crashing down last month, it was assumed that her story had simply been completely made up.
The truth, however, is more complicated. There were some in the alternative wellness world who gave credibility to and encouraged her cancer story, despite being unqualified to do so.
And as The Weekly found out in its investigation into Belle, published in the new issue out today, there are some surprising truths among some more dubious of her claims.
Belle says she was diagnosed of cancer by two separate authorities. One a doctor and the second a healer.
It’s important to declare first up that we found no evidence of the existence of the doctor. Named "Dr Johns” Belle says he diagnosed her with brain cancer in 2009. This would have been critical to verifying her version of events.
But here’s the interesting bit. When it emerged last month that Belle had claimed to have been misdiagnosed with secondary cancers by a man called Phil, many assumed she’d plucked the name in desperation from the US TV show Dr Phil.
However, there is some fact to her claim of misdiagnosis. The Weekly has confirmed an alternative health practitioner called Phil [surname withheld for legal reasons] used an electromagnetic therapy machine. Our investigation shows he did treat Belle from mid-last year.
“I worked on [Belle], yes,” Phil told The Weekly. "She definitely did have cancer. She explained to about four or five of us that she already had a [brain cancer] diagnosis - we had to believe what we were told. I didn’t see any evidence other than what we could physically see in her. We did tests.
“But I’m not allowed to talk about it. I’ve been asked not to talk about it.”
Phil is no longer associated with two centres he worked out of after concerns were raised about his practices within the wellness industry.
"We couldn’t work out what was fact and what was fiction with Phil,” says a source, who had direct dealings with him but did not wish to be named.
The Weekly has seen a bizarre invoice from Phil for $8,890 worth of treatments, including for a “machine” and “special travel blanket” that “has shielding layers to prevent the bodies [sic] electronic emissions and infrared radiation from dissipating outwards.”
The machine is called “Magnapulse,” a controversial device that is supposed to deliver magnetic pulses into the body. Overseas, government agencies have warned it should not be promoted as treatment for cancer.
Phil also sent Belle the results of unorthodox testing he’d ordered for her while working out of a NSW naturopathic centre (again, he is no longer associated with this business).
The test results, however, show no mention of cancer.
The source who had dealings with with Phil in Melbourne told The Weekly: “We think he meant well. He never claimed to be a doctor or naturopath nor to be able to cure cancer.”
Belle says she began to have doubts about Phil’s diagnosis after friends confronted her late last year. She eventually went to a real doctor, who confirmed she did not have cancer.
Belle claims her first diagnosis of brain cancer was made while she was living in Perth in 2009 by “Dr Johns”, who allegedly claimed to be a neurologist and immunologist from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
She says she was introduced to him by a couple of anti-vaccination campaigners after she complained of suffering an adverse reaction to the Gardasil vaccination, including slurred speech and neurological symptoms.
The man calling himself Dr Johns, Belle says, invited her to participate in top secret vaccine research. One day, she says, he turned up to her shared house with a suitcase of equipment and a medical questionnaire.
“He wanted to run some diagnostic tests,” she says. “He had a machine like an old-fashioned hard-drive with lights and metal sheets that you sat on – one on the chair and one at your back.”
The tests results, says Belle, were bad and Dr Johns delivered a shattering diagnosis. “He said you have stage 4 Glioblastoma, brain cancer,” says Belle, breaking down and sobbing. “[I was] terrified. He said you have got four months to live.”
The Weekly can find no evidence that Dr Mark Johns ever existed. The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has no record of him being employed at its facilities and there is no doctor by the name registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.