Conventional vs. Alternative Therapies… Why can’t we all just get along?

When I get angry or annoyed, I write it out. I guess you could say that it is a release for me. It’s how I gain clarity and effectively let things go. It also means I own 20+ notebooks that I have purchased on the run in order to get my head around the little curve balls life throws my way, but hey, it works. Most of these scribbles, rants and/or philosophical life’s questions are never seen by other people, but today, I thought I would share this piece, only because I have seen this debate confuse and frustrate more than just me. 

Last week, Jess Ainscough, known to many as ‘The Wellness Warrior”, passed away at the age of 29. She had spent 7 years thriving with cancer. Since then, I am appalled at the number of articles that have slammed Jess’s decision to incorporate alternative therapies into her treatment plan, in a bid to promote the conventional approach of treating cancer and disease. Whilst I am not for or against any type of cancer treatment, I am incredibly annoyed at how these articles are intentionally creating a greater divide between the conventional and natural medicinal communities. These articles are more or less forcing the general public to take sides and well, I’ve had enough. 

In a statement released by Jess’ family, the following was said:  

It has been speculated by people who have never met or treated Jess that, had she chosen to amputate her arm or undergo further conventional treatment, her chances of survival would have increased…” 

Her treating oncologists do not agree with this uninformed view“.

It has also been said that Jess shunned conventional treatment and doctors, this too is incorrect.

As you can see from the above statement, what many of the condemning articles fail to mention is that in her bid to beat the cancer diagnosis, Jess had incorporated BOTH conventional and alternative therapies within her treatment, not one or the other. Given that information, it’s possible that a combination of both alternative and conventional treatments that saw her thrive with terminal cancer for 7 years is it not? Maybe it was just one? Maybe not? The truth is, we don’t know enough about the disease or Jess’s individual circumstances to ever really know the answer to this question, so it’s time to stop speculating and start looking at what we do know. 

A national report on Breast Cancer issued by the Australian Government in 2012, states that the rate of breast cancer survival has increased over recent times. Like many people, I celebrate this statistic and applaud the advances in modern medicine and our holistic understanding of the human body. However, when you look a little closer, this report defines a survival rate of one that is “greater than 5 years”. The same can be said for survival rates listed on the Australian cancer council website (again, 5 years or more). What happens after 5 years? Well, they don’t say; I guess ultimately, it could go either way. Let’s take a step back, and apply this information to Jess’s case, her 7 years spent thriving with cancer would have seen her as one of the “surviving” statistics. Take away her love of green smoothies and toxic free living and her results would have been celebrated by the masses. Just because she chose to incorporate a different path, her incredible journey is being condemned. Since when did this become OK?

If you have stuck with me this far, I guess you may be wondering what the point of this whole piece is. The truth is, this isn’t the first time this “us vs. them” mentality has arisen in the world of health and wellness. Just ask any chiropractor or nutritionist how many times they have been up against the masses? How many times they have been ridiculed for their knowledge, their research, their understanding? What amazes me is the hatred for particular professions by those who have never completely understood them. 

For those of you who follow a healthy lifestyle, I can guarantee that somewhere along your journey, others have tried to bring you down. Perhaps they have tried to convince you that you are wrong, that your real food choices are dangerous to your health? How do you feel? Do you cave into peer pressure or do you cop it on the chin? Do you simply ‘shake it off’ knowing that deep down, this path is the right path for you? If you’ve ever been in this situation, you will know that it’s hard to explain why you have made such a choice without them really truly standing there in your shoes. Perhaps this is how Jess felt? Perhaps not.

Whilst I state once more than I am not for or against any type of cancer treatment, what I do stand for is our right to choose and I am completely against those who are trying to take that choice away from anyone who is in this position. When you are faced with death, your decision to act accordingly is completely and utterly your decision. It is your basic human right to ask questions, explore possibilities and consult various professionals, and no one has the right to try and take that away from you. I believe that no matter what side of the fence people stand, not one of them has the right to judge you, mock you or criticise you for making that decision. Your choice is your own and your bravery is second to none. 

Jess made her decision based on the information she was given at that time. She shared her journey with people around the globe and inspired many people to live a healthy and active life (battling with cancer or not). Her underlying message reflected one of all modalities: eat copious amounts of fresh foods, practice movement, mindfulness and reduce stress. She was an advocate for toxin free living and encouraged everyone to always stand up for what they believed in. What Jess accomplished in such a short period of time, is more than many of us could ever dream of accomplishing in a lifetime and all this unwarranted “I told you so”, is detracting from the gift she really was. 

I guess to sum it all up, I ask you to answer me this. Wouldn’t an integrative approach, combining both conventional and alternative wisdom, in the treatment of cancer be better than all this bickering back and fourth? I mean, last time I checked, there was no guaranteed cure for cancer, so why is it that now we have to choose one? 


The information on this post represents my own views, shaped by my own research. It should not be construed as professional advice and is not intended to replace consultation with an appropriately qualified professional. I hope this website inspires you to do your own research and always ask questions. 

1 Comment

  1. Alethea

    Alyse, I wonder why people have a quick reaction and condemn someone else’s belief and opinion, often with no understanding of that person’s personal situation or regard for their circumstances and belief systems.

    I find people can react quickly when their own values and beliefs are challenged, it makes them feel uneasy because what if everything they have been led to believe all of these years may not be true? Or may not be right for everyone? What if this comfort zone they are in isn’t all they thought it was?

    The ongoing debate between natural and conventional medicine is sometimes amusing and sometimes just downright frustrating. The last week has seen so many articles in relation to Jess and apart from feeling they many were attacking, ill informed and unnecessary in such a difficult time for her family, partner and friends.

    I too, hope more people are able to see Jess for the positive change in mindset and lifestyle she sparked in so many people and to stand proud for what you believe in.

    Did you see the tribute the Sunshine Coast Daily wrote, I was really pleased to read it

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Meet Alyse

I’m a qualified Nutritionist who believes an evidence-based approach to modern nutrition is severely under-rated. Patients are so often left in the dark when it comes to health-care and as a firm believer in the old saying “knowledge is power”, my ultimate goal is to provide my readers, students and patients with clear and actionable advice that ultimately helps you reach your full potential.