When Bella Johnston had cancer, she spent years following Belle Gibson’s advice.

“I had a lot of scans and then finally they were like ‘Holy shit, it’s not in your brain. It’s a miracle.’ Everybody celebrated, it was a big thing at the hospital, Bella recalls. 

But it was far from the end of her treatment journey and throughout her time undergoing radiotherapy, Bella continued to look to the advice of the miraculous survivor, Belle Gibson. 

“I remember when I found out I had cancer, I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m just like Belle Gibson. This is amazing, we could be best friends,'” Bella says.  

Besides the treatment that she was receiving from her medical team, Bella continued to follow Gibson’s advice and says she was “sucked in” by the Instagram posts she published, with long, descriptive captions that promised so much to sick people. 

Bella remembers one post claiming that there was a “city in the Middle East” with no cases of cancer because they eat apricot kernels and so, in addition to preparing the smoothies and recipes that Gibson was promoting, Bella found herself researching how to boil and prepare ingredients like apricot kernels. 

Looking back now, Bella says that she understands how people were so seduced by Gibson’s messaging. Besides battling cancer herself, Bella was distraught to watch her Aunt Jen, a woman who she loved and respected, dying of bowel cancer around the time of her own diagnosis. She remembers that her family became so grief-stricken and distressed by her aunt’s illness that they tried things like ordering tea from India in the mail that claimed to cure cancer.