weary of wellness

Isn’t it funny how words can be hijacked? They can become coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population and in fact becomes a dog whistle signifying something entirely different? I soon learned to be wary of any political or social organisation with Family in its name. Think Family First, a free market, small taxation party whose idea of what constitutes a family is much narrower than most people would be comfortable with today. And The Australian Family Association, an offshoot of Santamaria’s National Civic Council, a bastion of conservative¬†Catholic values, including opposition to feminism, same-sex marriage, abortion and¬†euthanasia.

But it is the word Wellness that has been hijacked perhaps more than any other. I have got to the stage that I cringe each time I see it on a shop front or in an ad. I would certainly never patronise a business promoting Wellness, it is a sign of a mindset of loopyness.

It has been my experience that religion and alternative medicine go hand in hand. Either literally, where religious people seem to favour non-scientific approaches to healing or else where Wellness becomes their religion in the absence of conventional religious beliefs.

I have acquaintances who spend most of their disposable income, which is small, on osteopaths, chiropractors, herbalists and the rest, but would never darken a doctor’s door. This has lasted over 20 years, yet they are as unwell now as they were then. When such people ask me how I am I always perk up and reply that I am feeling great, because to even imply a problem is to be inundated with the names of alternative remedies which will cure me. Shark’s fin, homeopathy, ginseng root, wheat grass, eating kale, iridology, reiki will sort me out. Goodness, it is enough to keep me well just thinking about it.

Sadly though, there is a much more serious story lurking here. The recent death of the Wellness Warrior, Jess Ainscough, from the cancer epitheloid sarcoma, following on from the death of her mother from untreated breast cancer, is a tragedy for both women. But an even bigger tragedy is the fact that the Wellness Warrior website had for years been discouraging people from seeking medical help for cancer, instead recommending Gerson Therapy, a mixture of a high intake of fruit and vegetables with a regime of coffee enemas. (Can someone explain to me how sticking coffee up your bum qualifies as natural ??).

So sorrowfully, even though these women had every right to refuse medical treatment, they may have influenced many others to follow suit and thereby sentenced them to earlier and more painful deaths than they may otherwise have had. Today’s Australian newspaper suggests that another Wellness promoter, supposedly cured of multiple life-threatening cancers by a pantry of goodly foods, has admitted she was ‘misdiagnosed’ as having cancer in the first place. Pity that, after so many people have forked out money to buy the app The Whole Pantry which she was selling to publicise how her miraculous cure came about.

Snake oil is not new, but it seems so much more prevalent of late. It could be forgiven coming out of a covered wagon in the American West, but it is depressing in 2015 and reminds me that the tussle between religion and science is far from over.

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