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Friday 27 February 2015

Jess Ainscough Dies, Age 29 - A Tribute

Jessica Ainscough has died, and I am devastated. The world has lost a beautiful soul. I am in utter shock. Jess was only 29, turning 30 in July.

Writing is therapy, and at this time, all my memories of a young Jess (she's STILL young!) are flooding back, and I feel compelled to write them.

I met Jess in 2004 (or perhaps it was 2005) when she started at (the now defunct) 9TO5 magazine.

I was working on this title and City Weekly, and Jess joined the office as a bright-eyed, super eager intern.

I loved Jess immediately.

She was enthusiastic, wanted to learn, and was a kind and fun and generous soul. A happy spirit, always smiling, who integrated with the team super quick, and soon… our intern was hired and a permanent part of our team.

And gosh, we laughed. Work parties, PR brand parties, cab-charging our way to this do and that. It was a whole new world for bright eyed Jess, and we loved showing it to her. And sometimes, we cried.

When Jess was new to the team, I proudly took her under my wing, taught her some tips on office etiquette (it was her first stint in an office... "no tears in the office" I told her. "If you're feeling a little sad, it's always better to leave the room". Don't worry - I topped the chat off with a cuddle), some tricks on writing, and anything else she wanted to know. She was willing to learn, devoid of ego, and a super hard worker.

Despite our age difference, I was often a little silly with Jess, and she loved it. I asked her if she ever got called Jessica Ains(insert cough here). We took to each others' silliness immediately. She soon learned I was the office nutter, and I knew she was the sweet and dependable Jess.

By the time I went on maternity leave in November 2007, Jess had left our workplace that year, having accepted a role as web editor for Dolly magazine (it sounds like such a 'now' role, but back then it was kinda new, and in Jess scoring it, it showed just how far she'd come as a writer, and someone who could run the show). We all wished her well. She deserved it and had worked hard for it.

I vividly recall one day, when I was several months into maternity leave in 2008, a mutual friend told me Jess was diagnosed with cancer. I recall being so angry, and saying "Fuck you, cancer! Why Jess?" So young, so full of life… it was unfair. It's always unfair.

She wrote for Dolly:

"In 2008, when I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called epithelioid sarcoma in my left hand and arm.
I was living in Sydney at the time and working as the online editor for DOLLY magazine. I was living an ideal life for someone in their early twenties and burning the candle at both ends, paying no attention to how my actions could affect my health, but having a whole lot of fun while I was at it.
Everything was going exactly according to my life plan. Or so I thought.
On the 24th of April, 2008 I went to see my hand surgeon to have a cast removed, following an operation I had to biopsy some lumps that had been popping up all over my left hand and arm.
After taking the cast off, my doctor told me the news that would change my life in too many ways to predict. He said that I had cancer, and that the type of cancer I have is so rare that not many doctors know how to treat it.
Epithelioid sarcoma doesn't respond to chemotherapy or radiation, and my only chance of prolonging my survival would be to have my arm amputated at the shoulder. But essentially, my condition was incurable.
None of this made any sense to me. I felt so healthy, and I looked healthy. I could not understand how my life had come down to a decision about whether to have my whole, fully functioning arm chopped off.
After so much anguish and being given no other options, I signed the papers and arranged to have the amputation. However, Baby Jesus, Buddha, Elvis – or whoever is up there – must have been looking out for me, because two days before I was due to have the operation, my medical team came to me with an alternative option.
They wanted to tie a tourniquet around my armpit so that an extremely high dose of chemotherapy drugs could be pumped through my arm. I spent eight days in hospital having the treatment, then a week at home recovering.
Following scans showed I was clear of cancer, but in 2009 – not even a year after going into remission – the cancer was back.
This time I was told that my only real chance of prolonging my survival would be to have my arm amputated at the shoulder, but that this would just be biding me time. My case was regarded as terminal.
Deciding this was not good enough, I took matters into my own hands. I refused their offers and began searching for natural, alternative cancer treatments.
The way I saw it I had two choices. I could let them chase the disease around my body until there was nothing left of me to cut, zap or poison; or I could take responsibility for my illness and bring my body to optimum health so that it can heal itself. For me it was an easy decision.
I began looking at the different ways I may have contributed to the manifestation of my disease and then stopped doing them.
I swapped a lifestyle of late nights, cocktails and Lean Cuisines for carrot juice, coffee enemas and meditation and became an active participant in my treatment.

This research led me to Gerson Therapy which ensures you have a perfectly balanced diet for optimum health, assisting your body to flush out nasties whilst feeding it with all the goodness it needs to flourish."

Jess researched all she could on what became her new fight for life.

She developed the site 'The Wellness Warrior'… She fulfilled her dream of having her book published - it was called 'Make Peace With Your Plate'. The cover is below:

She became a huge advocate in what she believed in. A few years ago, she held an event in her hometown of the Sunshine Coast (she went back to live there when she was sick, to be with her mum and dad. She was an only child. Her mum sadly passed away with cancer last year), I asked my friend - a jeweller - to donate a prize, and she auctioned off a watch. I wanted to do whatever I could for my friend - anything.

I recall her telling me that she was so very precious to her parents - they'd had her later in life, and she was like this miracle child. She was their one and only. No more kids after Jess - she was the light of their lives. This moved me so much as I imagined how much they adored her, and she told me how much they missed her while she worked in Sydney. Even back then, you could feel how palpable their love was, how much they missed her when she was away from them.

She wrote a column just for me on this very blog, about what cancer was teaching her. You can read that here.

A few months ago, I learned Jess wasn't doing so well. I got in touch with her and in her usual bright and optimistic yet realistic self, Jess said she said was doing okay, but her cancer had deteriorated... she never said her cancer had gone away - she was simply managing it in the best way she could, in the way she knew best.

We had such affection for each other - she always signed off with "I love you so much, Josie."

I'd say the same back to her, of course, because I really, really did. There are 13 years difference between us and she really was like a baby sister, and she knows I always babied her in our conversations. She loved it, I know it.

Jessica walked her own path when it came to fighting cancer. Sadly, as of yesterday, that fight is over. You can rest now, Jess.

Darling Jess, there is nothing else I can say to you now, nothing your beloved dad and fiancé and very close friends can ever say to you know, but know that we loved you until the very last day. Rest in peace, sweet blonde-haired angel.

Here are some of my personal photos of Jess, at our workplace, and parties:

Jess's last day of work:

Our friend Sarah's last day of work:

A lunch at our workplace:

And, the parties! Social Diary, 2009:

Jess with her fiancé Tallon and best friend Melanie, and me

And here is the email sent by her beloved fiancé Tallon Pamenter this evening:

"Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground, let their spirit ignite a fire within you, to leave this world better than when you found it." ~ Wilfred Peterson 💗 @tallonpamenter

Devastatingly, Tallon used this same photo in November last year to write these words:

"And in her smile I see something more beautiful than the stars"..✨

Happy Anniversary @jessainscough, just think this time next year I will be able to call you my wife.💗 thank you for the most amazing 6yrs and although I should've posted this yesterday, I had way more fun simply hanging out with you. Xx
#dreamgirl #onlylove #bff

In Jess's last post on 'The Wellness Warrior', written in December, this is what she wrote:

Hey there!
Wow, it’s been so long between blog posts that I’m almost feeling a little shy. My gosh, I’ve missed you though. It was definitely not my intention to take so much time off. When I left you back in June to begin a period of self-care hibernation, my plan was to get my health back in tip top shape and then spend some time creating some awesome new stuff for you. The reality, however, is that I’ve spent the whole time focused on my health. For the last few months, I’ve been pretty much bedridden. Let me fill you in on what’s been going on with me …
This year absolutely brought me to my knees. I’ve been challenged, frightened, and cracked open in ways I never had before. After my mum died at the end of last year, my heart was shattered and it’s still in a million pieces. I had no idea how to function without her, and it turns out my body didn’t either. For the first time in my almost seven year journey with cancer, this year I’ve been really unwell. I’ve lived with cancer since 2008 and for most of those years my condition was totally stable. When my mum became really ill, my cancer started to become aggressive again. After she died, things really started flaring up.
I’ve had scans to detect what’s going on in my body, and I can report that the disease is still contained to my left arm and shoulder, however I do have a big fungating tumour mass in that shoulder that’s causing me dramas. Over 10 months of non-stop bleeding from the armpit has rendered me really weak (and uncomfortable) and as a result I’ve had no choice but to stop absolutely everything and rest. Tallon, my freaking hero, has had to step up and help me with everything from making food and juices, doing all of our housework and laundry to doing my hair.
As difficult as it has been to simply surrender and allow what was happening to happen, complete rest has been exactly what I needed. I’ve had no energy for distractions, so I’ve literally been lying in bed deeply pondering my situation. I’ve been meditating for hours, doing visualisation techniques, and feeling every single emotion that’s bubbled up. I’ve always been numb to my emotions, coating everything in positivity, so this has been a game-changer for me and also very strange. Some weeks I’ve felt nothing but overwhelming sadness, others I’ve been really bitter and angry. The most important part though is that I didn’t try to stop or censor any of it (even though I gasped and covered my mouth after shamefully and very uncharacteristically uttering the words “fuck my life” during one particular outburst).
I’ve also spent my time doing lots of research into treatment options. I’ve been speaking to doctors, healers, and specialists and I’ve been completely opening myself up to attracting the right people who will help me heal – whether they are from the natural medicine world or conventional. My beliefs have been completely shaken up and I’ve had to drop any remnants of fear and ego that were preventing me from exploring these options sooner. I’ve discovered that when we completely close ourselves off from something, the universe will sure enough give us an experience that makes us see that everything has a place. It’s been completely eye-opening and very, very humbling.
I believe that as a result of my willingness to stop controlling my healing path and surrender to whatever the universe has up its sleeves to help me, I’ve attracted the most amazing healing team. I’m working with an oncologist who is kind, caring and non-judgemental – completely unlike any of the specialists I worked with in the early days of my journey. When we are open and in a state of surrender, the right people/situations/tools will appear. Final decisions and plans are now in process and I’ll keep you in the loop in the new year.
So, that’s me. It feels so good to finally be able to share all of this with you. I’m going back into hibernation for the holidays, but you can expect to see me back on the blog in January. I will be rolling out some big changes when I return, and can’t wait to share them with you. Thank you so much for being patient with me, for being so understanding and for sending through so much love (I feel it all and it makes a big difference).
Here’s to ushering in lots of miracles, fun and adventure in 2015. I hope you have the best Christmas surrounded by loved ones and I will chat to you again very soon.
Lots of love,
Jess xx


Jess Ainscough's public memorial service will be held on Friday March 6 from 10am at Lifepointe Baptist Church, Buderim on the Sunshine Coast.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family has requested donations to animal rescue group Edgar's Mission who have set up a fund in Jess's honour: http://www.edgarsmission.org.au/shop/donation-in-memory-of-jess.

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