If you’re a woman in her twenties I probably don’t need to introduce you to Sarah Stevenson, better known as Sarah’s Day.
The wellness influencer (who describes herself as “YouTubes Holistic Health Princess Healing naturally”) has a mammoth following – over a million people between Instagram and YouTube – and has done collaborations with major brands like White Fox Boutique. She’s also one part of the number one health podcast in the country, The Health Code.
She’s wildly successful and one of the loudest voices in the Australian health and wellness industry.
That is, despite her not having a single health qualification.
This post is tricky to write. On one hand, I want to hold a powerful influencer accountable for the misinformation she’s spreading far and wide. On the other, I want to avoid upsetting a woman who seems to be warm, popular and bubbly, and who has no idea I even exist.
And so, before we dive into this, let me say: I believe that Sarah’s Day means well. I believe her intentions are good. But good intentions are not a sufficient excuse when we are dealing with something as serious as health and cervical cancer.
And, so, here we are. We are going to debunk what I, and the experts, believe to be dangerous claims that fester and thrive on Sarah’s accounts.
*inhales deeply, readies self for imminent trolling*
On April 26, Sarah’s Day posted this:
I’M ACTUALLY CRYING WITH HAPPINESS! This is by far the most exciting announcement I have the pleasure of sharing with you this week… I DID IT!! I reversed my cervical dysplasia!! Late last year, after a routine pap smear, I was diagnosed with high grade cervical dysplasia (CIN3). My gynocologist advised I get surgery to remove the abnormal cells which could turn into cervical cancer. Obviously I was extremely overwhelmed, afraid and confused. After a lot of research, prayer and thought, I requested that my gynocologist give me a few months to try and treat myself naturally. A few months passed and I made a conscious effort EVERY DAY to cure my cervix. Through supplements, food and lifestyle factors. I then had my second round of a colposcopy, Pap smear and biopsy. Today was the day I would receive my results… Just as I was about to walk out the door to drive to my appointment, my phone rang. It was my gynocologist. He told me to not bother coming in just yet because he had great news… I DID IT!! My results came back and I have now dropped down to ‘possible low grade’!!! While I’m still not completely out of the woods, my gyno has confirmed that I DON’T need to plan to have surgery and he’s encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing!! While I will keep a close eye on my cervix and go in for a check up in three months, he was so happy that I was able to reverse this through my natural remedies! This is definitely my proudest health accomplishment and for me, it’s moments like this that confirm my life’s purpose. I believe in the power of natural medicine, food, lifestyle changes and prayer. I know there’s a lot of people going through a similar cervical dysplasia experience right now and I know how scary it is. Im not hear saying that surgery is evil or you should neglect western medicine at all. I would never make a statement like that! Im just here to share MY story and MY experience and the way that I take care of MY body. Surgery has its place, however, if I have been given the grace of a few months to TRY and treat myself naturally… why wouldn’t I!? I will definitely be sharing my experience and CIN3 routine in a YouTube video☀️🙌🏼
“I DID IT!” she told hundreds of thousands of girls. “I reversed my cervical dysplasia!!”
For those unaware, cervical dysplasia is the presence of abnormal/precancerous cells in the cervix and is diagnosed after a Pap test. Doctors use a grading system to define how abnormal the cells appear – CIN1 refers to subtle abnormalities, CIN2 is worse, and CIN3 is just one step away from cervical cancer. There is a 30% chance CIN3 will lead to cancer if not treated.
Sarah went on: “My gynocologist [sic] advised I get surgery to remove the abnormal cells which could turn into cervical cancer… After a lot of research, prayer and thought, I requested that my gynocologist [sic] give me a few months to try and treat myself naturally.
“A few months passed and I made a conscious effort EVERY DAY to cure my cervix. Through supplements, food and lifestyle factors.”
Excuse me, sorry, this is where I’m going to interrupt and share some stats. This is a post that has been liked by 63,983 people and has received more than 3,000 comments. Ahem. Back to Sarah.
“This is definitely my proudest health accomplishment and for me, it’s moments like this that confirm my life’s purpose. I believe in the power of natural medicine, food, lifestyle changes and prayer.”
This is a woman who is, in no uncertain terms, asserting that her diet, lifestyle, and praying prevented the onset of cervical cancer.
Only… that’s just not true. Not even a little bit.
Just ask the Cancer Council, Australia’s peak independent cancer authority, who provided my Shameless podcast co-host Zara McDonald and I with this statement on Sarah’s claims:
Cervical cancer is an important cancer in women causing around 250,000 deaths per year globally. There is strong evidence that 28% of women with CIN will regress spontaneously. However, there is no evidence that there is anything a woman can do in terms of diet and lifestyle that promotes regression.
To paraphrase: What Sarah’s Day claims she ‘cured’ with healthy living is actually something that happens spontaneously – without reason – to almost three out of 10 women.
We also reached out to family doctor Dr Brad McKay, from East Sydney Doctors, who said this on the matter:
Promoting a healthy lifestyle is admirable, but believing you’ve healed your cervical dysplasia “naturally” is not grounded in reality…Our immune system constantly tries to keep HPV under control. This battle waxes and wanes over the years, leading to periods of time where the virus is well controlled, followed by periods of time where the virus is less controlled.Your immune system is extremely complex and you really don’t have much control over it. It’s narcissistic to believe that you can heal your cervix with positive thoughts and green smoothies.Many people think positively, meditate, pray, and make positive lifestyle changes after they’re diagnosed with cervical dysplasia. Some people improve and some people don’t, because that’s just the nature of HPV infection…Declaring that you’ve healed your cervix “naturally” is not only ignorant, but it’s also insulting to those people who have been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. It implies that if you require treatment you haven’t prayed hard enough, haven’t thought positively enough, or haven’t eaten the right nutritional supplement. Sometimes bad things happen and it’s not helpful or accurate to play a blame game.I’m glad to hear that her high grade cervical lesion is now a low grade lesion, but it’s dangerous to recommend others follow a “CIN3 routine” based on her anecdotal experience.
Given cervical cancer is among the most deadly cancers – and is on the rise in Australia – I cannot stress enough how dangerous, misleading, and reckless Sarah’s Day claims are.
It’s lovely to tell people to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle. It is absolutely not okay to reframe that healthy lifestyle as curing precancerous cells. It is also absolutely not okay to give out serious health advice without any qualification to do so.
Sarah is an influencer. Someone who has her bills paid by companies and brands because of her ability to influence young girls to buy clothes, trail mix, and vitamins.
And her title of “influencer” voids excuses like this: “Im not hear [sic] saying that surgery is evil or you should neglect western medicine at all. I would never make a statement like that! Im just here to share MY story and MY experience and the way that I take care of MY body.”
A quick read of the post’s comments section is enough to realise that Sarah’s Day is shaping the way young women consider alternative medicine’s place in the world.
There was this comment, from Alli: “[The] reason why I believe in natural remedies!!! She’s my inspo for sure!”
This, from Shel: “It’s so cool to see that natural remedies and a healthy life works! Thank you for sharing your story.”
And, most terrifyingly, this from Bridget: “I have been going this since 2011 and I have already had one surgery. I would love to hear all about your routine and treatment because I would love to not have to have another surgery!! I’m super scared and nervous to go through this all over again. My doctor is suggesting another surgery due to high grade CIN3 but I would love to hear what you have been doing and see if some of what you do would work for me. I am beyond stressed and worried about what I should do, so please share all your wonderful knowledge with me!!!!!!”
The meteoric rise of Sarah’s Day presents challenges for all of us. We have found ourselves in a position where one of the most influential Australians in the health industry is not qualified and spreading misinformation. A position where hundreds of thousands of young women are looking to Sarah’s Day for guidance and inspiration. A position where someone with access to Google and Instagram is suddenly an oracle for advice on curing precancerous cells.
Not all opinions are equal, and it’s time we start recognising what truly makes someone an ‘expert’ in treating something as serious as CIN3.
How someone got to such a level of power without being taken to task – without her flammable message being doused in water – is baffling.
It’s wonderful that Sarah Stevenson was lucky enough to be in the 30% of women who regress spontaneously. I’m truly happy for her. She’s a lucky girl.
But is anyone else feeling scared right now?
Please make sure you get regular Pap tests done at your GP or gynaecologist. And when it comes to your health always, always, always follow the advice of those who have valid qualifications.
Listen to our full conversation about Sarah’s Day on Shameless below…