One of the Real Housewives in Atlanta (who is not actually a wife, but a mistress with a disastrous hair weave) pretended to have cancer. When asked by Bravo TV if it was true that she had cancer, she nodded slightly and put her head down sadly. She mainly put her head down to avoid further questions since it turned out she never had cancer and finally admitted that she had never had cancer. The blogs went crazy with the revelation.
A woman in Tennessee, Keele Maynor, was recently arrested for pretending to have breast cancer for several years. The charges are theft and forgery. She accepted cash donations from co-workers, as well as a total of 194 days of paid leave (these days were donated by her colleagues at the office of the City of Chattanooga where she was employed and were worth approximately $18,000).
Once caught, she resigned in December of 2008 but the charges were not filed until recently. The woman, now 38, claims she did have cancer years ago, but is not sure why she felt the need to lie and accept money and donations from co-workers and cancer support groups. She says she is seeing a therapist in order to try to figure out why she spent five years pretending to have the disease.
We spend so much of our lives trying to proactively stay healthy. We read about preventative care, get annual physicals and heave a sigh of relief when the good results come back. So why on earth would anyone actually pretend to have a serious illness?
Some do it simply for profit. Others have a disorder called Munchausen Syndrome - a mental condition whereby people feign illness in order to gain attention, or money or profit in some other way. The payoff is usually tremendous for the people faking the illness. They get a sympathetic ear, constant attention, gifts, cards, emails, money and the time and energy of medical professionals. An area where this syndrome is growing is the Internet. Support groups for people with hundreds of different diseases and conditions are easily accessible and the payoff is often just as good – and actual - as in real life. People have been sent checks, money orders, clothing and supplies, as well as endless on line hugs, emails, letters and attention.
No dummies are they! People who fake these illnesses are actually quite smart. They are well-read in the areas of their “conditions” and know how to talk the talk. They know how they should sound, feel and look. They use medical terms and go as far as to shave their heads and eyebrows to prove that they are receiving treatment. Even more disturbing – websites abound in helping people fake their diseases. The woman in Tennessee is not alone – instances of faking illness are common. A word of caution when joining forums online and offering support to those undergoing treatment for illness: don’t assume everyone on-line is telling the truth. Guard your wallet, your emotions and your privacy.
I was a member of a very well known parenting board once. A long time member broke the news that her young niece had died and she wanted flowers for the child’s grave. She was given about $200 from concerned members and several days later it emerged that there had never been a child – dead or otherwise. The member left the site immediately (or she may have returned as someone else) but had certainly gained much sympathy, attention and money with her lies. I didn’t donate, and never would under these circumstances, but can somewhat understand how first time or new mothers could be so despicably deceived. It was a hard lesson learned by all.
According to Dr. Marc D Feldman, an expert in factitious illnesses, there are signs on the Internet when someone is faking it:
1. the posts consistently duplicate material in other posts, in books, or on health-related websites;
2. the characteristics of the supposed illness emerge as caricatures;
3. near-fatal bouts of illness alternate with miraculous recoveries;
4. claims are fantastic, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved;
5. there are continual dramatic events in the person's life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention;
6. there is feigned blitheness about crises (e.g., going into septic shock) that will predictably attract immediate attention;
7. others apparently posting on behalf of the individual (e.g., family members, friends) have identical patterns of writing.
Do you know someone who has faked illness for attention or profit? Do you use online forums for certain conditions or illnesses and feel that not everyone may be truthful about their health?
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Add a Comment98 Comments
My husband had an affair with a woman in his office who feigned cancer for 5 years. She was someone that people in the office referenced as the drama queen. She was not well liked. She was always whining and crying at the office. Many found her annoying. Looking back he realizes he should have taken this as a sign. Instead he was at a low place in his life/marriage and mistakenly thought she needed a a friend.October 5, 2011 - 1:02pm
Initially she was secretive about what her health issues were. She would have to take the phone call from her Doctor in private, then not share what the call was about. But she would insinuate that it was something bad. Then as their relationship started she told him she had ovarian cancer. She was receiving chemo and radiation for this, but opted not to have the hysterectomy as she did not want to alter her body. First red flag! After several rounds of chemo and radiation she declared that she was now cancer free. When my husband tried to break it off with her, the cancer was not only back, but was back in several other places. More chemo more radiation And the cycle continues. During their almost 5 year affair she called him crying from her new employer several times, supposedly hemorrhaging in the bathroom. He offered to take her to the hospital but she would always call him back stating that someone from work was giving her a ride. Always the very next day she was recovered and didn't want to discuss her illness as it depressed her, she only wanted to continue to live her life as normal as possible for as long as she had left.
She told my husband that her husband was in denial and didn't want to deal with her cancer. Over the course of their affair, there were several weekend hospital near death experiences. Where my husband would get a text from her phone ( by a friend) that her family had been called and they didn't think she was gonna make it. Only to surprise him on Monday morning at the local Starbucks for their secret meetings. When he inquired about the text MSG over the weekend again she said she didn't want to discuss as it was much to painful to have to relive.
She was always asking for him to take her to her chemo and radiation appointments. When he would finally agree to take her she would call and tell him her mom was gonna take her. When he did surprise her once at a chemo appointment, the surprise was on him. As she was not there and they had never heard of her. When he confronted her with this info, she claimed that he just missed her and must have talk to the wrong nurse.
Every time (and there were several) he tried to break it off with her the cancer always came back. Ovarian, kidney, bladder, lymph nodes.... on and on. Miraculously this woman never missed a day of work, never missed a morning coffee or lunch date. But she was dying on Sunday night!!
Her husband has a degenerative eye disease and according to her can not drive. So she would always have a neighbor take her to the hospital in the middle of the night. Funny how he wouldn't go with. According to her he would wait til he knew she was dying. She said her husband was uncaring and didn't love her. Wonder why?
She wrote a letter to my husband instructing him not to open til after her death. He opened it immediately and she just said what a good friend he has been through her cancer and all her treatments and how she appreciated having him there for her, since her husband was not interested in her illness.
When they got caught, everything imploding in her face. We told her husband all about the cancer she feigned and he was in shock. There were no Doctor visits, no hospital stays, no chemo no radiation, no cancer. She made all of it up! Even her best friend was in dis belief.
So why do people think it is OK to play on someone's sympathies, manipulate and control someone by pretending they are at deaths door?
I have had many friends and family with cancer several have lost their lives to cancer. It is an horrific way to die. Who would feign cancer? I don't get it!
a few years back I knew a woman who always claimed to be sick, run down, and claimed to have many chronic conditions which when on for years. This was very frustrating and annoying to everyone around her. I felt truly sorry for her and what she put everyone through. So I can relate to what has bee posted here. She later died of cancer, I guess she wasn't faking it, but that's not my point. It was really annoying.September 6, 2011 - 8:19pm
I do know someone. This man has been doing this fir years and years and in the end, after preying on the kindness and humanity of the caring yet unsuspecting woman, he's blackmailed them, scammed them, stolen identities and more and he's free? Big time criminal and he's free to keep this and other scams going. Fraud with intent is the least of it. Law enforcement has been a joke and so have the other reporting points one would be sure to cover!!September 6, 2011 - 7:52pm
Dont feel bad. My mother in law so bad, she had all 5 kids brainwashed. She couldn't keep her husband. Apparently she faked sick before I met her. It got so bad we only see her once a year I have tried to have a good relationship with her,which just led to me falling into the sympathy hole. She is on meds which keeps her in zombie mode. To this day I still don't know what is wrong with her. It's been 8 years. You cant change people. You can only change what you do. Unfortunately that means cutting people out of your life that don't contribute to it. It may seem cold and I am sorry but I would like to see her kids do good in there life. Not be taken advantage of by there mother.August 25, 2011 - 9:57am
My steph daughter is a member of this "clan". Everytime my huband and I are going away on holiday or a long weekend...she phones us with some illness, sometimes just flue - but it's so bad and what must she do?! The last time round her arm went numb and the dr couldn't find anything wrong with her...wonder why? This dissapear the moment we arrive back from our horrid holiday. She phones everyday to tell and talk in an accusing way....as if it is our doing! Now I know what to tell her what's wrong! LOLJune 30, 2011 - 7:09am
From reading your comments I can tell that most of you have never personally experienced a serious, chronic illness first hand. I have Late Stage Lyme Disease and look perfectly normal to most people however nothing could be farther from the truth! There is nothing glamorous about being sick for years on end - my family has gone bankruptcy, lost our home to foreclose and dealt with relatives and friends with attitudes much like you own.
After the first few months, the sympathy wears off and people just start avoiding you and talking about you behind your back. Occasionally if something serious happens people will remember to call but even when I was ICU with multiple organ failure very few friends stopped by.
I don't expect you to believe me - especially since having a tragic story is apparently one of the "symptoms" of fakers but I will caution you that there is always more than meets the eye. May you never personally know the suffering you so callously write off as "attention seeking."
-TaylorMarch 25, 2011 - 1:54pm
Anon - Munchausen syndrome is a condition in which a person intentionally fakes, simulates, worsens, or self-induces an injury or illness for the main purpose of being treated like a medical patient. Your brother is obviously getting some kind of payoff from the attention he receives for his illness. If your family is upset about his behaviors, including those which aggravate his condition, you might consider holding a "health" intervention along the lines of those done for alcoholics, in which the family outlines what behaviors will and will not be supported. If his self-destructive patterns continue as they are he is putting his life at risk, and as irritating as some of his behaviors may be, I bet you and your family are also concerned about him and would rather seem him take a different path. It would not be easy, but perhaps a unified front would shock him into changing his ways. Continuing to enable his current behaviors isn't helping him and drastic action may be worth consideration.December 27, 2010 - 5:25pm
Good luck to all of you.
My oldest brother has Diabetes. I know he does because I've seen him take the insuline shots several times; however, he has always been a drama queen and has been extremely needy for attention his entire life. It seems that he has done everything to aggravate his diabetes (poor diet, smoking, drinking, etc.) From the first day that he found out he had diabetes, he talked about it constantly, to the point that it drove everyone around him crazy. Now that he is sicker from the disease, he continues to use everything he can to get attention, to the point that it appears he is faking certain symptoms. He continues to smoke heavely, eat all of the wrong foods, and drinks alchohol (not excessively, but he shouldn't drink it at all). And when we don't acknowledge him, he becomes angry and pouts. When his daughter comes to visit from out of town, he asks everyone over so they can visit with her while she's here, but he goes into his room and lays down and expects everyone to gather around his bed like it's a hospital visit, then gets angry if we don't. Like I said, he has always been extremely needy for attention his entire life and the whole family has ALWAYS tried to avoid being alone with him because he corners you and talks about himself, whether it be his diabetes, or showing you every item in his house that he's bought and telling you how much he paid for it, or is extremely dramatic on every subject. I know he has diabetes, but I think he is actually thrilled to have it, and has even aggravated his condition to get attention. I have read some things about Munchausen Syndrome and wonder if this a what he has? I.e., the person either fakes an illness or is actually sick but fakes the severity of their illness OR contributes to its severity?December 25, 2010 - 12:03pm
My half sister (we have different mothers) recently had what seemed to be a stroke. However, there are some red flags. 1. She went to work (she is my dad's assistant) with her face completely deformed on one side (twisted) and weakness on one side of her body (she was dragging her leg). Is it even possible for a stroke victim, with those sever symptoms to get up go to work (45 min train and bus ride)? 2. She sat at work for half of the day limping, speaking softly and shaking, but she sent my dad a text message at lunch saying she could not make it through the rest of the day. However, she did not go to the hospoital that day. 3. She went to the hospital the next day and started claiming it was cerebal palsy (really?) But, the doctors have not received any test results. 4. This has happened before. Last year she claimed to have had a stroke with the same symptoms, however the doctors could find absolutely nothing wrong with her. And, when she discovered that the test results could find nothing she started crying and talking about how her mother's husband (her stepfather) abused her. On top of that, all of her physical symptoms were cured 2-3 weeks after she left the hospital.
A lot of this, I believe, stems from her need for attention and her failing relationship. (her boyfriend always comes back to her when she gets sick) But, she is causing a lot of stress for my dad and the rest of the family. I want to believe that she would not do something like this just for attention, but I really don't know.October 29, 2010 - 5:54am
schizophrenia?September 1, 2010 - 4:12pm