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
Thanks for saying all that. I think I just need to be more aware when I'm doing it. It is definitely more for sympathy and attention more than anything else. So I am going to stop this nasty habit, otherwise when I am ill no one will believe me! Like: The Boy who cried 'Wolf'. :)April 17, 2010 - 8:42pm
Anon - I agree with your self-diagnosis and your "treatment plan." And, yes, you're absolutely right about the way people will think. :-) Good luck to you! PatApril 19, 2010 - 5:51pm
My sister is that way! She has had everything from leukemia to inoperable brain tumors. She lies ALL THE TIME and also does this to her son. She went so far as to fake a rape and then created an imaginary stalker for herself for many years. She went so far as to actually cut herself to make it seem as if someone had attacked her. She even was caught by police once, mailing threatening letters to herself at her workplace!April 15, 2010 - 12:58pm
She moved on to epilepsy, lupus, arthritis, cancer, leukemia, fibro, the list goes on and on. In between major illness, she feigns pneumonia, bronchitis (both of which with no cough what so ever.) She feigns broken bones, wearing store bought splints because the doctor couldn't cast it for this reason or that. She has faked so many miscarriages and still births that I can not even keep track.
She not only lies about these things about herself but also about my nephew whom I am heart broken to say believes everything she tells him. It makes me sick! I have called her out on it more than once, but the rest of the family turns the other cheek and lets her continue to lie.
It is SO frustrating and infuriating! She needs help. She doctor shops non stop and I seriously hope and pray that one day she gets arrested and forced into a mental ward.
What can a relative do? I remain constantly at the end of my rope with her. She collects money, gifts and donations off people on the internet quite often.
Let me tell you from a family members perspective, I almost literally HATE her. It breaks my heart to say that but it's the truth.
These last two weeks alone she has had three broken ribs, a broken wrist (broken for the 12th time no less!), pneumonia, upper respiratory infection, double ear infection, two ulcers, a hernia and now a blood infection!
It would make me happy to see someone take her away in a straight jacket and keep her until they fix her! What causes a person to do these things? And how can it be fixed?!
Oh wow! you are describing my little sister as well. Right now I am in a huge uproar over her most recent "rape" and abduction tale.Its totally a lie.This is her 5th rape story.She says she was raped with a knife! Yet was released from the hospital only a few hours later.And the attacker..whom they caught..is out of jail allready.No way.I cant find any news stories,arrest records..anything.(I fully investigate all her attack stories with no results) Her story differs from person to person..We catch loopholes..and she wont let anyone even drive her to a police station for her detective interview.She'll get mad and throw a fit if you try.Trust me people..this is an insane lie.Horrible.
She fakes pregnancies and miscarries when people demand proof.Always in and out of mental places claiming to have schizophrenia and other ailments..all which social workers have told me arent true.She says she has lupus..needs a kidney..needs dyalisis..epilepsy, faked a brain tumor claiming she had 6 months to live, you name it she's had it.Been raped 5 times now..beaten by every parent and boyfriend, assaulted on numerous occasions..even with this latest knife rape and past assaults...she will give herself black eyes and cuts to "prove it"..I dont know what to do.
Something always happens when she gets told to get a job..or help around the house or be a functioning responsible adult.She's lost custody of her kids thank god..wont even visit them..yet uses that as a depressive excuse.fakes suicide attempts.She stalks the guys she was dating when they catch on and dump her..wont move out of their houses.
After her latest fake pregnancy her partner told her he thinks she should move out..her only place to go is my fathers house..so she tells the guy she cant go back or my dad will rape her daily...ugh...i cant believe her..and its all lies.really.truly.i know.everyone in my family knows.her baby daddy knows.its horrible.Her poor kids just want their mom to play with them..and cry because "why doesnt mommy come visit or love me" I HATE her. it breaks me to say it..but ive tried so hard to help her.in so many ways...and it always goes back to this behavior.
Right now im searching the internet for some sort of way i can jail her or get her pink slipped into a long term institution where we can all have an intervention and let doctors know the real problem..hoping we can stop her.Everyone who tries to help her..she ruins..or makes miserable.manipulates or destroys.When she's in a mental hospital..she just woo's everyone with her horrible tales of depression and rape..and false problems of abuse.its all untrue. and they buy it.everytime.treating the wrong thing.its all for attention.and so she can sit on her ass.and everyone feel sorry for her. Theres got to be some way to stop this madness..and get her some real help. Good and sad to hear im not the only one with a family member like this.November 19, 2010 - 2:10pm
Anon - What you describe seems very tragic for everyone involved. I hope that you and your family can find some way to help her. Let us know if you do as it could help others. We wish the best for you. PatNovember 19, 2010 - 4:17pm
Thank you Pat. I really do hope I find help for her.If I do I will most certainly post info here. It is torture to try so hard to help these people and feel stressed out and like you've sacrificed your own sanity and health to the extreme...all for nothing.It seems worthless because they continue to behave as bad people. Its even harder when its someone you love so much..and only wish the best life for.And you watch them ruin lives and overall make their own life miserable.
I love my sister so much.Somewhere I believe irrationably that she has good somewhere inside her. Possibly this behavior is due to a behavioral disorder...and that real treatment exist is all I can hope for..and that I find it for her..and somehow this side of her disappears forever.November 21, 2010 - 10:44pm
My husband's ex fakes illnesses that are "chronic" but never defined. She started projecting these illnesses onto their daughter when she was 15. My husband tried to intervene but the mother told the daughter that he had no worries that the poor daughter might DIE if untreated. Six years later the daughter and mother both have immunity deficiencies, liver toxicity, mucus issues, lymph node issues, back issues, exhuastion and anyting else their naturopath will prescribe herbs and asthma meds. Mind you they BOTH ride motorcycles, hike, camp, etc. They use the illnesses to get sympathy. The mother even worked at a naturopathy school but had to leave with allergies to their new carpet. The mother will also use any doctor that a boss of hers has visited. They doctor shop and refuse to go to "mainstream" docs - who have said nothing was wrong. It is a terrible situation but when someone has munchausen there is no stopping them. My husband had half legal custody and demanded to talk to docs before his daughter say them and the mother went behind his back. She's also cancelled appointments back in the day and told the daughter her father was using medical issues to "get back" at them. It's insane. Right now she is suing yet again - and we have a lot of her medical receipts...colon cleansing, coffee enema, herbs, chiropractor, accupuncture, massage, etc. Many repeat visits to docs in the same week. I'm rambling, but there isn't much one can do.March 26, 2010 - 3:09pm
Dear Susan, I feel that I must write to you and admit that you are not alone in avidly watching, taping,March 23, 2010 - 6:30pm
& discussing The Housewives of New York, Atlanta, Orange County, etc.. I am so guilty of doing this.!!
Further more, I really do enjoy it!!! Of course, your article was as always very imformative and well
written. I really did enjoy it. Sincerely, Lioness111
I think what bothers me most is I, unfortunately, have a one year old who was in the hospital until he was about 9 months old and i would have given ANYTHING to take away his problems. It killed me to see him miserable and every time he went back into ICU she would bring her son to the dr and say he was having trouble breathing, that he wouldnt eat, that he had bloody stools, and so on... Then asking her husband about this he would say their son was fine. I irritates me to no end that people want their kids to be sick because they think it is a great chance for attention. I have 2 boys. (1 yr & 2yrs). my one year old has asthma and issues with a constant cough that when he was a baby would cause him to stop breathing while my two year old has an autoimmune problem and is losing his hair(alopecia). While niether of them are seriously ill i would still LOVE for them to be completely healthy (as any parent should). i would GLADLY give up every piece of my hair for my 2 year old to keep his and would take my sons asthma and constant lung issues so he could be healthy.March 19, 2010 - 1:32pm
And another thing was after she had her 1st child she told everyone at work that she was told by the doctor that she would never be able to have another child. she acted very depressed did all kinds of crying and left work and of course got everyone's sympathy. Just a couple months after that (completely forgetting the fact that "she can't have kids") she told us that she was trying for another one. About a year ago she faked a miscarriage. she told us first that she had a miscairrage and that she was going to have to have surgery. Her husband was upset about her miscairrage. Then she ended up actually pregnant a month later. when i asked her how she was pregnant so soon after her miscairrage. i told her normally there is a minimum of 3 months that u have to wait to try again to give your body time to heal she said she must have not acyually had a miscairrage.
Now with her current pregnency she has been trying to get the doctor to induce or do a C section for the past month and she is not due for another 6 weeks. Today i got a text message from her saying she is going to the hospital because she "fell down the steps directly onto her tummy." i have seen her steps, they are 2 steps under the carport to get into her house and she would have to fall at some kind of wierd angle to directly fall on her stomache without thinkin to put her hands out first. I dotn know if she purposely fell or if she is faking the "fall" so she can go to the hospital and get some attention.
Her mother and father in law notice all of this and we talk about it a lot. we all agree that her husband doesnt want to accept that she has problems and most likely will never change. they have already tried talking to him and they stay out of it now because when she is mad at them she doesnt let him bring their little boy see them and he gets angry when any one gets invovled.
even WORST... MunchausenBIPROXY SyndroME.... THIS IS WHERE YOU PRETEND OTHERS ARE ILL FOR ATTENTION (CHILDREN MOSTLY) OR EVEN MAKE THEM ILL FOR ATTENTION! UNFORTUNATELY, I KNOW SOMEONE WHO SERIOUSLY HAS THIS PROBLEM. WHEN SHE WAS PREGNANT SHE WAS AT THE HOSPITAL EVERY WEEK WITH A NEW SYMPTOM AND SENT HOM EVERY TIME. ONCE HER BABY WAS BORN SHE PRETENDED HE WAS SICK OVER AND OVER AND EVEN WENT AS FAR AS HAVING TUBES PUT IN HIS EARS AND ALMOST HAVING HIS TONSILS TAKEN OUT BECAUSE SHE SAID THEY WERE CONSTANTLY BOTHERING HIM. ANYTIME SOMEONE IN OUR OFFICE WAS SICK OR THEIR CHILD WAS SICK SHE WOULD IMMEDIATELY SAY HER SON WAS SICK ALSO. SHE IS NOW PREGNANT WITH A SECOND CHILD AND IT IS MUCH WORST. SHE HAS BEEN AT THE HOSPITAL CONSTANTLY (ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK) FAVING BLEEDING OR CONTRACTIONS. OF COURSE THEY KEEP SENDING HER HOME BUT SHE IS TRYING TO PUT HERSELF INTO LABOR EARLY FOR THE ATTENTION. SHE KNOWS THE RISKS HER BABY IS AT IS SHE IS BORN PREMATURE AND SHE THINKS THIS WILL GET HER ATTENTION. SHE EVEN HAS TOLD ME AND OTHERS THAT SHE WONT LET HER HUSBAND GET FIXED INCASE HER BABY DIES. SHE NEEDS HELP BUT NO ONE CALLS HER OUT ON IT. IT'S SCARY AND I WORRY ABOUT THESE KIDS.March 19, 2010 - 10:28am