Monday, August 13, 2012

cancer comrade or internet impostor?

I'm taking a break from my break to warn you about this growing compendium of losers:

(image from Gawker's own article on Warrior Eli)

Be wary of cancer fakers, my friends! Trust your intuition & arm yourself with the knowledge that, yes, there are people out there that lie about this stuff.

From my own personal experience, here are a few "tells":

1.) People lying about cancer online often add inconsequential medical jargon to their stories to make them seem more credible. If you're a cancer survivor, you can usually sniff this out fairly easily-- do the diagnosis/treatments add up? Is their story *almost* too outlandish to be true? Does it sound like they're getting cancer treatment from Wikipedia General?

2.) Cancer Fakers almost always place extreme emphasis on exact dates-- i.e. "I was in remission for 6 years 4 months 8 days and 41 seconds exactly before I relapsed and had surgery at eleven-forty-five-pee-ehm on Tuesday December 12th 2012 and while they were taking out my malignant tumor I gave birth to a beautiful healthy eight-pound-thirty-two-ounce baby girl who's birthday is now 12-12-12 which is also my great-grandmother's birthday and therefore a sign of luck that I will beat cancer miraculously". Somehow they all think this will add credibility to their scam. You know you'd be too groggy to remember that shit. Or care to repeat it at all.

3.) They have brand-new Caringbridge, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogger, and charity pages that pop up immediately overnight. Usually this happens organically, over time, through family members as the *real* patient goes through treatment. Look at the wording, sentence structure, and misspellings of the entries and comments. Do they ALL seem to come from the same person?

4.) On the topic of family-- Cancer fakers usually make theirs up. Often with really stupid trendy-fantasy names like Gideon, Elijah, Braiden, Destinaijah, Meridian. It tends to reek of a tween girl's discarded game of MASH. There are Fakers who create sock-puppet accounts on social networking sites for an entire fictional support circle in order to boost credibility. Seriously.

5.) The pictures posted are all closely cropped, purportedly in a hospital, but you'll never see machinery or an IV pole (which, as we know, becomes inseparable to us during chemo). Look out for STUBBLE on a supposedly bald-from-chemo head, and acne/redness in the cheeks, which chemo absolutely does away with. Chemo makes your skin clear & pallid. Cara had red, craggy acne all over her chin--I shrugged off clues like this without even raising a (newly grown in) eyebrow.

6.) They readily publicize an Amazon wishlist or pry for gifts/money/sympathy. The majority of Cancer Fakers seem to be young, very bored, insecure girls with nothing else going for them & probably not much love in their lives. boo hoo. Get a hobby.

Has anyone else had an encounter with a Cancer Faker?

**Please do not take this list as definitive "proof" that someone is lying about having cancer-- it is meant only as a mildly amusing guide to help you identify predatory behaviour and avoid being duped. Use your intuition & common sense out there in the YA cancer community! 


dp said...

I'm recently left reeling by a faker I became close with over the past year while I was in treatment for a recurrence of cervical cancer. We were in-real-life close, 'my sister baked you 0th birthday cupcakes on the occasion of your "bone marrow transplant"' close, 'no 23 year old should have to face such a tragic, premature death, so let me take you on a Hawaiian vacation' close. She apparently has Munchausen syndrome. Or something. The only clear thing is that she hasn't ever had cancer, and she masterfully fooled her family, me, her psychiatrist, and seemingly, everyone else for about a year. I suppose all that work I've done on my "trust issues" in therapy will have to be revisited.

Your list of tells is Stephanie almost to a T. What do you think is the appropriate response to the cancer faker?

dp said...

I realize, given the nature of the topic, you might want to see some evidence of my actually having cancer. My barely-maintained blog is here -- -- and I just made a 'seriously, yo, i had cancer' photoset on Flickr -- -- though there already are a few public photos in there that are pretty telling.

I am curious what you (and others) think is the best course of action. My boyfriend's working on a blog post about the whole thing and I've contacted a few people in her life, yet it doesn't feel enough. I'm still furious/heartbroken/confused about the whole thing.

Catherine said...

I wouldn’t believe this was possible, but have seen news reports with these types of ‘faker’ situations. When I think of the women in our online community at FCT and the strength they are forced to conjure when the entire world feels crazy, and compare that to people who just want some presents, money or attention . . . well . . . I’m left without words.

kaylin andres said...

DP-- it sucks that you had to go through that, especially "IRL", which I imagine is much more confusing. It also sucks that now we survivors feel we have to "prove" ourselves to others. Generally speaking, I will believe everyone that comes to me for support or advice, as long as I'm at a distance. If the friendship progresses, I would advise to do a little research, just for your own peace of mind.

As for the proper response: if she conned you out of money/gifts, I would report her to police. Unfortunately you can't report emotional abuse-- and you can't physically stop her from faking again, which she most likely will. My advice here would be to INFORM the community, INFORM media outlets, and post your proof online in a clear & comprehensive, non-slanderous way (basically, make sure you're right!). You can include her real name, so that if anyone feels there's something fishy about her, they can google her name & see your story.

Aside from that, talk to your therapist, give yourself a break & know that there are thousands of us with REAL cancer that want to provide support and resources for you, with you, as a community! In short, cancer friends are invaluable, so don't be turned off by one psycho bad egg.

Debby said...

I've got a sister who has had cancer several times, and then miraculously been healed of cancer. I just got an e-mail from her yesterday. Her doctor says she is a candidate for a serious stroke, that she is in the early stages of dementia, and that her kidneys and liver are failing. My response? Meh. Let's just wait 6 months and see where we're at then. Someday, I imagine she'll really be sick, and I'll feel terrible about all of it, but honestly, I laughed. When I read the part about early stages of dementia, my first thought was, "Crap. She didn't need to pay a doctor to tell her that. I am a cancer survivor and I don't understand her need to compete. These people are mentally ill. You feel bad for them, but you draw careful boundaries.

Nick said...

I have the hardest time accepting the notion that people would actually fake cancer for (synthetic) internetz approbation and validation.

Is there no bottom to our behavior?

Unknown said...

This is so much more than i needed!!! but will all come in use thanks!!
Cancer patient resources

John's Brain said...

That you need to write this posting makes my head hurt.

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Chandani said...

I can't even wrap my brain around someone faking cancer.

The clear skin thing may not be such a given though. My last couple of weeks on Taxol saw my cheeks break out in a weird rash. Just when I was feeling so pretty, ya know.

Sick, sick people out there.

Unknown said...

I was treated for skin cancer in February 2012. I am certainly not a faker! I wrote a bit about my treatment on my blog: I had thre surgeries and a biopsy.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dp said...

When we finished sorting out the facts (at least, the ones we had), my boyfriend wrote up the story that we lived through with Stephanie Bourque, Liar Extraordinaire -- -- it's long, but it's a good, if infuriating, read.

Kaylin, I wish I was a moneybags or pain relief expert, and I could be of help to you in any meaningful way. Your blog and your comic have been great company to me these past couple years. Take care out there.

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corinnajune said...

The stubble thing might not be a tell- after I was switched from that evil red death chemo to taxol, the hair on my head started to grow back. Of course, my eyelashes and eyebrows started to fall out, so my hair situation did not know if it was coming or going haha.

I just found out recently that one of the cancer blogs I follow was part of an elaborate hoax. I don't understand why faking cancer is so widespread.

Anonymous said...

I was friends with a girl who lied and said she had stage 4 breast cancer. Im no longer friends with this psychopath. And i think shes still trying to lie about it sad and pathetic. Then again she also lied about her mom being dead(shes alive), she k ied about her dad molesting and raping her(none of it true) and so many other serious stuff. I couldnt stick around for someone like that. I am so sorry youre going through this.

Anonymous said...

hello, i agree that you need to be care full but the oral chemo that I am on has made my face majorly break out worse than any break out I had a a teenager . My face has been full of acne since about 2 weeks after I started the oral chemo and has not gone away at all. I wish it had made my face clear

sicko said...

Dp.. as a young person with REAL aml I can tell u this makes me sick. Very sorry for all you went through with your poser. I am now questioning whether or not I even want to try to network on the interweb with other cancer patients (I couldn't even read your entire story it made me so sick) at least sitting around the infusion room ppl cannot lie! It just seems as though they are all old sickies who have already lived and are in such a different place in life than I am (even if they are unaware where that place is!) But 1 thing they are not is liars. Hate liars and posers!

Unknown said...

My name really is Elijah. I didn't realize I have a stupid trendy fantasy name but iwill take it as a compliment

Unknown said...

Hello, Im from Monterrey, Mexico. I have a neighbor of about 59 years old that told my family she had breast cancer and that she needed like 200dlls to pay some test (i think i remember it was a tac or sort of). I hardly tried to get the money to pay her tests and we accompanied her to the hospital surprisely, where we realized it wasnt a tac but an echo and she hadn't paid that tests cause she was medically assured. My mom became so sad... That person showed us a paper that said she needed psychiatric treatment, i think she did it to justify her actions. We didn't give her the money anyway.
Best regards and hope you get better! Ill continue reading your blog from the beginning!

Cancer said...

Thanks for sharing the information about cancer.

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