I am convinced that my sister Bernadette is pretending to have terminal cancer. I am angry, upset, and terrified right now.
This all started in January, when Bernadette called to tell me that a small tumor had been found on her ovary during a routine scan. She informed me that the tumor was treatable with radiation, and that this type of cancer had a high survival rate. However, after a few weeks of “treatment,” Bernadette called again to say that the disease had spread to her bladder. She was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer thirteen days later.
Bernadette did not want me at any of her medical appointments. The support she desired was online. She used social media to spread the word about her diagnosis, her struggle with chemotherapy, and her feelings about cancer. Her posts became more dramatic over time, and soon she was warning her readers to “live life to the fullest”, “not wait until tomorrow”, etc.
I felt so bad for Bernadette, and I knew that she could not possibly afford all the prescriptions she would need on a daily basis. She did not have health insurance, but instead was covered by charity care. To help raise funds, I began selling t-shirts with the words “Proud Member of Bernadette’s Team – Never Give Up” written on the back.
“Team Bernadette” spread like wildfire online. Bernadette, delighted, created a group with the same name. On this group she shared some truly shocking stories about her cancer. She claimed to be on aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. On several occasions, the doctor had needed to scrape tumors from her urethra so that she would be able to pass urine. Bernadette described in great detail her bladder “backing up” so bad she vomited urine. She had an online sign-up sheet for people to bring her family their dinners. Apparently, she was too weak to cook.
Not having a medical background, I accepted everything that Bernadette told me as fact. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she could lie to us about something so important! I did notice some inconsistencies in what she was telling us, though. It was hard to accept that Bernadette was so sick when she looked so well. When she supposedly went into liver failure, there was no jaundice. I also thought it was strange that Bernadette did not want anyone to go to appointments with her, and looking back, I really wish that I had insisted on going.
Bernadette announced in November that she was giving up, and felt ready to accept hospice care. She had a date set for the hospice nurses to come to her home. This news spread quickly. Bernadette wrote her “last note” on social media, reassuring her followers that this was not “goodbye,” but “see you later.”
Ironically, right after Bernadette had released her “last note,” she took to writing a memoir. She wanted to share her experiences of cancer and how they had changed her. A well-meaning stranger helped Bernadette to create an e-book that she sold online.
On the morning of Bernadette’s hospice assessment, I was so distraught. I texted Bernadette to tell her how much I loved her and how important it was that she accept hospice care. I did not want her to feel any more pain, or to be scared. Bernadette’s reply to me was strange. She demanded to know why I had not “liked” a comment she had made on social media to her sister-in-law. In the comment, Bernadette accused her of not caring because she had not visited from Ohio. Why was Bernadette worrying about this now?
Bernadette called us with some surprising news later that day. Her pain had gone! Previously, she had told us all about her nearly constant excruciating pain, with one kidney shut down and cancer spreading to sixteen organs, as well as her spine. Bernadette said she felt she was finally getting her miracle. I realized then that Bernadette was lying to us. The real “miracle” was how long it took her own sister to work this out.
I am not sure what my next step should be. Thankfully, my husband and father are both on my side. In fact, they had their doubts about the “cancer” for months. But Bernadette has an eleven-year-old daughter, and a six-year-old son. They believe that their mother is going to die. My children believe that they are losing their aunt.
Submitted Online |