How Not to Deal With Stress November 11, 2009 7:59 PM   Subscribe

The lying about having cancer thread. I'm responding here.

My comment in this thread lasted about 12 hours and had 40+ favorites before it was removed. And I'd like to add one more thing, but am doing it over here to as not to make noise in that thread, since my comment was apparently noisy. That's totally fine, I'll admit that even though I was answering the question, the tone could have been better. But...

. . .as this is the most appalling thing I have ever read on AskMe.

What a hideous thing to say. Anonymous says in number 3 I have seen several doctors for various other problems in the past few months so the benefit of the doubt would have been nice, i.e., this is a person who has various medical issues, is under a tremendous amount of stress and is not coping the best way that he/she could. Read for context, people. Sheesh.

I absolutely read for context. This person is a TEACHER. I know this is an unbelievably stressful, low paying job and I have an education background and many friends in the profession. But trying to deal with it by lying about having cancer? I'm sorry, it's appalling and this poster needs psychological help. Which is what my comment stated, along with the advice of telling the principal that there was a medical error and a misdiagnosis.

And I did read that the poster had gone to several doctors over the past few months. This is an excuse for his or her behavior? Because when I go into the hospital next week for surgery and chemotherapy (not for cancer, but to treat another scary and stressful issue) - which is where I've spent way too much time over my own past few months - I won't be, in these apt words in the thread from Gainesvillain, using "stress [as] an acceptable excuse to lie, cheat, and steal. You are lying to your supervisors, cheating your students out of a role model, and potentially stealing from a system set-up to ensure your health in order to cover up your lie."

I love Metafilter and have been overwhelmed by the good wishes sent to me from various members I have never met as my treatment has been going on. I was overwhelmed by the good wishes for cjorgensen yesterday. But this question makes me sick.
posted by meerkatty to Etiquette/Policy at 7:59 PM (214 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Flag it, and then... uh...
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:00 PM on November 11, 2009


If I know my Seinfeld, the OP (played by Jon Lovitz) will die in a car accident after trying to adjust his toupee while driving.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:06 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's appalling and this poster needs psychological help.

I think many people have suggested that in the thread using kinder language. I'm sorry what you have been going through has been stressful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:08 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, my thought was Seinfeld and

what

But there are probably very real problems here, so yes:

[comments removed - OP knows this wasn't a good idea, no pile-on. Be decent or don't answer thanks.]
posted by Dumsnill at 8:14 PM on November 11, 2009


AskMe exists for the people asking questions, not the answerers. If you have some issues to work out, post your own question. This is no different than the virginity guy a couple of posts down.
posted by smoke at 8:14 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised that thread didn't make it to MeTa sooner.
posted by biochemist at 8:16 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a little confused by your willingness to admit that she needs psychological help, and your seeming lack of sympathy.

Mental illness is illness, too, and everyone does things they're ashamed of in stressful situations.

The most appalling thing you've ever read on AskMe seems like some unnecessary hyperbole.

I mean, I get why you're mad but it seems like the kind of thing where you can either get mad or say wow, I really shouldn't respond to that because that person pisses me off too much and I'm not being rational about it. There's not always something to gain from telling someone how much you think they suck.
posted by kathrineg at 8:17 PM on November 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


The most appalling thing you've ever read on AskMe seems like some unnecessary hyperbole.

Yeah, I mean one time in AskMe, I saw this guy write in great detail about how you could dispose of a human body in order to get away with murder. That was pretty appalling.
posted by grouse at 8:20 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the thread has been kind of a nightmare to navigate for us from the mod side and pretty challenging I think for folks more generally in an answering capacity because the premise is so damn charged.

We removed a few answers throughout the day while trying not to be too heavy-handed about it, but the conflict between the awfulness of lying about cancer and the fact that the asker is asking in good faith for help digging out of this stupid hole they've put themselves into has made for a lot of friction, and what we have removed has been the stuff that seemed to push a bit over the line in terms of (understandable) overt reaction to the misdeed without keeping the helping-in-good-faith stuff totally out front and center.

We had a pretty crazy morning and early afternoon today for a variety of largely unrelated reasons, so some of the deletions came in later as we had a chance to sort of catch up and regroup. Sorry if it felt like an extra dose of rug-pulling in that respect, but it wasn't anything personal. meerkatty, if you want to go back and give it another shot in that thread without hammering on the Appalling angle, you're welcome to do so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:22 PM on November 11, 2009


I mean, Jesus, she has health problems and she has every single sick day scrutinized by hostile people.

I have a friend who was working at XXXXXXX and some of the things he told me about his working conditions were absolutely appalling. He would get in trouble for taking sick days and his boss would retaliate with negative evaluations. Even when he was dealing with a new diagnosis of Type I diabetes. This is an excellent teacher who won awards for teaching, being constantly threatened and harassed.

If he told them he had cancer, and they got off of his back, I don't know if I would really blame him.
posted by kathrineg at 8:23 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Severe illness is not something to play around with, it can be devastating. I'm sorry you had to deal with this, you must feel like it really minimized your very real health concerns for the OP's selfish benefit.

And yeah now I'm getting kinda cranky so I'll take my own medicine and go eat a piece of salami or something.
posted by kathrineg at 8:30 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think the rule should be if it's not illegal, then it can be asked about. So hard for the mods in general to make this sort of all.

But the other rule is that the poster has to be ready to take what comes their way.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:33 PM on November 11, 2009


Thanks jessamyn and cortex. I just wanted to respond without making more noise in the thread. I totally understand that I was heavy handed in my response.

I'll stay away from that question because I'm feeling from some of the comments there and here in this thread that I must be particularly sensitive to the concept of someone lying about having cancer. It's tough for me to even understand such a lie with my experience with the disease, but I get that other people don't feel that way. *Shrug*.
posted by meerkatty at 8:34 PM on November 11, 2009


Other people do feel that way, but we also realize that we are human, and we fuck up in all kinds of ways.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:40 PM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


meerkatty, I get where you're coming from on this. That question kicked me in the gut, because I've lost so many people to cancers. It belittled the incredible battle that my uncle fought, that my friend Michelle fought, that I'm watching a child fight right now. A big part of me wants the OP to know exactly how cruel and shitty that was.

However, venting my anger is not the purpose of the green. Yes, I thought the OP sounded pretty glib about it and the idea that someone thinks cancer is a cool way to scam out of work is pretty low.

Hopefully, the OP will get the help that they need. At the end of the day, there's no benefit to you or I carrying anger or hurt over this.
posted by 26.2 at 8:40 PM on November 11, 2009


[comments removed - OP knows this wasn't a good idea, no pile-on. Be decent or don't answer thanks.]

I'm not seeing the part where he/she admits it wasn't a good idea. From the phrasing it seems as if they're rather pleased with the lie, relieved that it's working, like the outcome so far, and want to know how to continue to get away with it and cover their tracks. No? Am I misreading?
posted by iconomy at 8:41 PM on November 11, 2009 [26 favorites]


What iconomy said. I don't see even a tiny bit of remorse in that post.
posted by amro at 8:44 PM on November 11, 2009


My point was that it's clear from all the comments that had already come in that the idea was a bad one, so people showing up just to say "you're bad and this idea was bad" aren't adding much to the thread at that point. The question made me blazingly angry too -- I have a mom with terminal cancer who has been having some difficulties because she sometimes doesn't "look sick" enough -- and I'd prefer it wasn't on AskMe at all, but it's not illegal and otherwise fits under the guidelines, so here we are.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:48 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not seeing the part where he/she admits it wasn't a good idea.

Yeah, neither did I.

And I too found this question outrageously offensive, meerkatty, so I decided to ignore it.
posted by Go Banana at 8:48 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


["how to fake cancer" comments not helpful.]

Hm. Wouldn't that be kind of useful if you're, you know, faking cancer and in potentially a lot of trouble if you're found out?
posted by floam at 8:50 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry to hear about your mom, jessamyn.
posted by iconomy at 8:51 PM on November 11, 2009 [27 favorites]


That's exactly how it looks to me, as well, iconomy and amro.

That question is the first one that has just pissed me the hell off. I just got to my one year cancer survivor status and it was a hell of a year. To think that someone would lie and say they have cancer when they don't just disgusts me.

I'm actually surprised the question was deleted in the first place. As isn't it fraud (and therefor illegal) to lie about your health in order to get time off?
posted by SuzySmith at 8:54 PM on November 11, 2009


Adding. I'm sorry about your mom, jessamyn.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:55 PM on November 11, 2009


I'm actually surprised the question was deleted in the first place. As isn't it fraud (and therefor illegal) to lie about your health in order to get time off?

I was under the impression he or she's using time off he or she already had, and what they were really getting out of this lie was nobody giving them crap over using it.
posted by floam at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2009


I also didn't see any remorse, nor evidence of the silly apologist claim that "she has health problems and she has every single sick day scrutinized by hostile people." For all we know, Anonymous is being scrutinized because she's using her sick time as vacation. That's not really a crime in my book, but if this person is prone to dropping a fat lie about having cancer it's not a stretch to imagine that they tend to bend the truth quite a bit in many areas.

But, there is a line you can cross with judgment. Most of the good responses in the thread are telling Anon to recant completely rather than address the specific questions of weaselly damage control. That's really all Anon deserves here.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


(and general undeserved extra niceness overall, I'm sure.)
posted by floam at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2009


Anyways, I can't believe the OP really thinks this is going to make things easier. Trading in one type of anxiety in for another. Hopefully she quickly tells them it was a false test or that she assumed she had cancer from general symptoms but was proved wrong or something before she's on the six o'clock news.
posted by floam at 9:02 PM on November 11, 2009


This particular question is pretty gross. But here's why I like (or "like," meaning "admire") jessamyn's response and Go Banana's decision to ignore it. People say things throughout the site every day that have the potential to trigger something for someone. For me it's not cancer. It's a HURF DURF suicide joke, or a dead parents reference. Or whatever. Because cancer is one of many catastrophic things that can happen and that we carry around with us and that isn't visible to others, and while reminding people of that and of one's feelings DOES matter (though it's just as often ruthlessly mocked), the "blazingly angry" feelings aren't universal, and leading with them helps the blazer, but not anyone else--and most of the time it doesn't help the angry person either. (I say this as someone who once quite publicly and unkindly thrashed someone for a really tasteless David Foster Wallace suicide joke while I was caring for a suicidal person. And did the same thing at a party when a colleague made fun of a student with a serious mental illness. They weren't my best moments.)

It's a big world and we slight and hurt each other all the time with what we don't know or with our gross insensitivity. This is . . . just one of those times.

Good luck and be well, meerkatty.
posted by liketitanic at 9:07 PM on November 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


From the phrasing it seems as if they're rather pleased with the lie, relieved that it's working, like the outcome so far, and want to know how to continue to get away with it and cover their tracks.

I didn't get "rather pleased" out of it, but I guess I'm seeing a little more of an ambiguous tone to the OP's phrasing. I read it roughly like this: the OP got some immediate relief in that, suddenly, his/her principal + others were very supportive and gave him/her some positive feedback; however, now the realization has hit that keeping up any active, public appearance of this lie will be impossible, so he/she is at that moment where Wile E. Coyote has his legs are churning in midair after running off the cliff, but before actually falling straight down to the canyon floor.

It's true that the notion of backing out of the lie (either with the truth or, at least, with a lesser "false alarm" lie) doesn't seem to have occurred to the OP, at least not as he/she has phrased the question, which is a rather notable omission. I guess I just took that to mean that they're panicked, rather than pleased with themselves. (And the odd, somewhat deadpan "Yes. Yes I did" bit in the middle read, to me, as shorthand for "Yes, I know that it's terrible, but yeah, I did actually go there.") But I could be giving them too much benefit of the doubt.

This isn't to say I wasn't angry myself when I read it; I had cancer in my 20s, my dad had it last year, and I've had a couple of friends and colleagues who've recently battled it (and not always successfully). I guess I just took the OP to be more confused than gleeful about the whole thing, with the lie being a pretty terrible symptom of something much more serious going on -- e.g., the stress he/she's under is veering into actual "about to fucking snap" territory, or there's a possible underlying personality disorder. But either way, the OP needs serious professional help, even if it's obviously not from an oncologist.

Jessamyn, I am really sorry about your mom. I hope you are taking good care of yourself in this rough time.
posted by scody at 9:10 PM on November 11, 2009


And I guess I should briefly qualify, my mom is currently being kept moderately healthy for someone with her diagnosis via the wonders of modern medicine. I didn't mean to drop a weird cancer-bomb in here nor try to trump other people who are personally battling the disease in real troubling stages at this point. Our problems are looming but not yet upon us. Thanks for your concern.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:14 PM on November 11, 2009


Man, I really don't care how shitty your job is, lying about having cancer is horrible and you're a horrible person for doing that. I'm sure not gonna say that in the thread though.
posted by dead cousin ted at 9:17 PM on November 11, 2009


I am very, very sorry for everyone who has had cancer or who has loved ones suffering from cancer. It's terrible, it's nothing to joke about and being glib about it is completely inappropriate.

But I will say (from my experience in the DC Public School System, not New York) that things are really, REALLY bad. Although it seems completely inconceivable, there is a point where doing something like this really seems like the best idea.

I worked in Anacostia, in Southeast DC and the pressure, the misery (of everyone around you, teachers, administrators, kids, you) and the lack of support lead people to do unbelievable things that they never thought they'd do. I'm not saying it's okay that the poster did this, but I think that it is an extraordinary situation and eventually you just crack. I did; after a student threatened me (again) and I realized that nothing was going to be done about it, I flipped out in the middle of class and quit. I am really, really ashamed to admit this and here years later it is still really difficult for me to talk about it. I love kids, I love education, I love teaching, and that situation was so awful that I literally couldn't sleep at night (I couldn't fall asleep until after 3:30 in the morning and had to get up at 6:30 am; I'd fall asleep in my office in the half hour between the joke that was a staff meeting and when the kids arrived and while I tried to sleep at home I'd just see the faces of all of my students and know I wasn't doing enough to help them and that I couldn't do any more than I was doing).

There comes a point where you do whatever you can to get out. I really don't think this is the poster making light of cancer, I think it's the poster doing what he or she had to do to get some relief from an impossible situation. Eventually you just snap because you need something to change and, at that point, it doesn't matter how you accomplish it because otherwise you are just not going to make it.

I think a lot of katherineg's comments are good as well; there really seem to be some issues with mental illness here, and I read the original poster's saying "Yesterday, I told my principal and the assistant principal that I had cancer as a child and it had come back. Yes. Yes I did." not as "whatever, it doesn't matter" so much as "Yes, I know this is appalling, but I can't even process that right now". I don't know, I could well be wrong and I still think what the poster did was terrible, but it's easy to miss what an incredibly crushing situation that can be. Getting up early every morning, spending your time and money (you wouldn't believe the way teachers get nickle and dimed; I was given one ream of paper to use for the whole school year for one hundred and fifty students and the photocopier didn't work anyway so I had to pay for photocopies for every worksheet, quiz and handout), having too few supplies, little or no support and students who aren't able to take your class adequately because they just don't have the necessary background experience -- it's surprisingly easy to get pushed into doing things that seem ridiculous because you just can't do it anymore and you're so stressed out and busy and crazy that you can't step back long enough to think about what you're doing and how to make it better so eventually something has to give and you just crack. Unfortunately, for the poster, this involved doing something ridiculous, ill-advised and in some ways horrific. I totally acknowledge this, but I have to say for the poster's sake (since he or she can't really speak up here) that I think it is easy to miss just how bad things have to be for someone to do something like that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:23 PM on November 11, 2009 [47 favorites]


P.S.: If the original poster is reading this, please feel free to MeFi mail me -- I was/am fortunate enough to have wonderful family and friends who were able to help me through an amazingly difficult time but I know how scary and isolating that kind of situation can be.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:29 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I took the "this is repugnant and I'm going to close the window" path.

What about all of the other teachers who deal with the same conditions, and DON'T mine the administrators for pity? Who do you think shoulders the corresponding work burden when the principal and assistant principal are so kind and accommodating?

Also: If my kid was in the OP's class and I got wind of this sociopathic nonsense? I'd pull her out so fast it'd leave skidmarks.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:52 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I was sort of left with an ' ...oh...my' sort of impression by the OP's situation as well.

I think Floam is right - people - employers - really don't sort of 'forget' that you have cancer, even if one stops mentioning it. My colleague who is currently battling cancer has all sorts of colleagues coming up to her with sympathetic words - people she didn't tell. I think it's because so many of us have family/friends who have cancer (not to mention people battling it themselves). So the OP might have traded in one anxiety for another - and often I find that people's mercy for illness in the work place is often severely limited, particularly if it lasts over a period of time, and one gets the sense that they are getting a 'get out of jail free' pass on work, which feels like favoritism among some other staff. I've also seen staff start 'wondering' about the person- how they are faring, if and how their work is affected, etc. In short, the person doesn't get less scrutiny, they get more.

But I also got the sense things have to be pretty bad if at any point you a) thought the best response was to fake a serious illness and b) after thinking it, actually went through with that thought, telling people who have the ability to fire you that you have that serious illness.

Also the fact that they asked the question about how this could come back to 'haunt' them, and the fact that they are only thinking through covering all the angles after they told their supervisors that they had cancer, making their lie that much more complicated (like falsely claiming an illness that a lot of people are familiar with, and the and the quirky details of the story -"recurring childhood cancer"?) , suggests that they aren't coolly calculating grifters, but something a lot more fragile.

I note that I find my heart going out to/mentally sending good wishes for a lot of people on metafilter this week. For people who find themselves caught up in life's tangles, and the people who tangle themselves up (like the anon poster).
posted by anitanita at 9:57 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


That post is one of those threads that made me trot out some very wise advice from other MeFi-ers who are wiser than I:

Walk away.

When I read this question, I had just gotten off the phone with my father, who has Stage IV colon cancer, with metastases to the liver and lungs. This guy, the toughest man I've ever met, has such severe intestinal pain (likely caused by chemo) - that he actually describes the pain as "5 from moment to moment, and then 8 when there's a cramp." He's in the hospital because he can't eat, and they also can't seem to get his symptoms of diarrhea and nausea under control. Normally, we have conversations of anywhere from 15-30 minutes, on all kinds of things. Now, he can barely stay on the phone for 30 seconds, because he's so exhausted.

I read what the OP did, and I thought the top of my head was going to blow off from sheer rage. I realized, though, that some of that rage was misplaced sadness/stress/frustration.

So I smacked my laptop closed and went outside.

Having done that, though, and returned in a calmer frame of mind - I would like to say to the OP that what they did IS horrific, she needs to get some quality therapy lined up, and I hope they never pull this kind of shit again, THANKYOUVERYFUCKINGMUCH.
posted by HopperFan at 9:59 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, I don't know why I referred to the OP as "she." I have no knowledge of their gender or anything else about them other than was was in the post.

Also, perhaps a bit overboard on the 'wise' angle. Sheesh. what a suckup
posted by HopperFan at 10:06 PM on November 11, 2009


I'm fairly neutral on what the original poster did-- yeah, I can tell it was very ill-advised, and at worst may cost him his job (masculine pronouns just for stylistic ease). He's in a real pickle now. And deceiving well-intentioned people, like his bosses, is never nice. But I'm very disturbed by the totally out-of-proportion effort to shame and excoriate him both on the AskMe page and here on MeTa. "Appalling," "sociopathic," "repugnant"? Posters responding just to tell him what a horrible person he is? Severe injunctions to seek therapy? (Be honest- you think therapy would help? you think uttering an impulsive, self-serving lie is so unthinkable?) I joined Metafilter because I loved the idea of sending a question out to the internets and getting 15 replies in an hour. It strikes me as a safe, relatively anonymous, and low-risk space to ask all kinds of questions. The harsh tone taken by the community in this post and others show such a depressing human tendency to police conformity and stigmatize deviance. Why don't you just bury OP in sand and throw rocks at his head. (not you, Mrs. Pterodactyl and some others.)
posted by ms.codex at 10:14 PM on November 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


I hate to say it, but I felt bad for the poster even though what they did is horrible. I feel like something in his/her life is badly broken and they deserve our sympathy.

I briefly had anxiety/panic disorder issues due to a thyroid imbalance, and during that time I was sorely tempted to lie and make excuses about anything and everything, because I was so desperate to cover up the fact that I couldn't function normally.

I didn't make anything up, but not for any big moral reason - I'm a terrible liar and the paranoia of being caught out would have made the whole thing worse. But I have to say that in the throes of anxiety disorder, making shit up and even being jealous of people who have medical problems seemed completely rational. I'm ashamed to admit this, but there you go.
posted by lalex at 10:21 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Memo to self: get a job where I work for MeFites. The things I'll be able to get away with.....
posted by Lucinda at 10:26 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Be honest- you think therapy would help? you think uttering an impulsive, self-serving lie is so unthinkable?

You're joking, no? Of course therapy would help. Based on what the OP says, he/she is under extreme stress, leading to an extreme, desperate, irrational, and destructive falsehood that is several orders of magnitude greater than what I think most of us would put in the category of "uttering an impulsive self-serving lie." There's a vast difference between "boss, my work is suffering my childhood cancer has returned" and "officer, I rolled through that stop sign because I'm late for a meeting" -- you can see that, right? Most of us, I would bet, find the "late for a meeting" lie perfectly thinkable (whether or not we've ever done it ourselves), while still holding the "my cancer's back" lie as unthinkable or at least close to unthinkable. It is indicative of something seriously awry in the OP's life, and he/she almost certainly needs some form of professional and compassionate help.
posted by scody at 10:36 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


(and I apologize for sounding a little testy, myself.)
posted by scody at 10:46 PM on November 11, 2009


Ms. Codex: I didn't post in the original thread, because everything I would have said was already in there. But my post would have included a lot of the same strong language and harsh tones. I don't think the response was far out of proportion at all. The way I read the question, I don't see much remorse from the OP, or any indication of wanting to come clean. The question, as I read it, asks for ways to make sure that this doesn't blow up in their face. The responses you're reading and disapproving of are, IMO, designed to shake the OP into realizing just how messed up this lie is. In this case (I don't know what other posts you're alluding to) I think this is entirely warranted. You have a thread right here with plenty of examples of people who are suffering through cancer in some way or another, and people extending their sympathies. The OP is preying on basic human decency for their own selfish gains. It IS awful, and it deserves to be labeled as such.

The harsh tone taken by the community in this post and others show such a depressing human tendency to police conformity and stigmatize deviance.


Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by dnesan at 10:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Scody: I guess I don't see how therapy would help the OP atone for whatever moral offense he has committed. I was reading the recommended 'therapy' as patronizing code for 'you're mentally ill' (no offense to the mentally ill). But you're right, OP is obviously under extreme stress, and therapy may help with extreme stress.

Most of us, I would bet, find the "late for a meeting" lie perfectly thinkable (whether or not we've ever done it ourselves), while still holding the "my cancer's back" lie as unthinkable or at least close to unthinkable.

Yes, the "I have cancer" thing is not a lie my brain would ever come up with. But knowing that other brains are different from mine, I just have to say that I find it outlandish but not unthinkable.
posted by ms.codex at 10:48 PM on November 11, 2009


Dnesan: The OP's post included some line like "Yes. Yes I did." which seemed to me to imply some sort of disbelief at what he had just done. It just sounded like regret to me.

The responses you're reading and disapproving of are, IMO, designed to shake the OP into realizing just how messed up this lie is.

Fair point, but I also saw an effort to shame-- the harsh language wasn't all entirely constructive. What I meant by conformity and deviance-- maybe those were poorly chosen words, but I was trying to evoke the sociology of stigma-- was that communities naturally use condemnation to let others know what kinds of behavior are acceptable and unacceptable. The AskMe thread just seemed like an ugly example of that.
posted by ms.codex at 10:56 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think the response was far out of proportion at all. The way I read the question, I don't see much remorse from the OP …

Why does everybody think that the posters need to hear your disapproval? It's AskMe. She had a few specific questions lined up. Why can't we all just answer or move on? She could have asked somebody in real life if she wanted to deal with ethical baggage.
posted by floam at 10:57 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The harsh tone taken by the community in this post and others show such a depressing human tendency to police conformity and stigmatize deviance.

No. The hard tone is a response to someone lying to prey on an empathetic response to a horrible illness.

Non-conformist does not equal manipulative liar.
posted by 26.2 at 11:03 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is not about "deviance" -- the OP is not being stigmatized for holding a different opinion or being a different religion that his/her community. They are not a LGBT individual being told to go back in the closet. Telling this sort of lie is not some sort of liberating, symbolic transgression of the old order; it's not something out of Foucault. It's an actual and highly significant falsehood with negative personal, emotional, and material consequences -- for the OP's colleagues, students, insurer, employer, etc.
posted by scody at 11:09 PM on November 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Non-conformist does not equal manipulative liar.

Why not? It's simply not conforming to a very human, cultural construct — ethics. I think what you mean here is that she's not-conforming in a way we're not okay with. Which doesn't make us bad people, we don't need to accept people that screw shit up for us.

Anyways, I guess I'm kind of surprised at all the anger. I've lost close relatives to cancer, but this didn't really bring even a bit of that up for me. I mostly just was shocked she'd think this plan is going to work, especially as it appears, as noted earlier, that she isn't exactly a "coolly calculating grifter". Seeing as how she hasn't actually conned anybody out of anything yet, what's the harm, really? This is potentially disastrous for her, but so far she's done less damage to society than a shoplifter.
posted by floam at 11:11 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Now that I've climbed down off the angersaur that I mounted when I first read this question I have to say that I'm glad that AskMe exists as a resource for people like the anonymous poster to get good, honest advice on how to minimize the damage from having fucked up this badly.
posted by Kattullus at 11:11 PM on November 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


(sorry, got cut off) I, personally, feel real compassion for the OP. But that doesn't mean I think that he/she is just merrily marching to the beat of a different drummer here while flying their freak flag in a colorfully harmless way. I think it's wrong to tell this sort of lie, even as I recognize that terrible circumstances can drive some people to make this sort of error, and even as my heart goes out to the OP as I hope he/she gets some help.
posted by scody at 11:14 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, I'm sorry I chose the word "deviance." I didn't mean it in the modern sense of belonging to a minority religion, sexual orientation, etc. I meant in in the sense of doing something that is considered criminal or beyond the pale (as sociologists use the word 'deviance' in discussions of criminal behavior). In no way is this situation comparable, as scody notes, to cultural difference and freedom to express one's individuality.
posted by ms.codex at 11:16 PM on November 11, 2009


Ms. Codex:The OP's post included some line like "Yes. Yes I did." which seemed to me to imply some sort of disbelief at what he had just done. It just sounded like regret to me.

I guess it could be read like that, but OP's question 2) completely takes that off the table for me. That question doesn't show any regret at all, just a calculated desire to avoid any sort of disciplinary action. In my eyes, you're giving the OP a lot of credit that doesn't seem warranted by the wording of the question.

floam:She could have asked somebody in real life if she wanted to deal with ethical baggage.

This makes almost no sense to me. Why should AskMe be any different from real life? Why does the OP get to escape ethical concerns because they typed out the question here?
posted by dnesan at 11:23 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I feel for the OP too. It's why I suggested in the original thread that he consider taking a mental health leave and use that time to find another job. I stand by that suggestion, because the OP's response to his situation is so...odd and potentially damaging. Lots of people have incredibly stressful jobs or work under the constant fear that they'll be unemployed. Probably once a month, I read an AskMe from someone in a work or family situation that seems to be almost unbearably stressful. I've never heard of someone faking cancer to get off easy at work.

When I read the responses in the original thread, I see a lot of people who tried to be helpful even though they we're unhappy with the OPs decision. There's certainly some "WTF where you thinking" in there too, but mostly people held it together.
posted by 26.2 at 11:33 PM on November 11, 2009


Why should AskMe be any different from real life? Why does the OP get to escape ethical concerns because they typed out the question here?

It's different from real life because we don't have invested interest in her, and because she's anonymous. It's also different in real life in that we agree to follow a set of guidelines, and answer the question asked. To me, this basically removes being judged and having the ethical book thrown at you.

Obviously, outright-wrong questions should be removed. Save for that, people ought to answer the question or skip it.
posted by floam at 11:34 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


people ought to answer the question or skip it.

This.

In general I avoid AskMe because I don't really give a rat's arse what other people do, their problems, or their hangups. That's just me though. Obvious exceptions for people I know personally, but strangers on the intertoobs, not so much.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:13 AM on November 12, 2009


Considering the severity of this lie (as evidenced by the outrage exhibited here the likes of which I usually only see for something virulently racist, sexist, etc.), then either the Asker is seriously ill or the job must be really bad to drive someone to this. Either way, the harsh judgments aren't helpful.
posted by Danila at 12:17 AM on November 12, 2009


I also didn't see any remorse, nor evidence of the silly apologist claim that "she has health problems and she has every single sick day scrutinized by hostile people."

The 'silly apologist claim' is in the question:

I just didn't want every sick day I took scrutinized and possibly subjected to disciplinary action (this happens).

I have seen several doctors for various other problems in the past few months but no oncologists.

As for the remorse -- the OP hasn't lied to us. There's no obligation on them to don the hair shirt and seek our forgiveness because they've acted in a way that doesn't comport with our personal moral framework.

But perhaps you think all the gays and people who've had abortions here should be apologizing to St. Alia of the Bunnies?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:35 AM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also: I lost my mother to breast cancer, age 60. So don't be giving me any of this 'I don't know what it's like'. That doesn't stop me from feeling sympathy with the OP, who did a dumb thing when faced with a stressful situation. Humans do that shit. The fact that the lie was about cancer is, in my view, no more significant than if she was claiming some less emotionally charged illness -- something that many thousands of people do every day.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:40 AM on November 12, 2009 [18 favorites]


The OP sounds like a malingerer, plain and simple. Probably a straight C student, much like our former president. They lied about having cancer because for a moment, they thought they cloud get away with it.

The OP is a stupid, stupid person. We are NOT dealing with a first-rate intellect here. The OP deserves neither our scorn or pity. They deserve our laughter, because pretty soon the whole house of cards will come crashing down, and it's going to be fucking HILARIOUS.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:47 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The OP is a stupid, stupid person. We are NOT dealing with a first-rate intellect here.

This sort of blind reading of someone's basic intellectual worth is neither helpful nor fair. There's a lot to be said about what they did and why they did it, but writing people off for the sake of justifying some laugh-in-their-face fantasy is a pretty crappy way to deal with fellow community members, even if they fucked up pretty badly in a way a lot of us find really personally troubling.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [23 favorites]


wow, Afroblanco, that's a truly cruel comment.
posted by lalex at 1:02 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Afroblanco, you might want to reflect a bit on whether this is the best appraisal of the situation you can come up with.
posted by jouke at 1:37 AM on November 12, 2009


Afroblanco- that's fucking horrible. I would maybe ask the mods to delete that comment (if possible).
posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:57 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I meant Afroblanco asks to delete it. Unless of course you want it to haunt you around here.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:58 AM on November 12, 2009


Afroblanco: "The OP sounds like a malingerer, plain and simple. Probably a straight C student, much like our former president. They lied about having cancer because for a moment, they thought they cloud get away with it.

The OP is a stupid, stupid person. We are NOT dealing with a first-rate intellect here. The OP deserves neither our scorn or pity. They deserve our laughter, because pretty soon the whole house of cards will come crashing down, and it's going to be fucking HILARIOUS
"

I also think the lie about having cancer was reprehensible, but that's a lot of venom. Have you ever told a crazy-ass lie at some point in your life and then been caught? If not, then you are a rare person. If so, was it fucking hilarious when your house of cards fell?
posted by double block and bleed at 2:09 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


This question and the responses have been really bothering me since I read them yesterday. The OP is so unhappy, so stressed out and so mentally unwell that they resorted to something as desperate as lying about having cancer to try and temporarily escape some of of those feelings, and in response, we call them stupid, predatory and a terrible member of the human population?

I've had dear loved ones diagnosed with and die of cancer, too, but that's not relevant to me, because the OP's question isn't about me, it's about him or her.

We should be trying to help this person, not maligning them for being sick. OP, if you're reading, I'm so sorry that you are having to deal with this, and I hope you can take a mental health break and/or find a new job. We've all done things that we aren't proud of, please just take this as a giant warning sign that you need to make some big changes in your life to reduce your stress.
posted by ukdanae at 2:17 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Probably a straight C student, much like our former president.

Hey, no reason to bring Warren G. Harding into this.
posted by Dagobert at 2:38 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


(Seriously A B Lanco, you just showed your own 'Dickhead' card. We all agree that the making up of cancer is not the greatest of things but your response is beyond the pale and shows lack of intellectual rigour. Show some class.)
posted by Dagobert at 2:41 AM on November 12, 2009


I am not the moral police here (or elsewhere, though I am certain I have sufficient moral fibre to be the decider). I have, (of course when younger) made not so good decisions, some even quite hideous. I don't care to measure whether my moral failures are better or worse than the AskMe poster's. I have no advice for that person beyond what was already offered by the time I read the thread: confess; rescind the lie with another; run away; lie more but it's not going to work out. So I didn't post. I do this quite a bit now because sometimes I have nothing to add except my moral outrage. It seems to be working out quite well. Sometimes I think silence says a lot more than many, many posts.
posted by b33j at 4:01 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Cross-posting an answer from another thread:

FWIW, I went through this as an adult with a neighbour who told people she had had a kidney transplant. Occasionally she would have a "bad day" and come sleep on my couch for the afternoon and have cups of tea. I knew it was BS but I read it as "I need someone to take care of me right now" and I'm a fan of people having their basic human needs met, even if the way they do it shows an extraordinary lack of social skill.

The OP in the Cancer Lie thread is clearly at the end of her rope and needs the system she's stuck in to back off. I am in no way condoning her choice here, but a little compassion isn't going to kill anyone either.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:28 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


What upsets me most about the question is that the OP phrased the question like she is planning to stay in her teaching job. She's placing her employment above the needs of her students. Even if she's just really having non-cancerous serious health problems like she says, this is what medical leaves are for. Missing a bunch of classroom time is bad enough as a teacher, but then demonstrating a willingness to lie like this in order to get some time off?

My roommate's a first-year teacher in a low-income, underperforming school. She came home crying almost every day for the first month because of how Sisyphean her job is. I get that it's a tough job. But damn, if you're not cut out for it, don't stay. I feel terrible for her students for being let down by a school authority figure once again.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:06 AM on November 12, 2009


I practically SMELLED this MeTa coming. It smelled like burning.

I thought a lot about not responding, it truly did make me ANGRY WITH RAGE. I have a chronic non-cancer illness and even that is difficult enough to legitmately deal with in terms of work/doctor's appointments/etc. That someone would trivialize serious health problems as being an "easy way out" really, really pushed my buttons. I've got minor health problems and have had a bitch of a time fighting the "system." Trying to game it to your advantage is just sickening to the point of making me think that you've got to have an underlying mental health issue, in which case, you probably legitimately need the time off - but for different reasons than you think.

However, most of the advice being given was to say that the tests were wrong, and I felt like adding in my mom's story of being told she had breast cancer only to find out that (PRAISE DOG) the lump that was removed was not malignant - that the first biopsy was wrong. I felt that adding in that tests really do get it wrong might help the OP in backing down from the lie.

And yes, I agree that if you're compelled to create such an outrageous lie, you should a) get a different job (easier said than done, I'm well aware) and b) get help for the underlying anxiety.

But man, if you're going to pick crap to lie about, that is a seriously, SERIOUSLY awful thing to pick.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:43 AM on November 12, 2009


Frankly, I thought the question should have been deleted. AskMe is more heavily moderated than the rest of the site, and the question seemed to me so offensively proud of the behavior and asking for advice in perpetuating fraud. I felt it hit a tone that was problematic.

I think that tone - that "help me continue this lie" - is why people are so terribly offended. Had the question read (explicitly) "I did this and I realize it was terrible and dumb, help me get out of it," I think reactions would have been different. But, instead of exercising the good judgment to delete it, in a thread asking how to get away with faking cancer, we get ["how to fake cancer" comments not helpful.] Which makes sense, considering I think this must have been a mod nightmare, after for some damn reason deciding to leave it up, not liking the premise, and experiencing the early comments in the thread.

This is just not the kind of question you ask and have a reasonable expectation of courtesy. That alone should have set up mod red flags, and I'm surprised it wasn't deleted with a request to reword.
posted by bunnycup at 6:03 AM on November 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


I think the rule should be if it's not illegal...

Actually, fraud is illegal.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 6:21 AM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Nothing Sacred.
posted by JanetLand at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2009


Listen, I understand why people got angry. I have an uncle with terminal cancer. I'm visiting him next week, if he makes it that long, and it will certainly be the last time I see him. Anybody who has dealt with cancer, or lost somebody to it, or is in the process of losing somebody to it, is going to have a bad reaction to that question, because that's just not the sort of thing you lie about to get out of a spot or to win some cheap sympathy.

But the function of AskMe is not to express disapproval for people's life choices. It's to answer their question as neutrally as possible. Yes, you can tell them that what they have done is ill-advised. You can tell them it's offensive. You can tell them, as I did, that it's possible this lie is evidence of an undiagnosed underlying personality disorder. But I think everybody in this thread agrees that it's probably not the best use of AskMe to get into the thread and tell them that they are a bad person, although they may be.

By the way, I'm not of the opinion that the person who asked the question should lie to get out of their original lie, saying "Whew, false negative." I think they should talk to their boss and say the stress got to them and they responded in a crazy way, and they're very sorry, and they're seeing a counselor for it. And tell them that the stress at the job contributed to this lie, although it doesn't excuse it. And then be prepared to take their lumps, which may be getting fired. It's the ethical thing to do, and the only one that offers the possibility of resolving this. Also, unless the original poster is a compulsive liars, adding one lie to another is going to complicate things and increase, rather that decrease, the likelihood of getting caught.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


bunnycup: Frankly, I thought the question should have been deleted.

It's an anonymous question. Those have already been vetted by the mods (unless they've changed the system).
posted by Kattullus at 6:34 AM on November 12, 2009


Kattallus, that's part of why I am so shocked to see the question was let through without a rewording.
posted by bunnycup at 6:40 AM on November 12, 2009


AskMe is more heavily moderated than the rest of the site, and the question seemed to me so offensively proud of the behavior and asking for advice in perpetuating fraud.

Keywords TO YOU. It's not universally offensive. That's not to say I, personally, endorse it, but it didn't send me into paroxysms of rage, I don't see the self-satisfaction and offensive pride you see there, and I even remembered that I do know someone who has lied about a family illness to get out of a work obligation. Serious illness, too. And I know she's not a pathological liar. So I saw this differently.

And hey, LO AND BEHOLD someone else has done this, admits to it, and discusses it in a pretty levelheaded way for the OP's benefit. I think that alone means it's, though ill advised and yes, offensive to people whose circumstances are related, is not being read as horribly as it read to you. (And it's FINE that it read that way to you. OF COURSE it read that way to you. It's just not the only way to read it.)
posted by liketitanic at 6:43 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


and I even remembered that I do know someone who has lied about a family illness to get out of a work obligation.

(ugh, I mean, that lie, though gross, didn't ruin what I knew about her, indicate mental illness, or uncover a bad lying streak)
posted by liketitanic at 6:44 AM on November 12, 2009


They deserve our laughter, because pretty soon the whole house of cards will come crashing down, and it's going to be fucking HILARIOUS

This is not how the site operates. If it's how you operate, please stay out of Ask MetaFilter. Some people are laugh-at-the-tragedy types of people and that's fine for them, but it's not how we do things here.

I'm surprised it wasn't deleted with a request to reword.

We do this maybe one of every 200 questions. We don't know who the OP is, so contacting them involves fishing in the database, contacting someone who feels anonymous about a touchy issue and then getting them to maybe rewrite a question that they may not see anything wrong with. It's not something I enjoy doing and so I only do it when I think it's mission critical to the question which is itself seeming very important.

Honestly in reading this question I sort of felt that it was a "cry for help" type of situation where the OP was technically asking about how to perpetuate the lie but really knew they weren't going to be able to. They needed people stronger than them to tell them to knock this off and why. Stress and anxiety are powerful drugs that lie to you and, in this case as well as many others we've seen, cause you to make bad choices. That's my barely-charitable read and why I approved it, knowing full well that it was going to be a mess.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


My mother died of cancer when I was nine years old. That's probably a more of a direct, life-altering experience with the disease than many here have had, but also less direct than others: like those that have battled cancer themselves. But no matter. The idea that someone would make this lie is appalling to me, and I'd like to say that I agree with bunnycup's comment above: the question should have been deleted with a request to reword, at the least. Now, that's just my opinion, and I know it must be a very tough call on some of these moderator decisions, but, really...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:06 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can understand not wanting to provide aid in criminal endeavors, but I don't think criminals should be forbidden to participate. They have a perspective that exists all around us, and there are few chances to hear their thoughts and get their unvarnished world-views. Use their input to improve law enforcement, if you care too, but don't silence them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:06 AM on November 12, 2009


Ask.me is about answering the question, and helping the person posting it. I share the concern about the questioner in the classroom. I find the fake cancer pretty appalling. But, telling the questioner that they're a bad person doesn't help them or answer the question. It might be time to close the question, as it seems to be heading towards flameland.
posted by theora55 at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


But perhaps you think all the gays and people who've had abortions here should be apologizing to St. Alia of the Bunnies?

That's really inane, but considering the source it's not surprising.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2009


In my eight years here this is the first AskMe that has ever absolutely enraged me. I flagged it but I chose not to comment there (and ultimately not to bring it to MeTa, although someone else obviously did) as I could not imagine saying anything that would have helped. I wish it had never been allowed up. I respect the mods' choice, especially now that they've explained somewhat, but, still...
posted by tommasz at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2009


Holy fucking shit.

That whole question is fucked up. It doesn't read like a cry for help at all. It sounds like the OP wants to skip work and not lose their job. That's how it was written. And certainly that isn't the worse thing in the world. Except, s/he's lying about having a very horrible disease.

Mind you, I was at a funeral a couple weeks back where I had to watch an 8 year old help out with the last rites for his mother, who died of a brain tumor. And sadly that's not the only person I know whose died of cancer. So maybe i'm biased and it's not that big a deal faking having cancer.
posted by chunking express at 7:27 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The most appalling thing you've ever read on AskMe seems like some unnecessary hyperbole.

I also can't think of anything I've read on Ask.Mefi that I have found more appalling. And I read every single fucking relationship thread.
posted by chunking express at 7:29 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


As for the remorse -- the OP hasn't lied to us. There's no obligation on them to don the hair shirt and seek our forgiveness because they've acted in a way that doesn't comport with our personal moral framework.

There's not necessarily an obligation, but at the same time, if the OP has done something that people think is ethically questionable (at best), I think answerers are within their rights to note that while still providing an answer to the question.

But perhaps you think all the gays and people who've had abortions here should be apologizing to St. Alia of the Bunnies?

I'm not sure how you found all the straw to make this particular man, but it's ridiculous and undermines the rest of the comment. What people might have a problem with is if the OP lied about being gay, or having just had an abortion in order to have an easier time at work.

I wasn't following the thread closely all day, so I don't know what most of the deleted comments said. In general, I have no problems with the mods removing the harsher answers, but the thought that we should all just explain how best to either continue the lie or to get out of it scot-free, with no mention of just how wrong this type of behaviour is, that doesn't feel right to me. I think Rokusan did a good job of things, but had his/her comment contained a few more words on how bad this lie was, I wouldn't have minded.

The fact that the lie was about cancer is, in my view, no more significant than if she was claiming some less emotionally charged illness...

This is another place where we disagree. This thread (and the original AskMe responses) are clear examples of why cancer is different. If the OP had claimed to have mono, I think things could have gone differently. But the OP claimed cancer, and that's relevant to the question, since it affects the OP's principal/assistant principal and the way they reacted to the news.
posted by dnesan at 7:32 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So maybe i'm biased and it's not that big a deal faking having cancer.

No, I think you are not biased. I am not for a second going to play the "Which disease or personal tragedy is worse?" game, but I have been wondering in my head about how (if at all) the reaction might have been different if the anonymous OP had lied about having a different disease.

If the OP had lied about having lyme disease, would the same rage be there? If the OP had lied about other tragedies, would the rage be worse such that editing would have been demanded and we wouldn't even be having this discussion? What if the question had been reworded to omit the disease "I lied about having a serious disease." Is it the lying about a disease, the fact that the disease was cancer, lying at all...

Not that there's any "solution" involved in this comment, but that question and thought process has been on my mind, in sort of an examining-why-the-reactions-are-what-they-are way.
posted by bunnycup at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the OP had lied about having lyme disease, would the same rage be there?

I think this hits on a key reason for why the OP picked cancer and not, say, lyme disease. The same rage wouldn't be there from us if ze had lied about a less devastating illness, but the OP also wouldn't have gotten the desired amount of sympathy from hir bosses. "Cancer" is a pretty big magic sympathy card - lyme disease... not so much.

Which is part of the problem with the lie, from my POV, that the lie wasn't just to get out of jail free, but also to induce sympathy and turn the situation around entirely so that hir bosses were then going out of their way to be nice. If you're that desperate, and you seriously get no approval from your job, it's time to find a different job.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:39 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


But perhaps you think all the gays and people who've had abortions here should be apologizing to St. Alia of the Bunnies?

Don't do this here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2009


> bunnycup, that's actually been my own thought, which inspired my earlier comment in this thread, and I appreciate your putting it out there and appreciate even more that you've been thinking about it, given what you live with and through every day.

I think the rage would have been different, yes. Which is part of why I think it's ok it stood.
posted by liketitanic at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2009


Honestly in reading this question I sort of felt that it was a "cry for help" type of situation where the OP was technically asking about how to perpetuate the lie but really knew they weren't going to be able to. They needed people stronger than them to tell them to knock this off and why. Stress and anxiety are powerful drugs that lie to you and, in this case as well as many others we've seen, cause you to make bad choices.

This.

The advice to get therapy, pronto, is more than warranted. Unfortunately, it is not something you just put on your to-do list in the morning and check off by COB.

Even after you find a practitioner, it takes a long time to get an appointment, barring an affirmative answer to "are you thinking of hurting yourself?" And even then, it's not fast unless you try the emergency room. And with that route there are a lot of problems that I know more about than I would like.
posted by jgirl at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like all the people saying "just find a different job" or "you need to leave your job" like:

-Finding a job is super easy, especially when you are already at your breaking point

-If you can't find a job, you can just quit anyway, even though you won't get unemployment and you'll have to pay for COBRA and it's going to look like shit on your resume
posted by kathrineg at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like all the people saying "just find a different job" or "you need to leave your job" like:

-Finding a job is super easy, especially when you are already at your breaking point

-If you can't find a job, you can just quit anyway, even though you won't get unemployment and you'll have to pay for COBRA and it's going to look like shit on your resume


Well, no, I think that the OP should "find a different job" because

- Hir job is ruining hir life to the point where stress/anxiety have made lying about having cancer seem like a good idea, a sign that mental health is sub-optimal.

- Ze has already lied about having cancer and being caught in that lie is going to do things to hir resume/references that are far more abysmal than taking a few months leave of absence, even if doing so means eating ramen/moving/finding a roommate/couch surfing/whatever. Honestly, the hole that's been dug here is of epic proportions and the short term pain of being unemployed for a few months might be less than the long-term effects of having dropped this particular bomb.

Also: you can look for another job while currently working. I've certainly done it. There's no reason for the OP to quit immediately, that I can see, but looking for something else on the side would be a good idea to get out of the situation ASAP.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:57 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


kathrineg : I have a friend who was working at XXXXXX and some of the things he told me about his working conditions were absolutely appalling. He would get in trouble for taking sick days and his boss would retaliate with negative evaluations. Even when he was dealing with a new diagnosis of Type I diabetes.

If he hasn't already, have your friend look into FMLA. It's designed for just this kind of thing.

And more generally, as to the question in question? I lost my only uncle to cancer less than two weeks ago, and I still managed to comment in good faith without attacking anonymous. If a question makes you too angry to answer, walk away from it.
posted by quin at 7:57 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like all the people saying "just find a different job" or "you need to leave your job" like:

-Finding a job is super easy, especially when you are already at your breaking point

-If you can't find a job, you can just quit anyway, even though you won't get unemployment and you'll have to pay for COBRA and it's going to look like shit on your resume


Well, yeah, but the poster is in a position of responsibility for others. Her actions, whether driven by stress alone or a deeper pathology, show that she's not in a state where she can live up to that responsibility. If you had a kid in her class and this scandal came out (which it will if she continues it), would you be thinking "Well it's okay, because finding a job that she could actually handle would have been hard"?
posted by oinopaponton at 7:59 AM on November 12, 2009



Is it the lying about a disease, the fact that the disease was cancer, lying at all...


I know for me the trigger was lying about cancer. I had just seen my urologist yesterday (whom I see for kidney cancer) and even though it was good news, it still is unnerving. Cancer has affected every part of my life in a daily basis.

I just can't imagine the mindset of someone who would lie about such a devastating disease.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


But perhaps you think all the gays and people who've had abortions here should be apologizing to St. Alia of the Bunnies?

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird... it's a plane... no, it's FALSE EQUIVALENCE MAN!
posted by kmz at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


kathrineg - Yes, finding another job is difficult, but if the OP gets caught it's going to be much worse. If he needs to apply for jobs in the school district that lie is probably going to follow him around. It's not just his administration who will know about it - it'll be his peers too.

This is someone who may not be cut out to handle the stresses of teaching in the current educational environment. It'll be a lot easier if the OP faces that head on and looks to jobs or careers that are a better fit.

I don't think people are underestimating the difficulties in finding a new job. I think people are saying get out now before the situation gets worse.
posted by 26.2 at 8:20 AM on November 12, 2009


If your job is making you so crazy you are lying about having cancer, maybe it's time to get a new job? It's like people are bred to be little capitalists. Well no, little members of the proletariat I suppose.
posted by chunking express at 8:23 AM on November 12, 2009


Friends, WE DON'T KNOW IF THE OP IS A LADY OR NOT. Assuming that the OP is, in fact, a lady, cuts uncomfortably close to stereotypes about women, mental illness, and hysteria. Please be more careful.
posted by liketitanic at 8:25 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


My eyes!

Can we please knock it off with the all caps and blink?
posted by 26.2 at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2009


But this question makes me sick.

Then it's best to stay out of the thread. If it's this personally upsetting, then you shouldn't be answering in the thread.
posted by spaltavian at 8:29 AM on November 12, 2009


This is someone who may not be cut out to handle the stresses of teaching in the current educational environment. It'll be a lot easier if the OP faces that head on and looks to jobs or careers that are a better fit.

YES. I don't think anyone was intentionally being flippant about the difficulties of finding a stable job (now, or at any other time, really), but the OP seems to be really struggling. There are plenty of other teachers going through the same difficult conditions, some who I'm sure have equivalent outside problems to the OP's unnamed medical troubles. The line in the question about being "threatened with disciplinary action for missed deadlines and inadequate performance". I mean, I suppose it depends on exactly what disciplinary action is being threatened and how fair the standards are, but that sounds like most any other work environment to me. Regardless, those things are not going to change, and gaining temporary reprieve via these means doesn't change the fact that OP doesn't seem cut out for where they are right now. Also, an unasked question is who's going to pick up the slack when OP gets to take extra days off or gets an easier ride after telling the lie? Supply teachers yes, but probably at least some of that work will go to their fellow teachers, who now get even more stress piled on their already overflowing plates. Yet another reason why I have no problems with people telling the OP that what they did was wrong (while remaining civil, at least).
posted by dnesan at 8:29 AM on November 12, 2009


Can we please knock it off with the all caps and blink?

NO
posted by liketitanic at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2009


I thought Afroblanco just omitted a hamburger at the end of his post at 3:47 in the morning. Or maybe I just need more help from some of you as to how to assume the worst of people.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2009


In the ongoing "favesperiment," I tend to be on the pro-visible favorites side overall, but at the same time I recognize that visible favorites aren't entirely without problems, I just think they're a net good. Having said that:

My comment in this thread lasted about 12 hours and had 40+ favorites before it was removed.

This is perhaps the best evidence I've yet seen against visible favorites.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:35 AM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Friends, WE DON'T KNOW IF THE OP IS A LADY OR NOT. Assuming that the OP is, in fact, a lady, cuts uncomfortably close to stereotypes about women, mental illness, and hysteria. Please be more careful.

Woah! Sorry I offended you, I'm a woman/feminist, too. Just had it beat into my head in writing classes to pick one pronoun and stick with it.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:39 AM on November 12, 2009


I just can't imagine the mindset of someone who would lie about such a devastating disease.

To hazard a guess: trapped, hopeless, mentally anguished, desperate for relief, and, as a result, unable to think clearly about consequences or the longterm future.

It's quite possible that you or I would not feel that way in anonymous's shoes, but she does. What we do with that is up to us: we can either mirror anonymous's failure of empathy or try to do better.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Apologies for my bombastic comment upthread. It was late, I was drunk, and this is an emotional topic. There are probably just some conversations that I need to stay out of.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


> I totally get that, and I wasn't emphatic because I was necessarily offended. But it does underscore for me that when we make those kinds of assumptions about gender they carry cultural weight, too. I think it's kind of dangerous to assume that someone the community at large considers a pathological liar and malingerer is necessarily a woman, because there's such a long history of women being accused of hysteria or of psychological illnesses that produce this kind of behavior. Does that make sense?

Sorry. The blink tag was a last-minute addition there, and probably ill-advised. What can I say, I'm a lady.
posted by liketitanic at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2009


Just had it beat into my head in writing classes to pick one pronoun and stick with it.

My hippie education is showing, but I really do love the gender neutral pronouns (ze/hir) originally started by trans activists for situations like this. I know that no one is actively trying to promote a gender-warfare kind of thing here, but I do prefer to use the wackadoo pronouns instead of making assumptions. That's just me though, and I'm kind of wacky.

Still, if you have to pick a pronoun and you don't know the gender, using s/he or even the grammatically awkard "they" is less problematic than making an assumption.

(/end pet-cause diatribe.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:45 AM on November 12, 2009


I think it's mostly because many people see teaching, especially below the college level, as a pink collar job. If it had been a mechanic that did the same thing, I suspect people would be using the masculine pronouns.
posted by 26.2 at 8:50 AM on November 12, 2009


I think it's kind of dangerous to assume that someone the community at large considers a pathological liar and malingerer is necessarily a woman, because there's such a long history of women being accused of hysteria or of psychological illnesses that produce this kind of behavior.

You're right about this, and I generally agree. Sloppy as I am when I write fast, the pronoun thing is just nails on a chalkboard to me. I think (hope, at least) that when those of us who chose to use "she" wrote that pronoun down, they were doing it because it's one of two grammatically correct choices and not because they think this course of action is normal or natural for women. Because it definitely isn't.

Annnd, I can't even tell if this is a derail.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2009


See, I don't. That's part of it, but certainly not all of it. (In New York City public school classrooms men are about 25% of the teaching force of 80,000. So not insignificant.) It makes me wonder what kind of assumptions would have been made if no occupation had been mentioned at all.
posted by liketitanic at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2009


Wow, I'm glad that so many of you will being offering me your condolences once you learn that my parents were eaten by bears in the Holocaust.
posted by malocchio at 9:01 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've always been taught "they" is perfectly fine to use in a gender-neutral way. I wouldn't use ze or hir if my life depended on it.
posted by spaltavian at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


oinopaponton: "Well, yeah, but the poster is in a position of responsibility for others. Her actions, whether driven by stress alone or a deeper pathology, show that she's not in a state where she can live up to that responsibility. If you had a kid in her class and this scandal came out (which it will if she continues it), would you be thinking "Well it's okay, because finding a job that she could actually handle would have been hard"?"

That's true. I assumed she was in charge of high schoolers and they were not vulnerable. Bad assumptions.

This is showing my personal irritation with "just find another job" in AskMefi threads. It's often really blind to the very real pressures and frustrations that come with finding another job in an already stressful situation.
posted by kathrineg at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2009


if you have to pick a pronoun and you don't know the gender, using s/he or even the grammatically awkard "they" is less problematic than making an assumption.

fun fact: this is what I did my Hampshire thesis on. Singular they is fine. Made up pronouns are awkward and derail otherwise well-meaning conversations.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2009 [21 favorites]


chunking express: "If your job is making you so crazy you are lying about having cancer, maybe it's time to get a new job? It's like people are bred to be little capitalists. Well no, little members of the proletariat I suppose."

Are you calling me a capitalist? Them's fighting words. Really.

People are "bred" to need food and health care and they can't always just like, get rid of the constraints of their, like, totally ignorant wage-slave mentality, and like fight the power
posted by kathrineg at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


dnesan: "The line in the question about being "threatened with disciplinary action for missed deadlines and inadequate performance". I mean, I suppose it depends on exactly what disciplinary action is being threatened and how fair the standards are, but that sounds like most any other work environment to me. "

Not really, it's hard for them to fire you so they try to harass you until you quit.

If she could hang on until she is actually fired, life would probably be easier for her.
posted by kathrineg at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Argggh

MY GENDER ASSUMPTIONS, THEY SORTA SUCK

I think gender-neutral pronouns are awesome and the people doing the derailing are the people using silly phrases like "over my dead body"
posted by kathrineg at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2009


katherineg, can you please take a walk or something for a few minutes?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Made up pronouns are awkward and derail otherwise well-meaning conversations.

I hope this isn't too much of a derail, and while ze/hir is "made-up," it's a construction used by transgender activists (IIRC, originally coined by Leslie Feinberg) who I fully support, so yeah, I think that they're worth the debate when it does come up.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2009


I hope this isn't too much of a derail, and while ze/hir is "made-up," it's a construction used by transgender activists

I'd honestly never heard these terms before, but I do think they're interesting and definitely worthy of discussion. But in this thread, if someone just started using them, I'd be very confused as to what was going on, as I'm sure others would be too. It would be a guaranteed derail (... like this one? Meta!) where someone would have to explain the construct before we could start communicating again. In this case, I think we're best of using "they" which I presume everyone is familiar with.
posted by dnesan at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2009


My hippie education is showing, but I really do love the gender neutral pronouns (ze/hir) originally started by trans activists for situations like this.

Thanks for the explanation. I hadn't a fuckin' clue and assumed those were typos.
posted by gman at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2009


It sounds like the OP wants to skip work and not lose their job. That's how it was written.

No, that really isn't how it was written, though it is how some people are reading it. OP specifically said "I don't want to take off more days because of this." And for those accusing fraud, I'm not sure if that's a fair reading of the question either, given that he stated clearly that he didn't want to use the lie to get time off. It's a lie, yes, but is it fraud if the OP incurs no material benefit from it? (genuine question, I have no idea.)

And for those of you who seem to think it is self-evident that the person is "offensively proud of the behavior" or otherwise not remorseful, well, that's not the only way to interpret the question. It's certainly not how I interpreted the question. The "Yes. Yes I did" to me seemed like a chagrined admission by the OP that oh crap, he really did go there.

I haven't had anyone close to me die of cancer, but I'm trying to think of how I would feel if the OP had lied and said their close family member was killed in a car crash. I think I would be offended, but I don't know if I would be so self-righteous in my offense that I couldn't step back and consider that the OP is apparently desperate enough to tell a ridiculous lie and now realizes that it's a problem. I'm not sure what people are hoping to accomplish by beating the hell out of this person.

And quitting a job in this economy, even if the job is making you ill, is easier said than done, especially if the person has dependents. And especially since the person has health problems that might go untreated if he loses his health insurance.
posted by Mavri at 10:01 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I nearly lost my uncle to throat cancer (instead, he drowned on a vacation to celebrate his remission), and my grandfather to skin cancer, and a couple aunts to breast cancer, you know, just to get the bona fides out the way.

There is a literal crapload of terrible advice in that thread, to match the crapload of dudgeon here. I realize this is an appalling rhetorical question, but what is the harm? The harm is that his or her fakery (I tended to assume that the OP is a man, you know, because normative bias) will cost the school system money, and broadly make people less sympathetic to other people with serious illnesses. Aside from that, all the possible harm—and there is a lot of it—is borne by the Asker.

I'm not as certain as most others that lies will out, and I find that "personal integrity" is a cover for giving advice sure to see the Asker punished. Which, sure, it's easy to say that they "deserve" to be punished. But I can't help but see that as significantly more risky than simply not talking about it until asked, and brushing off questions with another lie, that the diagnosis was premature and inaccurate. That second lie does no one any harm, and mitigates in a large way, the harm of the first lie.

I do think that a big part of expressing anger here isn't to help the Asker, but rather to reassert social norms—lying about cancer is a big deal (Kaycee Nicole comes to mind), and hearing about it does make all of us more suspicious in general toward those who are legitimately ill. But from my read, it was clear that the asker realized he or she had violated those social norms and was looking for a way to mitigate that. That's the question. If you approach any question starting with the premise that the Asker needs to be punished, you're not going to be an effective advocate for the Asker.

Additionally, calls for deletion? Some folks here seem to have mistaken the guideline. It's not whether something is illegal, it's whether or not it's likely to cause harm to Matt and the site by leaving it up, specifically through legal risk. This pretty clearly isn't.

Aside from that, it's my understanding that there are weaker guidelines based basically on community opprobrium (or minimizing the amount of hours that mods have to babysit a thread, for maybe a more quantifiable justification), but the risk of that is always that risk of mob rule: Mobs are emotional entities, not rational ones. I'd say that there's a greater benefit in knowing that any one of us could ask a question like this and get real, helpful advice, even at the risk of some sturm und drang, than there is in somehow cutting out this question in order to make the community as a whole appear more moral or pure.

It's questions like this that make me remember the maxim: No one has a right not to be offended.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on November 12, 2009 [14 favorites]


But in this thread, if someone just started using them, I'd be very confused as to what was going on, as I'm sure others would be too.

I consistently use them across MeFi and have never been questioned about them, though it wouldn't bother me if I was. I already made a few posts in this very thread using them and in context, they make sense (or yeah, look like typos, in either case people can parse the jist of the sentence).
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2009


> Singular they is fine. Made up pronouns are awkward and derail otherwise well-meaning conversations.

Exactly. I hate "ze" and all hir misbegotten cousins with a passion.

On topic: I agree with those who think the shock/horror moralizing is over the top. I don't give a damn whether or not the poster realized they'd done a Bad Thing and Felt Bad about it (though I too read the "Yes. Yes I did" as a chagrined admission), they asked a question and they deserve answers, not the scarlet letter. If you can't resist pointing out in the course of your answer that they did a Bad Thing and should Feel Bad about it, that's your problem and you should work on it. AskMe is about questions and answers, not moralizing righteousness.

Background: I spent a year watching a good friend die of cancer. I hate cancer and am hoping against hope we can find a way to get rid of it for good. (And jessamyn, you have my sympathy and good thoughts as well.) So what? The poster chose cancer because it was the most dramatic thing available and would garner the maximum sympathy, not because they wanted to stick it to everyone who'd ever had cancer or lost someone to cancer. If they'd said they had a bad hangnail, it wouldn't have done the trick. Take a moment to think before you let your gut do the reacting.

tl;dr: Cancer is bad. That doesn't make the poster as bad as cancer.
posted by languagehat at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Are you calling me a capitalist? Them's fighting words. Really.

No, i'm saying we have a problem if people think working till they make themselves crazy is a good way to operate. Or, if they think not having a job is the worse thing ever. It's not about sticking it to the man. It's about worrying about what's actually important in life, like your health for example.
posted by chunking express at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2009


i'm saying we have a problem if people think working till they make themselves crazy is a good way to operate. Or, if they think not having a job is the worse thing ever... It's about worrying about what's actually important in life, like your health for example.

In the U.S. right now, not having a job frequently means no health insurance, so the two things are linked.
posted by grouse at 10:42 AM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is perhaps the best evidence I've yet seen against visible favorites.

They can still see them in their profile. People who will abuse favorites will find away to abuse them, which is why I try to accumulate as many as I can: To keep them out of the hands of those who don't really know what to do with them.

I'm saving mine up to trade in for a vacation to Ireland.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


People here are dropping all sorts of bona fides to shore up their opinions, but I haven't seen this one yet: I've had someone lie to me about having cancer. For months. She was the receptionist at a place I worked, and at the time I considered her a friend. I can't think of many things in my life more mind-fucking than when me and a few other people sat down, talked about it and realized that R. didn't have cancer.

We'd done all sorts of things for her. I'd helped her move. I'd brought her food when she was too sick to do it. I, and most of my work colleagues, did one of those "walk for cancer" benefits which ended with her crying, arms in the air triumphant, as she crossed the finish line.

I personally don't care if the question is deleted or not, but man, let me tell you: faking cancer is a horrific thing to do. It is a complete breach of trust. I understand that there's a mental illness underneath, but it's not the type of illness that doesn't allow for an understanding of right and wrong. The fact that the person in the OP's story are cardboard cutout "bosses" don't mean that there aren't real people out there in the real world who's emotions and trust are currently being abused.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [20 favorites]


Kattullus: "Now that I've climbed down off the angersaur that I mounted when I first read this question I have to say that I'm glad that AskMe exists as a resource for people like the anonymous poster to get good, honest advice on how to minimize the damage from having fucked up this badly"

Honestly, I like Metafilter (and AskMe in particular) because it does bring up tricky situations in life and encourages really interesting discussions.

(I have no comment about gendered pronouns however.)
posted by radioamy at 10:59 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I linked to this on my blog and someone commented on how their coworker also lied about having cancer. WTF people?
posted by chunking express at 11:22 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


But from my read, it was clear that the asker realized he or she had violated those social norms and was looking for a way to mitigate that. That's the question.

Actually, here's the question: "How can I better my chances of not being found out?" and then suggesting various mechanisms by which the bosses might investigate.
posted by palliser at 11:29 AM on November 12, 2009


Exactly. It's not clear at all that this dude thinks he has violated societies norms. "So.... my question is, how can this come back to haunt me?" And then he has some follow up questions on whether he needs to worry about this situation or that situation. That question is one big WTF. I'm glad I read this thread first before discovering that thread in the green.
posted by chunking express at 11:34 AM on November 12, 2009


but I really do love the gender neutral pronouns (ze/hir)

I really love the gender-neutral singular pronoun that has been used in the English language since the 1500s: THEY.

The idea that singular "they" is bad is a late 19th-century craziness that comes from the same fount of insanity that brought us the nonsense about not splitting infinitives and not ending sentences with prepositions. If singular "they" is good enough for Samuel Johnson and Jane Austen, it's good enough for me.


Okay, quite apart from that: this person is a public school teacher in New York. Statistically, they are much more likely to be a woman than a man, just because of the demographics of that profession in that city. It's got nothing to do with "hysteria" as far as I'm concerned: this person is just much more likely to be a woman than a man because of the profession and location.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:44 AM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


faking cancer is a horrific thing to do. It is a complete breach of trust. I understand that there's a mental illness underneath, but it's not the type of illness that doesn't allow for an understanding of right and wrong.

Absolutely. Hence all the advice to "withdraw the lie, and get help because you're doing horrible shit right now."

I have not myself been a target in a cancer scam, but I have written about it and interviewed the targets, and I was just floored by the level of betrayal of many generous, kind people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being the sort of person who lies about having cancer and who works around kids is the appalling part here. The lie itself is so grandiose, it indicates a desire to be found out and fired, a way of committing career suicide, basically. But someone that messed up needs not to be in front of any classrooms before getting help.

It's a hard job. But either you do it or you get out of it. This is not the way to get out of it.

Admitting to the lie, seeking medical leave (and despite some of the claims here, the teachers' union in NY is very strong and has all kinds of rules that would make an actual firing seem unlikely even in such a case), and getting out of teaching if necessary seem the obvious answers.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:17 PM on November 12, 2009


People here are dropping all sorts of bona fides to shore up their opinions, but I haven't seen this one yet: I've had someone lie to me about having cancer. For months. She was the receptionist at a place I worked, and at the time I considered her a friend. I can't think of many things in my life more mind-fucking than when me and a few other people sat down, talked about it and realized that R. didn't have cancer.

Bookhouse, I was just about to pipe up here that I had a coworker do the same thing. This was in a university work study job (the best one I ever had) with an incredibly understanding and sweet boss and a group of employees who still, to this day, are mostly a very close-knit group of friends and the experience was toxic, just toxic, and made worse for me by the fact that I was dealing with my mother's thyroid cancer at the same time. I mean, I would be covering shifts for this person, because that's what you'd in this sort of situation, a nervous wreck myself, and it turned out to be a lie. I got off better than some, though: I had a friend cut off her hair to make a wig for this individual (which was never worn, of course). To this day, I'm still pretty flipping stunned about the experience, and fundamentally hurt in a way that I normally wouldn't be. The coworkers in this position, the supervisors, the students, are all being affected by this lie. It's a violation of trust, an a completely opportunistic way to take advantage of people's sympathy.

Which is why I'm staying out of the thread, but, man, that people think this is no big deal, or that OP should stay in his or her job (because it's hard to get a new one? seriously?), is just stunningly upsetting.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:32 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've lied about having an illness to get out of a significant amount of time off of work.

I'm bipolar and for several weeks I was manic, which is unusual for me and my particular flavor of bipolar disorder.. I couldn't work because they would have thought I was high or drunk, and I probably would have lost my job.

Fortunately for me, I was able to tell my boss (who is a complete asshole, btw) that I had a relatively minor disease that was capable of putting me on bed rest for a while, while giving the FMLA form signed by my shrink to the medical staff that handles that sort of thing. Thanks to HIPPA, those two can't compare notes to discover my lie.

I lied to my boss because he's an asshole who makes my life difficult and I needed some kind of excuse for him. Telling him that I'm mentally ill would be a death sentence for my job. Not because I can't perform my job, but because of the stigma. Telling him that I was "sick" and that the details are none of his damn business would have been within my rights, but would have had other negative consequences.

I think lying about cancer sucks on many different levels, but I can say from deep experience that having a mental illness and a very stressful job are a terrible combination.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:04 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I stepped back from the question and this thread to try to gain some perspective on everything. Just wanted to say a couple of things.

This is perhaps the best evidence I've yet seen against visible favorites.


Just to clarify - I didn't bring this over to Metatalk because I was all "I had so many favorites and the mods deleted it!" My comment was up for a long time while other comments were being deleted right, left and center. But cortex kindly explained why this occurred if you read a little further up this thread. I just wanted to respond without shitting in that thread and try to understand how people were not upset about the question, or further, were labeling my comment hideous (and obviously flagging it enough for deletion...which didn't make sense to me considering the favorites and the entire day it had been left up in the thread.)

I still don't really understand how this is not a big deal to some people - but I thank them for their responses here. And thank you as well to those who relayed stories of being on the receiving end of this kind of lie and the effect it had on them. I was truly worried that even though I was going to do my best to not think about this question and some of the baffling responses to it next week when I'm in the hospital having my chemo treatment, that I was actually going to be thinking: Someone wanted to fake this. THIS.

I think that these last few responses will help me not to do that - and have restored a little bit of my faith in this community.
posted by meerkatty at 1:13 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I knew a guy who told a professor he missed a final because he needed to be by his best friend's bedside as he died of AIDS.
posted by The Straightener at 1:14 PM on November 12, 2009



Bookhouse, how did you find out?
posted by radioamy at 1:19 PM on November 12, 2009


Bookhouse, how did you find out?

She was eventually fired because she had stolen a credit card from a person who lived in the same building our office was in. After that happened, there were several conversations among my co-workers in which we put together lots of other things she lied about until one day one of us (I think it was me, but that could just be me putting myself in the dramatic role) said "I think she was lying about the cancer." It was clearly something we'd all thought and been afraid to voice, even after she was disgraced and fired. And we compared notes on what she'd told us individually about her illness and the stories didn't jibe in the same way her other stories didn't jibe.

(All this was done without the help of management, who refused to talk about it after they fired her for the credit card stuff.)
posted by Bookhouse at 1:49 PM on November 12, 2009


In the case of my coworker, many people initially suspected because of other implausible stories (a few weeks before this, that she was flying to France during weekends for photoshoots with famous photographers)--though it was never confirmed absolutely, she was unable to get any sort of tangible proof (doctor's records, et cetera) for my boss. She tried to claim that they were treating their leukemia with homeopathy, but gave no records of that, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2009


I've personally seen expense reimbursement records out the lie - claim to be with a doctor being diagnosed with cancer one day, then two weeks later submit an expense reports that show you weren't even in the state that day.
posted by bunnycup at 2:05 PM on November 12, 2009


Ugh, replace the "they"s in the last sentence with "she." I was trying to be gender neutral in light of earlier conversations, but gave up halfway through.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:11 PM on November 12, 2009


I really fucking hate you Cancer. You are terrible and provide nothing positive to the world. This whole community would be better off if none of us ever met you. When what you do is figured out and you pay the consequences and die, there will be no remorse.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:46 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cancer should never hang out with diabetes, shit just goes bad when they do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:57 PM on November 12, 2009


I really fucking hate you Cancer. You are terrible and provide nothing positive to the world. This whole community would be better off if none of us ever met you. When what you do is figured out and you pay the consequences and die, there will be no remorse.

Worst. Horoscope. Ever.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:01 PM on November 12, 2009 [34 favorites]


Cmon now furiousxgeorge, cancer is just really stressed right now, can't you show a little empathy?



Now, I'm off to go get myself a tasty HAMBURGER...
posted by dnesan at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This whole community would be better off if none of us ever met you.

You know, I don't actually view my battle with cancer (or any of my ongiong health issues) that way. I mean, it's not like I enjoyed being ill or anything, and my feelings might be different if I had had a much more lethal form or if I had to go through chemo as opposed to radiation alone, but really, going through cancer did make me stronger in a lot of ways, and it did serve as a catalyst to help me realize much more clearly what qualities I do truly value in life and in personal relationships. It even sparked an important creative outlet for me for several years, as I developed a kind of multimedia/spoken word/performance piece that I performed off-and-on for several years around L.A., often in conjunction with other cancer survivors.

I wasn't "lucky" to get cancer. But it was a crucial part of me realizing what a lucky life I really have had.
posted by scody at 3:17 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


What troubles me is the inherent cruelty in shouting GET THERAPY YA LUNATIC!

I mean, let's posit for the sake of argument that the OP really does have mental illness of some kind, and isn't just a person in a really shitty situation who told a shitty lie to get a moments relief from said shitty situation. FWIW, I think that is the more likely explanation.

But if it really is mental illness at work, doesn't that merit sympathy? Mental illness is real, and its treatable, and the last thing in the world a person with mental illness needs is people shouting at them to GET THERAPY YA CRAZY SOCIOPATH!

Just sayin.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I didn't get the sense that the OP was trying to escalate the lie - that is, to start participating in race for the cure or make other people cover their shift when they weren't actually sick. I got the sense that when the OP was sick, they needed a reason obvious enough to get people to back off of them, and (poorly) chose a serious health issue as that 'trump card'. So right now, they made a one time mistake in the moment - while they don't want to get caught, they aren't asking how to milk it.

But I don't get the sense that they were thinking about anyone else (who else they might offend, what the consequences of their actions could be) - they were thinking about themselves and how to solve their problem. So what they did could be described as exceptionally thoughtless, but I'm still not getting the sense that it was malicious.

And I suppose for me, the line is always, did they intend to hurt another person with their action (regardless of if they did). Were their intentions malicious? Since the answer is no here - this person doesn't sound like they were thinking of people who really do have cancer and how to offend them - I give them the same mental yellow card I give anyone who does something thoughtless or self absorbed, even in the name of self protection, or whatever.

That's not to say I think it's acceptable, yet this person did the wrong thing (lie about a life threatening illness) for the right reason (to protect themselves). Not the only solution. Clearly the other non-lying teachers are managing without the lie. But they did what they did, and now they are wondering what to do about it. So my public condemnation really shouldn't be central to the answer. Because that doesn't answer what they should do now.

Now I don't know if the answer is 'fess up' or something else. I suppose I'm just reminding myself that if I ever have a question about advice about something I'm not proud of, to certainly ask MeFi, but to absolutely do it anonymously. I understand people feel mortified or burned, but if someone's asking for help, in the long term it doesn't help much to lead with a sharp knife of opprobrium, no matter how much better we feel in the short term.
posted by anitanita at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


lazaruslong, that was my biggest issue with some of the answers to the question. I wrote and rewrote a comment in this thread trying to figure out a way to express it and eventually gave up. Most of the answers suggesting therapy seemed in good faith, but a few (too many, imo) just kind of tacked on a suggestion to get therapy or "help" after throwing loads of judgment at the poster. That really undermines not only the suggestion of therapy to the person who may really need it, but it undermines mental health treatment in general.
posted by Danila at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2009


...isn't just a person in a really shitty situation who told a shitty lie to get a moments relief from said shitty situation. FWIW, I think that is the more likely explanation.

Agreed, tbh. But therapy benefits many people who are not "mentally ill" per se but who are in really shitty situations. So, when I was in a really shitty situation - my child was diagnosed with and died from real cancer - therapy was a big part of me being able to deal with that in even a remotely healthy way. I don't think "Please seek counseling..." automatically implies "because you are batshitinsane" (although I recognize that a few people actually did say that). I do feel sympathy for people with mental illness (or even who are not mentally ill but are just in really shitty situations), but sympathy =/= the right to have "bad" behavior reinforced by others. It is kinder and more responsible, imo fwiw, to (with civility) provide a reality check.

Scody, I am struggling to respond to your words in a way that respects how inspirational I find people who can come out of horrible experiences (be they cancer or other causes) and bring more good, more kindness and more care in the world. For us, knowing and caring for my daughter (furiousxgeorge's neice) really taught us some things about joy and love, but I would gladly forego those lessons for her life - as I think would he (though he was already a pretty kind person). With every fiber of my being, I strive to take positive lessons from Vivienne's life and death every day - but a lot of times I feel like I am faking it. Though I suppose even faking it is a good start. But I just wanted to say, I guess, that I hear you, and admire you.
posted by bunnycup at 5:36 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


(I am paranoid that what I just wrote comes off fight-y. It's not intended that way at all, quite the opposite.)
posted by bunnycup at 5:43 PM on November 12, 2009



I knew a guy who told a professor he missed a final because he needed to be by his best friend's bedside as he died of AIDS.


I had a close friend who once lied to me about having AIDS. This was in the early 90s during my freshman year of college. I was in Virginia. He was in Europe. He'd been almost totally estranged from his family since graduating from high school and I'd known he was pretty fucked up for most of our friendship. When he told me, he sounded so incredibly scared and vulnerable, I never doubted him for a moment. I spent the better part of the next six months worrying about him.

As it turns out, he wasn't even HIV positive, but by the time it came out, several of the people he'd been involved with had gone through hell and rounds of testing. And a bunch of us had spent hours weighing over whether we should get in touch with his crazy, right-wing family or whether we should figure out how to help him ourselves, which was complicated by him being mostly broke and an ocean away and attached to some some imaginative combination of non-prescription pharmaceuticals.

When the truth came out (which it did in rather grand fashion following a scrape with the law), to say that we felt betrayed would be a massive understatement. It was almost worse that he was one of our best friends, that we'd all been a circle of friends who looked after each other and told each other everything, that we'd been, for most of our late teenage-ed years a kind of self-created family, devoted to providing each other the kind of support we mostly didn't get from our actual families. It hurt. A lot. And most of us never really forgave him.

As for myself, I mostly felt sorry for him. Part of me thinks his lie was some incredibly weird suicidal wish-fulfillment. He hated so much about himself, that in his mind, he might as well have been dying from AIDS as opposed to self-destructing slowly at his own hand.

He didn't die, by the way. Instead he came back to the States, returned to his family and has spent the better portion of the last fifteen years pretending to be something he's not in exchange for their highly conditional support. Every now and then, I would get some frantic late night voice message in which he would remind me of how miserable he was and how much he hated lying, but never enough to sacrifice the security (emotional and material) his family's acceptance brought him. I found these messages frustrating and heartbreaking and pathetic. I stopped trying to return his calls. He never answered anyway.

I saw him recently, for the first time since freshman year of college. We spent about two minutes talking. He was staggering drunk and virtually unrecognizable, hiding from his wife and child. He tried to brag about his secret life. What his wife doesn't know. Some new set of lies. And I left feeling incredibly depressed, because of who he'd become and genuinely horrified by the lies, so many lies that I could no longer determine what was true and what wasn't and if I'd ever known. I don't even know if he knew anymore.

I'm aware that this a derail. There are a lot of reasons why people lie. But if you're desperate enough to invent terminal illness, I have to believe you're pretty fucking desperate. You risk an awful lot with that big of a lie.
posted by thivaia at 5:44 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]



I mean, let's posit for the sake of argument that the OP really does have mental illness of some kind, and isn't just a person in a really shitty situation who told a shitty lie to get a moments relief from said shitty situation. FWIW, I think that is the more likely explanation.

Or. She could just be a shitty scum-bag of a person. There are lots of those out there.

Seriously. Of all the options with which one has to deal with a shitty situation what sort of person opts for "Hey, I'll say I have cancer! That's the ticket."

I'll tell you what kind of person. People who are seriously emotionally troubled or people who are total assholes.

Or, and this is also entirely possible, people who are both.
posted by tkchrist at 6:19 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sorry to go off topic, but I think I missed an epic thread about a Hamburger. What are you guys referencing, please?
posted by spec80 at 8:58 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry to go off topic, but I think I missed an epic thread about a Hamburger. What are you guys referencing, please?

It's like grilled cheese sandwiches, only more iron(y).

posted by Burhanistan at 9:05 PM on November 12, 2009


spec80: the ill-fated (but hilarious) thread suggesting a unique punctuation mark to indicate sarcasm. The hamburger derail is decisive and nearly immediate.
posted by nanojath at 9:25 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wasn't "lucky" to get cancer. But it was a crucial part of me realizing what a lucky life I really have had.

I say the same thing, only about getting fired (I mean, "invited to resign") from the Job from Hell and about getting a bookcase dropped on my foot and spending the following six months in constant pain.

There will always be experiences one wouldn't sign up for in advance but which one finds oneself profoundly grateful for in retrospect. So I'm totally down with the idea of cancer no longer being one of them.

Fifteen years, two months, one week, and one day since my mom died of it. Sometimes it seems like it never stops hurting, dammit.
posted by Lexica at 10:10 PM on November 12, 2009


(I am paranoid that what I just wrote comes off fight-y. It's not intended that way at all, quite the opposite.)

No, no, not at all, bunnycup. And my response wasn't intended as a rebuke to anyone else's experience of cancer, either as a survivor or family member -- I hope it didn't come off that way at all, and I apologize if I came off as glib. I think it's true that there will always be a gulf between many people's experience of cancer -- mine certainly came with certain advantages that just aren't the case for so many others, and so while cancer (for me) represented a big gigantic rock in the middle of the road of my life that I had to figure out how to climb over, for others the climb can never be completed, and that's its tragedy.
posted by scody at 12:24 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did not sound glib/rebuking at all!

I think probably that everyone whose life is touched by cancer exerperiences it in different ways. Maybe sometimes we (as a society, as well as me personally) put "cancer" in a box where the only labels that can be attached are things like "tragedy" or "life-shattering". I wonder if an unintended consequence of that sets up a great divide between those who have faced it and not, in a way refusing to allow those who haven't experiened it to attempt to understand. Whereas by taking it out of that 'untouchable tragedy' box, more people can listen and be reached, and people who are glib about it (like the anonymous OP, imo) )may have the ability to respect that more.

Does that make any sense at all? I have only been awake for just a couple of minutes.
posted by bunnycup at 6:02 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have known people that have had cancer and recovered and others that died from it. This question is offensive. Flag and move on but since there is a long boat....

Some of you said that OP might have a mental illness and we should be sympathetic, NO. Screw that if OP has a disorder then WTH are they doing teaching kids. I have a yellow "Live Strong" wrist ban in my car that reminds me of a poker buddy that has cancer everyday. There isn't much I can do for him but be supportive. He has cancer and there is a good chance that he will die from cancer. He didn't want sympathy, he just wanted someone to play cards with him. Someone who actually had the disease just wanted to be treated normally. He has the strength of character to NOT want any woe is me sympathy. The fact that someone would lie about having cancer just for the sympathy because "work is stressful" again is applauding. There are bridges in this society that you just don't cross (mentally ill or not) and this is one of them. I'm not going to wish any ill will on the OP I'm just not going to wish anything at all. Also I am fairly certain that this will not end well for them and I'm kind of looking forward to it.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2009


> I'm not going to wish any ill will on the OP I'm just not going to wish anything at all. Also I am fairly certain that this will not end well for them and I'm kind of looking forward to it.

You're not even typing coherently. Avoiding both this thread and the original AskMe may be the best course for you.
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Woman fakes breast cancer, gets breast implants with donations.

Lying about cancer, for whatever reason, has the pernicious effect of creating doubt when a real cancer patient needs support. It's sociopathic.

Frankly, I hope no one ever learns the truth about the poster's deceit; I don't want the next person coming forward to do so under a shadow of doubt. But I'm also afraid that weaving a successful web of lies will only encourage this person's sociopathy.
posted by malocchio at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2009


I think it's weird that sometimes lies are judged not by their consequences, ie. the actual harm they do, but by their content.
posted by tehloki at 7:50 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like for example in malocchio's comment above, the lie was used to defraud people into giving charity for the purposes of vanity. The askme thread poster in question lied to... skip work.
posted by tehloki at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2009


Yeah, I'm not trying to equate them in terms of intent, but I think they both create a set of very damaging (if unintended) consequences. Collateral damage, if you will.
posted by malocchio at 8:11 AM on November 13, 2009


i am pretty disgusted in the way most mefis handled this question. there isn't really a whole lot to go on, but a lot of you made some pretty strong assumptions based on the few words, and a gut reaction to the term cancer. and many couldn't resist insulting the poster by calling them a liar or thief.

attempting to cloak one's rage because 'my wife/father/friend' has cancer is horseshit. you're just using the moment to prove how indignant you can show the rest of us here how righteous you can be. quite frankly, the poster doesn't care if your life has been touched on cancer--that's not what the question is about. and it does not help the poster. it's great that you can scold with the best of them, but that's not the purpose of this question.

if they are really as morally corrupt as some would assume, they probably wouldn't have asked the question ... and whatever we had to say about that wouldn't make a difference. they didn't--they asked detailed questions. answer them or go away.
posted by lester at 8:52 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


i am pretty disgusted in the way most mefis handled this question. there isn't really a whole lot to go on, but a lot of you made some pretty strong assumptions based on the few words, and a gut reaction to the term cancer. and many couldn't resist insulting the poster by calling them a liar or thief.

Oh, come off it. The indignation resulting from this post is not only just about appropriate in terms of volume and extent when gauged against, say, the amount of indignation that results from ask.me posts on reading romantic partner's emails, but it should also have been wholly expected.

Also, your righteous indignation at our righteous indignation is pretty funny.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:03 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


you're just using the moment to prove how indignant you can show the rest of us here how righteous you can be.

It's better to tell people why you think they're wrong than to ascribe bad motives to them.
posted by palliser at 9:14 AM on November 13, 2009


How dare you, PhoBWanKenobi IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME, get righteously indignant at lester's righteous indignation at other people's righteous indignation?!
posted by Kattullus at 9:14 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


and many couldn't resist insulting the poster by calling them a liar or thief.

Except, the poster is literally a liar. I guess calling them a thief is a bit of a stretch.

... but that's not the purpose of this question

Yeah. The purpose was trying to figure out how lie about having cancer. What kind of bizarro world do you live in where that isn't going to raise some indignation? I would have been more disgusted with the community if that thread was full of answers on how to lie about having cancer.
posted by chunking express at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2009


Mastercheddaar: "Some of you said that OP might have a mental illness and we should be sympathetic, NO. Screw that if OP has a disorder then WTH are they doing teaching kids. "

If someone does have a mental illness, how does it hurt you to be sympathetic to that enough to simply move on?

What benefit do we get when we take it upon ourselves to judge and punish others?

I'm not saying that you have to PayPal this person $20 so they can see a therapist, just that spitting on them (or the online equivalent) is not necessary.
posted by kathrineg at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


attempting to cloak one's rage because 'my wife/father/friend' has cancer is horseshit. you're just using the moment to prove how indignant you can show the rest of us here how righteous you can be.

I'm not sure this is true. I think that it would be correct to say that right or wrong, there's an immediate knee-jerk reaction to this kind of behavior, due to the fact that so many people have dealt with cancer personally or peripherally. That doesn't make it kosher to go all super aggro in the thread, but I can definitely see where the angerfest is coming from. It's a touchy subject for lots of people.

Initially after I read that, I started to make a really rage-y comment saying that I just had some actual cancer like one minute ago and you don't see me using it to get out of work, how dare you, you're a douche, rabble rabble. Then I thought better of it and erased it. I know if I'd posted it that the mods would have deleted it in about 30 seconds and it's not the most helpful thing in the world to post anyhow.

I just had a whole boatload of basal cell carcinoma cut out of my shoulder the very day before that question was posted and I'm feeling a little sore and testy still. I mean, it's fine now and I'm not going to die or anything but the fact that it pissed me off has nothing to do with showing anyone how righteous I can be. It pissed me off because it's totally a dick move to lie about having a serious disease just to get some sick days and then be all cavalier about it, even to the point of asking for advice about how to continue lying about it.

My own initial reaction aside, I'm generally not for a bunch of bile spewing because that's not a very constructive way to solve problems. However, I think it's ok to call people out when they're being whack and in cases like this, it should definitely happen. Not that I don't feel some empathy for someone who is obviously having some mental issues. It's just that it's also very much not ok to lie to your employer about having cancer, and I really don't see the problem with pointing that out in a constructive manner.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 9:31 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


chunky, i don't see any point in the question where the op was asking how to fake cancer. nor do i see anywhere that the op wished to be belittled for their actions. your reading those points in between the lines are exactly what i was talking about.

i live in a world where i'm expected to assert self control. i'm well aware that not everyone can do so. but it doesn't hurt to ask, does it?
posted by lester at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2009


Another faked cancer story, for a more substantially material gain:
She faked breast cancer to get breast implants
posted by XMLicious at 9:52 AM on November 13, 2009


Oops, already posted, bad me for not previewing.
posted by XMLicious at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2009


chunking express is the furthest thing from "chunky".
posted by gman at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, lesty (may I call you lesty?), she actually did ask "How can I better my chances of not being found out?" which is pretty much asking how best to fake cancer.
posted by palliser at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2009


"chunking express, i don't see any point in the question where the op was asking how to fake cancer."

So my questions:

1) If they suggest that I take a medical leave of absence, would they be able to check the authenticity of my claims? What is that process like?

2) I don't plan on telling anyone else at the school and certainly not telling anyone that this is BS. How can I better my chances of not being found out?

3) Can they call my insurance company or doctors to verify this? I have seen several doctors for various other problems in the past few months but no oncologists.


She's talking about taking medical leave and how they might validate her story if she does that, how to avoid detection, and exactly what information might be available to corroborate or disprove her story.

Looks like trying to fake it to me.
posted by winna at 10:11 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


oh, sorry pallister. i thought the question said 'how can i better my chances of not being found out?' means 'how can i fake cancer?' i guess all those years of reading english have been for naught.
posted by lester at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2009


Some of you said that OP might have a mental illness and we should be sympathetic, NO. Screw that if OP has a disorder then WTH are they doing teaching kids.

same thing many people with mental illnesses do at all kinds of jobs? working?
posted by liketitanic at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2009


lester, it's really semantics. If you tell someone you have cancer, and then work to make sure they don't find out that you don't, what exactly are you doing?

sincerely, Chunky.
posted by chunking express at 10:51 AM on November 13, 2009


I agree with lester in this one. There are many ways to avoid being found out in a lie including

- the old "oh turns out it was nothing, let's never talk about it again"
- the old "covering tracks"
- the old "deny everything"
- and faking cancer which is a subset of "how to not get found out

For what it's worth, we did remove a few "here's how you can look like you have cancer" answers, and I think we left a note to that effect.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2009


i am pretty disgusted in the way most mefis handled this question. there isn't really a whole lot to go on, but a lot of you made some pretty strong assumptions based on the few words, and a gut reaction to the term cancer. and many couldn't resist insulting the poster by calling them a liar or thief.

The poster is counting on his/her employer to have that EXACT SAME GUT REACTION by claiming to have cancer (and yes, by their own admission, it was a lie). And you're surprised that the moral indignation is going to mirror the same level of the empathy he/she was trying to evoke?
posted by malocchio at 11:07 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If you tell someone you have cancer, and then work to make sure they don't find out that you don't, what exactly are you doing?"

i don't know what i would be doing. but apparently you do, because of your understanding of sematics. i also saw the other part of the post where the op indicated they didn't want any more time off--i guess i took that as meaning that they weren't trying to take advantage of the situation, but then how would someone take advantage of this situation? wouldn't it be getting paid time off?

i can't imagine doing what the poster did--but then i don't know much about the situation. i do know how not to respond to a question on askme that isn't a kneejerk reaction to my perception of the poster's intent.
posted by lester at 11:14 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you tell someone you have cancer, and then work to make sure they don't find out that you don't, what exactly are you doing?

Trying to make sure your lie isn't discovered? Which can be done without faking cancer?

She's talking about taking medical leave

Nope, she said she doesn't want to take any days off because of this. I don't know why people are finding it so challenging to read and understand those words. Reading the totality of the question, the medical leave seems to be a concern because the OP is having trouble performing her job due to her non-cancer health problems. If her superiors think her performance is health-related, they might suggest she take a medical leave. She's not looking for a medical leave, she's wondering what to do if it's suggested (see how it says right there in the question "if they suggest").
posted by Mavri at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2009


In addition, I always feel pressured about little things and I am hoping this will cause them to back off a bit.

This line, too, makes it quite clear that she hopes to continue this charade.
posted by winna at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2009


i do know how not to respond to a question on askme that isn't a kneejerk reaction to my perception of the poster's intent.

How many people read the question, commented, and had their comments nuked? How many people read the question and moved on with their lives? It seems like a lot of people—myself included—managed to make their knee jerk WTF comments here, so clearly MetaFilter is doing something right.
posted by chunking express at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2009


my comments, mr express, were directed to those who did have responses deleted. i appreciate your restraint.
posted by lester at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2009


Lester, you made one assumption from the words you had in front of you and many other people made a different assumption. It doesn't change the fact that both sides have to make an assumption, although I strongly feel the assumption that the OP was intending to get away with continuing the lie is much, much more strongly supported by the words the OP did choose to use.

For example:
"If they suggest that I take a medical leave of absence, would they be able to check the authenticity of my claims? What is that process like?"

The OP has two choices if they suggest he or she takes a leave of absence: say No (authenticity of claims not relevant) or say Yes (authenticity of claims relevent). If OP plans to take the leave based on existing (i.e. real) unrelated medical problems, the authenticity of the cancer claim is not at issue. Rather than the kneejerk reaction you have assumed out of thin air that people made, I carefully considered what that meant about OP's intentions. Because OP felt the authenticity of claims would be relevant, I concluded that OP was considering taking a leave of absence if offered. Thus, recommending against continuing the lie and explaining why is relevant.

Similarly:
"In addition, I always feel pressured about little things and I am hoping this will cause them to back off a bit. "

OP is hoping for a relaxation of oversight or accountability or similar. OP is looking to get a break in the future. The break would be based on the cancer; the OP WANTS the boss to have gut reactions to cancer that cause sympathy and so forth. See malocchio's comments above.

For many people, they drew the inference (perhaps from these snippets, perhaps from other words the OP used - such as "I don't plan ... telling anyone that this is BS") that the OP is continuing this lie. It is a very relevant data point to communicate that when the boss finds out (and there have been many examples here and in the AskMe where the boss/colleagues DO find out), the boss' viewpoint will be....

A KNEEJERK HORRIFIED REACTION TO HOW BAD A PERSON SOMEONE WOULD HAVE TO BE TO FAKE CANCER TO GET A BREAK AT WORK.

Maybe it will, maybe it wont - but opinions for and against are relevant. You are also welcome to make inferences from the above statements that are different from mine, and that's useful to the OP.

Frankly, I think a lot of the "how could you criticise this OP" folks are having a kneejerk reaction to criticism - a sort of identifying with and pitying someone (OP) that they percieve as a victim. I certainly have a lot of sympathy for the OP for what they are going for at work. As an example and not a derail, I also have sympathy for Roman Polanski for having his wife and unborn child brutally murdered, but it doesn't mean he gets a free pass on other bad acts. (Not at all comparing "faking cancer" to raping a child; just pointing out my worldview on how I approach questions where a person in a bad situation is entitled to sympathy for the situation but not endorsement of later bad acts).
posted by bunnycup at 11:36 AM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


my comments, mr express, were directed to those who did have responses deleted.

This came up literally between my previewing and posting. If your comments (particularly about kneejerk reactions) are directed toward those who could not maintain civility and any level of human understanding in their answers, I understand your comments/feelings much more clearly.
posted by bunnycup at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2009


all of my comments are meant for those who posted in the original thread. this thread is totally different forum. just don't call anyone chunky--i guess they don't like that.

i've read this question so many times it's appearing as if it was specifially written to cause a reaction--like it was meant to be some kind of social experiment.
posted by lester at 11:52 AM on November 13, 2009


Well, I didn't comment in that thread, but I do find this semantic point interesting.

So. To me, telling someone you have cancer, when you don't, is "faking cancer." I see how you could also get more theatrical about it and shave your head and hold fundraisers, but telling the lie in the first place is also "faking cancer."

To my mind, then, asking how to continue the lie is equivalent to asking how to continue faking cancer.

And to answer jessamyn's point, I can certainly see "how can I avoid being found out?" as potentially also meaning, "how can I get out of this lie without anyone knowing it was a lie?" But, like bunnycup, I read the rest of the OP's question to indicate her intent to not get out of the lie, but continue the lie, in order to relieve pressure at work.
posted by palliser at 12:01 PM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


just don't call anyone chunky--i guess they don't like that

Oh, I don't care at all. gman made the joke because I am the skinniest person on MetaFilter.

posted by chunking express at 12:17 PM on November 13, 2009


Just FYI, I'm passing this on with the OPs permission. The person in the question is a man. The question was posted by his friend who is a woman.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:10 PM on November 13, 2009


I think it's weird that sometimes lies are judged not by their consequences, ie. the actual harm they do, but by their content.

You're mistaken because you are narrowly defining "harm."
posted by Bookhouse at 1:22 PM on November 13, 2009


http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/hotstories/6718938.html

Is it a meme yet?
posted by Neofelis at 2:01 PM on November 13, 2009


We saw that one already
posted by kathrineg at 2:16 PM on November 13, 2009


Like robotsaremade my initial response was rage too. Why? Because I happen to be a childhood cancer survivor who teaches in NYC, and furthermore when I've brought up my status as a survivor, I've been met with suspicion because I don't look "sick" enough. (I actually have severe chronic health issues, but I'm able to "cover' them well.) So I've gotten to the point that it's just easier for me to tell people I was sick as a child then deal with "proving" that no really, I survived cancer despite my currently pink cheeks.

So I exerted self control and didn't respond here or in the original post, Lester, until you popped up. Like most people, while I exercise self control, I also have limits to that control.

But, Lester, if the poster "quite frankly, the poster doesn't care if your life has been touched on cancer" then she can hardly ask me to be sympathetic enough to help her when she is asking for help to pull off a lie that DOES IMPACT MY LIFE. How? Well, people suspect "healthy' cancer survivors precisely because there have been so many scammers and fakers. Her acts have ramifications for others, which some people were trying to make her aware of. Does it help? If it alerts her to the fact that if she does get caught, she is going to deal with a lot of very angry people, yeah it might. It seems from her "I don't plan on telling anyone else at the school" comment that she's a little naive about how quickly this type of info will pass around the school so alerting her to the scope of the danger she is in if discovered could be quite helpful to her. It could help her to understand the ramifications, for herself and for others, of her acts.

Is it what she asked? No. Could it still help her? Yes.


Telling people who have been hurt, who have lost someone, or who have struggled themselves with cancer, "that you're just using the moment to prove how indignant you can show the rest of us here how righteous you can be" isn't going to help your cause. If you really want to persuade people to your side instead of proving that you're no better than those you attack, you should show others the respect you wish them to show you.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:53 PM on November 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Aw, damn it preview. It took me so long to write my comment that now I see Lester was addressing deleted comments.

Sorry about that. Dag nab it, the one time I finally work up the courage to comment.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:57 PM on November 13, 2009


miss-lapin, your words and thoughts are important, and heard, and are something I hoped someone would continue to bring out. Thank you for sharing them.
posted by bunnycup at 7:58 PM on November 13, 2009


The person in the question is a man. The question was posted by his friend who is a woman.

Oh man, the blink tag was totally justified, then.
posted by liketitanic at 10:41 PM on November 13, 2009


[XXXXXXed out some location stuff]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:07 PM on November 14, 2009


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