Category Archives: munchausen

We’re looking, Ashley. We’re looking.

Ashley Kirilow is getting more attention than she could possibly have imagined.

Just days ago, news broke that 23-year-old from Toronto had faked cancer and fraudulently accepted as much as $20,000 in donations (Ashley claims it was less than $5000). The story has grabbed headlines in Canada and internationally, and brought over 3000 readers to this blog. Media sites and the blogosphere are abuzz with exclamations of horror, revulsion, pity, and disgust. There are a lot of threats.

Debate rages about Ashley’s motivation. It’s hard for most of us to understand how a young Canadian woman could commit such personal indignities, and betray the trust of so many good people. To those who have lost relatives and friends to cancer (and that’s just about all of us), it feels personal. There seem to be three camps: she’s pure evil; she’s mentally ill; she did it for the money.

Ashley hasn’t been shy about offering an explanation. She’s not only talked with friends and family, she’s also written emails to QMI agency, owner of the Sun Media group and given personal interview to the Toronto Star. At the root of it, according to Ashley, is an unhappy childhood.

Part of her cancer story was that her parents were drug addicts, now dead, who had abandoned her. In reality, Ashley has two parents, both alive, and a step mom. When her dad discovered the cancer story was a fraud, she told him, and the Toronto Star that she was trying to punish her family for her unhappy childhood:

“I took it as an opportunity to make my family feel bad for how I was treated,” she said.

Later, she told the Toronto Sun the exact opposite, that she was looking for affection:

“I did lie about having cancer. Originally it was because I was alone and had no one who cared about me,” she wrote.

“I just wanted (my family) to change their crazy ways and love me and be a normal family.”

ABC news reports yet another motivation:

The young woman… said she did it because she “was trying to be noticed.”

“I didn’t want to feel like I’m nothing anymore. It went wrong, it spread like crazy.”

Ashley  has also claimed to the Star that she is mentally ill:

Kirilow said she has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She showed a reporter two prescription pill bottles with her name printed on it: one was an antidepressant; the other an antipsychotic that is often used to treat bipolar disorder.

Ashley may have the eyes of the world, but she has lost the support of her family. Frances Kirilow, Ashley’s step-mother, posting here, says that it’s all part of Ashley’s desperate need for attention:

Her family loves her and cares about her. While her parents may have split up when she was young, her mom, dad, stepmom, grandparents and siblings have always been there for her. Ashley is the one who chose to leave home because the rules didn’t suit her….  Ashley is trying to play the victim card again to diminish the severity of her actions. By claiming a “bad childhood” she hopes it will garner her some sympathy.

Mike Kirilow, Ashley’s father, has refused to show up to support her today when she appears in court on three charges of fraud. He told the CBC:

“I want no part of this. She told me to stay out of her life. I gave her every opportunity to do the right thing.”

Interestingly, Mike Kirilow’s refusal to be involved has not extended to the media. In addition to talking to multiple Canadian news organizations, yesterday he appeared in an “exclusive interview” on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Ashley may be mentally ill. She may have done it for the money. She may just be a really bad person. But there’s one clear underlying theme to this whole mess: Look at me. Look at me! LOOK AT ME.  LOOK AT ME!!

CBC Analysis: Faking an illness

Ashley Kirilow poll: bedlamist or grifter?

Yesterday’s post about Ashley Kirilow, the young woman who faked having cancer, drew an unprecedented 1200 readers.  I’ve been reading some blogging advice columns, and the experts say that successful blogs engage their readers in debate. So, in an unashamed effort to provoke debate and retain some of my new readers, I present Bedlam’s first poll:

Ashley Kirilow “Won’t Quit” attention seeking

Volunteers claim Ashley Kirilow raised $20,000, but she say it was less than $5,000.

Today, 23 year old Ashley Kirilow finds herself a universally despised woman. She wasn’t always.

For over a year, Ashley was the center of attention. She was loved and supported by a wide group of young friends, musicians, skateboarders and fundraisers. After all, Ashley was inspiring. She was suffering from cancer  (cancer of the breast, the brain, the liver, the stomach); she had been disowned by drug addicted parents; she was raising money for cancer research, and planned to walk across Canada; despite the ravages of her treatment – painfully thin, no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes – she was beautiful. And, according to the facebook charity she founded, a group with almost 4.500 members, she wanted to “change” the world:

Impossible is a word people use when they are lazy. Nothing is impossible. You are capable of anything you put your heart, mind, body and soul into. Take your dreams and make them a reality. There is no such thing as a dream too big. ♥

Except that none of it was true. Ashley didn’t have cancer. She had no plans to walk across Canada. She kept all of the money for herself. She starved herself, shaved her head, waxed her eyebrows, and plucked her eyelashes.

Ashley’s parents (not dead, not drug addicted) were suspicious of her claims from the beginning. When her father confronted her, she admitted it was all a lie. In April, when she was supposed to be walking to Alberta to deliver the money raised by Change 4 A Cure, her father convinced her to admit herself to a psychiatric unit. He gave her an ultimatum – reveal the scam, or he would out her himself. Finally, he went to the police.

In a statement to The Hamilton Spectator, Ashley’s father sounds resigned, defeated:

“She has a habit of manipulating people to get what she wants, using people and playing the victim card. She’s very good at it,” he said. “She has a certain lifestyle made up in her head that she wanted from way back when. She thinks of herself as a princess and wants to be treated as such. She demands lots of attention and admiration so, with this, I’m sure she was receiving all the admiration she desired.”

He says he has a message for his daughter: “For once in your life, do the right thing, send the money, whatever is there if there is anything, to the University of Alberta and come clean with people. You have a long way to go to make amends and it starts now today.”

And so, Ashley did something that initially seems surprising, but on reflection is entirely predictable. She went to Canada’s largest newspaper, and admitted everything.

“I dug myself a big hole that I couldn’t get out of,” Ashley said. “And there’s nobody to blame but me.”

Munchausen Syndrome

Note to readers: What do you think? Bedlamite or evil grifter? Weigh in via the comments.