KSP investigating claims mother faked son’s cancer to get donations

PADUCAH — A cancer diagnosis is the last thing any parent wants to hear for their child.

Kentucky State Police are investigating claims a local mother lied about her own son having cancer on social media, and that people actually donated more than $300 to help him.

The woman has not been charged at this point, we are not identifying her.

She updated her friends with statuses on Facebook of her son’s allegedly fake progress with cancer, saying “round two of radiation.” She also made bracelets with her son’s name, asking friends for support.

Whitney Reed’s little girl, Zoey, is battling leukemia. She said she can’t comprehend using her child’s pain for financial gain.

“We just keep fighting,” Reed said. With a leukemia diagnosis at 20 months old, every day is a battle for 5-year-old Zoey Smith. “October 2018, they told her she was terminal, and there are no other options for us,” Reed said.

Reed said life is different with cancer.

“We love a little harder,” Reed said. “We just don’t take the little things for granted.”

Every moment needs to be spent as if it’s the last. If the sun’s shining, they’re outside.

“We put our phones down a little more. We play harder and just enjoy our days more,” Reed said.

Reed said she’s part of a very generous and loving community for those who suffer the diagnosis of cancer — but she doesn’t wish for anyone or even her worst enemy to join this community.

“For someone to kind of breach the community that we have is just insane,” Reed said. “This life is not glamorous. When someone pretends that their child has cancer and gets money out of it, it makes people very cautious of giving.”

Reed said Zoey, like any child, lives through every emotion that comes with cancer, even at 5 years old.

“Those feelings of ‘Am I going to die? Is this going to happen to me?’ all of those questions that you go through when you hear you have cancer,” Reed said.

Rebecca Fountain, a clinician at Four Rivers Behavioral Health, said there’s a name for what’s happening in a case like this one, where a mother may have lied about her 14-year-old son having cancer. It’s called factitious disorder.

“It’s imposed on self or imposed on others, and with that disorder, there’s no obvious external cause. There’s a condition called malingering, and that’s when you fake symptoms for money or to get out of crime,” Fountain said.

Fountain said she works with kids who have lived through traumatic events, and they’re resilient.

“This kid is just going to have to work through finding his identity again,” Fountain said.

As for Zoey, she knows who she is. She’s a fighter, and she’s not letting cancer win.

The mother’s last Facebook post was an apology to her friends. It’s been deleted, but we have these screenshots.

In the post, she said her son does not have cancer, and she asked for forgiveness.

Kentucky State Police are investigating. Trooper Jay Thomas said there are no charges now, but the mother could face theft by deception.