Some weird things are going on here. First, I received a message from “Emily Monroe” asking me to take down this article, stating that bullying had increased at her school because of it. I didn’t think that taking down this article would stop the bullies, but I did anyway at her request.
Then, I got an email from someone claiming to be the cousin of the student with the glass eye in the pictures. She told me that while Emily did have cancer and has a prosthetic eye, goes to high school and is on the volleyball team, much of the rest of the story was untrue – her cancer did not return, for example. She said that the real name of the person in the pictures was Emily Pickett (which I knew, but “Monroe” had told me she wanted to use a pseudonym).
All of the “Emily Monroe” Facebook pages, Twitter, Tumblr and instagram accounts are gone, apparently taken down.
I have contacted who I believe to be Emily Pickett, and she says she is going to talk to her parents and then get back to me about what she wants to do. I asked that we talk via Skype, or that she verify her identity in some other way, so she can set the record straight. As of now, it appears that someone stole pictures of Emily Pickett from her social media sites and created a false identity and exaggerated story with them.
Here is my hypothesis about what may have happened: I think Pickett may have been victim of someone with Munchausen by Internet. I think someone may have stole her pictures and fabricated a new, “super survivor” identity for attention.
The funny thing is, I research the Munchausen by Internet phenomenon all the time, and so thought I could recognize all the signs. I’ve had my identity stolen three times by people since becoming an amputee. When I first read about her story on Tumblr, it seemed crazy, but other elements of the story checked out. She seemed to have a robust social life online, had articles about her from legitimate sources, pictures of her tagged by friends on Facebook, etc. Apparently the social media accounts associated with Monroe (dad, boyfriend, friends, etc) were sockpuppet accounts and have now been removed.
But, I failed nonetheless by being duped – and I failed everyone else by writing about this story and causing a wildfire.
I definitely owe Emily Pickett and everyone else an apology. I am sorry.
I could delete this post entirely, but I want to take responsibility for my own actions in blogging about this. I do not want to hide when I am wrong, so my original blog post is below.
I will provide more updates as they come and as allowed.
Yesterday, I stumbled across a post on Tumblr by a Oneyewonder that I just had to share with everyone, because I was so blown away by it.
I’ll just repost it here because it’s pretty short:
This is my all-time favorite picture. I’m so proud of myself. I have no depth perception and I’ve taught myself to play volleyball. I take so much pride in my team and all the hard work I put into it. No one truly understands how cancer world unless you yourself has it. You can’t imagine how I feel on a daily basis. Vomiting, weak, tired, groggy, grumpy, hormonal…every fucking day. 6 days out of 7, I’m sick. I push through though because I can’t let my team down. I still go to school and manage to maintain a 4.6 GPA. I still work to contribute to paying for my radiation. I volunteer at the shelter to make my life mean something if/when I go. I deal with being the most hated person in school daily because my glass eye is a “slap in the face to God”.
I don’t care what anyone says. I’m proud of myself.
I could not believe people would tell someone with a glass eye that her eye was a “slap in the face to god”, so I contacted Oneyewonder and got the chance to ask her about her experiences with bullying in her school.
Emily Monroe is a 17 year-old high-school student at a school in southern Florida. She was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (a type of cancer that forms in the retinas of children) at the age of five and subsequently had her eye removed to halt the spread of the cancer. In her sophomore year, she had to undergo additional surgeries and radiation due to the discovery of a new mass in her eye socket. She is currently undergoing treatment for a mass in her right eye. Yep, that’s the eye that isn’t made of glass.
You’d think the kids in her high school would at least treat her like another human being, and perhaps even look up to her for working so hard to get what she wants out of life.
Some of them do. She’s got a great network. Her Facebook profile is a vibrant collage of smiling people and she draws a lot of strength from her family, especially her dad, who she calls her hero.
However not everyone is awesome. Emily has dealt with some pretty serious verbal and physical bullying for the past two years from a group of about 2 dozen students.
They said god wanted me dead and that’s why I’ve gotten cancer (now) three times. So my eye is a “trophy” to brag about how I fucked up God’s plan.
The school, she says, isn’t helping. So she has to stick up for herself. Sometimes physically.
I was pushed down the stairs and fractured my heel. So I missed out on volleyball for weeks. I fought the kid.
I won’t say anything. I’m not going to disrespect someone’s religion. It takes a lot of restraint but it’s only right.
Personally, I think if someone uses their religion to disrespect you in such a profound way, you’ve got every right to disrespect their religion. But I can also get behind wanting to show restraint.
Regarding Emily’s own religious beliefs, she says:
I’m agnostic I guess. I believe there’s something out there but idk what.
Emily says she has learned to embrace her differences and thinks others should to. I’m inclined to agree with her.
Besides, how could you hate someone who puts this emoticon after a lot of her sentences?
I wish the people at her school would realize that if their god wanted her dead and gave her cancer in an attempt to kill her, their god is a horrible monster. Also, if their god existed and gave her cancer, and she’s kicked cancer’s ass twice already, then she is a more potent force than their god.