In a story that could shock anyone out of their wits, a woman has revealed how her own mother scammed many by faking her terminal illness when she was just seven years old.
In an interview with Mirror, Hannah Millbrandt, 21, from Ohio revealed how her own mum, Theresa, used her to perpetuate a cancer scam in order to con her neighbors out of a staggering £23,000/$32,574.
"I was seven when I found out I had cancer. I was too young to fully understand what it meant, but watching my dad, Bob, break down in tears was enough to make me scared. My mum, Theresa, had taken me to the doctor with a mild fever and a cough. I felt OK, just a bit under the weather, but I was sent for a scan nevertheless. Later, Mum sat the family down and told us the doctor had found a tumor on the base of my spine. ‘It could be terminal,’ she said, and my father crumpled," she told Mirror.
To authenticate the illness, Theresa even fabricated chemotherapy sessions and forced Hannah to wear a surgical mask and shaved off her hair. She further traumatized her young daughter by telling her that she had only weeks to live.
It all begun when Theresa, then 35, took Hannah, who was suffering from a mild cough and a temperature, to the doctors. The doctor's visit was followed by a scan, after which Theresa told the entire family how Hannah had a spinal tumor.
"‘It could be terminal”', she said, and my father crumpled," Hannah recalled of the moment.
That excruciating moment changed everything for Hannah.
"Overnight, life changed drastically. Mum made me wear a surgical mask, telling me it would stop other people’s germs making me sick," she said.
Thi was followed by Theresa's plea to the community church and neighbors for collection of funds for Hannah's supposed treatment.
"The church was great, organizing fundraisers to help pay for the expensive treatment Mum said I needed. The congregation was distraught and prayers were said for me," said Hannah.
Although everyone came out to support Hannah and her family open-heartedly, the young girl wasn't too fond of the attention coming her way.
"I hated the attention, but Mum was so grateful for their fundraising. ‘You’re my million-dollar baby’ she told me, but I didn’t know what she meant," Hannah explained.
As Theresa was a home care nurse, she would administer Hannah’s "medication" herself. However, the medicines weren't working at all. In fact, they were having an adverse effect.
"I started getting awful headaches and felt exhausted all the time," Hannah revealed.
But the rock-bottom of the entire scam for Hannah were the fake chemo sessions, when her mother would drug her and after she gained consciousness, she would tell her that she had been given medication.
"One day I woke up with a bandage on my lower spine," Hannah said, adding her mother would tell her "the bandage was covering the part where your cancer nurse, Beth, administered your chemo."
With time the "chemotherapy sessions" only increased in frequency.
"Beth came regularly after that, although I never saw her. I’d wake up with bandages where Beth had treated me," Hannah revealed.
The fundraising campaigns and the collective support of the community helped her get the required financial assistance needed for the supposed treatment.
"After an article in the local newspaper, donations came flooding in. The church donated $7,000 (£5,200) from bake sales and the local firefighters gave me a puppy that I called Socks. People even started donating the ring pulls from soft drink cans, so Mum could cash them in for recycling. One very sick wheelchair-bound teenage girl, who’d spent nine years collecting for her own care, donated the whole lot to my fund," Hannah revealed.
But Theresa's scam came out in the open when a teacher at Hannah’s school noticed her hair growing back evenly instead of in a patchy pattern, usually seen in cancer patients.
"Out of the blue, it all ended as suddenly as it had begun when Mum, Dad, and Grandma were all arrested. One of my teachers had noticed my hair was growing back fuzzily but evenly, instead of the patchy regrowth chemo patients experience. She became suspicious and reported my mum to the local family services department," Hannah divulged.
On being confronted, Theresa admitted to faking her daughter's illness, and through which she had managed to scam an entire community out of thousands of dollars. After her arrest, Theresa was admitted to a mental hospital.
At the time of trial, pleaded guilty by reason of insanity to theft and child endangerment, claiming to have Munchausen by Proxy—a mental illness in which a caregiver invents or causes an illness for the person in their care. However, after her mental evaluation, Theresa's plea was rejected and she was put behind bars for six and a half years.
Hannah said her father maintained he was innocent, but pleaded guilty to child endangerment as well as a felony theft, which meant he did not admit guilt but recognized that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. Hannah's grandmother was acquitted of theft.
Fourteen years later, Hannah has managed to leave the trauma of her childhood behind. But the after-effects of the episode did leave a lingering impact for the rest of her life. "I’m still haunted by what Mum did, I don’t think I’ll ever truly get over it. I’m now at university, studying to be a social worker. I want to help kids in foster care, because I know how scary that can be," Hannah said.
In the end, only one question remains — how can a mother do this to her own child?
Watch a riveting documentary based on their story, here:
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