Ashley Kirilow: The Canadian Face of Munchausen
Baron von Munchausen, a German nobleman, lived in the 1700s. He joined the Russian military in 1738. By 1750 he was renamed a Calvary Captain.Returning home, Münchhausen supposedly told a number of outrageously farfetched stories about his adventures. It was believed his elaborate stories were nothing more than “tall tales” including the Baron’s astounding feats riding cannonballs, travelling to the Moon, and escaping from a swamp by pulling himself up by his own hair (or bootstraps, depending on who tells the story).
The terms Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy were coined with the Baron’s fantastic story-telling in mind. Munchausen Syndrome is a factitious disorder that presents itself in individuals who invent elaborate ways to injure or sicken themselves in order to gain sympathy and medical attention. The Munchausen enjoys baffling medical doctors; it makes them feel superior to these educated, medical practitioners. Munchausens are known by nurses and doctors as hospital hoppers or hospital frequent flyers since they often change hospitals and doctors as soon as suspicion is cast their way.
- interruption of the healing process in an injury or illness
- regression of symptoms when the patient is hospitalized but reappearance of symptoms when the patient is home
- patient’s reluctance for physicians to speak to family members or to speak to previous doctors
- baffling, bizarre symptoms that do not cluster together in order to form a known disease or illness
Early childhood abuse and deprivation, or mental illness often accounts for the development of Munchausen in people. When a patient is truly at risk to herself, psychiatric hospitalization is recommended. Treatment centres on the underlying illness or disorder rather than on Munchausen itself, the idea being once the underlying illness is treated, the need for the behaviours associated with Munchausen will eventually disappear.
Ashley Kirilow is a notorious case in Canada of Munchausen Syndrome. She was 18 years old when she began an elaborate scheme to garner attention and money. In late 2008, Ashley was treated in hospital for a benign lump in one of her breasts. After that procedure, she began telling people she had breast cancer. Kirilow faked having cancer by starving herself, shaving off her hair, plucking her eyebrows and eyelashes and beginning a Facebook page. On her page she announced a charity she was starting called Change for a Cure. “Together we can ‘Change’ the world one penny at a time! ?” read the tagline. Watch woman accused of faking cancer. Ashley claimed she was raising money to donate to the University of Alberta’s research into dichloroacetate, or DCA, a prospective cancer treatment. Kirilow told people that her parents were drug addicts or that they were dead. Kirilow, who lives in Burlington Ontario, also asked for donations using her Facebook page to pay for her cancer treatments, although most treatments in Canada are covered by a medical plan known as OHIP. Watch Girl Fakes Having Cancer Part I
Local, concerned residents organized another charity for Kirilow, Pocket Change for Cancer Research, fundraising and supporting her through the local press. Ashley persuaded a legitimate Toronto-based cancer-awareness organization to fly her to Disney World. After Kirilow was exposed as a fraud she explained that she faked the disease to bring her divorced parents back together. “She loved playing the victim,” said her father, Mike Kirilow, a self-employed home renovator. “Because it gave her control over people.” They had talked only once in the previous four years. “ I thought this was another story, but I went along.” The next day, Kirilow tried calling his daughter to find out her oncologist’s name, but she wouldn’t answer. He left a message saying that if she did not call back he would call the police. Ashley called and told him: “Stay the f— out of my life.” In April 2009, Ashley called her biological mother to say she had cancer and needed money for chemotherapy. “The only thing she ever wanted was money,” said Cindy Edwards. Ashley responded: “Well, I’m just calling right now to tell you, before I die, that you’re the worst mother in the world.”
Kirilow’s parents admit their marriage turned dysfunctional not long after Ashley was born, and after their second child was born they separated. Ashley ended up growing up with her mother and had little contact with her father. “She always wanted to be the princess.” Edwards said Ashley became greedier in adolescence. “She just wanted more and more, no matter what I gave her.” She lived with her maternal grandparents before moving in with her dad and stepmother. “She made this house a living hell,” said France, Ashley’s stepmother. Ashley’s father, “said flat out: ‘You don’t have cancer, do you?’ She quietly responded: ‘No.’ ” At this point, Kirilow’s father said, ‘You have to deliver the donated money. But you don’t have it, do you? You spent it. Now you need a place to hide, so you came here. ’ Read Visiting Bedlam. Eventually authorities caught up to Ashley. She attended court under four counts of fraud and was sentenced to 15 months. Out of this 15 months, Kirilow will serve 10 months under house arrest.
Just when it seemed the Kirilow case couldn’t get any weirder, a man named Bob Graham told the press he wanted to pay Kirilow’s bail of $5,000.00. The 39-year-old Toronto man waited in the courthouse for Ashley Kirilow to make her video appearance. The problem was, he might not be able to return during the bail hearing because “I’m supposed to bail another friend out,” he said, unsure how he would juggle his schedule. Later he admitted he didn’t have the money to pay her bail. Read Who is con woman’s mystery friend? Surprisingly Kirilow was granted bail by the John Howard Society. Read Ashley Kirilow granted bail Graham agreed he wanted to step forward because it seemed Kirilow was being abandoned by her family. “I’m sick of people throwing away their kids.” The man with a full-face tattoo said he knew he would attract a lot of attention and hoped someone else would come forward; he didn’t actually want to bail her out. “I thought people would be like, ‘Holy sh—! That guy’s going to bail her out? We can’t have that.” It was possible that the Ashley Kirilow case actually involved two histrionics: Kirilow and Graham. Hopefully those two will never marry and raise children. Watch Toronto woman in jail for faking cancer.
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