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Richmond mom admits she lied about cancer: ‘I betrayed everyone’

Posted at 11:00 PM, Jul 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-26 10:25:34-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Over the last three years, Richmond mother Latrice Johnson was able to build a passionate social media following on Facebook. Many in her audience, which included people she never met in person, wanted to receive updates on Johnson's cancer battle.

A battle she openly, and emotionally, discussed online.

It's also a battle, she recently admitted, was 100 percent not true.

"She posted daily about having cancer and the things that were wrong with her," follower Patricia Thomas said. "She would show pictures of it. She had a lump on the top of her head and she said it was a tumor."

Latrice Johnson

Thomas said she was shocked when other people began posting on Johnson's Facebook page, accusing the mother of making up the cancer story.

Her shock grew when Johnson finally responded.

"[She was] apologizing, saying she wanted friends and acceptance," Thomas said. "But to say you have cancer?"

As word of Johnson's deceit spread, viewers reached out to CBS 6, upset that they'd given money to help Johnson fight the disease.

In an effort to reach those she had deceived, Johnson shared her story with CBS 6 News.

"Do you have cancer?" Shelby Brown asked Johnson in an exclusive television interview.

"No," Johnson replied. "The only thing I have is a tumor in my forehead and a tumor under my chin."

"Are they cancerous?" Brown asked.

"No," Johnson said.

Johnson said she started writing on Facebook that she had cancer about three years ago because she needed help.

"[I can't really say if it was for] popularity, love, attention or my mental state," she explained. "I lost my mother and then my son got shot. So, I felt like I was depressed."

Johnson's story unraveled when a nurse who was following her on Facebook noticed the story didn't add up.

As the lie was exposed, Johnson said her world caved in.

Latrice Johnson

"I tried to commit suicide, went to a crisis center," she said. "I have a mental illness. I have major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and I have borderline personality."

Johnson provided paperwork that backed up her claim.

She has since left Facebook, but said that has not stopped the backlash. She said her lie has turned her husband and friends into unintentional targets.

She said she lied to her family, leading them to believe she was undergoing cancer treatments, even creating diversions when one would ask to attend a cancer treatment with her.

"I feel like I betrayed everyone. I feel like I'm the most disliked person in the world," she said.

One of Johnson's social media followers said she believed some good could come from this situation.

Latrice Johnson

Joe'i Chancellor hoped it helped spark a discussion about mental health.

"None of us are wasted. I think this story in itself is, we are helping someone recover from something," Chancellor said. "Just because we thought the illness was cancer, it could be something else. If we are dealing with mental ills all over the world and promoting mental health, then is is an opportunity to see it."

Johnson said she has refunded hundreds of dollars to those who donated money to her.

She said there is no excuse for her behavior and said she hoped she would be able to cope with the repercussions.

"I am truly sorry and I apologize to everybody," she said. "I put myself in this situation. This predicament. I've got to face consequences."