It's about Jonathan White, whose battle with cancer Armstrong has been following on Twitter. Armstrong wrote to him on Thursday, "We're all pulling for you!!! Feel better my man. Lots of folks thinking about you!!"
More than 17,000 people were thinking of him, on Twitter. The micro-blogging site is changing the way information circulates. And, unfortunately, misinformation. In this case Armstrong is talking about, it's a case of fraud that will break your heart.
Meet Jonathan Jay White, fighting cancer at 15 years old. Known as @jonthanjay to his Twitter audience, he has posted thoughtful blogs, and this picture, detailing his daily struggles with the disease:
"Over a year ago the word Hope really didn't mean that much to me. "I sure hope your mom lets you hang out tonight" or "I hope the test isn't too hard" was pretty much the extent of it. I suppose I just didn't understand how important it was. I was 13, I had my whole life in front of me. I was excelling in school, spent my free time running, skateboarding and with friends. Life was good and I was happy.
I found out I had cancer on my 14th birthday, I wanted to run so far and so fast and just make it all go away but of course I couldn't. So instead I started treatments and began surviving cancer. At first everything I did was out of fear, I was scared to go to treatments and scared not to. Scared to tell my friends and most of all scared of the future. I did get over the fear and became stronger. I had a lot of good days and some bad days. I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing fighter close to my age who was battling the same cancer. We were going to the same hospital and became best friends fast. We went through treatments together, shared stories about life and made plans for our future. Unfortunately my friend did not beat his battle with cancer, his death hit me very hard..."
Thanks to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Jonathan Jay White had the support of his Twitter followers and was championed by one woman in particular, who updated "jonthanjay" followers when he was too weak to. But this morning a disturbing tweet ... Jonathan Jay White is a fraud; he doesn't exist. While they try to track down just how much money "jonthanjay" followers have sent his way, and try to figure out who this phony person is, I started to read up on him and his "story." You can see the last day's worth of tweets from his friend Gena ("livestronggena" on Twitter) as she worried that Jonathan had taken a turn for the worse and was struggling with a fever prior to surgery for brain cancer.
Today all of Jonathan White's blogs are taken down; his Twitter page is gone. Followers are still worried that he died ... but "Gena," who IS a real cancer survivor and advocate/fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, is getting the word out. "If you sent gifts or were involved w @jonthanjay plz file a complaint with the FBI @ : ic3.gov Use Jonathan White 15 with brain cancer Fraud," said a tweet, to follow up with the blog post where she laid it all out:
"I’m trying to find the words to explain this but because I don’t really understand it and have no idea who we are dealing with, I’m just going to get to the point," she writes, "I found out yesterday that Jonathan White is a fake."
"Yesterday I received and email stating that Jonathan White does not exist and then all related accounts were deleted. I don’t know complete details and I have already been in contact with the FBI and Police to try and find this person and bring him/her to justice.
"I know coming from me, this sounds crazy. If you read my now deleted blogs, I met Jonathan 10 months ago doing Community Outreach work with the CancerClimber Association. People reach out to us and we try to instill HOPE into them. Since that time I have as have many of you, talked to him on the phone and basically taken on this person who I thought was a child with brain cancer who allegedly was living at home with a single father and no support. No, I never met him in person..."
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While some are questioning whether Gena was actually IN ON IT, others posted messages of support that really drove home the depth to which she cared about this boy, who has turned out to be fictional:
"I just wanted to write openly on here for those of you who are reading. We are all crushed with this news and our hearts broken. But, for Gena she gave her life and soul to this person. There was nothing in the world she would not have done for him. She took time away from her OWN REAL battle with cancer to do everything in her power for this person to survive. She is going through more now that we will ever know. I hope everyone understands that coming from someone who had communicate with this person frequently that there was not a single doubt in my mind ever that Jonathan was not 100% who he said he was. This is a very sad day and I hope that we can all move on. I hope and wish that this person whoever they are opens back up the nathanwhite family blog and apologizes to the 16,000 plus hearts that are broken today..."
In many of "Jonathan's" blog posts, he mentions Gena as a huge source of strength in his fight against cancer. In fact, she was about to fly across the country to support him, and that's where it all fell apart. She writes, "utimately it comes down to the fact that I was packed and ready to go to Arizona where he was allegedly having brain surgery this week when I received the email stating it was all a lie," she wrote.
Here are "Jonathan's" thoughts on Gena, from one of his now-deleted blog posts:
"A good friend of mine Gena Solar recently posted a blog titled Courage and Cancer. She wrote "Nobody battling cancer has courage every day. We are humans. We have hearts and those hearts feel pain. But it is what we do with our feelings and however we find a way to get through that pain and onto “what” is going to get us to the next step, the next moment in time. That is where courage again sets in." For me it was the words of others that helped me get through the pain. The constant reminder of what I had to accomplish in my life and of who I was.
"With this courage my outlook on the fight began to change, instead of dwelling on the pain and being the victim I became the warrior. I allowed my entire being to be filled with HOPE and started to focus on my future and on beating my cancer. I have written down my dreams and everything I plan on doing. I learn as much as I can and share it with anyone willing to listen. I laugh often, cry when it's needed and do my best to turn every bad day into a good one. Surviving cancer is not easy, or fun but it is what I and many others do. We are warriors, armed with Hope and we fight. "
Another blogger wrote, in response to this,
"It's very obvious that cancer has not defeated him, Jonathan is putting up a big fight against cancer, and I have high hopes that he will conquer... "I cannot even begin to fathom what he and his family together are going through -- however they are all in my thoughts. I wish the best for this family. It's amazing how precious life is, never take your life for granted. And Jonathan, you are an amazing young man -- keep fighting!! A lot of people appreciate you, even people who don't know you but are inspired by your story."
For all the people who were praying for this "kid" and wishing him well, there is a feeling that they were violated and that nothing good can come of it. Especially to those who found inspiration from the words on paper that they believed to be true.
I was ruminating over this story with a friend and cancer survivor here in our newsroom who said, of course fraud is fraud, and people who gave money should get it back, and be mad at whomever did this.
But if these words inspired you in your fight with cancer or in your life in any way, no one can take that away from you. It's just hard to reconcile things that ring so true, from someone whose very existence is a lie.