'It snowballed': US woman pretends to have cancer to save marriage

Amy Ellissa Hammer
Amy Ellissa Hammer was arrested after faking cancer for financial gain. Photo credit: Randolph County Sheriff

A US mother-of-three has admitted she lied about having cancer in an attempt to save her marriage.

North Carolina woman Amy Ellissa Hammer was arrested on Thursday (local time) following a police investigation into reports she was faking an illness for financial gain.

The 30-year-old claimed to have been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, a cancer affecting the bone marrow. She set up a Facebook page called Amy's Promise which encouraged people to donate money to pay for medical bills, according to the Randolph County Sheriff's Office.

It's also alleged she sold T-shirts under the false promise that the money would pay for her treatment.

Hammer's cancer became well-known in her community, and the Trinity Wesleyan Church of Seagrove organised a fundraiser involving several local businesses.

But when police received the tip-off about Hammer in early March, they quickly unravelled the truth: she did not have cancer. She was arrested and charged with obtaining property by false pretence, and will appear in court on April 22.

Police are currently investigating how many people donated to Amy's Promise and how much money they were scammed out of.

Trinity Wesleyan Church cancelled the fundraiser and said in a Facebook post that Hammer was "not honest about having cancer".

A family friend told Yahoo News that Hammer would often send her messages describing "exhausting" chemotherapy appointments.

"I suspected she was lying weeks after her diagnosis," she said, adding that she "cried and cried" when it was confirmed Hammer had made it all up.

In an interview with Fox 8, Hammer admitted she'd lied about the illness as a panicked response to her husband saying he wanted to end their relationship.

"When he said he was going to leave me, it was an impulsive thing," she explained.

"We've been together so long, I was scared, terrified. That's my three kids, my husband that I've known for so long. So it was an impulsive thing and it snowballed."

She said she intends to pay back all the donations and apologised for her deception.

"No matter what I say, it's not an excuse and it's not going to make it right, but I have to live with this... I have to live with a lot of things because a lot of things are going to change."