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Hodgkin's Lymphoma Prayer Request Email

Email forward, claiming to be a "Special Prayer Request from Peggy Lesley at Brookwood Church" asks you to pray for an 11 year old boy who has Hodgkin's Lymphoma before adding your name to the message and sending it to as many people as possible (Full commentary below).


Example:(Submitted, January 2009)
Subject: Prayer Request from Peggy Lesley

Special Prayer Request from Peggy Lesley at Brookwood Church . I am starting a signing for my son's best friend who has cancer (Hodgkin's Lymphoma). He is 11 years old and is not doing well at all. He was diagnosed with this cancer 2 weeks ago and the tumor is next to his jugular vein and entwined in it...has moved his wind pipe over a inch making it hard for him to breathe.

The tumor is the size of a large eggplant and is sitting right above his heart. This little boy needs all the prayer he can get. I would like you to sign this and pass it on to as many people as you can. Once we get to a thousand people can you please send this back to me at:
[Email Address Removed]

When I get the 1000 people that have signed it...I am going to print this up for my sons best friend and show him how many people care and how many people are praying for him to get better. If you have a heart at all, you will all do this for me. I love this child as though he is my own and we really need all the prayers!

Thank you, Peggy Lesley - Brookwood Church 4th and 5th grade Volunteer Coordinator

Hit FORWARD and Add your name to the bottom of the list and send it out to as many people as you can and pray for him!

[List of 795 names removed]

This email forward asks you to pray for an unnamed 11 year old child who is seriously ill with Hodgkin's lymphoma, an immune system cancer. It also requests recipients to add their names to the message and send it on to as many people as possible. According to the email, the request was sent by Peggy Lesley, a Volunteer Coordinator at Brookwood Church, whose son is supposedly a good friend of the child.

© Ubozhenko

A dubious "Prayer Request" email for an unnamed child with cancer falsely claims to be from Peggy Lesley of Brookwood Church
However, the email, which has been circulating since at least 2005, has some serious flaws. Firstly, the email does not originate with Peggy Lesley of Brookwood Church as stated in this version of the message. Peggy has no first-hand knowledge of the boy discussed in the message. She does not know his parents and has no idea of his name or location or the current status of his health. In fact, she does not know for sure if the child described in the message is a real person or just a figment of a cruel prankster's imagination. Like thousands of others, Peggy simply forwarded the message on with her name at the bottom as requested. Unfortunately for Peggy, through misunderstanding or maliciousness, her name was moved to the top at some point in the message's journey. Ever since, Peggy has been inundated with emails and phone calls asking about the boy. Peggy told that she now regrets adding her name to the message. The article notes:
"People are e-mailing me. They're asking me questions about this child," she said. "I had some woman to call me who said, 'I had a brain tumor and this is how I got rid of it.'" As the months rolled by, Lesley was receiving thousands of e-mails from across the globe, including Israel, the Phillipines and Europe.

She also received dozens of phone calls from people across the United States who wanted to know how to help the sick boy.
Another serious problem with the email is that there is no way of verifying the information it contains. The original version of the message does not name the boy, nor does it provide any clues whatsoever to his identity or whereabouts. Not even a date is included, so recipients have no way of knowing how old the boy is now. Many absurd charity hoaxes circulate via email, and, given the total lack of checkable details, it is quite possible that this is just one more of them.

Even if the message described a real child, the continued circulation of the email several years on seems pointless. There is no way of knowing the current status of the child. Prayers for his health may no longer be required. And, in any case, the boy will never get to see print outs of those offering prayers for him. Recipients are instructed to send the message back to a specified email address once the list of names reaches 1000. However, email sent to the address included in this version of the message is returned with an "invalid address" error message. An alternative email address included in some other versions of the message also bounces.

Thus, forwarding this message is unlikely to do anything more than clutter inboxes - and cause ongoing problems for Peggy Lesley who, after all did no more than send on a message in good faith like many thousands of others have, both before and since.

SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Hodgkin lymphoma
Looking Out 4 You: Forwarded E-Mail Backfires
Charity Hoaxes

Last updated: 2nd February 2009
First published: 2nd February 2009

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen