Catherine Fox’s Cancer Storyline Came From a Lie Told By a ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Writer

Fans of Grey’s Anatomy love the medical drama’s storylines. Many were heartbroken by character Catherine Fox’s cancer diagnosis. The plot was made more poignant because it was allegedly inspired by one of the writers’ own battle with cancer. However, it turns out the writer’s personal connection to the storyline was actually fake. 

How a writer inspired Catherine Fox’s cancer plotline on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

greys anatomy catherine fox cancer
Debbie Allen as Catherine Fox in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Liliane Lathan via Getty Images

Catherine Fox, a urologist at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, was diagnosed with cancer in Season 15. Fans loved the drama of the plotline. And they connected with it even more when staff writer Elisabeth Finch revealed she drew on her own life to write the story arc. 

“Krista Vernoff [the showrunner of Greys Anatomy] heard me talking one day in the [writers’] room about how much I hated the words ‘battle,’ ‘fight,’ ‘win,’ ‘lose’ when it comes to cancer,” Finch told Entertainment Weekly in 2019.  

She explained how vocabulary like that could be “hurtful” to someone dealing with cancer, or people who have lost someone to the disease. Vernoff then asked Finch if she would consider writing about her experiences with cancer for the show. 

Finch shared that she had “a small tumor at the base of [her] spine they cannot shrink or remove.” Her experiences living with cancer made the episodes around Fox’s cancer arc all the more emotional. However, Finch was soon revealed to be a liar. 

Elisabeth Finch’s lies about cancer and the deaths of loved ones were exposed

In March of 2022, news broke that Finch was being investigated over “serious concerns” about her medical history; namely, the fact that she had lied about her cancer diagnosis. It turns out Finch pretended to be going through chemotherapy. She shaved her head and taped a fake catheter to her arm for Instagram posts. Additionally, the writer also claimed she’d lost a kidney and part of her leg to the disease, and had an abortion due to complications from the cancer. 

The lies didn’t end there. Finch claimed she lost a close friend in a terrorist attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which killed 11 people. She also said that her older brother died by suicide. Many of her colleagues started to become suspicious when Finch/s stories started to fall apart. But it was her wife that ultimately exposed her lies. 

Finch’s wife, Jennifer Beyer, discovered she was lying about her cancer diagnosis and demanded Finch come clean. When she didn’t, Beyer went to showrunner Shonda Rhimes to let them know about her lies. Beyer and Finch are now in the process of divorcing. 

Finch has apologized for her lies. According to BuzzFeed, she “told a lie when [she] was 34 years old…It just got bigger and bigger and bigger and got buried deeper and deeper inside me.” She has been fired from Grey’s Anatomy.

Where is Catherine Fox now?

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As for the Grey’s Anatomy character, Catherine’s cancer is very real. In Season 18, after learning she was doing better, she and her husband, Richard Webber, decided to take a sabbatical and travel together. They returned, and Richard resumed working at Grey Sloan. However, in Season 19, Catherine learned her tumor had grown. She told her colleague Tom Koracick, she doesn’t want to pursue anymore treatment.