This is one of those stories where you wonder whether you’re being given all the information, but if it’s true, then it’s appalling. A mother in Albuquerque, New Mexico is claiming that her daughter’s school kept her from participating in a Thanksgiving activity due to a common complication from chemotherapy that can cause an overwhelming odor.
Kerri Mascareno was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer back in August, and the prognosis is still looking grim. In addition to the odor issue, Kerri is dealing with all the other painful and debilitating effects of chemotherapy, on top of the emotional issues, both for herself and her three daughters. Her doctors hope that the chemo will shrink her tumor enough so that it can be removed, but treating cancer at this stage is tricky and Kerri is well aware that this Thanksgiving with her girls may be their last.
According to Kerri, she was told by Robert Abney, the principal of her daughter’s school, Tierra Antigua Elementary, that she “wasn’t allowed to be in the school anymore.” Kerri claims that she met with Abney last week about her daughter and that he tried to dissuade her from attending an upcoming Thanksgiving lunch with the other parents:
“He just said he knows this is going to hurt my feelings and he understands where I’m coming from because his mother had breast cancer and she had the same exact smell and I can no longer be in the school and that with me being in the school that I made his employees ill,”
She also says that he forced her to talk to him through an open window, and then said that “He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window.”
In an email Kerri shared with a local news station, KOB4, Abney tells Kerri that she can attend the event, but must sit in his office so as not to offend the other parents. When I first started reading this story, I almost felt bad for the guy. I thought, perhaps he’s just stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know that smell too well, and it is overpowering. Even Kerri agrees. But then I saw his reaction to questions from the news.
Instead of giving the expected polite response that one would think would be appropriate here, Abney was downright volatile with a reporter. He vehemently refused to apologize and directed all questions to the school district’s spokesperson. Maybe he was just flustered by the cameras but he certainly didn’t come off as compassionate. Actually, he kind of came off like a dick.
Of course, after garnering attention from both local and national news (even the Daily Mail wrote a piece about it) the school changed their tune, giving a full retraction to earlier statements and welcoming Kerri. But she’s hesitant, as I think anyone should be. My heart breaks for this woman. Regardless of her situation or the unpleasant side effects of her treatment, she should be treated with dignity, and this school really dropped the ball here. I’m hoping her community will rally around her and make this holiday season extra special for this family.