Heartless Elementary School Principal Tells Mom With Cancer To Stay Away From School Due To Odor

mom with cancer


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.

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  • chickadee

    Some chemotherapy regimens interact oddly with body chemistry and produce a smell that has been described as a combination of foul mothballs and rancid men’s cologne; both my parents went through chemotherapy, and while my father did not have an odor, my mother definitely did. Additionally, some cancer patients have necrotic tumors and the patients carry a rotting flesh smell with them. I found this article about treating the necrotic tumor smell: http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/23/7/1588.1.full

    I think it was pretty thoughtless and cruel of the school to ban her from the premises, however. Surely they could have come up with a better solution.

    ET change the order of which parents had The Smell. I can’t keep things straight, apparently.

  • whiteroses

    I personally don’t care if anyone’s offended. The woman’s dying. How dare this principal, or anyone else, try to take memories away from her daughters. She doesn’t get the ability to see her daughters get married or meet her grandkids or any countless other things. That was stolen from her. Her kids may never have another Thanksgiving with her. They deserve to celebrate it however they wish. Everyone else can suck it up for a few hours, imo.

    I have no sympathy for this principal, and if he finds himself in a shitstorm it is richly deserved.

    • chickadee

      Yeah, stage 4 breast cancer is a terminal diagnosis. Chemo and surgery are more palliative at this point.

  • Katie L.

    Even if I couldn’t handle the smell and it made me physically ill, I’d get the hell over it and let this woman participate in whatever she wanted because she has cancer and I don’t. My temporary discomfort is not more important than letting a mother spend as much time with her children as possible. And as a teacher I’d have no problem telling the other parents (and my principal) that.

    • Angela

      Yes, this. I don’t care if the whole room was projectile vomiting. If any of the other parents are offended by a dying woman then let them leave. They will likely have many more opportunities to attend school functions with their children. I can’t believe anyone would be so heartless to this family.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I wonder how the other parents feel about it? Doesn”t say too much about their reactions…

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I think other families can be informed of her situation, and volunteers who are willing and happy to tolerate the odour with good cheer can be seated near her specifically. People who know and understand her situation would then be friendly and welcoming rather than put off by an unpleasant smell from an unknown source.
    I mean, this is her life we’re talking about. Her children’s memories. You know, for her to arrive and people not know why she smells that way or where the smell is coming from and commenting or pointedly holding their noses, that could turn ugly and sad. But bringing the school community onboard and asking people to get with the program for this family and be inclusive at their own personal comfort for one evening, I think, would be successful.
    Dying is bad enough without being isolated and ostracized. My mom died of cancer when I was a teen. If anyone had treated her like this, I’d have ended them.

  • Kay_Sue

    They really should have considered the effect this would have on her children, also. Every event with their mother is one more memory they will have to cherish when (hopefully if) she passes. Ridiculous lack of compassion for everyone on the part of this principal.

  • Emily

    When they receive an explanation of a situation, kids are SO much less judgmental than adults. It is sad that someone’s reaction was to keep her away instead of educating the students. Before long, they may have to know that their classmate has lost a parent; will that be hiddenf rom them, as well?

  • keelhaulrose

    If there was a parent like that at my daughter’s school I’d happily sit next to them and give the Dagger Stare of Judgement at everyone who dared look at her funny. She deserves to spend as many moments as she can with her kids, and those girls deserve to have positive memories of their mother, and not the thought that someone whose job it is to do the best for the students was horribly offensive to their mother on her last Thanksgiving.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Have you trademarked the phrase “Dagger Stare of Judgement”? Because you really should…

    • keelhaulrose

      I would, but I take my lead from Jonas Salk and refuse so I can spread the love around.

    • Momma425

      Right?! I would totally volunteer to sit by this woman.

  • FF4life

    Love how the principal says her odor made his employees, “vitally ill” when she’s actually dying of cancer.

  • AP

    So this principal is saying it is acceptable to discriminate against those with disabilities simply because it’s unpleasant for others to be around?

    Would he be OK banning, say, a special education student who wears a diaper or has a colostomy bag because they smell like poop?

    Open a window, get out a fan, and get over it.

  • Momma425

    Who cares if anyone is offended by the smell? I know a lot of people who smell just as bad or worse because of improper hygiene habits. Good lord- half of the kids at that school probably smell like feet and BO most of the time.
    I am a nurse, and I literally have to touch old, diabetic people’s feet on a fairl regular basis. The stuff that comes out of cysts when we have to drain them…has the consistency of thousand island dressing and is HORRIBLE to smell. Women come into the clinic with all sorts of “lady” issues that smell beyond foul. I used to work in an oncology clinic. Those patients didn’t smell half as bad as some of the things I have smelled since. But you know what? I suck it up, breathe through my mouth instead of my nose, and treat everyone (even the stinkiest of patients) with respect and dignity because that is my damn job. It is the teacher and principal’s job to teach and support their students.
    These people need a lesson in compassion. This is just sad.

    • Personal

      Bless you. And thank you.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    Disgusting. How dare this little weasel pencil-pusher of a man DARE to suggest a dying woman be excluded from such a special event, especially considering it might be her last chance to create some happy memories for herself and her family?

    Little rat, and you would think he would understand seeing as he witnessed his mother fighting cancer too.

    Some people are just so unbelievably cruel!

  • Rachel Sea

    If the smell is THAT big of a deal they should have the event outside. Problem solved, everybody happy.

    The principal is a dick.