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Cancer-Stricken Mother Banned from Daughter’s School Because She Smells

Cancer-Stricken Mother Banned from Daughter’s School Because She Smells

In August of this year, Kerri Mascareno of New Mexico was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Since her diagnosis, Ms. Mascareno has been doing everything she can to survive. Part of her treatment includes taking chemotherapy pills in order to shrink the tumor in hopes that it can be surgically removed. The side effects include an unpleasant body odor that can be overwhelming.  Still, it’s a small price to pay in order to give her what she most desperately needs – time.

Her priority is to spend as much time as possible with her three daughters.

Through her fear of not being able to watch her daughters grow up and live their lives, Ms. Mascareno goes on about her life as a mother, including visiting at her daughter’s elementary school. A couple of weeks ago, she met with the school principal, Robert Abney, to talk about her daughter. Abney expressed sympathy for her situation, sharing that his own mother had breast cancer. He then told her that she was no longer allowed to visit her daughter at school – because she smelled.

Even when offering to stand outside, he claimed that he could smell her through the window and the smell was making everyone feel ill. When she drops her daughter off and picks her up, she is to stay in the parking lot area. She was told not to enter the building.

To make matters worse, he said that she could not attend the school’s Thanksgiving celebration with her daughter. After media attention, the principal sent an email the evening prior to the luncheon saying she could attend – but that they would have to eat in his office, away from the rest of the students, their families and faculty who would be eating in the cafeteria.

In a response to the Huffington Post via phone, Monica Armenta, executive director of communications for Albuquerque Public Schools, denied that Ms. Mascareno was banned from the school or not allowed to join her daughter for the school’s luncheon. She did admit, however, that Abney wrote an email suggesting that “[the school] could make accommodations for her to have [Thanksgiving] lunch with her daughter in a location other than the cafeteria,” — if Ms. Mascareno wanted to do so.

When Tierra Antigua Elementary had their Thanksgiving luncheon, Ms. Mascareno and her daughter were not there. Saddened by the principal’s comments, she decided to spend the day at home with her daughter. She admitted she was “really hurt by what happened and just doesn’t want to be around that negativity.”

The principal remained unapologetic. When asked by reporters if he wanted to say sorry for saying anything,  Abney responded, “Nope. You need to talk to Monica or Rigo.”

There was no public apology from the school district, either, with spokesperson Monica Armenta insisting that “there’s not anyone [sic] I can say that’s going to make anyone feel better in this situation because it’s heartbreaking, and any attempt to explain the issue would appear insensitive.”

This Thanksgiving, Kerri Mascareno plans to have dinner with her children, cherishing the moments they have together. She is very aware this could be her last one with them.  As she says, “It’s precious. Every little time is precious being with them.”

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Photo credit: KOB 4 Eyewitness News - Albuquerque, NM, interview with Kerri Mascareno

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228 comments

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11:45AM PST on Jan 1, 2014

OMG this poor mother. This story is terrible. It doesnt surprise me to hear that when contacted that the school said she hadnt actually been banned as there could of been a discrimination case otherwise based on health grounds.

Im extremely saddened by this.

7:44PM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Chemotherapy can change a person’s body odour. This is usually triggered by the chemotherapy, but some necrosing tumours can also cause a noticeable odour. The chemicals in drugs such as Adriamycin, Cytoxan Docetaxol can produce a chemical smell given off through the pores whilst in some cases, the urine and faeces smells stronger than usual. It should also remembered that many patients on chemotherapy report that their own sense of smell is heightened.

It is for us as a society as to when,where and how we respond to those who are experiencing serious health issues. We do well to remember that what affects those around us can one day happen to us too. Smells, deformity, scarring, speech difficulties etc are, whatever we may wish for, are part of life. How we respond to these differences is a measure of how well adjusted we are to reality as opposed to the fantasy of a perfect world. Seated next to a person with a strong body odour may be difficult, but it is not a threat to our lives, but the person we smell may be fighting for theirs. Compassion and understanding cost nothing so we can all afford a supply. The bottom line here is that the principal handled this sensitive situation badly.

6:02PM PST on Dec 12, 2013

What a horrible thing to say and do to this poor mother. Not surprising though from a country that packs off their elderly and infirm to residential and nursing homes when they become "too much to handle".

10:57AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

Some of these so-called humans never cease to amaze me!

7:25AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

So we live in a caring humane world, do we ? I wonder what they would say if the shoe was on the other foot. There are far too many people nowadays who seem to think only about themselves. Sad but true.

3:12PM PST on Dec 4, 2013

Can't have an ounce of compassion for a dying mother? Sad...

4:40AM PST on Dec 4, 2013

Thanksgiving ?

10:10AM PST on Dec 3, 2013

There might be something she could take to alleviate the smell that would not effect the treatment. But it is unfortunate.

8:08AM PST on Dec 3, 2013

I'm torn on this issue. On one hand, Ms. Mascareno deserves to have Thanksgiving lunch with her daughter. Conversely, others that will be attending the celebration also have the right to enjoy their meal in comfort. It is sad that Mr. Abney did not make other accommodations without the media having to get involved! He handled the situation poorly. Let's hope he will learn from this error in judgment.

7:01AM PST on Dec 3, 2013

This is terribly unfair &, i'm sure, violates Ms. Mscareno's human rights in caring for her daughter!!!!!

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