In the spring of 2003 I had the first real health crisis of my adult life. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer five years earlier, while I was pregnant with her grandson. After I gave birth to Cole and finished nursing, I started having mammograms, per my doctor’s recommendation. In 2003, my regular mammogram showed a series of micro-calcifications and I was subsequently diagnosed with Hyperplasia Atypia, commonly thought of as the stage before breast cancer.
Compounding my diagnosis was the fact that I was new in town and I had nowhere to turn, no one I trusted. I asked around and a friend recommended me to Virgilio Sacchini at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital, one of the best cancer hospitals in the country. Together Dr. Sacchini and I charted a course for my health, a plan to KEEP me from getting cancer, which is why I ultimately opted for my preventive mastectomy in January 2007. Dr. Sacchini, along with the team he assembled, was not just my healthcare provider, he was my partner; someone who listened, guided and ultimately helped me make a decision that was best for my health and my family. I am forever grateful to him.
So I felt, well honestly, a little stunned when I read the story of 37-year-old Alaina Giordano, a young woman fighting a battle on two fronts; against her ex-husband for custody of her children and Stage 4 breast cancer.
Survival rates for stage 4-breast cancer are not good, hovering right around 20 percent so you can imagine how critical optimal care is. Alaina, a freelance writer/editor, is also out of work and that, along with her deteriorating health, were factors the judge cited in the ruling.
On the one hand I do wonder how long Alaina will be able to care for her two young – and no doubt energetic – children. But if this is not a big heaping plate of unfair, I don’t know what is. I think the judge was wrong here (especially in light of the fact that Giordano’s cancer is currently stable) and sets a dangerous precedent with this ruling. But the ex-husband’s actions are unconscionable. These kids have what will be a shorter time than most with their mother and he’s going to take away still more precious moments? I don’t care how bitter your divorce was or how much ill will you have toward the mother of your children, get a grip. Think of them, if you won’t think of her. Yes, your job may require you to work out of Chicago but life and ultimately death, mandate that you make concessions and show a little compassion.
That’s my take, but what about you? Was the judge correct in ruling against a mother with terminal cancer? Do you think the ex-husband should do more? Fire away!