Monday, June 27, 2011

Fence sitter or what I believe about the mom who is losing custody of her children "because" she has Cancer

All my life I've considered myself someone who always sees both sides to a story, a fence sitter, as it where. That trait has benefits although it doesn't make for a passionate defender. Honestly, I wish more people could see both sides, maybe our world would be a more peaceful place to live. That's why I was surprised to my initial reaction to the story of a woman who was losing custody of her kids, allegedly for having Cancer. Of course it pushed every liberal button in my body. I was outraged that such a thing was happening and it was happening in my own backyard! This was personal, too. The five people that read my blog know what the last five years of my life have been like. For those new to reading me, here it is in a nutshell:
  • Former partner(and primary care provider to our daughter) diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer(2006) after our wonderful Primary Care doctor thought something was off with the symptoms Debra had.
  • Surgery and chemo begin immediately
  • Three months later, I was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer after a hysterectomy was performed due to "suspicious cells" found during a biopsy.
  • As her chemo is winding down, my treatment of surgery, radiation then chemo begins.
  • Less than 6 months after completing chemo, cancer returns for Debra.
  • We are simultaneously going through chemo since I had 3 treatments to go.
  • Debra doesn't respond well to the chemo after the recurrence and dies December 2007.

The mom in question has some major PR backing. There's a Facebook page dedicated to the "wrongness" of the actions and much of mainstream media has jumped on the "mom was wronged because she has cancer" bandwagon. Since this is a family law type issue I don't think there's a ton of  facts from either side out there. Why are we not hearing the Dad's side? Maybe he thinks the protection and privacy of his children are more important than the media show. Maybe he is a loser, although I highly doubt it since he seems to genuinely care for the well being of his children. The mom is holding onto every ounce of hope that she'll beat the cancer and I wouldn't expect anything less. Debra held on until the very end when she realized her body was riddled with cancer throughout her entire abdominal area, including her liver. It's the patients job to fight for their life! When there are children involved, it's the other parent and family to guide and prepare them through what may be the ultimate outcome...losing a parent.

When Debra and I were faced with her terminal cancer we quickly decided there was one main priority...Sofie. Not that we weren't thinking of ourselves in this situation, we were just thinking more of a little 7 year old who was about to lose a parent. We weren't living together so it took patience, understanding, collaboration and love to work through what was best for the kid...not what made either one of us feel better. We moved past our issues with the other adult and concentrated on spending quality time together and a family unit, all the while making the shift from Debra being primary parent to me being primary parent. Essentially we had 10 months from the time the recurrence occurred until Debra was arranging hospice to come assist her through the last week or so of her life.

What upsets me most about this case is the way the mother is being played the victim when actually it's the kids who are the true losers in this situation. (I am in no way insinuating she's playing the victim. Please note I said "played"...the media is really working the "because she has cancer" angle!) None of us know the full story but many folks are jumping to a conclusion (like I initially did) that may not be in the best interest of the children. As I've been pondering this case I can't help but think of how it would have affected Sofie if I weren't in the picture. Debra was really sick, especially near the end, so my condo became a place of respite for both of us. It's a time where we could spend quality time strengthening an already strong bond while others took care of Debra. There were definitely times that being around a very ill parent wore on Sofie. I couldn't imagine her having to endure that environment 24/7. I also couldn't imagine her not seeing Debra at all...thus my place firmly perched on the fence. My hope is there's a good team of people fighting for the kids in this case. A lawyer, social worker, psychologist...whoever can work together to make sure the kids get time with both parents in a way that supports their grief and growth.

What's right in this situation? Bottom line...whatever is best for the children.

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