Principal tells mom with breast cancer she can’t visit kids’ school

Editor’s note: this story was updated to reflect the response received by NBC News from the Albuquerque School District. 

An Albuquerque, New Mexico mother with cancer says she was kept out of her daughter’s school because of the way she smells. 

She admits the smell caused by her sickness can be overpowering at times, but should she be kept at a distance for something beyond her control?

Kerri Mascareno says she needs time to live, to watch her three girls grow up and marry.

“They’re the fuel that keeps me going,” said Mascareno.

But there may not be much time left.

Her heartbreaking diagnosis in August: Stage 4 breast cancer.

“I thought about my children right away,” she remembers.

Her body is too small, the tumor is too big.

She’s taking chemotherapy pills to shrink the tumor enough to undergo surgery.

“[I’m] very scared,” she said. “Very scared, very overwhelming.”

Adding to her unimaginable stress is the fact that she says she is not allowed close to her daughter’s school, Tierra Antigua Elementary.

Mascareno says she met with the school’s principal, Robert Abney, last week about her daughter.

“He told me I wasn’t allowed to be in the school anymore,” she said.

However, Albuquerque School District Director of Communication Rigo Chavez told NBC News Friday, “Mascareno has always been able to come to the school building.”

The talk then turned to her.

“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 said.

She claims even after she moved outside, the principal was standing at his window and told her to move farther away.

“He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window,” Mascareno said.

The principal declined to be interviewed by KOB and directed all questions  to the school district’s spokesperson.

Making things worse, an email shows where Abney tells Mascareno she will be allowed to go to the school’s upcoming Thanksgiving dinner if she and her daughter sit in his office.

“For someone to say you can’t be with your child… it’s really hard,” she said in tears.

Time is precious.

Mascareno knows this could be her last Thanksgiving.

“I think about that every day,” she said.

The school changed its tune after our visit.

The district spokesperson told NBC News the principal changed his plan and told Mascareno she could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in the cafeteria with the rest of the school.

Mascareno told KOB she decided not to attend.

“She is welcome to attend any school function in the future,” Chavez said.

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