Strange(r) Encounters: STFU Edition

This week has been a banner week for strangers telling me what I did wrong during Donna’s cancer treatment.

Before I go any further, though, let me preface this entire post with the very real fact that Mary Tyler Dad and I have no regrets about the choices we made.  Got that?  NO REGRETS.  That is one of the few blessings we have had bestowed on us in Cancerville.

By publishing Donna’s Cancer Story on Huffington Post this year, I had hoped to reach a whole new audience and expose them to the harsh realities of pediatric cancer.  Every indication is that it is working.  And again, similar to last year, is the awkward reality that new readers are not immediately aware of Donna’s death.  Is it my responsibility to break that news? I’ve opted not to, thinking that anyone with any curiosity would visit Mr. Google to meet all their curiosity needs.

Oddly, not everyone thinks the way I do.  Yesterday I received a private message that went a little something like this:

This will sound like an attack, but I promise it is not. I heard you mention feeding her [Donna] McDonalds for breakfast and it is what made me think of what I am about to tell you. The food we put into our bodies can be the best forms of medicine or the slowest forms of poison. McDonalds is toxic. My young boys actually broke out in a rash from eating there and as far as we know they have no known allergies.   I am by no means a doctor and I would strongly advise you to still listen to your doctor, but it is worth looking into, right? I think it could really save your daughter’s life. Please feel free to ask me for more information if you are interested.

Sigh.  Where do I even begin?  It’s pretty much a given that when someone starts out an exchange with the words, “This will sound like an attack, but I promise it is not,” you’re about to be attacked.  Prepare for battle.  I believe this individual was not acting maliciously in any way, shape, or form.  I also believe, knowing that said individual was under the impression that my girl was still alive, that telling me that McDonald’s was toxic poison was crossing the proverbial line.

Trust me when I say that Cancer Parents know from toxic poison.  Chemotherapy is toxic poison.  We know this because it comes in industrial grade plastic, is handled with RNs wearing blue gloves (and there are always two RNs present for chemo administration), and is thrown out in bright red biohazard bins that you learn not to go near.

Admittedly, McDonald’s is crap masquerading as nutrition.  We all know that, right?  Yes, we can all agree that it is not best for our bodies.  Damn you, delicious chemicals (shaking fist in air for greater effect)!

But, honestly, believing, as this person did, that Donna was still alive, was it really necessary to personally message me with the newsflash that McDonald’s was not the healthy diet my daughter needed?  I think not.  Was it really necessary to “strongly advise me” to still listen to our doctor, as if a stranger’s note on Facebook would vastly alter the course of our daughter’s cancer treatment?  And was it really necessary to speculate on what could and could not save my daughter’s life, three years after her death?  That a side of McDonald’s french fries two days after brain surgery would be the tipping point between life and death?

I just sigh and shake my head at the stupidity.

When I posted this on Facebook, which is where all daily frustrations land these days, there was a thread 260 comments long, bashing the unthinking soul who dared question my nutrition choices.  It seems I am not alone in getting worked up over some silly nonsense posed by a stranger.  Sure, there was the occasional voice of support confirming that McDonald’s is indeed unhealthy fare, but pretty much universally, folks agreed the well intentioned stranger should have kept their hands off the keyboard and their mouth closed.

Tomorrow I will explore another exchange with a stranger about Donna’s cancer treatment.  In September, I am like a freaking magnet for this stuff.  That tete a tete, though, is a little more nuanced, a little more interesting.  Stay tuned.

Strange(r) Encounters:  Listen and Learn Edition

14 Replies to “Strange(r) Encounters: STFU Edition”

  1. You are such a strong woman, I dont quite understand the judgements mothers give one another, sometimes I have no idea if I am doing this parenting thing right, I cant imagine there is even one other mother out there who thinks to herself that she has eveything figured out and she can even go about judging another mother. You seem like an absolutely amazing mother, and you definitely dont deserved to be judged. Sometimes I feed my kids McDonalds for completing their homework all week by themselves, I cant imagine what I’d give them after brain surgery…


      1. Mary Tyler Mom graciously shared her photo of Donna with us on Facebook. If we wanted to we could change our profile picture to Donna in support of pediatric cancer month. Many of her Rhodas did. 😀


  2. People are the worst. No one knows how they’ll react until they are in the situation and lucky for that McMom, she’s never had a picky eater during cancer treatment. Hell, I’m 100% vegetarian, 90% organic (and off wheat!) and I can’t say I wouldn’t hand my kid a big mac if that’s all she’d eat during chemo. You just cannot judge another parent in vasty different circumstances than your own.

    That said, I did once remind a Facebook friend to put sunscreen on her baby. I’m the worst, right? I only crossed that line because my own kid got a burn at 4 months old because I was a new mom and stupid and no one told *me*.

    I’m glad Donna got her fries. She enjoyed herself for those fleeting moments she had. You do a great job, MTM!


  3. Just wow. Bless you MTM, MTD and MTS. As you know some people just don’t have a clue and couldn’t buy one if you offered to pay. I am the first to admit that when I started Donna’s Cancer Story last year, I thought it had a happy ending. I sobbed at the realization it did not and even then still hoped with every fiber of my being that I was mistaken. I sobbed many times, I hugged my children and I gained a new perspective. I still carry that new perspective. Donna changed me and all I got was a glimpse of that wonderful soul that you did everything for and still do. Keep on with your NO REGRETS. Donna could not have been more loved and more cared for. Thank you for sharing her with us. Thank you for the words and wisdom and continued sharing. And thanks for letting us speak to you. Even when well meaning strangers pour lemon juice and salt on the wound. We heart you MTM.


  4. I have found that many people who are militant about food choices are the same for most every other aspect of living (and dying). The idea that McDonald’s is the tipping point for anything is just plain stupid, unless you ingest it hourly. Even the purest organic vegtoid is going to kill you if you overdose.

    There is no accounting for taste — in commenting on such matters, as to just think these people have little constructive to offer in their small lives.

    I have seen the difference a small comfort makes to a cancer patient, be it a cigarette, a shot of Jack, an entire bottle of wine, or the deadly french fry. It is the small things that matter, especially when the large and the dark and unknown are looming.


    BTW, McD’s side salads with vinaigrette is a great choice, much better than their regular salads loaded with sugar and god knows. And you know what, sometimes their french fries just taste good!


  5. Doh…Also, MTM, did you know that you shouldn’t allow children to watch TV 24 hours a day and that the sun can burn you?

    Sometimes I think people should have to pass a test on the content before they comment on things.


  6. Sometimes I think people posts comments like that because they are know it alls. Other times I think it’s because they genuinely think that they are helping somehow. Neither reason is a good reason. Judging from how she opened the message she knew sending it was a bad idea. What ever drove her to write the message in the first place overrode her better judgement. I don’t know if you responded to her or not but hopefully she’ll think twice before clicking send next time.


  7. Having a granddaughter who went through 26 months of intense chemotherapy, beginning when she was only 17 months old, I can speak with personal knowledge on this subject. My granddaughter wouldn’t eat or drink anything. When she did, she wanted french onion dip and ruffles potato chips. The doctor told us to give her what she would eat, any time of the day or night. She’d lost so many pounds between 17 months at 2 years, that she looked about the size of her new baby brother. Chemo changes the kids’ taste buds. Eating nauseates them. If they wanted McDonalds 10 time a day, and that was all a parent could get into the child, that would be OK. Anything to get them to eat….something. The person who criticized MTM has obviously no personal knowledge of children fighting cancer.


  8. I write on my blog a lot about my son who battled cancer and died at age six. Sometimes I am upset that it is not reaching more people; however, I have never gotten a negative comment. I don’t know if I could handle negativity over something so personal and heart-wrenching as our son’s battle. I admire you putting everything on the line. That said, when you know your child will die, you don’t give a shit what they do or eat, as long as they are happy while they can be. Someone who has never faced that has NO clue about that.


  9. I call my mom a witch doctor sometimes because she always has some crazy herbal remedy for everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if, god forbid, I was ever in this position, she had some sort of comment about the food I was giving my child.
    You do what you do to get through. Every time I read something about Donna I get teary. It is heartbreaking and I pray everyday.
    What would I do? Whatever my child wanted. To make them happy and comfortable would be the goal of that moment. And I am sure that was your goal.


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