House Rules

I came home today after running errands to an interesting, rather awkward, but not unusual occurrence in our house.  Feeling accomplished from knocking out dropping two children at swim practice, and hitting the grocery store and bank, I walked in our front door expecting to find our son and my nephew busying themselves.  What I found instead was a stranger with her back to me sitting at our kitchen table.  She had frizzy, obviously over treated, blond hair and was wearing clothes that reminded me of the uniform the nurses wear in my children’s pediatrician’s office.

My son looked at me nonchalantly, while attempting the dishes, in true 13-year old fashion – one slow movement at a time – with his 6-year old cousin glued to his side. My husband was late returning from the infusion center where he was receiving an IV of IgG to help boost a waning part of his immune system.  There were a few minutes of overlap where neither one of us was home.

“Hello.  Are you here to see my husband?” I asked.  “Yes,” she replied without lifting her head from whatever held her interest.  “He should be here shortly, may I get you something.” “No I’m fine.  Actually quite happy here.”  I paused and thought, “Ok, I’m glad you’re happy here.  But why are you sitting at our kitchen table?”  I could see from a side-glance she was fiddling with her cell phone.

How odd I thought for a child to have a stranger in their house, sitting at the kitchen table, not saying a word studying their phone.  I had to give my son credit for making her feel comfortable.  I guess we had taught him some manners.

We do have house rules.  Always turn off the lights and appliances when not in the room.  Replace the toilet roll if you finish it.  Don’t answer the door for strangers when mom and dad aren’t home.  Never let a caller know your parents are out.  Over the past 13 months, however, some of these rules have been modified in order to accommodate my husband’s treatments (the toilet roll rule still holds).

It’s not unusual for me to come home and literally bump into someone I’ve never met as they are entering our house from the garage having dropped off my husband’s IV medications in the refrigerator.  The first few months it unnerved and even angered me each time I surprisingly encountered a stranger making their way through our house.  But as the IV therapy and wound care treatment demands continued, it became overwhelming to keep track of each person coming and going.   Today, I see where my casual attitude towards strangers in our house has infiltrated our lives to the point of confusion for my son.

The wound care nurse at the kitchen table was not a stranger to my family, even though we had never met her before.   She was someone who was here to help my son’s father heal.  Why would he not answer the door and invite her in, even without a parent home.  Dad needs her care.

How odd that this disease has become dominant to the point that rules present to ensure our children’s safety have been ignored to accommodate the disease and necessary medical treatment.   I’m sure some would be shocked that a mother could set her children up to receive strangers into their home with no adult present.  I assure you I am asking myself the same question.  When I look at the disease and the treatments we’ve endured, I can see how it has happened – slowly, progressively, methodically – like the cancer that invaded my husband’s immune system.  Cancer is an insidious disease that can, when guards are worn down, affect even the most sacrosanct areas of a family’s life – slowly, progressively, and methodically.


Copyright © 2011 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.


Jeannie Gazzaniga Moloo PhD, MS, RDN cared for her late physician husband through 12 years of blood cancer treatments, including a stem cell transplant, while raising their three young children. She is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and former owner of a clinical nutrition practice where she advised clients on healthy eating to manage heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and gastrointestinal conditions. She is a Ph.D. in epidemiology, with an emphasis in preventive medicine and environmental health. For nine years, she was a national media spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics providing sound, science-based nutrition advice to media, consumers, industry, and researchers. She has been quoted in several publications including the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and Parents Magazine, and appeared on ABCNews, CBSNews, NBCNews, NPR, and KYGO-FM.

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