Why the Alaina Giordano case should worry the healthcare industry

9:58 am by | 4 Comments

Cancer is a lot of things. But it’s not the reason Alaina Giordano’s children may wind up living with their father.

If Giordano’s name doesn’t immediately ring any bells in the medical community, her case should. Giordano is the Durham, North Carolina, mom with breast cancer embroiled in a custody dispute with her estranged husband, Kane Snyder. In April, a local judge said that their children – Sofia, 11, and Bud, 6 – must live with their father in Illinois.

Giordano has appealed, claiming the judge improperly based the ruling on her cancer. And that assertion has helped Snyder v. Giordano go viral. Bloggers, rappers, national media outlets and fellow moms with breast cancer have decided that this case could be the start of a slippery slope where cancer makes someone a less fit mother.

“I am not cancer,” Giordano has said.


But that popular assumption – that her cancer’s has had a major impact on this case – is wrong. And healthcare professionals nationwide should be paying particular attention to what’s happening. Overemphasizing the role of cancer in this case gives a false impression of its role in legal proceedings and draws valuable attention from real issues around the disease.

As it stands now, Giordano’s children are with their father. An appeals court dissolved an earlier ruling saying that Giordano could keep custody of her children during the appeals process.

Mainstream and new media alike have embraced the story. Many of the reporters portrayed Giordano as being wronged three times: first by cancer, second by her husband and then a third time by Judge Nancy Gordon. Coverage latched onto the role of Giordano’s cancer in the custody ruling, casting it as the linchpin in the order taking Bud and Sofia from their mother.

A Time Magazine blogger likened the significance of the potential separation of Giordano from her children to Amelia Earhart’s flight and the Watergate burglary.

The story gained particular traction in social media. Twitter and Facebook spread global awareness of the dispute. It galvanized many moms with breast cancer – some of them bloggers – who worried their health status could result in a similar ruling. Websites were created, some supporting Giordano and others castigating Gordon.

Recently, in the ultimate example of new media cause celeb, the Giordano cause got its own hip-hop song launched on Twitter via SoundCloud (key verse at 58 seconds: “You said a healthy dad is better than a sick mom?”).

I Believe (Alaina’s Song) – performed by Arioose & Venn Grimm (featuring Jay Mor) by rockinpistol

But that’s the problem. The more the story proliferated on social media, the further the debate drifted from the facts of the case.

The reality of custody cases is that the dirty laundry of both parties gets an airing and it often stinks on both sides. Snyder and Giordano have both had extramarital affairs. There have been arguments that escalated into fights resulting in protection orders.

Plus, the children have been pawns in the parents’ fights. The judge said Giordano has made minimal efforts to keep the children involved in their father’s life. She scheduled trips to prevent the children from spending time with their father (though the children are currently on a two-week vacation with Snyder now).

In one instance, Giordano failed to send Bud’s allergy injection to Snyder when the children were with him, which the judge said “demonstrates to this court that she has difficulty separating her anger at the plaintiff from the well-being of the children.”

In all of those facts cited by Gordon, none mentioned cancer. Yet the healthcare community is being thrust into a role it should not have. Some cancer patients are suggesting that their health status could impact custody rights. That incorrect perception will trickle into the treatment rooms. And a doctor doesn’t need – nor deserve – that distraction.

And the potential of a physician or medical ailment getting thrust into the legal spotlight around cases like this is an awful thought. Physicians have enough exposure as it is.

Giordano’s cancer is tragic. But cancer is not the basis for the custody decision. Giordano has neither a job nor health coverage. Snyder looked for work in North Carolina but the job he found is in Chicago. That job gives Snyder the means to provide both the financial support and health coverage to the entire family. His insurance covers Giordano’s cancer care.

There’s a perception this ruling is punishing Giordano. But it actually makes provisions for her. The court’s ruling weighs the ability for Giordano to get quality care, noting that in Chicago there’s ample opportunity for treatment. That seems to be the judge’s healthcare-related distinction in this case.

Giordano acknowledged that she could move to Chicago but prefers Durham, where she receives care at Duke Medical Center. Moreover, she has made no effort to even look at housing and healthcare options available to her in Illinois.

Giordano can move to Illinois but won’t. Snyder tried to move back to North Carolina but can’t. What Gordon’s order emphasizes is that it is in the best interests of both children that they have frequent and regular contact with both parents. Her order supports that goal.

“Given the relatively low obstacles to a relocation by the defendant and given her willingness to relocate to the Chicago area if the children move there, and given that both parents have the present capacity to parent the children, this Court determines that it is in the children’s best interest to move to live in Illinois with their father at this time,” Gordon wrote.

Health is just one factor of many leading to this decision. And that’s not something you’re seeing on social (or even mainstream) media.

All parents sacrifice for their children. Giordano has already stated she’s willing to follow her children to Chicago.

If the appeals court upholds Gordon’s ruling, Giordano must decide if she will actually make that sacrifice.

Copyright 2015 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

By Frank Vinluan

Frank Vinluan is the North Carolina Bureau Chief for MedCity News.
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this is so stupid , a mother has a right to her kids , and that father is so wrong in doing this to her he should be more aware of her cancer and what if she passess away how would he feel then by not alowing her to spend her time with them why should she have to move to where he is thats insane

Brad Ballard
Brad Ballard

Rob- read the actual judge's order. The ONLYreason the familiy was in NC was for dad to complete his masters. They were then going to move anyways once the masters was complete. If Ms Giordano truly cared about her kids, she wouldn't be playing the victim card like she has been.


The court system is a joke. Treatment anywhere. Really? So you have a life and family and local oncologist you like and a dilng dong husband picks up and leaves and NOW wants the kids back!! Huh??? Really? You can rationalize this as a judge???? OMG

Katherine OBrien
Katherine OBrien

Alaina Giordano may be a fine mom (by all accounts she is). But she is one LOUSY cancer patient. She has a history of noncompliance as Judge Gordon outlined in her original statement. (Any custody dispute that has a PR firm should raise a red flag, don’t you think?) Bone mets with hormone receptive positive disease is very treatalbe. There is no reason any of many competent and world class Chicago area cancer treatment centers can't treat Ms. Giordano. It is very common for people to seek treatment at Sloan NYC or Anderson in TX. People don't necessarily move there, they ask a local oncologist to coordinate their care. Alaina Giordano does not have a rare or aggressive breast cancer that can only be treated at Duke. If Ms. Gioradano would MOVE to Chicago, she would share custody of her children. As you point out, she doesn’t want to move. Her supporters have made a lot of noise about Ms. Giordano not wanting to leave her team of doctors. Fiddledeedee. She blew off these same world class doctors for a YEAR!!! During that year she did not seek any medical advice from Duke. She devised a treatment plan. It included yoga, Pilates, massage, etc. Maybe these things did some good, but as someone who has cancer, I like knowing I am working with a trained professional. While Ms. Giordano and I are unfortunate to have an incurable disease, we have the kind that has the most treatments---if you follow them I think both of these parents are trying to play the cancer card. As a woman who has cancer, I am ashamed that Ms. Giordano, by artful omission, is suggesting a scenario that doesn't exist today. Public perception is that all cancer patients have chemo. Ms. Giordano will not have chemo till all other mild avenues have tried. Has she explained to people that she's taking a daily pill with mild side effects? No cancer martyrs here, please. We are both cancer patients. We are not cancer victims, cancer stricken or people that should be objects of pity. There are gravely sick women who deserve that response. But that's not us, not today. As a woman who has bone-only mets, I think the husband's lawyer is wrong to play the terminally ill card. As a journalist, I am appalled to see how one-sided this case has been reported. The father wisely, is refraining from public comment. The mother is basically muddying the waters, thanks to her free PR and legal help. I don't think dragging your kids on TV and in the papers fosters good family relations. I truly feel sorry for this entire family but most especially the children who are indeed pawns.