My son Matthew and friends, 1997. My son Matthew and friends, 1997.

I came across this picture recently. To you, it may look like an ordinary Halloween photo of some kids. But that October 31st was anything but ordinary.

The year was 1997. My son Matthew, on the right, was 11.

The picture was taken six days after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, three days before his brain surgery.

Leave it to this child to choose as his costume, not the usual ghost or ghoul, but an IRS agent. At the doors of unsuspecting neighbors, he opened his trench coat to reveal a sign that said:

“IRS – You owe me candy.”

That was Matthew—so clever, so smart; even as his brain was under assault.

As I look at this picture, I want to reach into it and wrap my arms around him and tell him that I’ll protect him, that it will all be OK. I want to cradle his poor head and kiss his cheeks and tell him that, yes, he will become a smart, engaging, independent adult, no matter how much it may seem like that day will never come.

Although the tumor was undiagnosed for three years, as it gradually and insidiously changed who Matthew was and how he functioned, it could not destroy his essence. It came close, and it almost took me out as well, but we survived.

Fast forward twenty years, and that smart, engaging, independent Matthew is now 31; he wrote about his experience and that Halloween here.

And I’m working on a memoir about how ill prepared I was as a mother and as a person for such a battle.

Just like Halloween, the story is dark and scary and creepy, with a sweet, sweet outcome.


  • An emerging writer in upstate, NY, Karen DeBonis tells her story on her website, in publications like the NY Times, (a Tiny Love Story), in her “Become Emboldened” projects, and elsewhere. "Portrait of a People-Pleaser and the Son Who Paid the Price", Karen’s transformational memoir about a woman’s quest for authenticity and the courage to speak her truth, is currently available for representation.

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  1. on October 31, 2017 at 7:40 PM

    It was well worth the double send, Karen. Love the IRS costume.

    • on November 2, 2017 at 5:03 PM

      Thanks Rosemary 🙂

  2. on November 2, 2017 at 5:12 PM


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