DURHAM (WTVD) -- Since ABC11 Eyewitness News broke the story last week, Alaina Giordano's story has been all over the news.

Giordano has stage 4 breast cancer and lost custody of her two children to her ex-husband.

An online petition supporting her efforts has close to 18,000 signatures. The hope is that once it reaches Governor Beverly Perdue, Perdue will encourage the judge to overturn the custody ruling.

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It's a ruling at least one family law expert says the mom has already lost.

"I know that my children keep me strong," Giordano said.

A Durham judge ordered the children should live with their father in the Chicago area. That's where he was able to land a job and find a house in a good school district, while Girodano is unemployed and facing ongoing cancer treatment.

Thousands of supporters on Facebook believe Giordano should not lose her children because she has cancer.

But the ruling is about much more than cancer, according to longtime Raleigh family Attorney Charles Ullman. He reviewed the 27-page order and says the judge has other concerns.

"That she might expose the children to some type of risk, security risk, health risk, not provide for them," Ullman said.

The reason is while both parents haven't been angels, getting into an altercation and both spending the night in jail, Giordano has more strikes against her.

She confesses to having an adulterous relationship, spending days out of state with a married man while her children were with their grandparents.

On another occasion, Giordano did not make suitable arrangements for her children on a day a doctor told her she was going to be admitted to the hospital.

The order shows she took her children to Duke Hospital.

To avoid calling child protective services, the doctor took the children home with her. The doctor called it a crisis and Giordano called it a great opportunity for the children to get to know the person treating their mother.

Finally, when the children were visiting their father, Giordano failed to send her son's epinephrine pen. The judge believes that shows she has difficulty separating her anger from the well-being of her children.

She could get 50 percent custody if she moves to Chicago.

"It really would be dangerous for me to move away from my support system and my medical team," Giordano said.

Currently, a United Airline's flight attendant is offering buddy passes so Giordano can fly to see her children.

There also is a donation page and hundreds of dollars pledged to help with medical and legal bills. Ullman says it's not worth an appeal since custody cases are rarely overturned.

His advice to Giordano is to relocate.

"You can control [the] result by moving," he said. "Yes, I would tell her move."

Giordano hopes a lawyer will take her care pro bono, which so far has not happened.

She's expected to hand over her children by June 15.

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