Elevated Cancer Rates on Florida's Space Coast

One Cancer Diagnosis After Another

I had an unexplainable desire to share my cancer journey publicly. My diagnosis came three months after my little brother's. We were diagnosed with the same cancer, Hodgkin's Lymphoma (a few months after our unrelated uncle passed). It was hard to believe that a family being diagnosed within the same year was normal.

My curiosity grew every time a nurse or doctor would ask, "Where did you grow up?" Specialists and medical professionals would elaborate on the question and begin the possibility that my cancer was caused by something environmental.

People I grew up with began to privately reach out to tell me that they either have cancer or an autoimmune disease. That's when I realized my calling in life dramatically changed. We are all in our 20's and grew up on Florida's space coast in Brevard County. I began crowdsourcing medical information and created a Facebook group in 2014 to connect with other patients, survivors, and their families. 

People connected over similar locations and illnesses, and the list started getting so long that we had to break it up into different areas. As it grew, we started piecing together a puzzle we never knew existed.

There were moments when I wanted to go back to living my "normal" life. I tried too, but it was fighting an uphill battle. I couldn't stop thinking about the people, the stories, the families, the children, all who endured the same torment that this disease brings.

I not only went through it myself, but I watched my father deteriorate as his cancer ravaged his bones. His incurable disease was diagnosed after mine.

How many other people watched their mother, father, son, daughter, husband, or wife go through this preventable tragedy? How many other people had to be caregivers and patients at the same time? Countless names also fought, and those names mean something to me. We find that a majority on the list don't have a history of cancer, and genetic testing shows no mutating genes.

For instance, from 2013-2014:

  • Julie was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 13 in 2013. 
  • A family friend, Samantha, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 with no family history. 
  • Michelle was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 30. 
  • Candace was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30. 
  • Joshua was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 27. 
  • Paige was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney failure at 21. 
  • Bri was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 26. 
  • David was diagnosed with kidney cancer at 27. 
  • Cory was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 27. 
  • My brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin's at the age of 21 & I at the age of 27. 
  • There are unusual rates of brain and blood cancer among children, ALS among engineers at NASA, and breast cancer in young women.

The list goes on.

Is it a coincidence that there are so many cases? The cancer registry shows that Brevard County, FL, has a higher than usual rate of certain cancers. There are also significant polluters to consider, such as the Department of Defense and Space Industry. We found cancer-causing chemicals in the Indian River Lagoon, drinking water, and groundwater. These chemicals known as PFAS were also found in wildlife's blood, and we found the third-highest levels of these contaminants in the nation. For decades the Department of Defense dumped waste into our waterways, built homes over polluted land, and shuttle launches left a trail of harmful toxins. 

Patrick Space Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Kennedy Space Center, Harris Corporation, the Port St. John powerplants, and continuous sewage dumping harmed water quality and the ecosystem.

I'm sharing this and continuing to learn and find resources because it could save a family like mine from heartache one day.

Do you know someone in Florida battling a sickness or cancer? Someone who lost their battle? Visit http:/www.fight4zero.org to submit your information and learn more.

Post a Comment