Brevard County, FL, USA

Investigating the Surge in Cancer Rates in Brevard County, Florida

Every time a medical professional inquired about my upbringing, my curiosity intensified. On entering the room where I underwent chemotherapy, they would delve deeper into the details of our family's residence. These discussions revealed that there was something unusual about our family's situation.

I received my diagnosis three months after my younger brother was diagnosed in 2013. Both of us were found to have the same type of cancer, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, shortly after our uncle (who lived with us but was not related) passed away from cancer. Then, our father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. It was difficult to comprehend that it was considered normal for multiple family members to be diagnosed with cancer in the same year. According to my medical records, it was suggested that environmental factors most likely caused my cancer.

In 2014, upon hearing the news of my remission, I initiated a social media group called Florida Health Connection (now renamed Fight For Zero Brevard). This platform aimed to gather information about disease diagnoses in Brevard County, Florida, my hometown. As I connected with others privately, I discovered that many individuals were dealing with cancer, tumors, or autoimmune diseases. Interacting with patients, survivors, and their families led me to realize that my life's purpose had drastically shifted. I felt an inexplicable urge to seek answers persistently.

People formed connections based on shared geographical locations and medical conditions, leading to the creation of an extensive list. Eventually, the list became too extensive, prompting us to divide it into separate categories. As a result, we began unraveling a puzzle that had previously gone unnoticed.

My perception of home shifted when I discovered the disturbing history of toxic dumping conducted by the aerospace industry and the Department of Defense in our area. Sometimes, I yearned to return to my ordinary existence, and I even attempted to do so. However, I couldn't shake off thoughts about the individuals, families, and children who had suffered the same anguish caused by these diseases that altered lives. I felt a strong urge to educate my community on the prevention and early detection of diseases.

How many others witnessed their loved ones - mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, or wives - experience this avoidable catastrophe? How many more had to take on the role of both caregiver and patient? Numerous names also fought against this, and those names held significance for me. 

We have gathered an extensive amount of medical data ranging from the 1970s to the present, and the sheer number of children and young individuals being diagnosed was astonishing. We discovered that the majority of people did not have a family history of cancer, were being diagnosed young, and genetic testing revealed their diseases weren't genetic. 

Here is a brief illustration of some names from the list between 2013 and 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 was at the age of 27.
  • There are unusual brain and blood cancer rates among children, ALS among engineers at NASA, and breast cancer in young women.

Is it just a coincidence? According to the cancer registry, it is evident that Brevard County, FL, has a higher incidence rate of specific cancers compared to the average. We have discovered cancer-causing substances in various locations, such as the Indian River Lagoon, drinking water, and groundwater. These substances, called PFAS, have also been detected in the blood of wildlife, and our contamination levels rank as the nation's third highest. Over many years, the Department of Defense discharged waste into our waterways, constructed houses on polluted land, and the launches of shuttles left behind a trail of hazardous toxins. From the moment the research project commenced, I was aware that there would be no turning back.

We persist in spreading awareness about this past contamination and its influence on well-being to safeguard families from the catastrophic consequences of being exposed. The pain that my family endures is indescribable; even if speaking up, advocating for the truth, and disseminating evidence-based knowledge leads to my isolation from the community, I am willing to accept it.

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

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