Elevated Cancer Rates in Brevard County, Florida



One Cancer Diagnosis After Another

My curiosity grew every time a medical expert would ask, "Where did you grow up?" They would come into the room where I was administered chemotherapy and ask more about where our family lived. These conversations made it evident that something wasn't normal in our family's case. 

My diagnosis came three months after my little brother was diagnosed in 2013. We were diagnosed with the same cancer, Hodgkin's Lymphoma (a few months after our unrelated uncle who lived with us passed from cancer). Not long after, our father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. It was hard to believe that a family being diagnosed within the same year was normal. My medical records documented that my cancer was likely environmentally caused.

When I was told "you're in remission" in 2014, I began a social media group called Florida Health Connection (now known as Fight For Zero Brevard). I started crowdsourcing disease diagnoses in Brevard County, Florida, where I grew up. People began to privately reach out to tell me that they either had cancer, tumors, or an autoimmune disease. The more I connected with patients, survivors, and their families I knew my calling in life dramatically changed. There was an unexplainable desire to continue searching for answers. 

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

As I learned about the history of toxic dumping by the aerospace industry and the Department of Defense where we lived, my perspective about home changed. There were moments I wanted to go back to living my "average" life. I tried too, but I couldn't stop thinking about the people, the stories, the families, the children who endured the same torment these life-altering diseases bring, and how I could help protect lives by educating my neighbors. 

How many others watched their mother, father, son, daughter, husband, or wife go through this preventable tragedy? How many other people had to be caregivers and patients simultaneously? Countless names also fought, and those names mean something to me. We find that most on the list don't have a history of cancer, and genetic testing shows no mutating genes. Here is a small example of that list from 2013 to 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.

We've collected decades of medical information from the 1970s to current, and the number of kids and young adults diagnosed is staggering. 


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. 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 have the nation's third-highest levels of these contaminants. 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. I knew that there would be no looking back once the research began.  


We continue to share knowledge of this historical pollution and its impacts on health to protect families from the devastating effects of exposure. My family's heartache is unimaginable; if using my voice, standing for truth, and sharing scientific facts ostracizes me from the community, I can live with that. 


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.

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