The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
From 1985 to 1987, my new bride and children lived on Bougainville Drive, in Tarawa Terrace II, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was nice to live on Base. It was a safe, quiet, convenient and inexpensive abode. I looked forward to coming home to our ranch style home, especially after a deployment or field training exercise.
I PT’d everyday and showered in our home. I did not smoke, dip or chew tobacco. I lived as clean a lifestyle as I could. My wife made the children’s bottles and food from the water. I made my coffee and tea, evening meals and more using the ground water; never knowing the danger that it presented to me and my family.
I retired from the Marines in 2001 and eleven years before that I was divorced; too many deployments is not good for a young family. I settled in Norfolk, Virginia. I would easily find employment here and began my civilian life.
In 2012 my voice started to become raspy. My throat did not hurt. I did not have a cold or postnasal drip, but the condition was noticeably worsening. By the time I was scheduled to see an ENT doctor at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, my voice was like that of a person with laryngitis. The doctor discovered a polyp on my left vocal cord. A few weeks later the polyp was removed and biopsied. Initially and to my relief, I was told it was benign. One week later, I was contacted and told there was a mistake; the polyp was indeed malignant.
I was diagnosed with Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma head and neck (throat) cancer. I underwent nine weeks of chemo and six weeks of radiation. The doctors were able to cure me but, in the process, I had to have my left vocal cord removed. This left me with a defective voice and prevented me from keeping my job as a city cop.
In March 2016, I discovered that I had Stage III-B Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). There was a 7 cm tumor on my right lung; wrapped around a blood vessel and 60% invasive into my bronchial tube. This explained the blood that I was coughing up after my morning runs.
Once again, I underwent chemo and radiation. It was just as brutal as the first time. Just like the first time, I worked during the entire treatment. I went to radiation and chemo from work and returned to work the same day. This disease saps your strength. It eats up your savings, takes away valuable time from your family, and forces you to face your own mortality everyday. I was too broke to miss work and with no leave left, staying home to rest was not an option.
It was in August that I received the news that the tumor was gone and there were no active cells detected. Finally, it was all over.
In late September I got a bump on my bottom lip. I thought it must be an ingrown hair; no, it was a tumor. It grew to the size of a walnut. The recommended treatment was chemo; three different types. Carboplatin, Fluorouracil and Cetuximab. Aside from the skin rash, acne, hair loss, toxicity and uncontrollable nausea; it seemed to work, but not for long. The tumors returned with a vengeance a few months later. The only chance for a cure was a lip resection (this is a nice way of saying, cut off entire bottom lip) and removal of my lymph nodes under my chin.
On May 8, 2017, I was wheeled into an operating room at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, where my bottom lip was removed; a graft was taken from my left radial forearm along with a muscle and an artery; which would be used to reconstruct my lip. Additionally, I am being treated with radiation, as a preventative measure and should complete that treatment in August 2017.
I sit now, at my job, and type out my story. I have submitted for several claims seeking service connected disability; all have been denied. I have ZERO history of cancer in my family. I never used tobacco. I was tested for all known syndromes and likely causes for my cancers; all of which were negative. I have missed very little work and use my days off for all my appointments.
I am submitting another claim/appeal to the Veterans Administration for compensation, or service-connected disability.
You’d think this should be easy for me.
After all…my employer IS the Veterans Administration.
Note from the Editor: The author lives in Virginia. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of the author’s name to preserve anonymity.
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I was stationed at camp lejeune early feb 1987. They moved our unit because of something to do with the water they didnt go into details. I was in the motor transportation school.shortly after leaving camp lejeune i became pregnant. I kept telling my husband there was something wrong. I was feeling an over whelming nervousness. He didnt understand. I told him something was wrong with my baby. When she was born she had a heart murmur and yellow jaundice. My baby couldnt go home with me. It was discovered at 6 weeks her complete skull was fused no soft spots no sutures her brain couldnt grow. They had to remove the top and back of her skull..as she grew it was discovered that her radius and ulna in both arms were fused. Then she had an opening in her spinal cord. Meantime im still falling apart and ignoring my own health. Then just lthis last march it was discovered she was born with an avm she could have died at any moment in those 29 years if the artery next to her heart had ruptured. They had to go through her heart into her lung and put a coil in it. She suffers migraines everyday throws up has to lay down in a dark room. She has had genetic counseling nope not inherited something i was exposed to. My health chart has to be about 3ft tall everyone in my family named me hypochondriac after coming home from the marine corp. They have removed my thyroid thought it was follicular cancer. Removed my ovaries thought it was stromal ovarian cancer. Checked my bladder and esophagus for cancer . my mother is 90 and healthy none of this runs in our family.
I totally understand! My dad was stationed at Camp LeJeune a bunch of times, we lived in both Twara Terraces, when our mom was pregnant with me and my twin and after we were born, we also moved back to Camp LeJeune in the late 60’s and lived there for more then a year. But each of five of us was born at Camp LeJeune (one was born while Mom was visiting family) but our parents lived on base there with every conception and pregnancy of the six siblings and several miscarriages. My Mom suffered from bilateral breast cancer and other medical issues. I won’t speak for my siblings as I don’t have their permission right now but I too have a huge medical jacket! I was born with deformities in my entire urinary track, plus I have numerous deformities in my spine. I have missing vertebrae, I have vertebrae that are fused that shouldn’t be and I have vertebrae or parts of my tail bone that was supposed to be fused but wasn’t. I’ve had five spinal surgeries on my back and one on my neck trying to correct these problems plus the severe scoliosis and twisting of my spine. I live in severe and chronic pain and have to live on pain medication. I can no longer work. I’ve also suffered depression and migraines for years. If I had known about the impact of the poison water I would have chosen to adapt children rather then pass any of this on to them. My doctor did say once the dna is changed by poisons it can go on to impact any children you have as well and it has! Several of us have submitted all the required paperwork to the government along with hundreds of pages of documents and we’ve never heard anything except occasional newsletters! I doubt we will ever see any kind of help in our life time!! Our family moved from Camp LeJeune in 1968 and I now know it was a blessing. Who knows how bad our health would be if we had stayed there!!
It was many Veterans that have been exposed, mainly those who worked with TCE and PCE in heir jobs, and sometimes was also stationed on posts that was an EPA Superfund site. Yes Government is trying to keep the lid on how many exposed as they accidentally handled the Lejuene contamination wrong because they were not smart enough to understand just how many people was exposed? Not sure but as an armorer for my unit I was highly exposed, I was in the Army. TCE was used to clean weapons and PCE as a lubricant. Of course Government never has mentioned all us who worked with the chemical, but they made rules for entire bases of people, like 30 days on a base, knowing some of us was exposed daily for years. And have same exact issue’s as Lejuene or any other post. Not sure what is going to happen? But of course they can’t get away with that type of stupid action. They need to just be honest and help all those they have screwed, but we know the chances of them doing the right thing is slim. I have been talking with Trump people for more than a year, so far no response, But some of the sealed indictments I am sure are for people who kept this quiet all these years, and took pay offs to shut the door on all us million or so Veterans that have been exposed. Many that is dead now. Ronald Reagan started the EPA Super fund sites in the 1980’s, but the military continued to use the crap until 1995. Contaminating people for no reason.
Hi Karen my wife was born on the same camp as you and has the same spinal problems as you with the excessive bone fusion of the vertebrate & growth on back of skull it is extremely painful & you are the first from camp lejeune with similar deformities we are sure there are more some day there will be justice but the suffering is so cruel
After reading the article and your responses, I just had to chime in because what you are going through, I am experiencing. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune and Okinawa, Japan in 1971-73. I have suffered with headaches, sleepiness, heart palpitations, renal toxicity, urogenital, gastrointestinal and throat problems since my mid 20s. These health conditions took a toll on my civilian life, but I made it to early retirement. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer which required a prostatectomy. I have read many articles on the internet about servicemembers who have won their claims about Agent Orange in Okinawa and water contamination at Camp Lejeune. I filed a claim and was denied twice. I filed a reconsideration three years ago, and now the VA is using delay tactics. I have called them, and the VA agent will say,” You will hear something in 30 days.” Those thirty days have turned into years. Now I believe the motto, “Deny, Deny until you!” My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I was stationed at Camp Lejeune from October 74 – December 75. I’m a Prostate cancer survivor, and have been dealing with thyroid problems, Gerd, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, ptsd, degenerative disc’s, ED, anxiety, depression, and my wife had six miscarriages and 1 still born. Our only daughter was born 3 months premature, weighting 1lb 2oz, spend 4 months in NICU. Today she’s 33 years old and has been dealing with retina detachment since she was born. All my claims and appeals have been denied by the VA.