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.
Hi, my name is “NF”. I am/was the wife of a USMC veteran. My husband, Joseph was in the US Marine Corps for 8 years. During that time, he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. He was in school there a few times each time longer than 30 days. He was a diesel engine mechanic, who often shared stories about washing his hands in 55-gallon drums of chemicals.
Fast forward to August 2014. He had pain in his side/upper right side of his back. He had just retired in July from his job as a truck driver in NYC, and we were all ready to move to Dallas, Texas. Our only daughter lived there. He went to the doctor the end of August, thinking gall bladder. The doctor called that afternoon with the sonogram results. There was something in the upper stomach area but wasn’t sure just what. They knew we were set to move in just a few short weeks, so the next scan was rushed through. After the next scan, we were finally told it was serious and he needed to have an endoscopy. On Sept. 11th, we were told it was gastric cancer, probably Stage 3, and if we start ASAP, we could control it.
Arrangements were made for us to leave within the week for Dallas where he would meet with an oncologist. He was scheduled for a PET scan and, based on those results, we were told he had Stage 4 gastric cancer. There was really nothing that could be done to help him other than chemo to prolong his life. We were sent to the person who helps you figure things out, and at that point she asked, “were you ever in the military?”
When learning he was and learning where he was stationed, she asked us if we knew of the water contamination. We hadn’t, but I remember a survey we had received asking about his time at Camp Lejeune. Nothing was said about how you could be at risk for anything (this makes me so mad).
We went through all the VA paperwork and the doctors filed everything, only to be denied. At the beginning of May, 2015, Joe started having headaches and dizzy spells. It turns out that the stomach cancer had spread to his brain. He underwent 10 days of radiation and died a week later, just 9 months from his diagnosis.
Keep in mind there is a less than 1% chance of stomach cancer spreading to the brain. Why did his?
He was denied anything because:
- He was overweight (not a day in his life was he overweight)
- He smoked (he also showered in and drank contaminated water, not to mention 55-gallon drums of chemicals all around)
- He ate processed meats (who doesn’t, and why isn’t gastric cancer more common?)
Denied, denied, denied!
I’m not sure why his washing his hands in, showering in, and drinking contaminated water was not on that list.
Now I know that there are types of cancer covered, but stomach cancer is not one of them. Everything goes through your stomach to get to everything else, so not sure why it isn’t a covered cancer? I was told by a nice lady at the VA that I needed to keep my eyes open because it would be a fight like Agent Orange was, but someday they would realize his death was service-related. I just keep watching, hoping that one day the government will recognize their mistakes and do what they should have done all along and recognize his service-related death.
Stomach cancer goes undiagnosed most of the time, until it’s too late. The more people who have lost someone to gastric cancer who was stationed at Lejeune can put in claims, the better it will be.
Thanks for listening. I hope one day I can file another claim and get his death recognized.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Texas. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.
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