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Cancer cluster concerns: a wife's fight to get answers

Cancer cluster concerns: a wife's fight to get answers. (NIH){p}{/p}
Cancer cluster concerns: a wife's fight to get answers. (NIH)

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“Happy Birthday,” said Mark Cunningham’s daughter as she read him a birthday card. She added, “Dad, I love you to the moon!”

Monday, Cunningham turned 35. A birthday his family didn’t expect to see. Cunningham was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer.

One of several diagnosed in the same area, Fort Pierce and Northern Port St. Lucie. Three on the same street.

“He’s hanging in there,” said Stephanie Ankiel-Cunningham, Mark’s wife. She’s been working to get to the bottom of this cancer cluster. After the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County concluded there was no cancer cluster, she hired an environmental lawyer. She said, “I think I’ve tried every avenue on my own.”

Stephanie’s lawyer, Mara Hatfield, said, “she’s not asking the same question again and again. She’s asking the same question because she’s not getting her question answered.”

The Florida Department of Health did another assessment and stated the number of people diagnosed with glioblastoma was not abnormal. However, Stephanie and her attorney still have questions. Hatfield, “why is it limited to just glioblastoma?” Most of the people diagnosed with glioblastoma were first diagnosed with another type of cancer before it got to that level.

So now they’re starting their own research and plan to test soil in those areas. “We are starting an investigation to see if there is an environmental cause we can identify,” said Hatfield.

Hatfield has been involved in cancer cluster cases. One of those cases being a nine year investigation in the Acreage in Palm Beach County. She said there are “frightening similarities” specifically when it comes to the timing of the housing market and concerns about dumping industrial sources.

They’re hoping to get some answers, answers for the Cunningham’s and the entire community.

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“I’m trying to prevent other family from going through similar situation if it is preventable,” said Stephanie.

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