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The Times
  • Newport meeting to address cancer rates

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  • NEWPORT � In July 2012, Melissa Lowell said what started off as a cough for her then 10-year-old son turned out to be something more ominous.
    �He said, �It�s just a cough, mom,�� said Lowell of Newport during an interview earlier this week.
    His condition worsened, however, and Lowell said her son was eventually admitted into St. Luke�s Hospital in New Hartford for pneumonia. Lowell said, however, a doctor eventually determined he was in stage three of an extremely rare and very aggressive form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
    Two years later, her son is in remission. Lowell and other concerned citizens who have also experienced their own stories of rare cancers and birth defects, however, are hoping to find out the cause behind these unusual health issues.
    Members of WCV � What�s making us sick? will meet Tuesday in the West Canada Valley High School auditorium at 7 p.m. The guest speaker will be James A. Bowers, a research scientist for the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology at the state Department of Health.
    The meeting will address the full investigation launched by the health department into patterns or trends in the area that constitute as a cancer cluster. It will also provide a question and answer forum for the community and a venue for those to express their concerns regarding health and environmental matters.
    Lowell said through her research and talking with members of the community, she realized how many others in the area had their own stories. She said there are at least six confirmed pediatric cancer cases from 2011 to 2013 in the area - three of which were the same rare form of lymphoma. She noted, too, all of those who have been diagnosed with these cancers have lived in Newport their whole lives.
    Jennifer Snyder of Newport said she and her hairdresser and friend Alisa Barretta were talking about the rate of cancer diagnoses in the area.
    �We were talking how every time we see each other, there�s another cancer case,� said Snyder. �It was so concerning that we started talking about getting a group of people together.�
    Snyder mentioned how her sister � Carrie Firestone, a former Ilion resident � formed the Ilion Project to investigate causes of the high rate of cancer in that area. The WCV � What�s making us sick? group has an online forum for people to talk about their own cancer diagnoses and health issues.
    Last October, the health department received a request to investigate whether there is an unusual number of children with cancer in the area.
    �I�m just terrified of finding out another child [will have a cancer diagnosis or birth defect],� said Snyder.
    Barretta said while she hasn�t been directly affected, she�s gotten involved with the group now nearly 1,000 members strong.
    Page 2 of 2 - �My concern is for my children and other people�s children and adults, too,� she said.
    Lowell said the group is motivated to make sure this problem in the community is addressed
    �Nothing that�s going to be investigated is going to erase what happened to our families,� she said. �� We love this community and the school district. The biggest concern we have is to protect anyone from having to endure this.�

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