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Kasson Cancers: One Year Later

Posted at: 05/16/2013 10:56 PM
Updated at: 05/17/2013 5:25 PM
By: Laura Lee

 (ABC 6 News) -- Last May we introduced you to six families in Kasson-Mantorville with children battling cancer. Now, just a year later, the number of cases has doubled.

Is there a cause for concern? That is the question.

ABC 6 started investigating the sudden increase over a three year span in a town of roughly six thousand people.   Medical experts saying decades of research indicate there is no link. But, that's not good enough for the families from Kasson-Mantorville, who say 12 children is too many to be a coincidence.

Every night before Sadie Cameron goes to bed, she gives herself a pep talk, "I tell myself that i'm going to wake up and have a great day."

That's because every morning, she is reminded that she has cancer.

23-year-old Sadie Cameron is the oldest of the new cancer cases. She was diagnosed in January of 2013.

"Oh my God, I have cancer, am I going to die?" says Sadie, recalling the moment she was told she had cancer.

24 hours after her open biopsy for swollen lymph nodes, she had her answer. "She said Hodgkin's Lymphoma and from that moment on, that was the only thing in my head," says Cameron.

"It's unfair, for anyone to have to go through this," cried Jody Kochie.

Bringing Sadie's mom -- Jody -- back to last year, when news of the six childhood cancer cases surfaced in her town.

"Dumb-founding, as we watched ABC 6 News' Kasson Cancers three part series a year ago, six kids, a year ago, and back then if someone would have walked into the room and said okay your doing this again with 6 more, devastating, just devastating," says Kochie.

Across town, Jeremy Broussard was diagnosed with leukemia in March and within a week his classmate, Raya Luebbe was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

The two seniors currently undergoing chemo, shared a moment at their senior prom last month.

"You kind of sit as a parent, like a sitting duck, is my child next?" says Kochie. "It's like the mentality that just because of my town I was at a higher risk, never would have taken her to the doctor had it not been for these Kasson Cancers at the back of my mind going wait a minute," says Kochie.

John Soler, Senior Epidemiologist with The Minnesota Department of Health says they have been monitoring this cancer cluster since our investigation last year.

"There are a number of cancers in a small area and its more than we'd expect quite a few more," says Soler.

"One always hopes of course, that the run of cases will not continue but in this situation it has," says Soler.

Now, just one year later, six new cases.

During an interview I asked, "why not use this case to shed some light on childhood cancers?"

"We would not be able to answer the question, that everyone is asking," says Soler. "From science that we have seen so far, childhood cancers doesn't seem to be that where you live matters as where you get cancer or not."

"But how do you know unless you investigate," I asked John.

"And that's often the question, if you don't test, you don't know, on the other hand, public health have tested for years and years and have come up with no clues, much less an answer," says Soler.

"Last year I asked, how many cases does the state need before they do a study, now we have six more cases?" "At what point will the state health department step in?"

"I didn't think there'd be six more either, if there were another 6 cases and another six cases, we'd have a situation, that'd be unparalleled," says Soler.

The Minnesota Department of Health sites a national case that was investigated in 2003 after 17 children were diagnosed with leukemia in the small town of Fallon, Nevada.

The research turned up with no environmental link between the cases.

"I cannot prove to the families that there is nothing there (in Kasson), all I can do is present the science," he says.

"Cancer is just too rough for us, to just consider people who suffer from it just as a statistic, we're not numbers we're people," says Cameron.

Coming up in part two of the report, learn what desperate action these children are taking and find out what health experts are saying about the water quality in town.