Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
My father was stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1967–1968 as a young lieutenant in the Marines. He and my mother lived in base housing at the Tarawa Terrace subdivision (3374 Haggaru Road) after he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. I was conceived in April 1967 and born at the base in January of 1968.
I was born underweight and with a severe skin rash that I still have to this date. As a child, I suffered numerous ear and sinus infections that diminished as I entered my teens. I married, then became a father of four and settled into my adult life. Then in April of 2007, my wife gave me a hug that changed my life.
During that hug, she felt a lump in my right breast. The lump was a malignant tumor, and I was diagnosed with male breast cancer. The tumor was 2.5 cm and was surgically removed in a mastectomy. I now have a 14-inch scar where my right breast used to be. I also lost one lymph node, but it was not cancerous. The doctor prescribed six months of chemotherapy.
As you may already know, breast cancer is rare in men and even rarer in men under 60. Male breast cancer accounts for less than 1% of all diagnosed breast cancers. In July of 2007, I underwent genetic testing for the hereditary breast cancer mutations BRCA 1 and 2. Most men who develop male breast cancer carry this gene. I tested negative for the genes. I do not drink, nor do I smoke. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. According to the geneticists at Shands University Hospital, the occurrence of male breast cancer in the general population without the BRCA mutations is .05%.
The contamination at Camp Lejeune was revealed to me when I began research after my husband Samuel “Jason” Perez (age 29) was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer: Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma. Due to the rarity of this type of cancer, his physician asked him if he had ever been exposed to chemicals.
Upon hearing the diagnosis, his mother immediately mentioned the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. Jason was conceived and lived on Camp LeJeune as a child. His father is a proud, retired, Sergeant Major in the Marine Corp.
Since that moment in September 2002, I have learned so much about the disease and the poisonous chemicals that our military and their families were exposed to on that base. The fact that dry cleaning chemicals were dumped into the drinking water system is enough to justify a study for those exposed. There were many more chemicals in the water on that base, and I believe because Jason was conceived there, he was affected as a fetus as well as a young, developing child while he consumed the poisons all around him in Tarawa Terrace where he lived. He also had a lot of the same symptoms others have reported, such as cysts, ear problems, and skin disorders. Those were the obvious signals; the tumor on his adrenal gland was not.
My husband died October 2, 2002, just five weeks after his diagnosis. He left me, our son Austin (age 6), and daughter Alenna (age 3). We miss him every day—he was an extremely loving father who absolutely adored his children.Now I worry every time my children have a fever or a stomachache. I wonder if they may have been exposed through their father. I worry that the chemicals Jason was exposed to may affect their health in the future.
If Jason had been warned and monitored, he may have been saved. As it was, he was a strong, seemingly healthy young man who, when he complained of back pain, doctors thought he had strained a muscle. The tumor was not discovered until it was 14 cm and too large to remove. The last few weeks of his life were very unpleasant and horrific for him and his family. These affected individuals need to be monitored—it could save their lives.
I hope for some sort of legislation to allow the affected, including my children, to be screened periodically to see if the water has damaged them. Please help us all achieve some peace of mind.
Thank you for your consideration, on behalf of Jason, Austin, and Alenna Perez.
I am a victim of exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) at Camp Lejeune. I have male breast cancer. Male breast cancer is very rare in men. According to The American Cancer Society, only 2,000 men will be diagnosed with male breast cancer in the United States this year. If we put that in perspective, breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women.
For men, the risk of breast cancer is 1/10 of 1%. Most men with male breast cancer are between 60–70 years of age. Additionally, most of these men also have a family history of the disease.
Not only do I have a rare form of cancer, but I am also younger than the majority of men that do have breast cancer.
Three years ago, at the age of 47, the diagnosis came. I do not smoke, drink alcohol, and have no family members with breast cancer. Additionally, I have had the genetic test for breast cancer, and it was determined that I do not carry the gene.
My connection to the TCE contamination occurred at Camp Lejeune. I lived on base at Tarawa Terrace from around 1966 through 1970 and attended the elementary school on base. I played in the drainage ditch by my house, the canal, and the New River constantly during the years that my family lived at Tarawa Terrace. The address was 1551 Matanikau Street.
Currently, I am through with chemo and am continuing to work at regaining my strength.
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If you or someone you love has been affected by the Camp Lejeune water contamination, contact our team for a free case evaluation and/or share your story and help us push Congress to pass the H.R.2192 – Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021—a bill that will allow victims to seek justice for themselves and their families.
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