Friday, December 28, 2007

Born in The Toxic Triumvirate

Hello cyberworld! I'm Micah's Mom. I chose to write my maiden blog entry on the anniversary of Micah's diagnosis with childhood leukemia at the tender age of 4. The events surrounding his battle with a blood forming cancer are noteworthy---especially his environment. He was born and raised at one residency. To put another way, his environment was stable and constant from conception to diagnosis. His history is easily tracked.

Most notable, his beginning was almost his ending. He nearly died there as a sick preschooler in what I've come to call The Toxic Triumvirate.

The Toxic Triumvirate has a Shakespearian ring to it combined with a plot of the children's fairy tale, The Three Little Pigs. It's about a group of three, and a big bad wolf disguised in sheep's clothing. Complete with the huffing and puffing by the wolf, it comes with a modern twist. Houses aren't blown down, but rather poisoned from the ground up.

I know the Three Little Pigs story well. I shared it more times than desired with Micah and my other children giving it the happiest ending I could concoct. And although The Toxic Triumvirate is not a fairy tale, it is my faith in a God who has intervened throughout history and woven justice for the oppressed that motivates me to believe in real life happy endings.

Discover for yourself that truth is stranger than fiction:

Once upon a time in October of 1994, a baby boy made his grand entrance. He appeared healthy, but as he grew, it became apparent that he was prone to infections. He developed chronic anemia, joint pain, and low grade fevers.

His pediatricians were baffled. A hospitalization in which his blood showed unusual deviations from normal patterns ushered in specialists. A rheumatologist ruled out juvenile arthritis. An infectious disease expert was stumped. After months of unknown origin of his pain and suffering, the little boy developed a condition known as pancytopenia in which all blood components hit rock bottom.

Besides Micah's shouts and tears at getting poked with a needle, what I remember when we visited the lab for the umpteenth dozen time that post-Christmas December day was his blood. As it oozed and filled the clear sample tube, it was not a normal looking shade of red that I was used to seeing. It was brown like a crackling, dried up fallen leaf. Life is in blood, and I knew something was wrong as his now appeared as it had been cooked to a burnt rust.

Maybe it had. Perhaps that is why he awoke so many nights screaming with bone and joint pain as the marrow in our bones is the amazing factory where blood is made. As I suspected, results from this lab visit indicated he was in serious trouble. He was rushed to a children's oncology hospital where a bone marrow tap revealed a type of cancer known in the medical world as acute lymphocytic/lymphoblastic leukemia.

Two months later, environmental health agencies declared our well so poisoned that they shut it down permanently. To this day, our former residency is listed on the Georgia Hazardous Site Inventory.

We were told by those put in charge of guarding our environment and health that the benzene found in our well does cause leukemia but not Micah's type. We were told there was no research on prenatal or postnatal exposure as Micah experienced, nor was it known if benzene exacerbated the toxic brew of industrial chemicals he came in contact with his entire short life.

We were told the bulk petroleum facility within 500 feet of our home would not be investigated as a source of benzene because the agency was "looking in a different direction." We were told the letter our son's oncologist wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with concerns of these operations was lost in transit. We were told there would be no follow up of the other children who developed leukemia in our area because of confidentiality issues.

We were told so many tales that it has taken eight years to unravel the tangled web woven by a collusive government, industry, real estate, and banking institutions. Important details we were not told began to emerge as well.

I love truth because it cannot be bought. It is eternal and stands on its own. I love truth because it is not shackled by a safe deposit box under lock and key, or a hidden dusty file for decades. Truth is not dependent on a successful lawsuit to be found. I love truth because it is for all people and sets us free. I love truth because God is truth.

This blog is for all those who want to know the true story of The Toxic Triumvirate, and of course, its happy ending. :-)

*Inspired by her 4 year old son's journey with childhood leukemia, and named after him, MICAH's Mission began in 2003. A Christian ministry dedicated to improving the health of children and adolescents by reducing their involuntary exposures from environmental hazards, every now and again you can catch Micah's Mom humming, "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007