Growing up is never an easy task, with all of the awkward phases, homework self-discovery happening, there is barely time for anything else. But, for 14-year-old Lexi Crawford, life was going well until she woke up with intense back pain one day.
After a visit to a nearby hospital, doctors were baffled and shocked when they found what looked like "black spots" on Lexi's spine, and diagnosed her with a rare form of cancer.
Only a few weeks later, two-year-old Gage Walker, who lives in the same town as Lexi, started complaining about stomach pain and soon after, doctors discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor in his abdomen. He was diagnosed with the same cancer as Lexi.
Within a month, five children residing in Waycross, Georgia have officially been diagnosed with the same rare cancer known as rhabdomyosarcoma. All the children are between ages two to 14 and all live within 40 blocks of one another.
The people of Waycross are baffled by this occurrence and have grown suspicious of the extreme pollution that has and continues to consume multiple areas of Waycross.
Some pollution sites in Waycross are so badly contaminated that the government sent investigators to examine the pollutants and determine if they are linked to the cancer that is claiming one child after another.
The state's environmental inspectors discovered hazards in Waycross that date back to the early 1900s, evidence that has now led the community to believe Waycross has formed a cancer cluster.
A cancer cluster is a geographic area with a statistically higher number of cancer occurrences among residents than other surrounding areas.
Over eight different energy plants have contributed scientific evidence to the cancer cluster theory and continue to support it.
Haylee Metts, the mother of six-year-old Raylee, one of children diagnosed with cancer, stated, "Starting at my house, there are six houses. Every house, starting with my house, has some form of cancer."
The Metts family lived within a few miles of a chemical plant that was shut down in 1989, and have relocated in order to protect their toddler-aged son from the pollutants in Waycross.
Doctors have ruled out this serious form of cancer stemming from genetics, and are continuing to determine a link between environmental factors and cancer formation.
A study done at Emory University concluded that out of 567 community cancer cluster investigations performed in the last 20 years, only 72 were confirmed.
How do you protect your little ones from cancer?
Cancer has no prejudice. It affects the young, the rich, the weak, the poor, the old and anyone else it can touch. The important thing to remember is cancer prevention starts during childhood. Here are some ground rules to consider to keep your little ones safe:
Always use a lotion or sunscreen with a large UV spectrum when your child is out in the sun. Skin cancer is one of the easier forms of cancer to contract when you have had an extensive amount of sun exposure.
Consider getting the HPV or Gardasil vaccine for your daughter when she is an adolescent. Without the vaccine, she becomes more susceptible given to your child when they are nine, without it they become more susceptible to cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers as they grow.
3. Be aware of your environment
The town of Waycross has some serious cleaning up to do before the cancer epidemic will me stopped. Being aware of the environment and the area you live in will protect you and your children from any harmful pollutants or hazardous factors in the area. Research your town and make sure your family is safe from any dangers before it's too late.
Liset was raised in Panama but now calls Florida home. She graduated in communications and is now working towards her master's degree. Liset is very outspoken and outgoing. She enjoys anything that involves the ocean, soccer or dancing.