Cancer City, Ohio -- State Investigating a Cluster of Cancer Cases

CLYDE, OHIO -- What would you do if cancer started affecting lots of children in your town or your neighborhood?  The state of Ohio now says there's definitely an abnormal amount of childhood cancer cases around Clyde and Green Springs, about 50 miles east of Toledo.  The 18 families involved in the study want answers quickly, but state and county health leaders say they're moving as fast as they can.

In the past few weeks, the Sandusky Health Department started doing in-depth interviews with those dealing with this nightmare.  Now Erin Brockovich, whose legal firm gained fame in a movie, is reportedly involved as well.

"It changes your whole life," said Tyler Smith, a cancer victim from Clyde.  She is only 14 years old, and Tyler's world has been turned upside down.  She has experienced more pain, physically and emotionally, during her young life than anyone should have to go through.

The hospital stays, the treatments for leukemia, the drastic turn for the worse that sent her to the intensive care unit, it has all taken its toll.  "It was really horrible in the ICU.  It was really bad," said Tyler.  "I had a tube down my throat and my lungs collapsed."

"She, uh, almost died on us," said Tyler's mother, Donna Hisey.  She remembers all too well the cancer that nearly ripped the life right out of her daughter.  "We didn't know if she would make it through everything she had to go through," said Hisey.  "I didn't know if we'd get a chance to spend those teenage years with her."

All those painful times came back through their minds after one of the other children in this cancer study, 6-year-old Kole Keller died from brain cancer three weeks ago.  "It was just very upsetting," said Hisey.  "I just couldn't believe it."

Tyler agreed.  "It was very difficult for me," she said.

"Something is going on," said Dave Pollick from the Sandusky County Health Department.  "We just don't know what it is."

In April, Pollick and his staff started gathering extensive medical information through a 15-page, two-hour long interview each with those in this study.  Questions about where the kids have attended school, where they've lived, where the parents worked while mom was pregnant.  "Where I work, we come in contact with chemicals and greases," said Donaa.  "Grease goes through the gloves."

Donna questions if Tyler was exposed to even more chemicals in her early years.  "Our basement has a lot of wood in it, and we stained a lot of it," said Donna.  "She was younger then, and she was in the house when we did it."

Some families feel the Ohio Department of Health has moved slowly during this study into what -- if anything -- is causing so many cases.  The Hisey's even did tests on their own of their soil, water and more, which all came back within normal levels.  Now -- the surveys.

"I'm just glad that they're finally trying to get to the bottom of this," said Donna.  "I hope they're trying to get to the bottom of this."

"These are the avenues that are given to us.  This the most scientific way we can get at it and we're hoping that we will find something in the results of these surveys that gives us some leads," said Pollick.

News 11 found old maps of the Clyde area dating back to the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Could the answer be somewhere in these drawings?  Donna says she thinks investigators are asking the right questions, and hopefully they are the best shots at solving this medical mystery -- a mystery that's constantly on Tyler's mind even as she's now in remission.

"I kind of get scared like if something is wrong with me, I'm always like, 'Oh, no.'  I hope it has nothing to do with cancer," said Tyler.  "I am praying that they find out what is happening, so that way no other child will have cancer," said Donna.

"I hope they find it... what's happening... and they fix it," said Tyler.

Posted by AEB