Marine fears exposure caused cancer
A benefit spaghetti dinner is scheduled at a White Oak church on Sunday to raise funds for a cancer victim from Turtle Creek and to raise awareness of the problem that may have caused his condition.
Michael George DeBruyn, 47, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. He said he believes it was because of exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., during his years in the Marine Corps.
“It was covered up for years,” Michael said on Thursday.
“They knew about it all of those years it was contaminated, and they didn't tell them,” said DeBruyn's ex-wife Roseanne DeBruyn, 43, who is arranging the dinner.
It will be held from 2-6 p.m., with tickets sold at the door for $8 for adults and $4 for children under 12.
There will be baked goods for sale and a Chinese auction.
Congress passed “The Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012” in a bid to help Marines and their families who may have been exposed to the contaminated well water.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the federal government's Centers for Disease Control said volatile organic compounds were found in the water, including such known or suspected carcinogens as tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, dichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.
“There are a number of presumptive conditions that the (Department of Veterans Affairs) will provide care for if someone was stationed there for more than 30 days from 1957 to 1987,” said a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.
Michael was stationed at Camp Lejeune three times between 1983 and 1989. He's been turned down twice by the VA, with the most recent rejection coming on June 21.
“To our knowledge, there have been no claims settled yet,” Doyle's spokesman said. “There is a special VA location that handles service-connection claims for this issue. The claims sent to the Pittsburgh office for this are forwarded to that location and they are worked from there.”
Proceeds from the dinner will go toward the Michael DeBruyn Catastrophic Fund at PNC Bank.
The fund will help pay for Michael's funeral, or for any further treatments that could reverse what has become a stage 4 cancer, which has spread to his lungs, stomach, liver and lymph nodes.
“Now the chemo has stopped working and I am on a chemical trial drug,” Michael said.
The drug, TAS-102, is undergoing trials through 2014 in the United States and Japan.
The veteran said his situation was worsened by his inability to get assistance for several years. He said he did get some help while working at Wabtec.
“When he could not work anymore he sought out the VA,” Roseanne said. “He applied five times to the Social Security Administration before getting disability two years ago.”
Michael is getting help from other quarters, including his own church, Monroeville Christian.
“They gave him a check for $1,000 and there's an offering,” Roseanne said.
Those who put contributions in the collection basket at Monroeville Christian can direct donations to Michael DeBruyn “if you put his name on the envelope,” Roseanne said.
Roseanne is a production coordinator in the Mon Yough Community Services Market Street mail department in McKeesport.
She is raising the couple's son, Michael William DeBruyn, 17, who is in his third year of home schooling through McKeesport Area School District's cyber program.
He said he plans to enlist in the Marines after he graduates. Although he wasn't exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune, his mother said he still will have to be tested for certain cancers far earlier in life than normal.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.