Another Waycross child dies from cancer after a two year battle; Community looking for answers

A 16 year old dies two years after being diagnosed with a rare cancer that Waycross residents believe is part of a cancer cluster.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Many of the faces of the cancer deaths in Waycross, Georgia are those of young innocent children.

"I didn't know any of these families before any of this," said Joan Tibor, "but I can say they're strong families."

Tibor is a former Waycross resident and a member of the group Silent Disaster. The group is demanding answers from health officials about the number of cancer cases in their small town.

She remembers Lexi Crawford. "She was a normal brilliant child," she said.

In the Summer of 2015, Crawford became one of four children around Waycross diagnosed with a sarcoma within 60 days of each another. Her diagnosis was Rhabdomyosarcoma.

Lexi Crawford was 14 when she spoke with us, and had already undergone five months of chemotherapy.

"I'm doing a lot better," she said from her bed. Those first rounds of chemo were extremely difficult.

Even so, the straight-A student was optimistic and determined; her parents told her it was OK to get angry, but she didn't.

"Why do that?" she said. "I am going to fight it." And she did.

Cristy Rice, her mother, was in Lexi's corner every day of the fight.

"She's awesome," said Rice. "Everyday I've thought about 'why me?'"

This Memorial Day, Lexi lost her fight.

She passed away after a two-year battle. But her life inspired her Waycross community. There was an outpouring on Facebook.

Rose posted: "Lexi's life was a true testimony of unconditional love."

Rachelle posted: "Thank you for being an inspiration to all of us."

"Nobody should have to go through this," said Rice.

The American Cancer Society reports there are only 350 new cases of Rhabdomyosarcoma each year in this country. Yet, in one Summer there were three cases in Waycross.

"If we want to stop this," said Tibor, "and if we don't want the deaths of these children to be in vain, we need to figure out what caused this."

Tibor and Silent Disaster have been searching for answers.

"Nobody wants the stigma of 'our community has a Cancer Cluster,'" she said, "but people need to pass their pride for the sake of the health of these children."

Rice has other children and when she spoke with First Coast News, she said she too was searching for answers. "I want answers; we deserve answers."

When asked, Lexi said her message to others was simple - and personal.

"Enjoy your life because things can change very quickly," she said.

The Georgia Department of Health is working on a public health assessment on two sites: a CSX rail yard and the former Atlanta Gas and Light property.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency, will then review the findings and make it public.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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