MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Businesses and neighbors in Mooresville are pooling their resources to find out if something in the community is making people sick.
It started when a local teen was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and her mother learned dozens of people in her zip code are facing the same type of sickness.
"During a routine physical, they found a lump in the side of her neck and told me it was a swollen gland and there was nothing to worry about," Susan Wind recalled.
But the lump didn't go away. Then, they learned she had papillary thyroid cancer.
"She had to have a full neck dissection because of the spreading of the tumors," said Wind. "It's probably one of the worst nightmares a parent can have."
Then, Wind started hearing about other people in her area with the same type problem.
"My neighbor down the street, six houses down, had thyroid cancer," she said.
On top of that, she was keeping tabs on reports of a possible cluster of rare eye cancer cases 20 minutes away in Huntersville, and recent news of high levels of radiation found in groundwater at Lake Norman.
"This is serious, and if there is something in the environment causing these cancers then we need to learn what it is," said Wind.
Wind set out to raise $50,000 to fund a research grant. She used her skills as a social media expert to raise money online -- posting appeals every day. As their story spread, donations started pouring in.
Wind said about 25 people in her zip code are signed up for the study. Thyroid cancer has the fastest-growing rate of diagnoses in the nation. Consistent with the national rate, most of the participants in the local study are women. Four are under the age of 22.
"We are doing this study to kind of see what do we all share in common in this area, what are we all doing that is possibly giving us this risk of getting thyroid cancer," said Wind.
She's working with researchers who are collecting information on study participants and samples of water, soil, and even home insulation and paint.
To raise more money for the study, Wind is hosting a 5K and has neighbors and local businesses who are also eager for answers pitching in as sponsors. In seven months, she's raised more than $80,000.
Fortunately, Wind's daughter is now in remission, but she has plenty of motivation to keep going.
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