As questions still loom, eye cancer survivor speaks up following Huntersville mother’s death

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The North Carolina budget once again will not include money to find answers to a looming cancer question in Huntersville -- why have so many people been diagnosed with a rare ocular melanoma?

It’s a question that has haunted the Huntersville community for years.

One survivor, who has never shared his story, said the recent death of a young mother pushed him to speak up.

“Started having bright flashes of light like a camera and someone taking pictures,” Andy Whitley said. “Like muddy water washing across my eye.”

Whitley grew up in northern Mecklenburg County and had never heard of ocular melanoma. But he still remembers the symptoms and signs he started seeing in the late 90s.

The eye cancer usually impacts five in one million people. In 1999, Whitley became one of those are statistics.

“Do you have any vision in your right eye?” Allison asked him.

“I can’t detect light. I still have my eye but it is completely blank,” Whitley responded. “Parking a vehicle in a parking lot, I have no depth perception.”


Sen. Natasha Marcus represents Mecklenburg County in Raleigh. She has repeatedly sought funding for more research. Despite bipartisan support on her latest bill to allocate $150,000 for further studies of a cause, the legislation didn’t make it into the budget.

“I could happen to any of us. It is so random and scary and deadly,” she said. “We need to do better. I really wish there was already work done on this because we’re too far in. It’s been many, many years and we’ve lost too many people.”

Jessica Boesmiller, a young mother of four, is the most recent patient to lose a brave battle against the disease. Her story is why Whitley contacted anchor Allison Latos, so Whitley can amplify his voice and his own diagnosis to push for answers.

“I would like for it not to affect anyone else,” Whitley said.

Environmental tests of soil samples around Huntersville did not identify a cause. Tumor and genetic testing of patients and their families didn’t find a link either.

Marcus said she’s not giving up on seeking funding. She hopes experts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be able to find answers.

(WATCH BELOW: Community comes together to raise money for Huntersville mother who died of rare eye cancer)

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