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Entries in Cancer (14)

Saturday
Apr272013

Mom Allegedly Tells 9-Year-Old Son he has Fatal Cancer as Part of a Scam

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(PENNSAUKEN, N.J.) -- A New Jersey mother faces arrest for an alleged scam in which she told her 9-year-old son, family and friends that the boy had stage three cancer.

Susan Stillwaggon, 35, of Pennsauken, N.J., has been charged with theft by deception, forgery, endangering the welfare of a child and using a child to commit a criminal offense.

Stillwaggon allegedly told her son, that he had stage three Hodgkin's lymphoma, and she accepted at least $3,500 in funds raised for the boy.

Police said "quite a few" people have been identified as victims of the scam, and they are looking for others.

"Stillwaggon led her son to believe that he suffered from the fatal illness," the Pennsauken Township Police Department said in a news release. "Investigation confirmed that the boy does not suffer from any life-threatening illnesses."

An anonymous tip led police to investigate Stillwaggon.

"There were events held," Pennsauken Detective Sgt. Cheryl Duffy told ABCNews.com. "There were probably 10 different people that organized some kind of something, be it a cupcake sale or those little Livestrong-type rubber bracelets. I've got kids walking around with canisters, and I've got Bingo events."

Stillwaggon has not been arrested yet, because she's in the hospital receiving psychiatric treatment, her mother told Duffy, he said.

"She told him he has cancer," Duffy said of the young boy. "That's why she's charged with endangering the welfare of a child."

The New Jersey Division of Children and Families has become involved in the case but said it found no signs of physical abuse. The charge of endangering the welfare of a child stems from mental abuse or neglect as defined by law.

Police do not believe that any other family members knew about the alleged hoax, including the boy's father.

"It's actually plausible why he didn't catch on," Duffy said. "It's a single-income family, and he's the sole breadwinner. He's a truck driver gone for extended periods of time. Mom's a stay-at-home mom in charge of all the kids' appointments, so it was whatever she relayed to him."

Members of the Stillwaggon family did not respond to requests for comment by ABC News. Duffy said that as of Thursday, Stillwaggon had not retained an attorney.

Yale University professor of psychology Alan Kazdin said that caring for the child right now was very important.

"Is there a potential for trauma? Absolutely," Kazdin told ABCNews.com. "We're concerned about trauma. We're concerned about anxiety."

Kazdin, who is not involved in the case, said the boy is the victim of a "double whammy." He was told he was sick and then found out he wasn't, but learned that his mother was allegedly lying.

"He's got two things going on that are really bad," Kazdin said. "He's got the weird situation that a horrible thing happened -- he was told he was [really sick] -- and once it comes out in the open, it gets worse in another way."

It's possible that the boy could be humiliated or potentially even have people try to take things out on him as a result of his mom's alleged actions, Kazdin said.

"Separation from mom is a third part," he said. "Separation from your most significant other. That's huge for a child."

Kazdin said it was important for the boy to connect to a support system and maintain routines during this time. He suggested that the people around him should look out for red flags, such as sleepless nights, depression or avoiding going to school, where people may ridicule him.

The scam had allegedly been going on since the beginning of March, but Duffy believes it might have been going on for longer.

Stillwaggon's first court appearance is scheduled for May 2, 2013.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec042012

Father of Girl Missing from Cancer Ward Denies Role in Her Disappearance

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- The U.S. Border Patrol located the father of an 11-year-old girl whose mother had removed her from Phoenix Children's Hospital with a catheter still in her heart, but he has denied playing any role in taking the cancer-stricken girl from her sickbed.

Surveillance video captured the girl, identified only as Emily, along with a young boy and her mother, who police have now identified as 35-year-old Norma Bracamontes, walking out of Phoenix Children's Hospital at 10:30 p.m. last Wednesday.

Authorities and medical professionals fear the catheter in the girl's heart could become infected and endanger her life. The device was scheduled to be taken out before her mother removed an IV from the girl, who had been receiving chemotherapy, had recently battled an infection and had her right arm amputated.

When stopped while entering the United States last weekend, Luis Bracamontes, 46, told authorities that the family lived a "nomadic" life, and did not have a permanent residence, ABC affiliate KNXV-TV reported.

Police said that Bracamontes was a Mexican citizen with a U.S. Resident Alien ID Card, and that the girl and her mother were U.S. citizens. Other than that, Bracamontes provided "no valuable information" as far as the whereabouts of his daughter, Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said. Neither parent has been charged with a crime.

The family's not having a U.S. address has made the search for Emily difficult, Martos told ABC News last week. Since Emily and her family are from Mexico, they have no listed records in Arizona.

A nurse supervisor called 911 when she realized Emily was missing, and described how Emily was able to avoid detection.

"She was wearing a wig, which is not unusual, a lot of our cancer patients wear wigs," the supervisor said. "She wasn't wearing a wig when she went into the bathroom though, and then she was wearing a wig when she came out, and she was actually covering her right arm, the amputated arm."

Police said Norma Bracamontes removed Emily's IV before walking her out of the hospital in street clothes.

The family left the hospital in a black van and has not been seen since. Luis Bracamontes denied to authorities that he was driving the van.

Calls placed Tuesday to Phoenix Children's Hospital spokeswoman Jane Walton by ABC News were not immediately returned.

With the catheter still in her heart, Emily runs the risk of infection at both the site where the catheter entered her skin, and risks bacteria getting into the catheter at its tip, from where it could travel into her heart. At that point, the bacteria could enter her bloodstream.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News that the longer Emily is out of professional care, the chances of her developing sepsis increases.

"This is not hype, or an overblown concern," he said. "We have a patient who, with cancer, is in a precarious position for infection. The longer it takes, the more worried we get. The chances of an infection being introduced goes up and up each day."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Govt. Admits Ground Zero Cancer Risk

Anthony Correia/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The World Trade Center Health Program will now provide treatment and compensation for 9/11 victims who were diagnosed with cancer after they inhaled toxic dust, program administrator Dr. John Howard announced this afternoon.

Initially, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act -- the fund established in 2010 and named for police detective James Zadroga, who died at age 34 after working at Ground Zero -- included only a short list of illnesses that qualified for compensation. Cancer was excluded because of a lack of scientific evidence linking any form of the disease to conditions in the debris pile, even though many of the 50,000 9/11 first responders believe they got cancer -- among other illnesses -- because of their exposure to dust and other substances at Ground Zero.

"We received a petition to consider adding cancer from the New York Congressional Delegation," Howard said in a statement, adding that the WTC Health Program's Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee recommended adding dozens of cancers to the coverage list in June.

The expansion will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

The government says 2,976 people were killed when terrorists hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers aboard another flight that is believed to have been destined for another Washington, D.C., target -- possibly the U.S. Capitol building or the White House -- took over the aircraft. It crashed into an open field in Shanksville, Pa.

The fire and collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers contaminated the nearby air with particles of glass, asbestos, cement, lead, gypsum, calcium carbonate, other metal particles and other toxins.

It is believed that exposure to this dust through the lungs and skin has contributed to the asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and possibly the increased cancer risk experienced by rescue workers, especially those who were on the site immediately after the attack, when the cloud of debris dust was its thickest.

Asbestos causes lung and other types of cancer, while lead and other heavy metals can be toxic to the brain.

The Zadroga Act provides first responders with screening and treatment for health problems associated with working at Ground Zero. It also created a $4.3 billion fund to compensate affected first responders for any wage or other financial losses they incurred as a result of working at Ground Zero.

About 40,000 Sept. 11 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment for their illnesses as part of the Zadroga Act's health program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Feds Expected to Recognize Cancer Link to 9/11 First Responders

Anthony Correia/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The World Trade Center Health Program will now provide treatment and compensation for 9/11 victims who were diagnosed with cancer after they inhaled toxic dust, program administrator Dr. John Howard announced this afternoon.

(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government may formally acknowledge that Ground Zero first responders and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods could have gotten cancer as a result of their exposure to toxic dust following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which determines which cancers are covered under a fund established to care for first responders to the attacks, may make an announcement about the issue as early as Monday. Fifty types of cancers are expected be added to a list of illnesses covered by the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Initially, the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act — the fund established in 2010 and named for police Det. James Zadroga, who died at age 34 after working at Ground Zero — included only a short list of illnesses that qualified for compensation. Cancer was excluded because of a lack of scientific evidence linking any form of the disease to conditions in the debris pile, even though many of the 50,000 9/11 first responders believe they got cancer — among other illnesses — because of their exposure to dust and other substances at Ground Zero.

Dozens of cancers believed to be related to 9/11 exposure are expected to be added to the list of covered illnesses, the New York Post reported, citing two lawyers who represent thousands of first responders and area residents.

An estimated 3,000 people were killed when terrorists hijacked passenger jets and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers aboard another flight that is believed to have been destined for another Washington, D.C., target – possibly the U.S. Capitol building or the White House – took over the aircraft. It crashed into an open field in Shanksville, Pa.

The fire and collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers contaminated the nearby air with particles of glass, asbestos, cement, lead, gypsum, calcium carbonate, other metal particles and other toxins.

It is believed that exposure to this dust through the lungs and skin has contributed to the asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and possibly the increased cancer risk experienced by rescue workers, especially those who were on the site immediately after the attack, when the cloud of debris dust was its thickest.

The Zadroga Act provides first responders with screening and treatment for health problems associated with working at Ground Zero. It also created a $4.3 billion fund to compensate affected first responders for any wage or other financial losses they incurred as a result of working at Ground Zero.

About 40,000 Sept. 11 responders and survivors receive monitoring and 20,000 get treatment for their illnesses as part of the Zadroga Act’s health program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun072012

NY Bride Who Faked Cancer Alleges Accomplice But Won’t ‘Snitch’

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The New York woman who faked a cancer diagnosis and scored thousands of dollars in wedding donations now says she didn’t act alone.

In her first broadcast interview, Jessica Vega told ABC's 20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas that a friend forged letters from doctors about her supposed cancer treatments and that Vega signed them.

Vega would not reveal the friend’s identity, but said that person was no longer in her social circle.

“I’m not a snitch,” she said, but later added, “I don’t need that person in my life anymore.”

Vega, 25, was living in Montgomery, N.Y., when she told her then-boyfriend, Michael O’Connell, that she was battling a rare form of leukemia and had six months to live.  Word spread and soon Vega’s story was featured in a local newspaper.  Friends and those sympathetic to Vega’s story came forward with donations of more than $13,000 to pay for the couple’s wedding and honeymoon.

After the truth came to light, Vega was arrested, apologized and, last April, pled guilty to charges of scheming to defraud and possession of a forged instrument.  She was sentenced to time served -- fewer than two months -- and released from prison last month.  With the help of her father, Vega has repaid her wedding donors.

O’Connell, who fathered two children with Vega, said he had no idea of her scheme and only grew suspicious after they married.  The couple divorced months after the wedding but have since reconciled.

While headline after headline has accused Vega of faking her illness to afford her “dream wedding,” Vega said she concocted the story in a desperate attempt to save her relationship with O’Connell.  She said that before she told him of her “cancer,” O’Connell had moved out.  At that point, the couple had one child together.

“I felt like if I didn’t have some way to get his attention, momentarily, that’s it, I’m going to be a single mom,” she told 20/20.

The couple moved back in together and made plans to marry.  Day after day, Vega said she couldn’t bring herself to come clean.

“I could’ve woken up any day and told Michael the truth, but I was a coward,” she said.

Though she served time in prison and paid back her donors, Vega knows that will never be enough to gain forgiveness from those she’s wronged.

“I’m well aware that there’s no way that I’m ever going to be able to make it up to people, at the end of the day,” she said.  “All I can offer is my humble apologies.”

Watch the full story, including footage from O’Connell and Vega’s wedding, on 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May232012

Woman Who Faked Cancer Must Repay Wedding Donors

File photo. Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York woman who faked a cancer diagnosis to get others to pay for her wedding is out of jail.  She was sentenced Wednesday to time served and probation.

Jessica Vega had everyone fooled. “It was very convincing,” said Lisa Stoker, who donated flowers. “I mean she cut off her hair she shaved her head.”

Tom Cavanaugh donated the wedding rings. “There's lots of ways to trick people,” he said. “Why would you do that?”

A dress shop gave Vega a gown and other donors paid for a honeymoon in Aruba. Everyone felt compelled to help, prosecutors said, because Vega had terminal cancer.

Vega pleaded guilty, spent two months in jail, and a judge has now let her out -- but not before ordering her to pay back everyone she scammed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Texas Teen Indicted for Faking Cancer

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HORIZON CITY, Texas) -- Police in Horizon City, Texas say they have arrested a teenager whose false tale of her fight against cancer got neighbors to open their hearts -- and their wallets.

Nineteen-year-old Angie Gomez was busted on Friday and charged with felony theft by deception and tossed in jail; her bond was set on $50,000.

In January of 2011, Gomez told her classmates her childhood cancer had reappeared and she was given six months to live. Her community rallied around the supposedly sick teen, creating a charity in her honor and stuffing some $17,000 in cash, gift cards and other donations into her pot, according to the El Paso Times.

In June of 2011, cops started investigating her when she didn't appear to be at death's door at all. As it turns out, there was never any evidence Gomez had cancer as a child. Her mother told detectives she was never told about the scam.

It's not known if the money in the bank account of Angie Gomez' Achieve the Dream Foundation has been returned to donors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb012012

Suspended Locks of Love Teen Can Return, School Says

WJRT-TV(DETROIT) -- The Michigan school that suspended a 17-year-old cancer survivor trying to grow his hair long for Locks of Love brushed off the controversy Wednesday and said J.T. Gaskins can come back to school.

The Madison Academy said it will put up with Gaskins' long hair if he "simply styles it differently," but the school's statement appears to contradict comments by the boy's mother.

"We want J.T. back in school, so we offered him and his mother several solutions, including the option that he can continue to grow his hair out if he simply styles it differently so that it's out of his eyes and ears and off his collar," the Madison Academy said in a statement. "So the reports that we're demanding he cut his hair are simply not true. To date, he and his mother have not agreed to any of these options."

Christa Plante, Gaskins' mother, did not immediately respond to request for comment, but in an interview with ABC News on Monday, she told a conflicting story. Plante said that after her son's first three days of suspension more than two weeks ago, they met with the school board to see if they would reconsider.

Plante pleaded their case and presented the school with different suggestions for how to keep the situation in control such as saying that they would pull Gaskins' hair back in a ponytail or coming up with a donation clause so that other boys could not take advantage of a potential loophole in the rules.

"We had so many different ideas, but when we were done, it was a five minute decision," Plante said. "They said, 'We appreciate what you've been through, but we're sticking to policy.'"

The school board did not respond to a request for comment.

As of Monday, Gaskins had been out of school for two weeks.

"I really never thought we would be here," Plante told ABC News. She was "dumbfounded" when her son's school board upheld a decision to keep him out of school and says she is "very much" concerned about him missing part of his senior year of high school.

Gaskins was diagnosed with Infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a high-risk form of leukemia in children, when he was 8 weeks old. He underwent nearly five years of chemotherapy and his family celebrated him being cancer-free in December 2003.

Over the holidays, Gaskins was touched by a family friend who was battling cancer and decided he wanted to give back by donating his hair. But when his hair grew over his ears and started getting in his eyes, his school demanded he cut it.

Gaskins refused and was suspended.

Plante said her son wants to donate hair now since he will be turning 18 and graduating soon and this will be his last year of pediatric cancer check-ups, which he has gone through every year of his life.

"He's celebrating his life and now he wants to give back so that other kids can have an opportunity to celebrate theirs too," she said.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov082011

‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier Dies of Liver Cancer

Chris Smith/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, a boxer who was the first fighter to defeat Muhammad Ali and held the heavyweight crown for five years, has died after a fight with liver cancer.  He was 67.

“We The Family of the 1964 Olympic Boxing Heavyweight Gold Medalist, Former Heavyweight Boxing Champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame Member Smokin’ Joe Frazier, regrets to inform you of his passing,” his family said in a statement released Monday night. “He transitioned from this life as ‘One of God’s Men,’ on the eve of November 7, 2011 at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We thank you for your prayers for our Father and vast outpouring of love and support.”

Frazier won the Olympic gold medal in the 1964 Games and with his punishing left hook was one of the greatest heavyweights in boxing history.

After his grueling third fight with Ali, billed as the “Thrilla in Manilla,” Ali said, “It was the closest I’ve come to death.”

Ali issued a brief statement with kind words for Frazier and expressed sympathy for his family.

“The world has lost a great Champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones,”  Ali said Monday.

Frazier, the son of a South Carolina sharecropper born on Jan. 12, 1944 in Beaufort, got into boxing by accident, according to the biography on his website. He went to a gym to get into shape, and picked up the rudiments of the sport so quickly he was soon fighting competitively.

As an amateur he was undefeated until he lost to Buster Mathis in the 1964 Olympic trials, but got to go to the games after Mathis hurt his hand and couldn’t fight.

When he turned pro in 1965, he tore through other heavyweights, racking up a 25-0 record before his matchup with Ali at New York’s Madison Square Garden in March 1971.

When the match with Ali was made, billed as “The Fight of the Century,” it was for a purse of $2.5 million for each -- an astronomical figure for the sport at that time.

The fight lived up to all the hype, considered by many to be the greatest in boxing history. Frazier’s left hook knocked Ali down in the 15th round for a four count, and he won the decision, giving him the undisputed world championship.

Frazier held the crown until January 1973, when George Foreman knocked him down six times in the first two rounds and the fight was stopped.

He lost a 12-round rematch with Ali in January 1974, but after victories over Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis, he was ready to face Ali again.

For “The Thrilla in Manilla,” both fighters were past their prime, but despite the heat in the Philippines, the fight lived up to the billing. Ali seemed to be in control in the early rounds, slipping Frazier’s punches and connecting repeatedly.

Frazier wouldn’t fall so easily. Through the middle rounds, he punished Ali with body blows, but Ali survived and began connecting to Frazier’s face and head late in the fight, eventually doing so much damage that Frazier’s eyes were swollen shut and his ring stopped the fight after 14 rounds.

The fight essentially ended Frazier’s career. He lost a rematch with Foreman nine months later, and retired.

After an unsuccessful comeback attempt in 1981, he opened a gym in Philadelphia.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug182011

City Shuts Down Yard Sale for Cancer Victim

ABC News(SALEM, Ore.) -- The city of Salem, Ore., shut down the yard sale of a woman who had been selling her belongings to pay for her medical bills. The reason? A city ordinance limits a home to hosting a yard sale three times a year, as first reported by ABC affiliate KATU.

Jan Cline, 64, said she did not know such a law existed. She thought she was being unobtrusive by hosting the yard sale in the backyard, but a city code enforcement officer on Monday came to inform her that a neighbor had complained and she was breaking the law.

Cline, who was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer on July 1, has been unable to run her two businesses, an educational toy company and a limousine service. But after being devastated by the diagnosis of the disease, which can be terminal, she thought a yard sale would temporarily help her pay for medical bills and house payments while she is recovering. Meanwhile she is staying in the home of a friend to avoid walking up and down her stairway.

"I'm not supposed to be walking now because it eats through the bones and puts holes in the bones. I could walk and break a leg," she said.

Cline said she is a "resourceful" and "hard-headed" business woman.

"I'm not the type to let the government pay my way," Cline told ABC News. "If something happens I jump to and take care of it. That was my solution. I thought for half an hour. Have a major garage sale and sell my life."

The local chamber of commerce groups and friends have volunteered in the four or five weekend yard sales this summer. She said she made about a "couple hundred" dollars each weekend.

But when the city informed her she had to shut down the sales or pay a $380 fine or even face jail time, she said she cried.

"I just hope that nobody else has to go through this kind of thing," Cline told KATU. "I hope no one else has to give their lives away for nickels and dimes and then be told they can't even do that. I hope nobody else has to do this ever."

The city's ordinance 96.165 about yard sales or garage sales states "it shall be unlawful to conduct within the City of Salem more than three garage sales in any calendar year, each of said sales to extend no longer than three days."

"I told them I understand the law but in this particular case I would like to ask if there could be an exception. I would like you to think of me as a human instead of a complaint on a list," Cline told ABC News.

Mike Gottard, public information officer for Salem, said the city is trying to help Cline while respecting the law and the neighbor who complained.

"We are very sympathetic to her situation so are working to try to find something that will be better," Gottard said. "Again, this was driven by a complaint. We don't go out and look for these things. We want to come up with a solution for everybody." Gottard said the city is working with the Chamber of Commerce or faith-based groups to support Cline.

Cline said she is looking forward to surviving the "aggressive" treatment she is undergoing so she can get back to work and have an income. She said doctors have told her she has a 93 percent chance of remission when the treatment ends in late October, and she could stay in remission for five to 15 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio