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A Burning Controversy: Brig. general’s doc says exposure likely cause of cancer

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This is part of a multipart 12 on 12 Digital Original: A Burning Controversy

PART 1: A SOLDIER’S STORY | PART 2: BATTLING THE BURN | PART 3: HELP AT HOME | PART 4: WASHINGTON RESPONDS | IN-DEPTH EXTRAS | 12 ON 12

(WPRI) — A couple of days after Thanksgiving 2018, June Heston, of Vermont, laid her husband of 30 years to rest. 

Brigadier General Michael Heston, a Providence native, died on Nov. 14, 2018, from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was 58 years old. 

When he was diagnosed in 2016 at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, June began searching for answers. 

“I didn’t think anything of the fact he was exposed to burn pits until shortly after he was diagnosed,” she explained in a sit-down interview with Eyewitness News Reporter Caroline Goggin. “Someone sent me an article about a young woman in the Minnesota Guard who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and they were talking about the fact it was due to her exposure to burn pits.”

June began researching toxic exposure and asking questions, eventually convincing her husband’s doctor in Boston to begin looking at the possibility toxic exposure could be the cause of his cancer. 

“He also did all the genetic testing on Mike to rule out any genetic connection to pancreatic cancer, and he looked at Mike’s behavioral risks and he had none.”

In a letter Brig. Gen. Heston’s doctor wrote to the VA, he said prolonged toxic exposure overseas was more likely than not the reason for his cancer. 

“There are a lot of people who are currently dealing with illnesses, and there are a lot more who will because of their toxic exposure,” June said. “I feel like it’s really important to raise awareness among military service members because I don’t think they all know how significant this exposure can be.”

If you are a service member and have health concerns related to burn pits register in the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Burn Pit Registry

If you’d like to share a story related to this issue, contact WPRI 12 Eyewitness News reporter Caroline Goggin at cgoggin@wpri.com.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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