Old Bayshore High alumni plagued with cancer, rare diseases

- Michelle Lowe's story is similar to some of her former classmates at the old Bayshore High School in Manatee County, and the story is not a happy one.

"I attended Bayshore High School," Lowe said. "In October of 2014, I was diagnosed with brain cancer, stage 3."

She is one of 400 former students of the old Bayshore High School who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer or had children with a birth defect. There have been close to 90 documented deaths of alumni from the old Bayshore High School building.

"This is hard because before then I was a bright student, I was healthy. Now I have trouble reading, remembering things. My daughter is handicapped," Lowe told Manatee County commissioners.

Many who attended the commission meeting have lost children. Now they want answers.

"She always had a smile on her face," Betty Lou Rocklein said as she described her daughter.

Rocklein's daughter, Denise was diagnosed with three forms of aggressive cancer. Her granddaughter Shannon was also born with a rare brain defect.

"Denise suffered for eight years with ongoing treatment," Rocklein recalled.

Denise passed away at just 46 years old. Shannon died at the age of 15.

"We just hoped against hope that she would be one of the ones that would beat it," Rocklein said.

Family and friends believe water could have been contaminated by old diesel tanks buried underground.
Over the years, testing has been done, but nothing has been found. The old school was torn down in 1999.

"The bottom line is we need some answers," said Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.

The stories have caught the attention of Manatee County commissioners. With school board members in the audience, some said more testing needs to be done to find out if there is a link. Commissioners plan to hold a joint meeting with the Manatee County School Board within the next 30 days to discuss what to do next.

"If in fact there is no contamination of any sort, great. Let's find it out for sure and put these parents at ease once and for all," said Commissioner Baugh. 

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