Former student suspects her cancer is 9/11-related; she is not alone

Michele Lent Hirsch, 32, believes that her thyroid cancer, diagnosed in 2010, traces back to her days as a student at Stuyvesant High School right after September 11, 2001.

In fact, several students from Stuyvesant and from other schools that were near ground zero are now battling various cancers and lung diseases. Attorney Michael Barasch is providing them legal counsel.

"Kids who were in high school, who went back to Stuyvesant High School and the only thing they did wrong was listen to and believe the EPA when they said the air was safe," Barasch said.

Stuyvesant was used as a staging area for rescue and recovery workers in the days after 9/11. Federal officials gave the OK to the school to reopen about a month after the attacks, which ignited a heated public debate as to whether the building was free of harmful toxins.

Michele's thyroid cancer is now in remission. It is one of the illnesses covered by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which provides assistance to anyone with a recognized 9/11-related health issue. Michele didn't know about the fund during her illness and is now going public to help others.

"Specifically with 9/11 healthcare, I hope that people go and get checked out and are aware that there are federal programs if they do get diagnosed with something," she said.

Barasch said that women and men in their late 20s, for instance, shouldn't be getting breast and bladder cancer.

"It's heart breaking," he said. He added that anyone who feels they may have contracted a 9/11-illness should definitely seek expert advice about the path going forward.