In late 2007, when Yvette Peart's daughter Rodeania, 9, began having headaches, the mother thought she knew why.
"I had migraines myself when I was a girl -- 12 or 13," said Peart, 35. "Or I thought maybe Rodeania had eyestrain."
She gave the girl Tylenol and took her to doctors, but nothing was found. The pains intensified. In early 2008, one of Rodeania's eyelids began to droop.
"The ophthalmologist said that normally didn't happen in kids," Peart recalled. "He ordered a CAT scan right away. That was a Friday."
The next day, the phone rang, and what Peart heard frightened her more than anything in her life -- before or since.
"They found a tumor against her cerebellum, close to her spinal cord," said Peart, her eyes opening wide as she remembered. "The doctor said, 'You need to take her to Palms West (Hospital) immediately.' I was shaking.
"I was pretty much going crazy."
On April 3, 2008, Rodeania underwent eight and a half hours of surgery at Miami Children's Hospital.
"We sat there all those hours afraid we were going to lose her," said her father, Roderick Peart, 44.
Her tumor, an astrocytoma, was at least an inch in diameter and benign.
About 95 percent of it was cut out, but the rest was too close to the spinal cord to remove. Rodeania, now 11, must undergo an MRI scan every six months because the tumor could grow again.
Rodeania isn't the only one Yvette Peart worries about. On Thursday she gave birth to her second child, an 8-pound, 10-ounce boy named Ray-Jay.
"We are told he is all right as far they can tell," said Peart, a registered nurse. "But I'm still worried."
She is concerned because she and many neighbors in The Acreage fear they may be living in a cancer cluster. According to organizers in the community of 50,000 homes, at least 14 children and more than 50 adults have been identified who have had either tumors or cysts on their brains in the past 15 years.
When compared with figures for the incidence of brain tumors diagnosed in Florida per 100,000 residents per year over the past 10 years, those numbers do not necessarily constitute an unusually high rate.
And statistics from the Florida Cancer Data System, which gathers reports of tumors from physicians across the state, show no markedly higher rate of brain cancer in Palm Beach County as a whole. But residents of The Acreage have expressed the worry that because their area forms parts of three towns -- West Palm Beach, Loxahatchee Groves and Royal Palm Beach -- and has three ZIP codes, researchers may not catch the concentration of cancer there.
On Friday, Michelle Dahnke, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said that while the state often looks at data by ZIP code, it is proceeding differently this time.
"In the case of The Acreage, the best level of diagnosis is the geo-coded level," she said.
Dahnke described geo-codes as a way of breaking neighborhoods "into smaller units than ZIP codes."
Acreage family's joy laced with gloom: Will baby boy become cancer victim?
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