Toxic Secrets: The town that 3M built – where kids are dying of cancer

‘Bombarded with it’: Katelyn O’Connell is one of at least 21 Tartan High School students diagnosed with cancer during their primary, middle or high school years or within 10 years of graduating. Photo: David Bowman

Katie Jurek was 19 years old when she was told the osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer, had returned. She could amputate her leg or die within three months.

For the teenager with a contagious smile, love of fashion and a determined streak from the state of Minnesota in America’s upper mid-west, it was an agonising choice.

“They told us immediately that it was terminal. When her type of cancer recurs … you simply can’t survive it,” Lynn Poferl recalled of her daughter, who was first diagnosed at 16. “She amputated and most people would think that’s an easy decision, but it really wasn’t.”

It was “the best thing she could have done”. Katie, who had been bed-ridden, regained her mobility. The surgery bought her two years to return to college and travel the world.

“We decided as a family we’re going to do whatever we can to create as many memories as possible,” Ms Poferl said.“She loved to travel so that’s what we did. She was going to live to live, not live to die.”

Her death, aged 20 in 2007, was devastating for former classmates from Tartan Senior High School in Oakdale. It was not the first time – and would not be the last – the grieving students had to bury one of their own. 06-15-18

Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald