Agent Orange Exposure In Vietnam: A Spokane Woman’s Battle - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Agent Orange Exposure In Vietnam: A Spokane Woman’s Battle

Posted: Updated:

SPOKANE, Wash – Terry Siekerman just marked the eighth anniversary of her husband, Gary Gilbrech's death.  While she's still trying to figure out how to live without him, she's also still waiting for validation over why she says he died.

"I'm surviving, I'm trying to get on with life like he asked me to, but there's an empty spot that will never be filled," Siekerman told KHQ.

Siekerman believes it was Gibrech's service in Vietnam as a young man that ultimately took his life decades later, through exposure to a chemical called Agent Orange.  During the war, the United States military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of chemicals on the ground to defoliate forested land and deprive enemy fighters of food and cover.

But Agent Orange was later discovered to be a cancer-causing poison.

"He had a complete physical in January, and 7 months later he got a death sentence," she explained.

Just before the couple's 21st wedding anniversary – and newly retired – Gilbrech developed a pain in his back and side.  Doctors found a mass they believed was cancer and removed a kidney but it was too little, too late.  Renal Cell Carcinoma had spread to his lungs, and doctors said he had months to live.

They were right.

Nine months later, he passed away at age 56.

"It's hard to fathom that 30, 40, 50, 60 years later, exposure to Agent Orange is still causing people to be sick or dying, but it is," Siekerman told KHQ.

She filed a benefits claim with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, but it was denied.  Now she's waiting to hear back on an appeal.

"Their findings are that Agent Orange doesn't cause Renal Cell Carcinoma," she added.  "I don't believe it."

In 2005, a doctor in Missouri found another veteran's kidney cancer was "more likely than not caused by Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam."

A 2011 study from the American Urological Association reports a link exists between the two.

But on the Veteran Affairs website, while the list of diseases linked to exposure continues to grow as the years pass, for now Renal Cell Carcinoma isn't there.

"Until I take my last breath, I'm not giving up on this," Siekerman said, adding that she ultimately wants to see her husband's name added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  "He earned it."

Terry Siekerman hopes if you have a loved one who served in Vietnam and died of kidney cancer, that you report it so there's a more accurate picture of the lives lost after they left the battlefield.

KHQ's Kelsey Watts reached out several times to the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane to comment on Agent Orange and what Vietnam veterans need to know, but representatives decided not to be part of this story.

Send Investigation Tips To:

Email: dan@khq.com

Online: Click here to submit information online.

  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Flash flooding & mudslides trap people in Okanogan County

    PHOTOS: Flash flooding & mudslides trap people in Okanogan County

    Friday, August 22 2014 9:12 PM EDT2014-08-23 01:12:14 GMT
    OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash.- Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers tells KHQ that as of 5:00pm Friday evening, Highway 20 is back open and no homes are threaten after numerous mudslides washed out roads and stranded drivers Thursday night and Friday morning. More >>
    OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash.- Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers tells KHQ that as of 5:00pm Friday evening, Highway 20 is back open and no homes are threaten after numerous mudslides washed out roads and stranded drivers Thursday night and Friday morning. More >>
  • Why landslides happen and could happen here

    Why landslides happen and could happen here

    Friday, August 22 2014 9:11 PM EDT2014-08-23 01:11:53 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - After dealing with the state's largest wildfire that burned through hundreds of miles of land, Okanogan County is now dealing with something else. More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - After dealing with the state's largest wildfire that burned through hundreds of miles of land, Okanogan County is now dealing with something else. A landslide swept through, completely closing roads, and trapping people in their homes. “With all that vegetation gone, the water just runs off and creates a large pile at the bottom of the hill,” said U.S. Geological Survey Geologist Tom Frost.More >>
  • Fugitive Friday: WANTED: Sarah Langford

    Fugitive Friday: WANTED: Sarah Langford

    Friday, August 22 2014 9:06 PM EDT2014-08-23 01:06:33 GMT
    KHQ.COM - The KHQ CrimeTrackers are helping Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest track down a fugitive on the run. Her name is Sarah Langford. The 27-year-old has been spotted in Spokane Valley and the University City area. Langford is wanted for identity theft, and has been convicted on misdemeanor and felony theft charges.More >>
    KHQ.COM - The KHQ CrimeTrackers are helping Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest track down a fugitive on the run. Her name is Sarah Langford. The 27-year-old has been spotted in Spokane Valley and the University City area. Langford is wanted for identity theft, and has been convicted on misdemeanor and felony theft charges.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KHQ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.