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.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • 10 Cheapest Houses For Sale In Spokane

    10 Cheapest Houses For Sale In Spokane

    Wednesday, November 27 2013 2:35 AM EST2013-11-27 07:35:08 GMT
    Whether you are in the market for an affordable place to live or are in the business of flipping houses, here are the 10 cheapest homes for sale in Spokane according to AllSpokaneHomes.com.More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Whether you are in the market for an affordable place to live or are in the business of flipping houses, here are the 10 cheapest homes for sale in Spokane according to AllSpokaneHomes.com. Yes, they all need some work and some need a lot more than others, but when your mortgage payment is around the $200/month range there's at least something to stay positive about.More >>
  • INCREDIBLE drone video shows fire destruction over Pateros/Brewster

    INCREDIBLE drone video shows fire destruction over Pateros/Brewster

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:51 AM EDT2014-07-22 13:51:52 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Chelan HD Productions has given us permission to show this incredible video they shot with a drone surveying the damage done from the Carlton Complex Fire in the areas of Brewster and Pateros. This video is truly jaw dropping and really shows the level of destruction from the fire.More >>
    KHQ.COM - Chelan HD Productions has given us permission to show this incredible video they shot with a drone surveying the damage done from the Carlton Complex Fire in the areas of Brewster and Pateros. This video is truly jaw dropping and really shows the level of destruction from the fire.More >>
  • Do you know this person? Suspect still at large in Jitterz coffee stand robbery

    Do you know this person? Suspect still at large in Jitterz coffee stand robbery

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 5:14 PM EDT2014-07-23 21:14:57 GMT
    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Coeur d’Alene Police Detectives and the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force are continuing to investigate the Robbery of The Jitterz coffee stand in the 2800 block of Government Way. The suspect is described as a white male, early 20’s, 5’08”-5’09”, very skinny build, white T-shirt, blue jean shorts.More >>
    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Coeur d’Alene Police Detectives and the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force are continuing to investigate the Robbery of The Jitterz coffee stand in the 2800 block of Government Way. The suspect is described as a white male, early 20’s, 5’08”-5’09”, very skinny build, white T-shirt, blue jean shorts.More >>

Send Investigation Tips To:

Email: dan@khq.com

Online: Click here to submit information online.

  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • House without power catches fire due to candle

    House without power catches fire due to candle

    Thursday, July 24 2014 9:11 AM EDT2014-07-24 13:11:09 GMT
    KHQ.COM - There was heavy smoke hovering in the air this morning above Greenwood Avenue when firefighters responded to a structure fire at 5033 N. Greenwood around 3:30am. According to neighbors, a man lived in the basement of the home and a couple lived on the upper level.More >>
    KHQ.COM - There was heavy smoke hovering in the air this morning above Greenwood Avenue when firefighters responded to a structure fire at 5033 N. Greenwood around 3:30am. According to neighbors, a man lived in the basement of the home and a couple lived on the upper level.More >>
  • PHOTOS: Severe thunderstorms roll through the Inland Northwest

    PHOTOS: Severe thunderstorms roll through the Inland Northwest

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:56 AM EDT2014-07-24 06:56:49 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A storm seemed to leave just as fast as it arrived Wednesday in Spokane. High winds blew over trees and utility lines, causing widespread power outages and some severe property damage. More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A storm seemed to leave just as fast as it arrived Wednesday in Spokane. High winds blew over trees and utility lines, causing widespread power outages and some severe property damage. INSIDE>>>|Power Outages |PHOTOS|More >>
  • Storm damages RVs near Silverwood

    Storm damages RVs near Silverwood

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:52 AM EDT2014-07-24 06:52:53 GMT
    ATHOL, Idaho - The storm that ripped through the Inland Northwest on Wednesday not only interrupted the fun at Silverwood Theme Park for a while, it also did some major damage to Silverwood's RV park across Highway 95. More >>
    ATHOL, Idaho - The storm that ripped through the Inland Northwest on Wednesday not only interrupted the fun at Silverwood Theme Park for a while, it also did some major damage to Silverwood's RV park across Highway 95. Several RVs and cars were damaged due to falling branches and trees. Only one injury was reported, and it was a very minor knee injury.Multiple crews were called into to remove the downed trees. 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.