Statement of Katyanna Keyser

This is the second in a series of statements by former residents of the Dioxin Dorms. I will be posting more as they come in. If you lived Bliss, Capen, Gage or Scudder halls, please write to me at Thank you. –efc

My name is Katyanna Keyser and I am a breast cancer survivor who lived in Gage Hall at SUNY @New Paltz from 1991-1993.

Entering as a freshman my name was Katyanna Fetterling.

In late December of 1991 there was a car crash releasing dangerous toxins into our dorm [Gage Residence Hall] causing it to close for a brief period of time. On Feb 1, 1992 we were invited back into the dorms with reassurance that it was “safe.” My parents trusted that the institution was honest and entrusted my welfare in them.

I lived in Gage Hall until June 1993.

For the next 15 years I muddled through life with a low immune system and was sick often.

In 2008, just 2 months after getting married, I felt a lump in my breast. I acted quick and was in the doctor’s office the next day where they whisked me away to St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, NY for my 1st mammogram. Within seconds I was in another room receiving an ultra sound. Minutes later, I was in front of the director of the breast cancer center in tears. She was 100% insistent that I had a cancerous tumor and needed a sentinel node biopsy the following day. I was broken, in tears and in shock, a newlywed, childless and 36 with no family history of breast cancer.

The next Monday I went in for a biopsy and that Wednesday I sat in front of Dr. David Edmondson (surgical oncology St. Peter’s Hospital) reading me the painful results, surrounded by my supportive family. I had a very aggressive tumor (3 to 5 cm) in my left breast; invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3 and stage 2. My tumor was 20% progesterone positive and and estrogen negative.

I asked if I could freeze my eggs as we were trying to have a baby but was denied that gift as it was not an option. My tumor was oddly growing vigorously and we needed to act fast in order to save my life. Saving my eggs would mean giving me steroids which would boost the size of the tumor.

Conflicted and running short on time we decided to try adjuvant chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, preserve the breast and opted for BRCA gene testing/counseling. Without family history of breast cancer, the young diagnosis and the aggressiveness of the tumor, my surgeon bypassed all the red tape. I had a port surgically put in my chest, was gene tested and started chemo 2 days later.

A newlywed, I took a leave of absence from my teaching job (after 9 years), cut my hair in anticipation of losing it, and moved into my retired parent’s home for 24 hour care while my husband of 2 months worked to pay the bills. My world was shattered and upside down.

While tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 Dr. Patricia Brady asked me if I had ever been exposed to cancerous materials or dioxins. The only moment or environment I could recall was my time in Gage Hall while a student at SUNY New Paltz. Still, I wouldn’t allow myself to think that my college would ever allow me to be harmed or injured, even years down the road. Thankfully my results came back negative; no mutations detected in all panels. This was a very specific test and ruled out the majority of abnormalities believed to be responsible for heredity susceptible to breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

So what did this mean? My doctors did say, that in no terms, they could not rule out that my cancer was environmental.

I went through 16 weeks of agonizing chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, a port removal surgery, 32 radiation treatments and to this day have abnormal hormonal issues.

I lost the 1st year of my marriage and can not get pregnant.

I wake up every day scared that my cancer will come back and go to bed sad that it has taken so much away from me. My hopes and dreams of motherhood and the fear that fills me constantly.

Do I think that my time at New Paltz, in Gage Hall, had anything to do with my cancer and hormonal issues? I can’t say exactly but I do know that there is an uncanny possibility and with that I feel that further investigation should be done around the campus and within the soil. I have recently heard that several friends and sorority sisters, who too presided in the contaminated dorms at the same time I did, have either suffered similar ailments or worse, have perished due to those diseases.

What I hope and pray for is that maybe, some questions can be answered. As a teacher, I have students who have recently been accepted to SUNY New Paltz, and as excited as I am for their future I am dually petrified that they too will be exposed to toxins.

My name is Katyanna Keyser and this is my statement.


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