Anne’s husband, Mario, was a Vietnam Veteran who died from Cholangiocarcinoma in 2010. After Mario’s initial diagnosis, they learned it could be connected to his service in Vietnam. Due to his diagnosis and rapid decline, her main goal was to try to find a treatment that would help him. It was only after Mario’s death, she submitted a claim to the Veterans Administration Medical Center (VA) and discovered the inconsistent and haphazard way the VA handles these claims.
Because of that, she spent hours on research to substantiate the Vietnam Veteran was exposed to two significant risk factors that are causes for this cancer
exposure to liver flukes and dioxin (or Agent Orange).
After many appeals, her claim was approved. She says it wasn’t about monetary compensation for the approval, but wanted validation for Mario, that his death was caused due to his service to his country and the risk factors he was exposed to in Vietnam.
Having gone through this difficult and frustrating process, Anne felt an urge to help other families navigate the VA claim process. She started a Facebook Page, “Vietnam Vets and Cholangiocarcinoma or Bile Duct Cancer” to see if others were affected and to spread awareness. Many families came forward with the same experience. She wanted to assist other veterans in providing steps on how to file a claim, provide research to support the claim, and be available for moral support. Her desire led to the beginning of a second Facebook Page, which she co-created with Eileen Skahill, another widow who had also lost her husband, Jack, to this cancer. This second page,” Vietnam Vets and Cholangiocarcinoma or Bile Duct Cancer Research and Information” is a private page where Vietnam Veterans and families come together, share experiences regarding the claims process and provide support to one another. Since 2010 Anne has assisted over 300 veterans and family members, most of whom she has been in contact with personally.
The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation and Anne united their voices almost five years ago. Anne was grateful the Foundation reached out to her and provided her with resources - from being able to discuss the subject with doctors in Thailand familiar with the connection, and providing a place on the Foundation’s website for her to present the information and research needed in filing a claim. The Foundation knew Anne could give hope and support to the veterans and families who were faced with the same circumstances.
Anne has given countless hours to supporting the veterans and spreading awareness of this disease. It is an honor and privilege to recognize Anne Petitti as Volunteer of the Month. We express our heartfelt thanks for giving so much to so many.