Jeff Flynn saw two planes crash into the World Trade Center from an office building at Goldman Sachs. The following day, on Sept. 12, 2001, Flynn tasted metallic and trudged through what he said looked like “gray mud” at Ground Zero. At the time, he worked as an account manager for Dell EMC, a data-storage company, and his clients included different financial companies that he helped recover in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
The 65-year old East Meadow resident recalled the days after 9/11 being his busiest as many of his clients were invoking their disaster recovery plans and businesses were struggling to return to the status quo. “I was barely sleeping,” he said. “I was going from meeting to meeting and constantly working.”
Federal EPA Administrator Christy Todd Whitman announced that the air was safe to breath and Flynn did not hesitate to go to Ground Zero. “It was my job,” he said. “I had a family and a mortgage and taxes. My customers depended on me and so did my company. I had to do what I had to do.”
Flynn is one of at least 15 men who were diagnosed with breast cancer related to their exposure to toxins from Ground Zero. Michael Barasch, a 9/11 victims rights attorney with Barasch and McGarry law firm, is representing the 15, but that number has grown since the New York Post released an interview with Flynn on Sept. 4.
Flynn saw the first signs of the illness in March 2011, when he felt a lump on his left breast— but ignored it. “I didn’t even consider that I could have breast cancer,” Flynn said. “Most men don’t even know that they could be diagnosed with it.”
That summer he was vacationing in Florida with his wife Maureen when she pointed out that his nipples looked inverted. After a biopsy in September 2011, Flynn was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. That October, he had a left breast vasectomy and 36 lymph nodes removed, 35 of which were cancerous.
He went on disability from work for nine months and underwent chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a drug called tamoxifen. For three years, no cancer cells had appeared in his system. Then he found a small lump on his collarbone and his doctors discovered that the disease had metastasized. Flynn was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.
At that time, he connected the dots and linked his disease to his work at Ground Zero. He signed up for the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and earned a reward to cover the cost of his treatment. Flynn now takes two hormone shots a month and is on a targeted therapy drug called iBrance.
Now, Flynn volunteers at Adelphi University’s Breast Cancer and Support Program and will be one of its guest speakers on Oct. 18 at its 2018 Celebration of Survivorship.
“I don’t want to sound like a hero,” he said. “I’m not a first responder or anything like that, I was just there doing my job.”
In addition to Flynn, Michael Barasch represents several first responders, businessmen and one student. “There is a rising tally of male breast cancer among members of the 9/11 community,” Barasch said and urged men with symptoms to step forward and seek help.
He added that those who participate in the World Trade Center Health program are seen by doctors who are specifically looking for the types of cancers linked to 9/11 and are in tune to the rare cancers associated with exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero.