The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 65

written and photographed by DAN SMITH

will it come back?
will it kill me?
written and photographed by CHRISTINA NIFONG

Many cancer survivors are haunted by fears their disease will return.

THERE IS A COMMON STORY we think of when we think of cancer.
Our friend or neighbor, family member or co-worker, is
diagnosed and then treated. Perhaps there is surgery and
recovery. But after the oncologist's timeline is complete, our
patient is done. Healed. Cancer-free. Good as new. Back to
his or her old home and job and life.
Except, for many, this story is a lie. Once they have been
diagnosed with cancer, nothing is the same.
Not their body. It bears the scars of their treatment.
The side effects of chemotherapy, radiation and ongoing
medication can continue for years. Even their hair, when it
grows back, is often not their own.
Not their mind. Most cancer patients will never again be
as fearless as they once were. They can be riddled by guilt
- for surviving, for not living each day to its fullest. Their
cognitive functions can be diminished for the long term.
Not even their everyday routines. Because after staring
death in the face. After a year of hospital visits. After
associating every room and road with the worst of memories,
change has a powerful allure. People move. People think hard
about what matters to them. People craft new lives to match
the new people this disease has molded them into.
There's a drum beat that plays, too, in the background of
a survivor's consciousness. It's louder for some. Louder at

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certain times of day or days of the year for others. It thumps
the unanswerable question that can cause stress, depression,
anxiety.

What if my cancer returns?
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3
Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer - among
the most common of cancers. Of those, some 30 percent
will see their cancer recur.
Maria Garcia is one of those statistics. She's 33 and has
been cancer free for three years. Decca Knight is another. She
was diagnosed 10 years ago but has suffered from a long list
of complications and side effects since then. Lee Hunsaker
fears her cancer has returned if she feels an unexplained
ache or shortness of breath. Sandee McGlaun completed her
treatment at the end of 2017. Then last January, she started
all over again. Her cancer did return.
All of them are breast cancer survivors. All of them are
living lives shaped by their survival. All of them hear the
drum beat.
These are THEIR stories.

JULY/AUGUST 2019

65


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The Roanoker - July/August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - July/August 2019

The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Intro
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover1
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover2
The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 3
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The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - V1
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