The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 67

FEAR OF RECURRENCE

The new
normal
DECCA KNIGHT was 32 when a routine
exam revealed a lump in her left breast.
Like Garcia, she had no family
history, no logical explanation for why
she was battling this disease thirty years
younger than most. (The median age
for breast cancer is 62, according to the
Susan G. Komen organization.) She
also had a one-year-old at home.
But Knight was a counselor by
training. She knew all about trauma
and self-care and how her mental
state could help or hinder her physical
healing.

COURTESY OF DECCA KNIGHT

TheRoanoker.com

For her, the most unsettling aspect was
how she looked different from everyone else
in the waiting room. "I felt so out of place,"
she remembers.
So she formed a support group, Young
Cancer Chicks of Southwest Virginia, for
those younger than 45, diagnosed with breast
cancer.
These women became a lifeline for
Knight, sharing their realities (toddlers and
tamoxifen) their dashed dreams (advanced
degrees forfeited, careers rerouted), their
victories (a good week at work, dinner on the
table) and defeats (a new cancer diagnosis, the
death of a friend).
They taught Knight that she wanted to
immerse herself in the cancer community -
to understand this new land she was living
in and help others navigate it.
After a brutal year and a half of treatment,
she began volunteering for breast cancer
nonprofit Susan G. Komen Virginia Blue
Ridge. Today, she is board president. She's
also a RISE Advocate, a volunteer selected by
the Young Survival Coalition to be a patient
perspective, advising scientists and researchers
nationwide.
Knight cannot move on from her cancer
because she has surrounded herself with it.
But also because she continues to suffer from
health issues that may or may not be related
to her treatment.
"A lot of us live with a lot of pain, a lot
of discomfort every day," she says of cancer
survivors.
She's had heart issues, endometriosis,
polycystic ovar y syndrome and, most
recently, spinal fusion surgery to correct three
degenerative vertebrae.
"At points I couldn't walk. I had to be in a
wheelchair," says Knight, 42.
But perhaps the most disturbing postcancer reality has been the changes to her
mind - the difficulty recalling dates and
facts, her inability to retain information like
she once could.
"My brain just works really differently," she
says. "You're not who you used to be."
Knight had made her peace. And then, in
2017 her father was diagnosed with Stage 4
lung cancer, though he never smoked. Knight
found herself back at the oncologist's, back in
the chemo room, waiting for test results again.
That triggered all the fear and anxiety she
had tucked away.
"It's like reliving the whole experience," she
says.
JULY/AUGUST 2019

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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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The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - Cover3
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