The Roanoker - July/August 2019 - 69

Round 2
SANDEE MCGLAUN had finished treatment for
her Stage 3 breast cancer at the end of 2017.
She'd returned to work as English
professor and director of the Writing
Center at Roanoke College. She'd renamed
the blog she'd kept during her year of
chemo, surgery, radiation; it was now: Still
Life, Beyond Cancer. She was looking
forward to tending her marriage, a little
over two years old.
She knew her chances of recurrence were
low - for her, just five percent.
So when she felt a knot in a lymph node
basin, she convinced herself it couldn't be
cancer.
But it was. By January 2019 she began an
awful, familiar routine: nausea, exhaustion,
pain, uncertainty. The loss of another year
to waiting rooms and hospitals and hours
crashed on the sofa.

CHRISTINA NIFONG

TheRoanoker.com

FEAR OF RECURRENCE

And yet, McGlaun felt relieved. Her
cancer had not spread beyond her lymph
nodes. It was still treatable. She could fight
and expect to win. Again.
The irony is that McGlaun's second
diagnosis didn't make her feel more fragile
than her first.
"The minute you're diagnosed, the fear that
takes root - and that you can't ever quite
get rid of - is that somehow, this is going
to be the thing that ends your life."
But returning to treatment made that
fear palpable again. McGlaun broke down
this spring, getting a numbing shot in
preparation for a chemotherapy infusion.
"All of a sudden, it was like that released all
the pent-up anxiety about being in treatment
again. There was this storm of tears," she
remembers. "I think that's what happens. You
go along, you're able to stay in the present,
and then something will trigger it."
This time, McGlaun, 49, continued to
work - both at Roanoke College and as
an artist-in-residence at Carilion Clinic.
There, for eight hours a week when she can
manage it, her job involves conversing and
creating with patients and their families. It
can be heavy. But McGlaun feels she's in
the right place - to offer empathy and to
keep perspective.
"I'm very much aware now that so many
more people than most of us realize are
going through something," she says in her
quiet, calming voice. "I hope it makes me
kinder, more patient."
McGlaun's treatment is wrapping up.
What will follow are tests. And waiting. And
more treatment if the cancer did not respond
to this regimen.
She says, for her, the only way forward is
acceptance.
"I was a first-time bride at 45 years old,
and I was diagnosed.... I was kind of living
in a chick lit novel. And it was almost as if
I turned the page. And suddenly, I'm in a
dystopian sci-fi novel. And there's people in
white coats everywhere. There's big machines,
and there's unpronounceable chemicals. And
you want to flip that page back. But you can't.
This is now your story," she explains.
"There's not much I can control except my
attitude towards that," she says. "If my life is
going to be shorter than I wanted it to be ...
I don't want to spend more of it angry and
sad. I want to keep creating, to find some
spot of beauty or laughter in each day I
have." I
JULY/AUGUST 2019

69


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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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