Cancer has invaded Maize South assistant volleyball coach Shelley Poynter's body for the third time, this time settling in her lungs and liver. It's why she has chemotherapy weekly and wears a hat on her bald head during matches.
Do not pity her.
Cancer has not changed Poynter. Cancer does not define Poynter.
Her vibrant voice adds three words at the end of her outgoing voicemail message — keep on believing.
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"I have surrounded myself with people that tell me nothing but 'believe,' " said Poynter, 48. "They have kept me charged. I can admit, I've had some low times and some real doldrums. But I don't spend a lot of time at that point because I've got three children, a husband, a great family.
"It's been my will and decision that I'm going to fight this and be here for my daughters' graduations and when they decide to get married."
Her will. Her decision. Her fight. Her belief.
This is Poynter's battle, and she's a fighter. Always has been.
She walked on to the Kansas State basketball team in the early 1980s and played two seasons.
"I didn't have the great numbers, but golly, I wanted to play," Poynter said. "Don't tell me I can't do it because I'm going to find a way to do it."
She moves forward each day believing in her future.
She is living her life, still teaching physical education and health at Maize South. While her goal of running a half marathon was thwarted by her diagnosis earlier this year, she continues to run three miles a day. If she's low on energy, she walks.
She's fit, she eats right. She's giving herself any edge she can to fight cancer.
"She's not dying from cancer, she's living with cancer," Maize South volleyball coach Teri Larson said.
Poynter is insistent on keeping her family's life normal, on ensuring cancer doesn't take over conversations. If she needs a nap, she takes it only when the kids are gone because she doesn't want to worry them.
Poynter makes full meals for her family, helps her seventh-grade son T.C. with homework, and keeps her house spotless.
"I can't imagine how she fits it all in," said McKenna Poynter, a junior volleyball player at Maize South. "It's just so much."
Poynter's oldest daughter, Shea, a K-State freshman, calls her mom her "utmost hero."
Poynter undergoes chemotherapy each Wednesday — three weeks on, one off — and is poked, prodded, pinched. It pains her daughter, Shea Poynter, to see it happen.
"I'm shaking right now talking about it," Shea said. "She does it every week, like it's no big deal."
Poynter was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. T.C. was 6 months old and her doctor thought she had a clogged milk duct. Poynter battled that cancer, and it went into remission for 10 years.
Bone cancer was diagnosed in 2009, yet Poynter didn't falter. She didn't give in to the fear, the sadness.
"I love the positive aspect," Shea said. "She's always saying, 'Keep on believing.' She knows that this is kind of, it sucks.... Yet she stays positive. 'The sun will come up tomorrow,' she always says."
That positive outlook is what McKenna turns to during matches. When she struggles and hears about it from Larson, McKenna knows she can count on her mom to encourage her to keep working, to keep her head up.
"Everything has just been the positive and it's a little bump in the road that we have to handle and get through," she said."... I have accepted that I'm a fighter and it doesn't do me any good to cry and be sad and dwell on it, and it won't change anything.
"I know how being positive affects people. It can't do anything but good things. That's what I'm looking forward to is walking the good life."