Men's Health


In a narrow shadow of land between two steep mountainsides in West Virginia, residents of a town called Minden are dying. Not in that existential “we’re all dying a little bit every day” way, but in the blotchy-lesions-and-tumor-riddled-organsthat-eventually-stop-working way.

The 250 residents are all that’s left of a community that peaked at about 1,200 in 1970, and they think they know what’s picking them off one by one, in a relentless, who’s-next roulette. They can’t avoid it in their homes. Or in their backyards. Or on the grounds of the abandoned factory where kids ride their dirt bikes. Locals have taken to calling Minden’s main road “Death Valley Drive.”

Annetta Coffman has lived on this land for all of her 44 years. But in 2018 alone, 15 of her neighbors, people from age 12 to almost 90, died of cancer. That’s a full 6 percent of the town’s current population. “That year was a nightmare,” she says, her voice more tired than sad a year after the fact.

Coffman lost her mother to breast, cervical, and uterine cancer in 2007. About five years ago, doctors discovered a tumor on the pituitary gland of her son, Dalton Kincaid. He’d stopped growing at four-foot-eleven and couldn’t keep on weight, even if he ate 5,000 calories a day. His doctor told him he had to quit basketball, the sport he lived for, because he couldn’t afford to burn extra calories. “My doctor said he didn’t even want me to play basketball with my friends,” Kincaid says. No pickup ball, no messing around on the court on weekends.

Coffman recounts what they’ve been through matter-of-factly, but her voice trembles with anxiety. Treatments shrank Kincaid’s tumors, yet despite a diet of 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day, even now, at age 20, he’s still extremely lean. High energy and fast talking, he explains

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