One morning last week I went out to talk with my neighbor, Steve, over the fence. He had two coffee cups in his hand: one for himself and one for another neighbor who had dropped by.Steve’s house is like that. He and his wife, Margaret, host regular get-togethers for the neighborhood. On the Fourth of July, they set up a DJ and buffet. At Halloween, they dress up as a wizard and witch and serve hot cider to the trick-or-treaters. At Christmastime, their house is a veritable festival of lights and music.“How’s Margaret doing?” I asked. She had been diagnosed with cancer several months ago and was undergoing chemotherapy.“Oh, she’s great,” Steve replied. He explained that Margaret’s reaction to treatment had been atypical: She had been neither nauseated nor overly tired. She had lost her hair but, other than that, seemed fine. She often rode to doctor’s appointments on the back of Steve’s motorcycle.“What’s her secret?” I asked, although I thought I knew. It had something to do with the graciousness and childlike joy we had come to expect from her and Steve. They’re great neighbors.I didn’t think too much more about that conversation until another friend sent me information about a cancer research study being conducted in our area. We live in Catawba County, where the American Cancer Society has been enrolling people in an extensive study, known as Cancer Prevention Study 3, to try to better understand how lifestyle, genetics and environment affect cancer.According to the American Cancer Society, previous long-term studies like CPS-3 have demonstrated important links between lifestyle and cancer. Those factors include cigarette smoking, obesity, hormone therapy, diet and physical activity.The study is looking for people ages 30 to 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. I am one of them – so far. But I can’t say that cancer hasn’t touched my life. My husband and two of my best friends all lost their mothers to cancer. When Phil and I were both teaching, one of the students – he was on Phil’s soccer team – died of complications from a rare form of cancer. The disease is not at all rare. It affects our neighbors, the ones who chat over the fence and hand out special treats at Halloween and put a few too many lights on their house at Christmas.Speaking of neighbors, Steve explained Margaret’s recovery by saying simply that it was a “divine thing.” Her faith isn’t something she often expresses in casual conversation. In fact, I’m not even sure what her particular brand of faith happens to be. I do know that I’ve seen her ride off to choir practice on the back of that bike. She’s doing great, and I’m sure her faith has something to do with it.Maybe this study will demonstrate that.Enrollment for CPS-3 will continue through 2013. Charlotte-area enrollment opportunities will be available in March. For information, go to www.cancer.org/cps3.