(NEW YORK) — Taylor Bell Duck grew up shifting, making cuts, and changing directions on the soccer field.
A star athlete in high school, Duck was taking the next step on her athletic journey as she was on her way to play Division 1 soccer at East Carolina University. Once she went to college, however, her life shifted in a different direction.
Health became an issue for Duck. She experienced numbness in her feet and recurring pneumonia, which forced her to quit soccer before graduating. She later had surgery on a collapsed lung and medical experts determined she had lung cancer.
Cancer-free nine years later, Duck is now balancing life as a wife and full-time graduate student all while holding a full-time job. She has also partnered with the pharmaceutical company Merck on a new initiative called Your Cancer Game Plan to help spread awareness about lung cancer. She recently spoke with ABC News about her experience and involvement with her new initiative
Duck admits she hardly understood lung cancer when she was first diagnosed, saying, “I thought that only smokers and older people got this disease, but what I’ve learned since through my diagnosis this disease is touching more and more people, and particularly never-smoking individuals.”
She calls lung cancer is a “highly stigmatized” disease because it can affect any person, even a young, non-smoking individual like herself. She says that stigma also affects people who may have smoked for a portion of their lives. They may feel guilty about approaching a medical professional so to avoid being chastised for their life choices.
Through Your Cancer Game Plan, she outlines three pillars people can follow to help them through their lung cancer battle and work to end the stigma associated with the disease.
Duck discusses are healthy eating, emotional well-being, and open communication in a set of short videos on the website.
Duck told ABC News her sister was a source of emotional support during her cancer battle, and she learned it was important to be open and communicative with her doctor to push to find the underlying causes to her recurring symptoms.
She also encourages those who may feel guilty about approaching a doctor to reach out because they will try to provide the necessary care to combat a disease before it could get worse.
Your Cancer Game Plan initially launched with a focus on head and neck cancer and melanoma. Now, it offers resources to anyone who is affected by lung cancer.
Duck shares his own story and talks further about the strategies that helped her beat cancer on www.yourcancergameplan.com.
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