(BPT) - More people die of lung cancer each year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Yet there is still a widely held belief that it is a self-inflicted disease. The truth is that regardless of age, gender, athleticism, or overall health, lung cancer can impact any one of us. Take lung cancer survivor, Taylor Bell Duck. A star soccer player who never smoked, Duck’s lung cancer diagnosis at age 21 came as a shock to her and her family.
In 2005, she arrived at college expecting to play for the Division 1 team, but her health quickly started to become an issue. She experienced painful numbness in her feet and recurring pneumonia that ultimately forced her to quit the sport she loved. During her junior year, a sharp stomach pain resulted in a trip to the ER where she learned that her left lung had a large mass.
She underwent surgery to remove part of the lung, and during the difficult recovery she often questioned why this happened to her. But through the support of her family and encouragement from her doctors, she came to realize that she survived to be an advocate for others impacted by the number one cancer killer worldwide.
“After my diagnosis, I was sad and angry. I felt like lung cancer had taken so much away from me and that my life would never be the same,” said Taylor. “I never felt more vulnerable than in those moments. But I came to realize that no one deserves to get lung cancer, and I survived to make a difference in the lives of others who have to fight this disease.”
Now, Taylor brings inspiration and hope to others though her work with advocacy groups and most recently Your Cancer Game Plan, an awareness campaign focused on helping people with cancer and their loved ones tackle the emotional well-being, health/nutrition and communication challenges along their journey.
The guilt and blame associated with lung cancer may prevent people from talking about their disease and even visiting their doctors for treatment.
“No matter how a person gets lung cancer, it shouldn’t impact the care they get or the empathy they receive,” said Bonnie J. Addario, lung cancer survivor and Chair of the Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. “As the community focuses on growing survivorship, patient advocacy in lung cancer has never been more important. People affected by the disease are in need of reliable information and resources to help support them in their journey.”
Your Cancer Game Plan launched earlier this year with a focus on head and neck cancer and melanoma in partnership with leading advocacy organizations and former pro athletes and cancer survivors, Jim Kelly and Mike Schmidt. Now, the program is expanding to offer support, education and resources to those affected by lung cancer. This effort is a collaboration between Merck, CancerCare, Savor Health, Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, LUNGevity, Lung Cancer Alliance, Lung Cancer Foundation of America, and Lung Cancer Research Foundation.
To hear more about Taylor’s story as well as tips from other lung cancer survivors on facing stigma, managing shifting family roles and finding hope, visit www.YourCancerGamePlan.com.