Putting My Experience Into Words
Taylor Bell Duck, Nancy Bell, and Richard Dickens, MS, LCSW-R come together to discuss the importance of communication for everyone impacted by cancer. [Merck Sponsored]
PUBLISHED August 01, 2018
Shubham Pant, MD: Welcome to our next segment. In this segment we have Taylor, Nancy, and Richard all with us, welcome all.
All: Thank you
Shubham Pant, MD: So first, Taylor, tell me, we’ve been discussing about communication a little bit. So how is it like communicating to your loved ones when you first kind of told your mom about the diagnosis, your loved ones about the diagnosis? Do you think you could have more resources at that time? What do you think, how did you communicate?
Taylor Bell Duck: So for us we’ve always been a family that has had very open communication and no topic was really off limit. And so that kind of is how my cancer diagnosis and communication was with my family. But I think that, you know, not everybody is like that and not everybody is open like we are. And so I think if you can have initial conversations with the patient and the caregiver team about what you want to talk about, what you don’t want to talk about is important because it makes everybody’s life easier moving forward. And YourCancerGamePlan.com provides tips and resources for patients that need help in, in communicating and doing it effectively.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s very important because the first time you heard of the diagnosis kind of everything falls apart so that’s very important. Now tell me you were in college at that time, your sorority sisters told me about that. How was your interaction with them?
Taylor Bell Duck: So that was actually really unique for me because as a 21-year-old you’re not fully an adult, and to grasp and understand the severity of the situation and what I was going through I think was challenging for all of us – myself included. And so for me as well, physically I didn’t change a whole lot. So I did lose a little bit of weight just from the surgery and not having as big of an appetite. But I was extremely weak and very sore from the surgery. And so sorority sisters and girlfriends once I got back to college were like, would come up and try to bear hug me, and I’m like, ‘okay’.
Shubham Pant, MD:..... you put .... thing, ‘I love you, but don’t hug me’?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes. Right. And so for them on the outside I looked fine. But emotionally and physically I was a completely different person. And so I think trying to communicate the severity of what I’d gone through was probably one of my biggest challenges.
Shubham Pant, MD: Do you think at 21 they understand like a little bit, or did they want to make everything rosy saying, “You’re great, everything’s great.” You know?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah, I don’t think anybody at that age can truly understand that kind of diagnosis. So, you know, and I think oftentimes people don’t know what to say. And so they just try to make everything positive. And while I appreciate that, there are times where everything isn’t positive, and it can be difficult for patients because everything isn’t rosy and peachy. And so trying to…you know I think what was helpful for me was that there were certain friends that I could have more in-depth conversations, and then there were some that just could not comprehend, and that’s okay. It didn’t mean that they didn’t love me or that they didn’t care. It’s just that they couldn’t go there, and everybody kind of processes differently. But trying to understand and grasp that as a 21-year-old myself was challenging.
Shubham Pant, MD: Amazing on that, you did an amazing job. Tell me, did you ever end up going to the spring break that you missed? Did you go on vacation with them?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes, I did. I got an opportunity to go several times and we still get together on a regular basis.
Shubham Pant, MD: So maybe the friends you had as sorority sisters, you still meet up and talk and everything?
Taylor Bell Duck: Oh yes, absolutely.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s amazing. So Nancy, tell me, from a caregiver’s perspective, how important was communication?
Nancy Bell: It was very important. It was important for us to be able to communicate with Taylor, but it was also important to be able to talk to her care team, and also to communicate with other family members and extended family members and the support system of the people within our church and our neighborhood.
Shubham Pant, MD: So it’s very, very important you think. So do you think you had layers of communication, like different with the.
Nancy Bell: Yes.
Shubham Pant, MD: And how did you take care of all of that. That’s a lot of stuff, like a lot of people calling in the, relatives, not relatives, you know, like we talked about .... there are some researchers out there, so doers, some friends and everything. So how did you; that’s a full-time job by itself.
Nancy Bell: Right, right. Well my husband was very helpful with that as well because I tended to be more the errand runner and he tended to man the home front and answer the phone, accept the meals as they came in, instruct his mom who came and helped us. And so we just kind of worked as a team and everybody had a role.
Shubham Pant, MD: You know moms are always special but I’m a dad, so what about dads here. Tell me a little bit about your journey with your dad. How was that? How did that impact your cancer journey and your cancer care?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah, so my dad was a huge part of.
Shubham Pant, MD: I’m glad you said that, good.
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah. You know, he, I think what was really unique is that everybody kind of had a role in my diagnosis and recovery. And so like mom said, you know mom was by the bedside, asking a lot of questions, you know she was trying to keep us moving forward. And dad, you know, he was by the bedside too, but he would you know answer the phone, because mom couldn’t talk because the nurse was in the room, or you know, coordinate stuff at home. Or run to get me something other than hospital food because I didn’t want to eat the hospital food.
Shubham Pant, MD: So what was something other than hospital food?
Taylor Bell Duck: So I craved cheeseburgers. And at that point they were just happy that I would eat anything just because you know I hadn’t eaten a whole lot.
Shubham Pant, MD: Like not hospital cheeseburgers though.
Taylor Bell Duck: Like he went, left, left the hospital, drove down the road, came back, brought it. So he definitely took good care of me and, you know, sometimes you just need a good cheeseburger.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s right. So did you have a conversation with your dad about this or was it more with your mom and with your sister? What kind of, you know have you ever sat down with your dad after that and talked about it, or, you know?
Taylor Bell Duck: Oh yeah. We talk about; you know as it gets farther and farther out you still, you know, you don’t talk about it as much. I will say that one thing that my dad did for me throughout my childhood was pushed me athletically. And not like in a bad way, but like encouraged me and always was the dad that was there to support me, so.
Shubham Pant, MD: Was he the one screaming from the side lines get ... get ....
Taylor Bell Duck: So, we had a rule that like if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Shubham Pant, MD: [cross-talk]
Taylor Bell Duck: You know, before I had my license, he would get up in the morning and take me to the gym. Or at night, in North Carolina it’s too hot to run during the day, so when he’d get home from work and the sun would go down, he wasn’t fast enough to run with me so he would get in the car and just follow me while I would run.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s what I want to do. Running while in the car, that’s pretty good.
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah. So you know he did things that a lot of dads don’t do, and I credit a lot of my success athletically to him because if I didn’t have him there encouraging and supporting, I don’t necessarily know if I would have been able to play.