Navigating Lung Cancer: Embracing a New Normal - Episode 3
Shubham Pant, MD: Tell me this, Nancy. As a mom, how is it watching Taylor take charge of her journey? I know you had sons and daughters and everything. As a mom and I’m a dad and like I said, if my 21-year-old called, I think I would fall apart. But how was it for you to see Taylor? Did you see her grow up overnight and get more? What was the change like in Taylor?
Nancy Bell: She got sick to the point that she had to go into the hospital in a wheelchair. And for me, that was my big emotional moment. She can outrun me, she can out-everything me.
Shubham Pant, MD: She was like so soccer player, just out there.
Nancy Bell: I’m like the klutz of the family and so to actually be able to walk faster than her and to have to wait for her to be able to join, to walk up to us and then to actually need to get a wheelchair to get her into the hospital, that took my breath away.
Shubham Pant, MD: We’ve talked about the teenage years are obviously not very pleasant. But do you think you made a connection, this helped make the deeper connection with Taylor? I know that’s not a great way to make that connection. But did you come together more as a family with that?
Nancy Bell: We really did. And our faith is very important to us, and I think we really learned to rely on our faith, lean on it, lean into it. It was a very scary time, and I wanted her not to get fear from me. I wanted her to get survival and advocacy and to not pull fear from anything I was feeling.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s amazing, Nancy. So how were you able to empower her as an advocate, just as an advocate for herself? Did you have discussions with her saying, Taylor, this is our discussion of saying how will you go forward with this and how you can take care of your own healthcare?
Nancy Bell: Right. And she was at that point at 21 where she was already independent but not completely independent. And so, for me, the hardest thing was letting her go back to college afterwards because we had I guess grown closer. And she’s always been very independent, but she was a little bit dependent on us. And then to go back to college, to see her drive out of that driveway and head back and knowing that she had to walk to classes, and carry books, and all of that stuff, we felt very close but it was very emotional to see her rejoin the world. I think it was said very eloquently. She used to be all about soccer, and we all kind of wondered what she would do when she wasn’t playing soccer. But she did, she found her voice.
Shubham Pant, MD: So, Taylor, tell me this. So how was it going back and rejoining? I think Nancy put it mildly. I would just stalk my kids, that’s what I would do. What’s going on here? What’s going on there? Tell us about your just rejoining college. It’s such a big deal. And so what were the emotions that ran through your head and how did you advocate for yourself, help yourself rejoin college?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah, so that was probably the most difficult for me transition wise. I probably wasn’t quite ready to go back, but I didn’t have much of a choice because health insurance wise, I had to be a full-time student in order to keep my health insurance. So what I did was tried to utilize my support system as best I could, so my sorority sisters and my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my husband.
Shubham Pant, MD: I’m glad you said that.
Taylor Bell Duck: So just being comfortable and okay to ask for help. So I think that sometimes can be very difficult for patients because you don’t want to feel helpless. But there are times where you literally.
Shubham Pant, MD: You need help.
Taylor Bell Duck: You can’t survive without it, right. So I kind of worked with the sorority to coordinate. I lived in the sorority house at the time, so I got sisters to help coordinate me in terms of when to pick me up from class and drop me off, so that I didn’t have to walk as far. And then carrying my books physically was not possible, and so I worked with my professors to be able to not bring my book to class and that sort of thing. So just finding ways to adapt was really important for me. Initially, I think people kind of choose to either be public about their diagnosis or to be very private. And I don’t think that there’s a right or a wrong way. I think that it’s up to the patient. I personally have chosen a path that is very public, outspoken about my diagnosis. And I believe that it’s really important to speak up because I am one of the few that survives lung cancer. And so I 1) want to bring hope to people to let them know that they don’t have to be a statistic and that there is hope and possibility to survive. But 2) I think the stigma that’s associated with lung cancer and that people believe that.
Shubham Pant, MD: Smoker, yes.
Taylor Bell Duck: Only smokers get this disease. And so I think that any time I have the opportunity to bring patients to resources or to bring awareness, that it’s really a calling for me to speak up.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s amazing. You just be a really proud mom now. You lived through the teenage years of my daughter’s grow up like Taylor and they grow into impressive young women. So tell me this. One was around your family and friends. What other places did you go for your information to go through a cancer journey for help? Did you go on the Internet? Did you go on specific? What were the specific resources that you used?
Taylor Bell Duck: I got involved with the local organization that was a lung cancer foundation, and they connected me to resources, the latest research and trials available. And then as I got more comfortable with that, I branched out even farther and got involved with larger national advocacy organizations. That’s kind of how this opportunity has come available and given me the opportunity to speak, to partner with organizations like Merck and Your Cancer Game Plan to bring patients the resources that they need. It’s a central place, a website where patients can go to learn about emotional health, communication, and then nutrition, and help them really make a plan for their cancer diagnosis.
Shubham Pant, MD: I think you alluded to it, but tell me a little bit in detail about Your Cancer Game Plan. How does that help the patient from somebody like you, let’s say? They’re young, they got a diagnosis. How can Your Cancer Game Plan help these patients?
Taylor Bell Duck: So Your Cancer Game Plan was created by Merck and other leading cancer advocacy organizations to provide a website that focuses on three fundamental pillars I think that all patients go through and deal with — so communication not only with your healthcare team but your family and friends, emotional health and well-being, and then nutrition. And so I think oftentimes patients have it in their mind, like we know all those things are important, but when you’re kind of overwhelmed with the diagnosis of cancer, it can sometimes be hard to find a resource that addresses all of those things.
Shubham Pant, MD: In a more holistical fashion, everything together in one place.
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah, absolutely. So yourcancergameplan.com is a website where patients can go put together a plan, find recipes, helpful tips, suggestions and videos on communication, emotional health and well-being. So it’s just a place that kind of is one portal where people can go to get information.
Shubham Pant, MD: Do you use it yourself just running through it?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes. Yeah, and some of the recipes are fabulous.
Shubham Pant, MD: Give me one. Tell me a good recipe.
Taylor Bell Duck: So there’s a macaroni and cheese muffin.
Shubham Pant, MD: Macaroni and cheese muffin. Now I’m hungry.
Taylor Bell Duck: But it’s healthy for you. It’s not bad. There’s smoothie recipes, just lots of good things. And it’s nice to be able to go somewhere where you can get good, solid information.