By Olivia Ekpone - MileSplit USA
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November, 2022, is a month and year that will stick with D'Asia Duncan for the rest of her life.
That's because last year at this time, she removed a four-inch tumor from her left breast.
Earlier that year, Duncan, 15, showed courage when she moved from Connecticut to Florida to begin her freshman year at Montverde Academy (FL). She was about to meet a new group of friends in a new environment right after the pandemic.
But shortly into her first months at the school, she noticed a lump in her left breast when she was in the shower.
"I was trying to see if it was on both sides and I did," Duncan told MileSplit. "But my left side felt way bigger. I told my mom about it and I asked her if this was normal. She looked up [her symptoms] and for some teens it could be [normal], especially going through puberty. It felt really hard and I could move it around, but it wasn't painful at all."
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more on the subject, and for information on how to donate, check out the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Duncan's cousin passed away in her 20s from breast cancer and she had another family member pass away due to cancer at a young age as well. As a precautionary measure, Duncan and her mom, Marilyn Duncan-Scott, wanted to get it checked out.
After finding a new primary care physician in September, they scheduled an appointment. Doctors examined her daughter and referred Duncan to a specialist.
At that moment, Duncan got the answers she was looking for. Based on her ultrasound, she was diagnosed with fibroadenoma, a non-cancerous -- and painless -- breast tumor commonly found in women between the ages of 20-30.
She had one in her left breast, which at the time was two inches and close to her heart, and another one similar in size in her right breast.
"I was scared, I was terrified," Duncan-Scott said of her daughter's diagnosis. "D'Asia was so strong."
During the Thanksgiving break of 2022, Duncan underwent surgery to remove the left tumor after it grew an additional two inches in a short period of time.
Duncan plans to schedule surgery to remove the other tumor in the right breast, but at the moment, the family will continue to monitor it.
It hasn't changed in size or impacted her training.
As Duncan reflected on her journey, she said she was relieved that she was able to discover the tumor when she did. Her surgery was successful and she began normal activities after two weeks of recovery.
"I felt very blessed honestly," Duncan said. "Anything could have happened. It could have been cancerous. For it to work out fine, for me to be healthy, now that it's gone, I was really blessed. I wanted to thank everyone, and God especially. Anything could have happened and it could have taken a turn for the worse. I was really happy with the results and that we got the [tumor] out."
* Photo Credit: D'Asia Duncan / Montverde Academy
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Since surgery, Duncan has been able to continue earning high honors in the classroom and compete for Montverde Academy in the fall and spring.
As a freshman, she was fourth in the 400mH, eighth in the 100mH and ninth in the long jump at the FHSAA 2A Outdoor State Championships.
"Last year, she was going with the flow," Duncan-Scott told MileSplit. "Track was still a part of her world, but she wasn't aggressive. So much took a toll on her. She didn't perform her normal numbers. She was just there and trying her best. She's D'Asia this year."
This fall, Duncan is running cross country team and set a 5K personal best at the FLRunners.com Invitational with a time of 22 minutes, 21 seconds.
Once track starts in December, she's going to focus on the 400m and run a few 800m races.
She said she will also continue the short and long hurdles on the outdoor oval.
Along with performing well in the classroom, doing archery and competing on the cross country course, Duncan has used her voice to educate people about breast cancer, especially during the month of October.
Her Montverde Academy girls cross country team participated in a Lady Track Shack 5K race and Duncan gifted breast cancer awareness wristbands to each of her teammates, coaches and friends.
"What I could have done sooner was speak up earlier," Duncan said. "I want people to know that it's okay to speak out because anything could happen."
* Photo Credit: Grace Celis