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Local Olympian hopes newest challenge can help other women

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KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- A local Olympian is hoping her story will help save someone else's life.

"You have to believe in a 'no matter what I'm going to make it mindset;' that's always been my mindset and that's how it's been dealing with cancer," said 14-time All-American athlete and track and field Olympian Halycon Macknight. "I think my discipline and drive helped in my survival and I want to use my experience to help other women."

Macknight found out last February she had late stage 3 ovarian cancer. "It moved fast, it was very aggressive. As a lifelong athlete, I knew my body very well and I knew something wasn't right. I just don't want women to sit back and pop an Aleve and wish it would go away. I want to them to not be afraid, to get up and get moving and get some answers."

Ovarian cancer is tough to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague until the cancer is already advanced. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, acid reflux and a thickened waistline.

"Women may not notice a change in how much their weigh, but maybe will go up rather rapidly in a pant size or waist size," said Dr. Jaleema Speaks of Novant Health's WomanCare. Speaks says because there is no screening tool available specifically for ovarian cancer, it's critical that women come in for their yearly pelvic exams and also for them to have established relationships with their doctors.

After having a radical hysterectomy and months of chemotherapy, Macknight says she now has a new passion in life. "I have educated myself about ovarian cancer, treatments, what to do. My mission is to educate, inspire and encourage. I'm not saying be a worrywart or a hypochondriac, but if you know your body and you know you're going through changes that aren't explainable, talk to your doctor and go and get some help."

Macknight is also a coach for high school and college athletes and is a motivational speaker. For more information on her, visit lofhma.com.