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Pro Football Hall of Famer and Cancer Survivor Jim Kelly Teams Up with Merck and Leading Cancer Organizations to Launch Your Cancer Game Plan

KENILWORTH, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Head and neck cancer survivor and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly is sharing his personal experience as part of Your Cancer Game Plan, a new awareness campaign focused on helping people with cancer and their loved ones tackle their emotional, nutritional and communication needs. Kelly, one of the toughest quarterbacks to have played Pro Football, successfully handled the gridiron with his motto ‘Kelly Tough’ – a motto that took on new meaning after he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. The campaign, from Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, in partnership with Kelly and leading cancer organizations, encourages people with head and neck cancer and their loved ones to make a cancer “game plan” to support their cancer journey.

Many people living with head and neck cancer may experience different physical and emotional challenges than people with other forms of cancer. To help address these challenges, Your Cancer Game Plan provides support and resources, including Kelly’s tips on how to remain positive and healthy recipes for those facing head and neck cancer.

“I know first-hand the special challenges people living with this disease and their families face,” notes Kelly. “My experience taught me so much about the importance of emotional support and taking care of myself, and I hope that by sharing my experience, I can inspire others to take action and know their game plan.”

Your Cancer Game Plan is a collaboration between Merck, the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) and Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC), the leading patient organizations supporting the head and neck cancer community for nearly six decades combined, and Savor Health, a service dedicated to supporting the nutritional needs of people living with cancer.

Understanding Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer describes a number of different tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. Each year more than 60,000 new cases of head and neck cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. Many people with head and neck cancer face unique challenges as a result of surgeries and/or treatments that impact a person’s appearance, speech, smell, taste, ability to swallow and sight.

“People with head and neck cancer can feel isolated and face depression, which is why support is extremely important. Through Your Cancer Game Plan, we are providing resources that can help them manage emotional needs at every stage of their journey,” said Holly Boykin, executive director of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.

“Communicating with family members, friends or even your healthcare team can be very difficult for people living with head and neck cancer,” said Mary Ann Caputo, executive director of Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer. “Your Cancer Game Plan provides guidance and advice for communicating with family and friends to help those affected by head and neck cancer express themselves in an effective way.”

“Making sure your body gets the nutritional support it needs may help to keep your strength up through a treatment course. Adapting and managing meals is important for people living with head and neck cancer, and we’ve developed helpful tips and recipes that are designed with this in mind,” added Susan Bratton, founder and CEO of Savor Health.

About Your Cancer Game Plan

Your Cancer Game Plan serves as a central hub for those living with head and neck cancer and their loved ones as they take an active role in developing a “game plan” to address the emotional, nutritional and communication needs of their cancer journey. By visiting www.YourCancerGamePlan.com, people can hear Jim Kelly’s story as well as inspiring stories from other patients. There is also unique content, including nutritional information and recipes, coping strategies and communication tips. To learn more about head and neck cancer and Your Cancer Game Plan, visit www.YourCancerGamePlan.com or share on Twitter using #CancerGamePlan.

“At Merck, we’re committed to supporting patients with cancer, and providing them with resources that can help them better navigate this complex and often isolating journey,” said Jill DeSimone, senior vice president, Merck Oncology, U.S. "We were inspired by Jim Kelly's passion and positivity, and we are proud to come together with Jim and leaders in the head and neck cancer community to bring Your Cancer Game Plan to people living with cancer."

About Jim Kelly

Jim Kelly began his professional football career in 1986, following two years with the United States Football League’s Houston Gamblers. During his 11 years with the Buffalo Bills, he led the team to six AFC East Championships and four consecutive championship appearances. Kelly holds the all-time professional football record for most yards gained per completion in a single game, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He became known for his motto: “You have to be ‘Kelly tough’.” This motto, built on the importance of being physically and mentally strong and able to bounce back from injuries, took on a new – and more important – meaning after his cancer diagnosis.

Kelly was diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell cancer in his upper jaw in 2013. He underwent surgery, but after a follow-up test, Kelly found out the cancer had returned and he would need to receive further treatment. Finally, in August 2014, doctors gave Kelly the good news that they could no longer find evidence of cancer.

About Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA)

Head and Neck Cancer Alliance was formed when the Head and Neck Cancer Foundation and the Association for Head and Neck Cancer Awareness joined forces in 2006. HNCA strives to advance prevention, detection, treatment and rehabilitation of oral, head and neck cancer through public awareness, research, advocacy and survivorship. HNCA works to maximize internal and external resources to become a “one-stop center” dedicated to oral, head and neck cancers. HNCA provides ongoing support for those affected by head and neck cancer through various programs, including Oral, Head and Cancer Awareness (OHANCA), Gas Card Program, #OperationOral Project and Smash Cancer. In addition, HNCA volunteers work passionately to educate people about oral, head and neck cancers, and the importance of early detection and prevention through their volunteer network, awareness events, educational programs and health fairs. For more information, visit www.headandneck.org.

About Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC)

Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC) was established when Nancy E. Leupold, MA, oral cancer survivor, Founder and President, was looking for support more than 25 years ago following her diagnosis. From the first support group in 1991, the need for this type of patient network is critical. Today there are more than 125 local SPOHNC chapters throughout the U.S. focused on helping to connect patients with others going through similar cancer journeys and seeking valuable guidance from oncology healthcare professionals who are experts in the field of head and neck cancer. SPOHNC provides information and resources for cancer patients trying to gain a better understanding of their illness, including publications that feature head and neck cancer specialists, survivor sharing stories and current head and neck cancer news, which helps to meet a patients overall needs. In addition, SPOHNC’s National Survivor Volunteer Network serves to provide "connections" from survivor volunteers to newly diagnosed patients providing encouragement, support and hope from someone who has walked in their shoes. For more information, visit www.spohnc.org.

About Savor Health

Savor Health was founded after Susan Bratton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, watched her close friend lose his struggle to cancer just five months after being diagnosed. Nearly everyone undergoing treatment for cancer experiences trouble eating. Cancer starves people of nutrition, and Savor Health uses nutrition to fight back. Savor Health works with a team of oncology nutrition experts to provide cancer patients, survivors and caregivers with personalized nutritional advice and solutions including meal preparation and delivery, recipe development, meal planning, one-on-one nutritional counseling and the latest nutritional research that will meet the unique nutritional needs of cancer patients throughout their journey. For more information, visit www.savorhealth.com.

Merck’s Focus on Cancer

Our goal is to translate breakthrough science into innovative oncology medicines to help people with cancer worldwide. At Merck Oncology, helping people fight cancer is our passion and supporting accessibility to our cancer medicines is our commitment. Our focus is on pursuing research in immuno-oncology and we are accelerating every step in the journey – from lab to clinic – to potentially bring new hope to people with cancer.

About Merck

For over a century, Merck has been a global health care leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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