Katie Clawson grew up in Chicago but has lived in, and around, Philadelphia for the past 15 years. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2016 at age 34, she’s still fighting the disease after progressing through five different types of treatment over a year later. When not in medical appointments, she spends time with family, blogs about her journey, and works as a school psychologist in a large middle school.
I spent most of my 20s enjoying myself and figuring out my career. In my early 30s, I earned my doctorate, settled into my own place, and started my career. I was enjoying my 30s! Yet, I couldn’t shake this constant feeling of exhaustion that wasn’t cleared up until my cancer diagnosis came. After that, my life shifted rapidly. One of the first things I lost was my self-sufficiency. I needed help to go to appointments, care for myself, and eventually, moved in with family. Suddenly, I went from an independent adult to an adult requiring family to become caretakers -- a weird transition for someone in their 30s!
Losing your independence is tough and humbling, but coping with that loss is all in how you look at it. One of those humbling moments came during my first hospital stay, which lasted five days. My mom or younger sister stayed by my side to help out. I definitely needed help! I had difficulty clearly speaking, eating, or really doing anything but sleeping. I even needed help going to the bathroom! On day 3, my mom and a nurse’s aide helped to coax me out of bed to use the bathroom. Either that, or I would need to use a bed pan, and I definitely did not want that! Slowly, with their encouragement, I started to get out of bed. Perhaps, it was a little too slowly. The urgency was real! I yelled, “hurry!” The two of them scurried to move me toward the bathroom. But we forgot a major barrier in moving me around -- my chest port was connected to an IV pole still plugged into the wall.
As I felt the pull on my port, I cried, “Oh no, I’m plugged in.” The aide hurried to yank the IV from the wall, but it was too late. I couldn’t wait. There I was watering the linoleum floor. Neither of them seemed to care. They were calm and sweet as could be. The aide said, “I’ll get cleaning supplies.” My mom smiled, and said, “Well, you might as well let it all out!”
I couldn’t stop laughing... and peeing! Finally, I did make it to the bathroom. When I came out, the floor was scrubbed. After that, I realized there are perks to losing your self-sufficiency to cancer -- you can wet yourself, not feel embarrassed, and don’t even have to clean up the mess!