loss(t) convos with Kathryn Peck
In this instalment of loss(t) convos we hear from Kathryn Peck (aka "KP"), a 37 year old Coachella veteran, spin queen, hip-hop enthusiast and the Head of Social Media at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
Shortly after getting married in 2014, she was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease that flipped her world upside down. Below, she tells us her story of losing her health and how she got by.
What is the most significant loss you’ve endured?
The loss of health. In 2015 I was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis (pancolitis) – an autoimmune disease. There is no real cure so the hope is that you achieve remission and stay there for as long as possible.
What made it so significant? That it was all consuming. It felt like it affected every single aspect of my life. When the disease was active, I couldn’t eat solid food for months. I was too weak to walk some days let alone exercise. I wasn’t able to work. The physical pain was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I lost any semblance of a social life because I wasn’t able to leave the house, and even when I started feeling better, my anxiety took over and decided that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Anxiety, you ask? There is a real fear in not knowing where the nearest bathroom is. Ulcerative Colitis is fun like that. Many people with this disease experience great shame and embarrassment. The exhaustion is very real. There isn’t a lot of sleeping going on. Even when you are able to sleep for more than eight hours in a row, it doesn’t seem to help.
I was very discouraged and scared. It’s disheartening when you try a course of treatment and either it doesn’t help or it makes you feel worse due to the side effects (never get pancreatitis – it sucks). Not knowing when you may (or may not, in many cases) start to feel better can be frightening and overwhelming. I think that about covers it!
What did you learn from your loss?
I learned that perspective doesn’t always help. Someone else’s trauma may seem insignificant to you, but everyone’s own darkness can place him or her at the bottom of a mountain, and getting to the top can seem impossible.
The loss of your health is clearly very different than the loss of a loved one. They aren't comparable. I cannot compare my experience with what someone else has gone through and I'm not trying to. But because Ulcerative Colitis is an “invisible” disease it made me realize just how many people are out there dealing with something that no one else can see. I’ve definitely become more empathetic.
What is your advice for others enduring a similar loss?
Find your people. Join support groups – whether in real life or online, connecting with those who have experienced a similar loss or trauma can help you navigate this new and frightening world that you have found yourself in and want absolutely nothing to do with.
You are free to complain and the group members will support you. You can ask for advice, and they will help you. You can share your victories, and they will celebrate with you. You may find hope and inspiration through the many people you meet who have gone through a similar experience and have come out the other side. They are alive. They may even be thriving! Some may have even made it to the top of their mountain.
So much love to KP for her struggle and for sharing her story!
If you or someone you know would be interested in sharing your story about loss and how you got by, shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.