‘Creating Purpose' by Clint Forrette, Mobility Team Care Advocate
Clint Forrette, Mobility Team Care Advocate, reflects on his journey with cancer and the community he leaned on that led him to a position at Tomorrow Health.
Whether it’s for a routine check-up or because of a serious medical condition, every person will become a patient at some point in their lifetime. We can do everything within our control to prioritize our health: eat intuitively, exercise regularly, meditate, drink lots of water, and laugh every day. But, despite every positive choice we make, we are still fallible.
Four weeks after graduating from Loyola University New Orleans in December 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Justice, where I planned to continue my education in macro-level social work, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 22. The disease did not run in my family. I had never even broken a bone before, let alone spent time in an emergency room. I nervously picked at a stale blueberry muffin from the hospital cafeteria, gripping my best friend Wesley’s arm, waiting for my name to be called. "Blood cancer? Me? How?" I thought.
The next two years were an absolute blur: getting poked and prodded by total strangers in white coats; crying in the arms of nurses and friends; forcibly awakened at 5:00am to impale my arm with needles for blood draws; a trough of oral medications to prevent complications from the hot, poisonous chemotherapy dripping through my veins twice a day; watching my hair fall out again and again. I entered a state of total disassociation just to survive. Unfortunately, my entire family lived over 2000 miles away and I was legally an adult so the responsibility of navigating the bureaucracy of the American healthcare system fell on my shoulders. I was totally disabled and medically forbidden from having a job. My savings account disappeared overnight and it took eight months for Social Security benefits to kick in. In retrospect, the only way I survived was due to the assistance of my community and mutual aid.
I went into remission nearly five years ago. Today, I’m living a dreamy life in New York City and paying it forward as a Care Advocate for Tomorrow Health by coordinating care for patients so they don’t have to. Tomorrow Health’s mission is to reimagine healthcare in the home. We want to restore the home as the primary place of care. But what our Care Advocates do everyday goes much deeper than that. We take care of those who have historically been forced to take care of themselves amidst the worst days of their lives. We develop personal and professional relationships with patients and their families who oftentimes feel hopeless, forgotten and overwhelmed by the healthcare system. We fight like hell for the underdogs and marginalized patients by coordinating with DME suppliers, insurance companies and doctor’s offices so they can simply focus on their recovery and sit with their grief. We develop and utilize our technology to connect them to the highest quality, highest value DME suppliers in an effort to keep money in their pockets. We hold space for their tears when a loved one passes away. We’re fostering community internally and externally as best as we can within the confines of a deeply complex and fractured system.
Care Advocates are the heart and soul of Tomorrow Health and I feel honored and privileged to play a part in our patients’ healing journeys everyday. Nothing can justify the trauma I experienced due to my cancer journey but I feel called to create purpose from my experiences and I’m grateful to still be here, helping others the way others helped me.