Nancy Pickett: a teen’s journey from diagnosis to Dodge

Nancy and her family at the Candle Lighting Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Tamyln Doll

A freshman broadcast journalism and documentary major might worry about getting equipment in time, finding interesting characters or capturing the perfect shot.

Nancy Pickett is a typical doc student from Orange County, Florida, except she has an added stressor: gastroparesis.

Despite being diagnosed with gastroparesis at 15, Pickett said she is persistent to continue living a normal life.

Gastroparesis is delayed stomach emptying, according to a Health Reach publication.

When the nerve signals between the stomach and the intestines do not function effectively, the movement of food to the intestines slows down or stops. In other words, it is the paralysis of the digestive tract. This means that Pickett doesn’t eat to get her nutrition, but instead gets it through a feeding tube.

It is essential to acknowledge that gastroparesis is not very rare, as it affects more than 1.5 million Americans, according to the Temple Digestive Diseases Center.

In a Q&A, Pickett explained how she manages her gastroparesis while being a student at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Q: How is the transition moving from Florida to California? Is it very different?

A:  I’ve been joking about how it’s not so different. I came from Orange County, Florida to Orange County, California; Disneyworld to Disneyland; and Arnold Palmer to CHOC, which are both Disney-sponsored hospitals. But the biggest transition is getting a new medical team, since my old one has been there with me since my diagnosis.

Q: How has Chapman helped you transition?

A: They’ve provided a single room for me and I have all my necessities there. Right now, they’re working to get my medical delivery to be sent directly to my room since I get a lot of heavy packages. And they’re also trying to get me into the dining hall, since I technically don’t have a meal plan. Though there is not much that the health center can do for me, everyone there is very friendly.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of your journey?

A: It’s probably the transition to TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition, the administration of nutrients by intravenous feeding) because that was when the realization that it was more than a chronic illness kicked in. I never see myself as a patient, you know? But TPN made it more ‘real’ for me.

Q: How often do people misunderstand ‘the tubes’ you carry?

A: I had someone come up to me in the first week and say, ‘I really like your style, what kind of a belt is that?’ It was funny, because he was like three feet taller than me.

Pickett’s equipment. Photo courtesy of Nancy Pickett

Q: Would you rather they ask you more directly?

A:  I’d much rather people ask me anything directly than have them assume things. Oftentimes, what someone might think is a ‘sensitive topic’ is my daily life. It’s simply to avoid miscommunication. It’s better they hear accurate information from me than hear a varied version from someone else.

A part of Pickett’s documentary, which focuses on how the termination of Obamacare affects her condition, is being featured in the annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, held in New York.

Q: How excited are you to attend the News and Documentary Emmys?

A: I’m really excited – I’m flying out on Oct. 4 to New York. On the fifth I’m going to the News & Documentary Emmys. The cool part is that they gave me a great scholarship, which why I chose to come to Chapman. I also get to give a speech for under a minute. I have my dress picked out, I still have to go shoe shopping!

1 Comment

  • I encourage Nancy to check out the Oley Foundation, a non-profit organization that has many services for people on TPN and/or tube feeding. All programs are free of charge. We can connect her with other people with gastroparesis and/or on TPN. or call (518) 262-5079.

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