Dana-Farber social worker enables young adult with cancer to reconnect with lifelong passion
For 32-year-old Clinton Clark III, the most debilitating effect of his treatment for metastasized esophageal cancer has been fatigue that has impacted his ability to pursue many activities he enjoys. Yet through a grant coordinated by a caregiver at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, he has been able to reconnect with his lifelong passion for art on his own terms.
Joelle Connors, MSW, LICSW, a social worker at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center - Foxborough, said she was "thrilled" to identify the grant opportunity for a drawing tablet through the Dear Jack Foundation. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life for adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer and their families.
"Clinton is a very talented artist, and a wonderful person in general, who has worked hard to overcome so many challenges," Connors said. "I'm grateful that I could assist in providing him with another therapeutic tool."
"Joelle goes above and beyond for everybody. It's great to have someone like that really care for you," said Clark, who also enjoys comparing art projects with care team members and fellow artists Kaitlyn Alexander, BSN, RN, and Nicole Lewis, MSPAS, PA-C. "They are all great and very understanding."
Clark, a self-taught artist who lives in Bellingham, turned to drawing and painting for relaxation as well as creative expression following his cancer diagnosis at age 29 in December 2020. Since that time, he has endured the insertion of a feeding tube, radiation, surgeries, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
With treatment continuing for the foreseeable future, Clark said he is grateful for his new Samsung Tab S8, with which he recently created a digital image of his best friend and his wife for their wedding anniversary. He said its ease-of-use is critical since "everything I'm on gives me fatigue."
"Now it's very easy to produce my art, and I don't have to worry about affording tons of paints or cleaning them up. There are also so many more options because all the tools are available instantly," said Clark, whose artistic talent was first recognized by the Wyland Foundation, which awarded his colorful fish painting first place at the kindergarten grade level in an art contest for students throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Clark won another contest in high school, when his doodle of a friend eating an ice cream cone was selected for a t-shirt design by a local ice cream shop. He has since continued his art while working as a retail sales associate and manager, most recently at Walmart where he enjoyed helping customers select and troubleshoot electronics prior to his medical leave.
Throughout his illness, Clark said he has been greatly comforted by unwavering support from his care team, family, and friends. He also appreciates the opportunity to focus on digital art when the uncertainty surrounding his illness threatens to overwhelm.
"Doing art is calming and therapeutic," Clark said, "as well as a super fun way to take your mind off stuff."
Clinton Clark III recently created a digital image of his best friend and his wife for their wedding anniversary using a Samsung Tab S8. He credits Joelle Connors, MSW, LICSW, a social worker at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center - Foxborough, with purchasing the drawing tablet through a grant from the Dear Jack Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer. (Photo courtesy of Clinton Clark III)