Patients as Partners: Member Jeff on teaming up with your doctors

Posted April 28th, 2016 by

This year, the Team of Advisors has been thinking about partnerships in healthcare. They introduced the Partnership Principles, outlining ways to make the most of your relationships with the many people you encounter in your health journey — medical students, clinical trial coordinators, and “normals.” Now, they’re each sharing personal stories about these principles in action to kick off conversations about partnering. First up, during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, Jeff (Deak80) shares his experiences finding the right doctor and looking for “red flags,” communicating effectively, and sharing responsibility in his care.

 

As part of the Team of Advisors, we’ve been tasked to think about how we partner in our healthcare. Here are some examples of where, and more importantly how, I put the partnership principles to use. Remember that using the partnership principles is not a quick fix nor for one-time use. It’s important to establish a strong base through consistency of use and recognition that an effective partnership is based on a mutual respect and building a long-term relationship.

Know your needs in the partnership

Starting last December, I had the opportunity to put the partnership principles to use. Changes in my Medicare Part D prescription provider were driving me to change my Primary Care Provider (PCP). My previous year Part D insurer eliminated one of my Parkinson’s drugs from their formulary list. When I reviewed my options for prescription coverage (i.e., all my medications on an insurer’s formulary list), I had only 1 Part C HMO plan which met the requirements. (Those familiar with the basic construct of Medicare know that with a Part D plan you pair Medicare Supplemental Insurance to get complete coverage, or you use a Part C Advantage plan which covers both Health and Prescriptions).

Fortunately, my Parkinson’s specialist was covered under this HMO, but my PCP was not, so I began the search. I used the insurance company’s “Search for a Doctor” capability against a set of basic requirements:

  • Within 10 miles of my house
  • Has an internet healthcare rating of 3.5 or greater. (There are multiple rating services, I use this as a guide, not a rule.)
  • If they are part of a doctors group that has provided care to me in the past, was it a good or negative experience?

Using this basic approach, I was able to identify two doctors at the same practice as a potential PCP. I called, and the one with the first available appointment became my PCP. Notice that the selection process of my PCP was short and not overly taxing. One reason for the expedited process is that during the first few appointments I am watching for “red flags” or areas of concern. If I encounter too many “red flags” I move on to another doctor. As indicated below, I did encounter too many “red flags,” and quickly selected another PCP. The only change I made to the new search is I expanded the range to 15 miles. I have met with my new PCP and I can tell that this PCP will be a much better match to the partnership principles than the first. 

“As patients we may have to put more effort into the partnership to make it work…I am OK with this since I have the most to gain in the partnership.”

Establishing an effective patient-doctor partnership requires effective and efficient communications and recognition that a 50/50 partnership never exists. What this means is, as patients, we may have to put more effort into the partnership to make it work (>50%). Personally, I am OK with this since I have the most to gain in the partnership.

I look for effective and efficient communications within the doctor’s practice in two areas:

1. Does the office administration team communicate effectively with each other?

I have left more doctors due to poor office support and the office’s inability to manage a schedule than doctor/medical issues. The office administration is a key member of the doctor’s team. They are responsible for a lot of the information getting into your medical record as well as managing your access to the doctor. Some of the red flags to look for with the office administration are:

  • Is some erroneous information sneaking into your medical file? A recent experience of mine in this area is that my birth date was entered incorrectly. Although I appreciated being 10 years younger, a lot of medical decisions, tests, etc., are driven by your age. I called three times over four weeks and they still had not corrected when I changed PCPs.
  • Does the office run on time? I don’t mean necessarily to the minute, but are they even close? After relocating from Seattle to Boston, I selected my Parkinson’s specialist based on the recommendations of my doctors in Seattle. Although the doctor was medically very good, the office frequently ran over two hours late in the afternoon. These delays caused me significant stress. I was also working full-time at this point so the delays were also impacting work. Needless to say I changed specialists to one that was medically very good and the office runs almost always within 15 minutes of being on time.

2. Does the doctor’s office have the tools to communicate effectively with the patient?

You will hear phrases such as “patient portal” or “electronic medical record” (EMR) or “electronic health record” (EHR). In either case, these are referring to the system that a doctor typically uses to communicate with the patient. Usage varies between doctors. The PCP I now have is an active user of the EHR system. Even if your doctor is not an active EHR user, make sure you are. Access to this system provides you direct access to medical records (test results, surgeries performed, etc.).

Communicate effectively

Typically, I send an email about a week before my next visit to my Parkinson’s specialist. This approach provides me the opportunity to:

  • Document how I have been doing since the last session
  • Outline the objectives for this session
  • List the questions I have for this session
  • Allow the doctor to engage other resources if needed

More importantly it helps me organize, prioritize. Additionally, there is a much better chance of me remembering to cover everything in this email versus remembering onsite. Although my memory is still pretty good, relying only on your memory is setting yourself up for a disappointing meeting.

Share responsibility

Take personal ownership of my health. I am always trying to improve my situation. I attempt to eat right, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. I also put the effort into an effective patient/doctor partnership. As I mentioned above the patient/doctor partnership is not 50/50. I am not sure what the ratio is, but since the patient has the most to gain, logically they have to put the most into the partnership.

Finally, I found there’s a lack of real partnership in a lot of medical decisions. This lack of partnership is not just limited to the patient/doctor relationship. If you have multiple specialists involved, you may have to get them to meet together to discuss your case. Until you do, I have found that doctors follow a very linear process, and that joint decision making often does not occur.

You are your best patient advocate, so step up and take charge.

 

 

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Precision medicine: What does it mean for psychiatry?

Posted April 20th, 2016 by

Imagine that your healthcare provider is treating your illness, but instead of using the standard trial and error method of prescribing medications, he or she has information about which ones have a higher likelihood of working for you and which ones have less of a chance. That’s the aim of precision medicine.

Maybe you’ve heard the terms precision medicine and pharmacogenomics, but do you really have a clear understanding of what they mean and how they could impact your health journey? Let’s start a larger conversation about it, but first, here are some definitions that can help us all speak the same language.

Precision medicine is a relatively new way of preventing and treating illnesses that takes into consideration people’s genetic makeup, environment and lifestyle.1

Pharmacogenomics is a part of precision medicine that determines how genes affect a person’s response to particular drugs. This field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup.2

Translation: Pharmacogenomics and precision medicine allow your healthcare team to take into account how you may respond to different treatments and help them find a solution that is specifically designed to help you.

On the one hand, treating patients individually is nothing new. The healthcare industry has always sought to understand the differences in humans and how to effectively treat them. What is new is the advancing technology behind how this is done. Genetic features allow us to identify individual differences in our diseases and how we might specifically respond to drugs and therapeutics. As these technologies are still evolving, it’s important to understand how they will be used and how they can positively impact patient outcomes. This is why we want to share some information with the PatientsLikeMe community and hear what you have to say on the subject.

So what could this mean for patients with psychiatric conditions?

Dr. Joel Winner, medical director at Assurex Health

We caught up with Dr. Joel Winner, a practicing psychiatrist and medical director at Assurex Health to learn more.

“Sometimes in psychiatry it seems like our prescribing methods are drawn from throwing darts at a dartboard. Certain people respond well to a given medication and certain people don’t. The unique pattern in each patient’s genetic make-up is an important reason for the differential response. A good fifty percent of patients have side effects on their medications. In some patients it takes years to try to get the right medication – or right combination of medications – for them.

“With pharmacogenomics, there are now tests that can look at some of these genetic variants to help predict which medications may cause side effects and which ones are less inclined to do so for a given patient. Having this information ahead of time can really support treatment decisions. I’ve had several successes from narrowing down regimens, getting patients off certain medications, and regulating and keeping them within a safe threshold.”

When asked about challenges and barriers faced by precision medicine, which, as an emerging field, has capabilities that aren’t fully understood, Dr. Winner said, “Precision medicine is another tool healthcare providers have to help guide treatment through supported medication selection. As always, there are other non-medication factors that should be considered as well including: personal and family dynamics, comorbid diagnoses, social context, substance issues, therapeutic bond, etc. With my patients I try to level-set expectations for medications and pharmacogenomics in general. Finding the right medication is like finding the needle in the haystack. With precision medicine, we’re simply removing some of the hay. In other words, we’re removing medications that may be less likely to work for that patient or have a higher likelihood of causing side effects. The goal of pharmacogenomics and tests like this in general is to reduce the time that’s taken to find the right medication so patients can get back to more fully engaging their lives.”

What do you think about the idea of precision medicine and pharmacogenomics? Do you have any experience with a pharmacogenomics test? Head to the forum to weigh in on this topic and let’s learn more, together.

 

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1 www.nih.gov/precisionmedicine

2 http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/precisionmedicine/precisionvspersonalized


“Adapt, improvise and overcome.” — PatientsLikeMe member Dana shares her experience for Sjögren’s Awareness Month

Posted April 15th, 2016 by

In honor of Sjögren’s Awareness Month, we connected with PatientsLikeMe member Dana, a New Jersey-based poet and screenplay writer who was recently diagnosed. This isn’t the first time we’ve interviewed Dana — she was a member of our 2014 Team of Advisors!

Here, Dana talks about the daily challenges of living with Sjögren’s, an autoimmune disease often associated with rheumatoid arthritis that affects nearly 2,000 other PatientsLikeMe members. She also shares how she manages Sjögren’s along with her other conditions (bipolar II, depression and thyroid issues), and offers some advice to patients in her situation: “Take it moment by moment.”

Tell us about your diagnosis experience.

It started with pneumonia. After a batch of antibiotics, I was OK. Then I got a glandular infection. More antibiotics. Two months later and it was back again, it looked like I had the mumps, but it was my glands behind my ears again. My primary doctor suspected something and ran a complete blood work on me. Testing for RA and lupus and everything else.

I came back negative for RA, but positive for something called Sjögren’s syndrome and nothing else.

Most doctors only know that you get dry eyes and dry mouth from Sjögren’s syndrome. But there are more dangers to the body than just those two symptoms. I have chronic pain in my hips and my knees, which is strange since I have two total knee replacements. So it’s really not a joint issue. It’s a connective tissue issue. So my whole body aches and is sensitive to the touch, meaning if you just touch me, I feel pain where you touched me.

How would you describe Sjögren’s to someone who doesn’t have it – how does it affect your daily life?

Sjögren’s is a close cousin to lupus and is treated in the same way and with similar medication. I wake up early to take my thyroid medication. Then after light therapy for my depression, I can eat and take my Plaquenil for the Sjögren’s, and the vitamins and other medications for the bipolar and depression.

But during the first hour and a half, I am in pain. I have to take pain killers to function. I still get break-through pain from walking too much or sometimes from doing nothing but sitting.

I have something called “flare-ups” where the pain is so excruciating, even my daily meds can’t help me. So I have to take Prednisone for six days. This usually means I’m down for a week in bed, sleeping and dizzy and just feeling awful.

You never know when a “flare-up” will occur, so making plans to do future things is nearly impossible. I take it day by day and sometimes, moment by moment.

How has it been managing your Sjogren’s syndrome along with bipolar II, depression and thyroid issues?

It was very hard in the beginning. I had over 20 years to learn the ins and outs of dealing with mental illness. But I was clueless when dealing with chronic physical pain. Talk therapy doesn’t work when it feels like a knife is being twisted in your thigh.

I was lucky that I have medication which is working for me presently and at the time of diagnosis. I found an online support forum which answered many questions my doctors where unable to answer for me.

There are times when you do feel fine and the pain level is low and you just want to do EVERYTHING! But you have to pace yourself, or you will find yourself exhausted and unable to do anything. This is something I’m still working on, the pacing. You are so used to feeling bad, that even the small windows where you feel like a human being again have to be taken slowly.

Overall, it is very hard dealing with depression/BP/anxiety, etc. and not being able to walk some days or being so physically tired that it’s an effort just to get up to take care of yourself. But you do it.

What’s your best piece of advice to other people managing multiple conditions?

Don’t dwell on all the illnesses that may be on your plate. It will make you numb. Instead, just keep moving forwards. Adapt, improvise and overcome. I remind myself of this, because you have to adapt to whatever situation you are in and you have to improvise on different ways to look at your life and sometimes it may be dark, but you have the strength to overcome what you may be feeling at the moment. Take it moment by moment. Don’t look at the big picture, just the things YOU can effectively handle and change.

This month is all about awareness – what do you do to stay informed on the latest research and information about your conditions?

I read the forum posts and I subscribe to some newsletters. I find the most helpful information from the Sjögren’s Syndrome forum I frequent and I also read articles on the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation.

What was the most valuable thing you learned in your experience as a member of the 2014 Team of Advisors?

That we all have something in common, no matter what our illness may be. When I joined, I wasn’t diagnosed with any of the other physical ailments I have now, so there were times I felt out of place. But by listening to others talk about their experiences, I could apply my condition to their condition and learn a new outlook on where I was in my life.

 

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“I am working on all of it slowly” — Member David opens up about his experience with PTS

Posted April 13th, 2016 by

Meet member David (david61060), a United States Air Force veteran who’s living with multiple conditions including PTS, sleep apnea, and epilepsy. When we caught up with him, David shared what it was like to grow up as a “navy brat,” his experience in the military, and how It took him more than nine years to admit to himself that he had PTS.

Below, see what he has to say about triggers, coping with more than one condition, and the value of connecting with others on PatientsLikeMe.

Tell us a little about yourself.

To tell you about myself … well I was a navy brat and grew up mostly around just military kids and people connected with the military, every 3 to 4 years moving to a new base. Except in the 70s we stayed in the Republic of Panama for 6 years, leaving there in 1976. I was 16 — that was the hardest move. First year of high school … leaving behind a lot of friends that I knew I would never see again. Moving to California and graduating high school, I went into the Air Force. In my 15 years I saw a lot and did a lot but my last tour was the worst: Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

I came home with so many problems – depression, seizures, nightmares, waking up in a different room than where I went to sleep … then the divorce and losing the house. The car we had broke down and I had to walk or take the bus to the base (fortunately we did not live far from the base).

Most of the military doctors at Kelly Air Force Base did not seem very sympathetic to my problems including weight gain because of the drugs … blackouts at work THEN the notification that I was being discharged because of my weight gain. The next thing I knew I was in a true padded cell with the bed bolted to the floor.

If not for my older brother (a fighter pilot in the USAF) and my father (a retired USN Officer) stepping in and having multiple conferences, I would have been discharged with out a hope of help from the VA or the US government.

You wrote in a forum post, “Some people … did not want to even hear or listen to me.” How did you find the courage to open up about your PTS?

Opening up about my disorders — PTS and my seizures — I was originally very quiet about my problems. I do not even know if my parents who I lived with even knew. An assistant at the VA in Martinez, CA recommended that I go to a meeting at the mental health unit, and I did. I met one of the best doctors I have known, Dr. Kotun.  She recommended that I go into one-on-one therapy, so I did.

It took me more than nine years to admit to not only myself but to my therapist that I was suffering from PTS.

In your profile, you list epilepsy, depression, and sleep apnea as some of the other conditions you live with. How has it been managing these in addition to PTS?

Managing and just attempting to live with them are not really that different. Being sure that I take my pills three times a day is a real trial for me. In the morning there are 12 pills (including vitamins and other OTC pills). Getting my sleep is and can be the hardest part. Sometimes the nightmares and the sweats can be the hardest part of the day. Putting the mask on for the sleep apnea at times seems like putting on that gas mask … just dozing off and I hear a car horn that sounds like the warning siren. The mask suddenly feels constricting … I end up awake for hours afraid to have to put it back on. Usually I do not until the next night.

As I said before I think living with all I have can be really trying for me and my new wife but I have to go on — I have to — the other choice is not an option.

Some people have shared their PTS “triggers.” Do you know your triggers, or do symptoms happen unexpectedly?

My triggers for my PTS seem to happen when anything military is close— the helicopters flying overhead. Hearing munitions going off, and sometimes it could just be a memory that that was triggered — walking in a park and we come to a fence line and the area suddenly looks like the area close to one of the bases I was at, then a car backfires and I drop to the ground and reach for my weapon. In the long run it can be embarrassing to react like that in public. This had stopped me from even going out the park or into the city but I am working on all of it slowly.

And then there are times that I just have that feeling for no reason and the fear comes over me again like a wave. It makes no sense.

What has it been like connecting with other vets on PatientsLikeMe?

Connecting with others and talking to others about my problems and seeing theirs has been a remarkable window to work with … to realize that if we all open up we could help each other. Being that there are others on the site that are not veterans but have a lot of the same problems has been very helpful to me, and I hope to others that I have written to as well.

 

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“Seesawing Libidos”: A podcast for Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Posted April 11th, 2016 by

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and this year we’re getting personal.

Seesawing libidos,” an episode of WBUR Boston’s Modern Love podcast, explores an unexpected side effect of a Parkinson’s medication: an overactive sex drive. The story comes from comedian Marc Jaffe, whose wife Karen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years into their marriage.

Before Karen’s diagnosis, Marc was the one with the stronger libido, but their roles would reverse after she started her medication. Compulsive behavior was a side effect, and in Karen’s case, it manifested as hypersexuality. Marc shares, “Those pills would change our lives more than Parkinson’s.”

Eventually, Karen was able to channel her obsessive behavior into fundraising and advocating for Parkinson’s. Check out the podcast to hear more of Marc’s reflections on how a medication could affect his marriage in such an intimate way.

Have you ever experienced a side effect that changed your personal life? How did you cope? Jump in the forum and share your story.

 

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Food for Thought: IBS Awareness Month edition

Posted April 6th, 2016 by

 

Did you know that 9% – 23% of the world’s population live with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)1, including over 5,000 members on PatientsLikeMe? For IBS Awareness Month, we’re digging deeper into how people are coping with this condition that affects so many.

We asked IBS members for some insight — which foods help and which ones hurt? Here’s what they had to say about their diet do’s and don’ts:

I’ve tried all sorts of stuff and not long ago, I was experiencing much pain so here are the general guidelines:

  • No raw food
  • No legumes (e.g. lentils, beans, etc.)
  • No FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols): that helps to sort all the types of fruit and vegetable (so basically very few fruits)
  • Be careful on milk, gluten and soy, depending on the sensibility
  • No high-sugar food that can be irritating
  • Be careful in the choice of nuts
  • No lacto-fermented products

I tend to blend a lot of my food but still make sure I chew! Well, this is kind of restrictive and it depends on the people and the periods of crisis or not. I’d love to hear from others!

-       PatientsLikeMe member

For me it’s boiled down to: Nothing raw, certain veggies cooked, no dairy. I can tolerate lacto fermented foods and certain legumes. No red meat. No shellfish. Nothing processed. I used to be the biggest salad lover. Now I love broth and bland foods.

 -       PatientsLikeMe member

More often than not, it’s down to stress. So, really I only have three categories that are always going to upset me:

  • Anything containing lactose. I sometimes *need* ice cream though and I’ll pop a Lactaid tablet. Ben & Jerry’s makes an excellent non-dairy ice cream, too.
  • Anything really greasy or fried. If there’s a lot of sugar, it’s a double-whammy. Very sweet by itself doesn’t bother me, it’s always when it’s in conjunction with greasy things. Pancakes and french toast are really terrible.
  • And lastly, there’s a certain local restaurant chain that never fails to give me fits. 

-       PatientsLikeMe member

Are you living with IBS? Which foods have you added or removed from your diet? Share your experience with the community in the forum.

 

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1http://www.aboutibs.org/site/living-with-ibs/ibs-awareness-month/


“Technology is the cure”: An update with member Steve Saling (SmoothS)

Posted April 5th, 2016 by

Recently, we paid a follow-up visit to ALS member Steve Saling (Smooth S) to see what he’s been up to and talk about future plans.

When we last spoke with him in 2012, Steve was using his expertise as an architect and his interest in technology to spearhead the ALS Residence Initiative (ALSRI), starting with the Steve Saling ALS Residence at the Chelsea Jewish Foundation’s Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, Mass.

The ALSRI has grown into a series of fully automated residences – now in multiple cities nationwide – that allow pALS the freedom of independent living alongside 24-hour care. And just this past Sunday, the Dapper McDonald ALS Residence officially opened as the second residence at the Leonard Florence Center for Living.

“Until medicine proves otherwise, technology is the cure,” Steve says.

Watch what else he has to say in this interview.

For more on Steve and footage of the ALS Residence, here’s the rest of his story!

 

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“These lungs are a precious gift” — Member John shares his new “new normal” for National Donate Life Month

Posted April 4th, 2016 by

April is National Donate Life Month, an annual awareness effort to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors — and to celebrate those who have donated and saved lives.

We recently caught up with IPF member John (John_R), who we interviewed back in 2014. At that time, John described what his “new normal” was like living with his condition. Today, he shares his new “new normal” after a double lung transplant.

Below, John talks about how he’s able to breathe more easily and exercise again, and how grateful he is to his donor family: “I think of them often, and strive to honor their gift to the best of my ability.”

John (second from left) with PatientsLikeMe staff at the Stanford Medicine X event.

When we chatted with you in 2014, you talked about how living with IPF and being on oxygen was your “new normal.” Last year, you had a double lung transplant. Tell us what your new “new normal” is like.

My “new normal” has really changed following the lung transplant. First is the fact that I no longer require supplemental oxygen. Oxygen tanks, O2 generators and all that plastic tubing are no longer a part of my life.

My new normal does include a fairly strict routine for meals and taking my medications. I take over 40 pills a day split up into six doses a day. Half of the medicines help prevent rejection and infection, and the other half are medications and supplements that counteract the side effects of the first half. This has all become a routine and is easy to keep up with. I sort my meds once a week and am good to go for the next seven days.

Another important aspect of my new normal is avoiding infection. The anti-rejection meds suppress my immune system which increases my risk of infection. Not only is the risk in catching a virus or infection increased, once I get sick, I get really sick. So I take precautions. During cold and flu season I avoid large groups of people. I grocery shop in the off hours, and take full advantage of the sanitizing wipes that stores are now offering in the shopping cart areas. I often wear a procedure mask if out and about where infection is possible. We take care with food hygiene and sanitation at home. These are all habits that we have developed and are now easy to follow.

The best part of my new normal is that it is pretty much that, normal. I can breathe. I can go for a walk around the neighborhood or the mall without dragging along my tanks and tubing. I can walk over 10,000 steps a day, and I can breathe. My new normal is pretty awesome.

Some of our PatientsLikeMe staff met up with you at the Stanford Medicine X event back in September where you spoke about your use of devices. Can you share with us how using devices impacted your experience?

Pre-transplant, I used my Pulse Oximeter (Pulse Ox) to ensure that I was getting enough supplemental oxygen. I used a data logging pulse ox to help my medical team understand my needs and adjust my oxygen prescription as necessary. As necessary was always more. I used my FitBit to help track my steps and help ensure that I was getting in a daily step count. “Keep moving” is a very important goal for the IPF patient. It is not always easy, but important.

Post transplant my pulse ox helped catch an acute rejection episode early enough that, with treatment, the episode was halted and my lungs had zero damage. Self monitoring is a very important part of an IPF patient’s/transplant recipient’s health plan. Maintaining adequate blood oxygen concentration is very important for the IPF patient, and tracking daily vitals is important for the transplant recipient.

How has life changed since your double lung transplant? Have there been any challenges you weren’t expecting?

Life after transplant is so much better than living with IPF. First, I no longer have an expiration date, I have a future. That wonderful gift provided by my donor family is worth all the issues associated with the transplant procedure.

I am healthier and in better shape than I’ve been in for decades. I climb rock walls for fun now.

Yes, there is a long list of things that I’m not supposed to do, but the list of things I can enjoy is so much longer that the “no” list is insignificant.

My transplant team did a very good job of setting post-transplant expectations, but there have been a couple unexpected issues. My post-transplant insurance plan didn’t work out as expected, but we are dealing with that, and returning to work is a bit more difficult than expected.

I do still, at times, find myself getting short of breath. When that happens I notice that I’ve fallen back into my IPF breathing pattern. It surprised me just how long it took to learn how to breath normally again.

Were you able to reclaim any bits of your old life that you had to give up because of your condition?

I can go for long walks, off the path and enjoy nature. I’ve found an exercise routine that I really enjoy, and I can work hard without worrying about blood oxygen levels.

In a very real sense, life has returned to normal.

The last time we talked, you said you planned on spending a lot of vacation time with your family. Now that you’ve had the transplant, what’s different about making vacation plans and how you spend time with loved ones?

Visiting grandchildren comes with some issues. Everybody has to be healthy, or we just can’t go (or they can’t come). We pretty much have to limit most visits to the summertime. We found a towable RV that would work perfect for us, but can’t afford it at this time. A small towable RV would really help us get out to see family much more often

Is there anything you think patients considering transplants should know?

If you are considering a lung transplant, go talk with a transplant team sooner than later. I almost waited too long. If you are too early, no problem, they will let you know and let you know when you should return. If you are not too early, the sooner you see them the sooner you can go through the process and get on the list.

If you are heavy, lose weight. Seriously, the lighter you are the easier your recovery will be. You will be standing very soon after you are conscious. Also, do your best to maintain or even improve your core strength. While you are watching TV, stand up for every commercial. Keep an eye on your oxygen levels and do what you can to keep your legs as strong as you can.

If you can, go to pulmonary rehab, they will get you moving and help with your oxygen use.

A lung transplant is a scary proposition, and the decision to pursue one is a very personal one. My family and I are all very happy that my sweetie and I made the decision to try for a transplant. We have a new future.

I would like to just take a moment to mention my donor family. We received the call that there may be a set of lungs available to us on December 31, 2014 — New Year’s Eve. NYE will never be the same for this family, it will always be associated with loss. During one of the worst days of their lives, this family made the decision to share the gift of life with my family and others. I cannot thank them enough. I think of them often, and strive to honor their gift to the best of my ability. These lungs are a precious gift and I do my very best to take care of them.

 

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World Bipolar Day 2016 – Share how you’re #MoreThanADiagnosis

Posted March 30th, 2016 by

“What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.” – Vincent van Gogh

Today, March 30, 2016, is World Bipolar Day, celebrated on the birthday of artist Vincent van Gogh, who’s believed to have had bipolar disorder. Sponsored by our friends at the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), this year’s theme, “More Than A Diagnosis,” focuses on how people with bipolar are many things beyond their condition. Check out the IBPF’s page for resources and ways to get involved.

And if you’ve seen the conversations with new member Paul in the last month surrounding the release of his debut feature-film, Touched with Fire, then you’ve seen firsthand how someone living with this condition is capable of living a successful life full of creativity.

Check out the forum where members have been sharing how they’re #MoreThanADiagnosis. And don’t forget to connect with the more than 10,000 members living with bipolar disorder in the mental health and behavior forum on PatientsLikeMe.

 

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Digital Health Authority Monique Levy Joins PatientsLikeMe

Posted March 30th, 2016 by

New head of Customer Strategy and Value Delivery brings 20+ Years  of research and commercial experience to the role

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 30, 2016—PatientsLikeMe today announced the appointment of Monique Levy as Senior Vice President, Head of Customer Strategy and Value Delivery. In the newly-created role, Levy will use her extensive experience to shape how PatientsLikeMe’s life science partners leverage patient-centered strategies and technologies to transform their operations and meet emerging patient needs. Levy reports to Executive Vice President Ed Godber, General Manager, PatientsLikeMe Health.

“As a researcher, an advisor to global pharmaceutical leaders, and a developer of healthcare programs for large organizations, Monique has spent the last 20 years foreseeing trends in technology and healthcare and helping companies stay ahead of them,” said Godber. “We’re fortunate that her strong track record and strategic thinking will now benefit our partners as they look to integrate the patient perspective within their businesses.”

Levy, who serves on the Google Health Advisory Board, has most recently excelled in the business intelligence industry. Before joining PatientsLikeMe she was Vice President of Research for the Digital Innovation team at Decision Resources Group. In this role she helped life sciences and technology companies understand how patients, providers and payers are using technology for health, and advised businesses on how to adapt and succeed in fast-changing markets. Levy spent the earlier part of her career in the medical and public sectors, working at global institutions including The World Bank. She also co-founded a bed net business in Zimbabwe for malaria prevention.

“This is an extraordinary time in healthcare. The focus on outcomes, the consumerization of the healthcare industry and major advances in technology are all aligning to cause disruption, promise and opportunity for both patients and businesses,” said Levy. ”It’s a wonderful time to be at PatientsLikeMe and part of such a talented team that can drive patient-centered change.”

Levy is a frequent speaker at healthcare conferences and a media commentator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international health and development from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a master’s degree in clinical health psychology from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate #dataforgood: data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 400,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 70 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact
Margot Carlson Delogne
PatientsLikeMe
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com
+1.781.492.1039


Study results: What patients like you said about sleep medications

Posted March 28th, 2016 by

Over a year ago, we partnered up with Merck Pharmaceuticals to learn more about insomnia and sleep medications. More than 1,200 PatientsLikeMe members responded to questions about how long they’ve had sleep problems, what treatments they’re using, what interferes with sleep most and what their overall quality of sleep is like.

Here’s what we uncovered (tap each graphic for a larger view).

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“Each day is different and you do what you can” — Member Rick shares his story for Myeloma Action Month

Posted March 25th, 2016 by

Rick on vacation in Hawaii

A few weeks ago, we shared Marcia’s story for Myeloma Action Month. Today, we’re introducing Rick (ricktowner), another member of the multiple myeloma community.

Before he was diagnosed in 2012, Rick and his wife led active lives volunteering in private, state and federal parks. Now in remission, he still travels when he can and rides a recumbent trike for exercise.

Below, Rick describes the difficult process of getting diagnosed, what his “new normal” is like, and how acupuncture has helped him manage his pain.

Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do to stay busy and engaged?

I am 68 years old, retired and once in remission, we returned to traveling in our RV during the summer months. We hope to return to volunteering in national and state parks, especially as interpretative hosts at lighthouses. We also like to take a cruise each year. I play table tennis twice a week at our senior center and also do volunteer work there. I have purchased a recumbent trike that I can ride with out falling (doctors said falling would be a disaster due to the amount of bone damage I have) to help with exercising. I had to do something different as snow skiing was now no longer an exercise option for me.

How would you describe living with multiple myeloma (MM) to someone who’s never heard of it?

Discovering you have MM can take some time as most primary doctors are unaware that back pain (bone pain) and anemia are symptoms of MM. From my first symptoms to diagnosis it took six months and then it was because my L1 vertebrae fractured and I was in excruciating pain. It takes a specific blood test looking for that M protein spike to confirm MM, because MRIs, CAT and PET scans show no specific tumor causing the many lesions one may have.

At the beginning, treatment and doctor appointments take up the majority of your daily time. Pain is with you constantly, usually from bone damage to the spine, as well as fatigue. You definitely need a willing caretaker as you probably can’t do what you use to do to take care of yourself. I didn’t drive for one year because of chemo brain and bone pain. Living with MM after remission is what my wife and I call the “new normal.” Due to bone damage and maintenance drugs to help you stay in remission, you never return to the “normal you” again. Fatigue is a daily thing you fight with exercise and if you are on Revlimid for maintenance, you can count on individual days of diarrhea which keep you close to home. You learn that each day is different and you do what you can according to how you feel.

Rick at the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center in Carson City, NV

You’ve been in remission since 2012 — what has your treatment experience been like?

I started out on a three-drug cocktail, Revlimid, Velcade and Dexamethasone for six months prior to remission. I was one of the lucky ones that this worked great for me. I also had 15 days of radiation to kill some of the major lesions on my spine and pelvis. I am now on 10 mg of Revlimid, 21 days on, seven days off for maintenance. At a recent check up at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, UT, I was declared in complete remission by the oncologist I saw there. I still do blood tests every three months with my local oncologist and check in at Huntsman Cancer Institute once a year. I have found all medical practitioners I have come in contact with to be very caring about me as an individual which has helped immensely in my attitude about my condition and what I can do to help myself.

You’ve spoken positively about acupuncture therapy. How has it helped your multiple myeloma?

I have four spinal compression fractures, kyphosis of the T4 & T5 and two areas of spinal stenosis. I was on Fentanyl patches I had to change every 48 hours for pain and Percocet for breakout pain. Being on the Fentanyl patches was very limiting to what I could do and how long I could be away from home. So I decided to try acupuncture. I started out with two treatments a day for 15 days while I weaned myself from the Fentanyl. I then did treatment twice a week for one year to get my body totally pain free. I now do one treatment every two weeks to keep the pain under control. If I go longer than three weeks without treatment the pain starts to return. However, it is easier to find an OMD (Oriental Medicine Doctor) acupuncturist than to try and get narcotics when I am travelling in my RV or taking a cruise for 15 days. Acupuncture has greatly improved my quality of life.

What has your experience been on PatientsLikeMe? What benefits have you seen from tracking your symptoms and quality of life?

All cancer patients should look for some kind of support group. PatientsLikeMe is one of mine. It is encouraging to learn how others with MM are doing, what their treatments are and how they are coping day to day. The daily “Today I feel” is a great way to chronicle how you are doing daily so you can see trends. Quality of Life and LAB tracking also helps in showing trends on how you are progressing in the fight against MM. The “Today I Feel” area helps you get in touch with others and others get in touch with you. This allows you to share with others who have the same condition you do and helps you understand that what you are going through is normal for MM patients. I enjoy giving and receiving encouragement from others on PatientsLikeMe. I also like the fact that what I post is used in research to help other MM patients.

 

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Joy Morel Joins PatientsLikeMe

Posted March 23rd, 2016 by

Veteran of Leading Tech Brands to Direct B2B and B2C Marketing Strategy

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 23, 2016—PatientsLikeMe today announced the appointment of Joy Morel as Senior Vice President, Marketing, Patient Engagement and Business Intelligence. A global marketing strategist with both business-to-business and business-to-consumer branding experience, Morel now leads the 25-person team that focuses on attracting and engaging new members and business partners to the patient network, and bringing greater value to the community. She reports to Michael Evers, who was recently promoted to Executive Vice President of Marketing, Technology and Operations.

Morel’s marketing skills have been well honed at several leading business and consumer technology companies, including Verisign, TomTom/Tele Atlas and AOL. Before joining PatientsLikeMe she was Senior Director, Global Branding, Advertising and Creative Services for Verisign, responsible for the main marketing vehicles that attracted new customers to the domain name and Internet security provider. She also held senior marketing positions at BroadMap, LLC and TomTom/Tele Atlas, where she developed both direct-to-consumer and business-to-business go-to-market strategies. At AOL, Morel executed and managed major media campaigns. She started her career at ASTA as a marketing manager.

Evers said Morel’s range of experience in technology-focused companies and track record of developing creative and impactful marketing programs will be important guides as PatientsLikeMe grows. “Joy’s leadership will help ensure we expand our reach so we can ultimately help millions of people track their health, learn about living with disease and connect with others for information and support. We’re absolutely delighted that she has joined us.”

Morel said she was attracted to PatientsLikeMe because of its core mission and people. “It’s rare you find an opportunity to work on something that can actually change lives, with people who are aligned behind and energized by an important mission. I wanted to be a part of it all, and I’m looking forward to putting my head and my heart into it.”

Morel holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications and psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate #dataforgood: data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 400,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 70 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

 

Contact
Margot Carlson Delogne
PatientsLikeMe
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com
+1.781.492.1039


Brain Injury Awareness Month: Roxana’s story from our partners at One Mind

Posted March 21st, 2016 by

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, so we’re sharing the story of Roxana Delgado, whose husband Victor is one of the 2.5 million Americans who survive traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year.1

In this video from our partners at One Mind, Roxana opens up about the challenges of caring for Victor after he suffered a TBI while serving in Afghanistan in 2009. Roxana says, “Research is something that is needed to be able to meet the needs of this population, to identify, diagnose and treat brain injuries.”

Here’s what else she has to say:


Having trouble watching the video? Click the button below:

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, share your experience and connect with more than 5,000 TBI members in the injuries and traumas forum on PatientsLikeMe.

 

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1 http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-awareness-month.htm