10 posts from February, 2015

Day-by-day, hand-in-hand

Posted February 28th, 2015 by


All around the world, everyone impacted by a rare disease is taking everything day-by-day. But they can take each day hand-in-hand with the help and support of others. Today, on Rare Disease Day (RDD), EURORDIS (Rare Diseases Europe) and its global partners are calling on everyone to lend a hand to anyone affected by a rare disease.

RDD’s international theme is “Living with a rare disease” because every patient’s story and needs are different, and only by sharing our experiences and raising awareness can we all hope to improve the lives of those living with a rare disease. It’s also about the million of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that are impacted and who are living day-by-day, hand-in-hand with rare disease patients.1

Check out the official video below:

According to the Global Genes Project, there are 350 million people living with a rare disease around the globe. Just how many is that? If you gathered those people into one country, it would be the third most-populous country in the world. There are more than 7,000 identified rare diseases, from skin conditions to progressive neurological disorders, and more are being discovered every day.2 Here’s how you can get involved in spreading the word:

Rare diseases have a personal connection with PatientsLikeMe – our co-founders’ brother, Stephen, was diagnosed with ALS in 1998, and their family’s experiences with the condition led to the beginning of PatientsLikeMe. In 2012, we partnered with the Global Genes Project to create the RARE Open Registry Project to help those diagnosed find others like them in one of the over 400 rare disease communities on the site, and launched the first open registry for people with alkaptonuria (AKU) with the AKU Society in early 2013. We also accelerated our focus on enhancing the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) community through a collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim. And now, the IPF community on PatientsLikeMe is the largest open registry with more than 3,700 members …and counting.

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1 http://www.rarediseaseday.org/article/theme-of-the-year-living-with-a-rare-disease

2 http://globalgenes.org/rare-diseases-facts-statistics/


Patients as Partners: Hallucinations and Parkinson’s disease questionnaire results

Posted February 26th, 2015 by

It’s time for another Patients as Partners post, and today, we’re happy to share the results of the Hallucinations and Parkinson’s disease questionnaire.

In March 2014, more than 500 PatientsLikeMe members living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) took part in an Open Research Exchange (ORE) questionnaire about their condition. They worked with Dennis Chan and Ruth Wood from the University of Cambridge to understand a symptom called an extracampine hallucination, which is the sense of a presence beside or behind you even when there’s nothing or nobody there. So, unlike visual hallucinations, the presence can only be sensed or felt, not seen.

Everything the community shared will help researchers develop a new tool to better measure this type of hallucination and alert doctors and care teams to ask about this symptom earlier rather than later. Read the results here.

What’s ORE all about again? PatientsLikeMe’s ORE platform gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their feedback on each question in a researcher’s health measure. They can tell our research partners what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how relevant the overall tool is to their condition. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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Seeing [MS]: The invisible symptoms – brain fog

Posted February 23rd, 2015 by

Australian Jessica Anderson has been living with multiple sclerosis since she was 12 years old, and she says brain fog is the scariest symptom she experiences, especially not being able to gather and make sense of her own thoughts. During her worst moments, she can barely focus on a thought for more than 30 seconds. Listen to Jessica speak about her symptoms below.

 

You are now seeing brain fog

Photographed by Sara Orme
Inspired by Jessica Anderson’s invisible symptoms

Jessica and New Zealand photographer Sara Orme worked together to visualize Jessica’s brain fog, and her video and picture are part of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Australia’s (MSA) Seeing [MS] campaign, which is all about recognizing the invisible symptoms of MS and raising awareness for the neurological condition. Check out the previous pictures and stay tuned for more Seeing [MS] posts.

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PatientsLikeMe Attends 4th Annual ALS TDI White Coat Affair

Posted February 19th, 2015 by

Back in November, a whole group from the PatientsLikeMe team came together for a great cause and attended the 4th annual A White Coat Affair gala benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI). ALS TDI, founded by PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood in 1999, is the number one nonprofit biotechnology organization dedicated to developing effective treatments for ALS. All proceeds from the event directly fund the research being conducted at ALS TDI.

The charity gala was held right after ALS TDI’s 10th Annual Leadership Summit, which featured in-depth scientific presentations from researchers and “thought leaders” on scientific developments, the PALS’ perspective and advice from pharma and biotech leaders within the ALS community. For the past 10 years, the Leadership Summit has brought together members of the ALS community for an intimate gathering to connect on the state of ALS research and progress being made toward a treatment.

The PatientsLikeMe team and other attendees traveled to the Westin Copley Place Hotel in Boston for A White Coat Affair and a special evening complete with a cocktail hour, dinner and live music. While there were some lighthearted moments (such as a cocktail called the Mad Scientist) there were also some very emotional moments that reminded everyone why we were there – to raise funds and awareness for ALS research.

Highlights of the dinner program this year included a presentation from Lynne Nieto, husband of Augie Nieto. Augie is Chairman of the Board of ALS TDI and Chief Inspirational Officer for Augie’s Quest, which has raised more than $44 million to fund research at ALS TDI. Anthony Carbajal also gave a powerful speech. Anthony was recently diagnosed with familial ALS at 26 years old and takes care of his mother, who is living with ALS as well. Check out his story if you haven’t already, or visit KissMyALS.org.

570 guests and 20 PALS attended A White Coat Affair for a memorable night committed to raising funds toward ALS TDI’s efforts to develop effective treatments for ALS. To view more photos taken during the evening, visit the event’s Facebook page – and congratulations to ALS TDI on 16 years of cutting-edge ALS research and leadership!

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PatientsLikeMe adds information about patient experiences with medications to Walgreens Pharmacy website

Posted February 18th, 2015 by

               

Newly-enhanced health dashboard now includes access to patient-reported data on side effects for 5000+ medications

CAMBRIDGE, MA., February 18, 2015PatientsLikeMe is working with Walgreens to help make it easier for people to understand how the medications they take may affect them. Now, anyone researching a medication or filling a prescription on Walgreens.com can access a simple snapshot that shows how their prescribed medication has impacted other patients on the therapy, including medication side effects, as reported by PatientsLikeMe members.

PatientsLikeMe is a free, online network where patients living with chronic conditions can track their health, connect with others and contribute data for research. More than 300,000 individuals have joined PatientsLikeMe and shared their own experiences with various treatments. The PatientsLikeMe-sourced information is updated daily with new patient reports and covers many medications available at Walgreens pharmacies.

PatientsLikeMe is the first featured external contributor to the new Walgreens Health Dashboard, a secure and private personalized health information offering. Walgreens can access PatientsLikeMe content to share information that may be of interest to Walgreens patients based on individual medication needs.

 

This example shows patients’ experience with Gabapentin, a medication often used to treat pain in conditions like fibromyalgia.

 

“Leveraging patient perspectives and experiences through Walgreens Health Dashboard provides our patients with helpful insight into their medications and overall therapy management,” said Walgreens Divisional Vice President of Digital Health, Adam Pellegrini. “Our collaboration with PatientsLikeMe underscores the power of social support and shared experiences on a wellness journey.”

The agreement also marks the first time PatientsLikeMe has integrated its data on another company’s website.

“We want to help patients wherever they are, so they can be better informed about the treatments they’re taking and make more informed health decisions,” said PatientsLikeMe Executive Vice President of Marketing and Patient Advocacy Michael Evers. “We’re thrilled to be working with the nation’s largest drugstore chain. Our work with Walgreens will give their patients important insights from people taking both simple and complex medications. It can also help enrich our treatment data should Walgreens patients decide to join our community.”

To access patient-reported data on medication side effects, Walgreens patients can visit www.walgreens.com. Walgreens patients interested in connecting with other patients managing similar conditions and sharing their medication experiences through PatientsLikeMe can visit http://www.patientslikeme.com/join/walgreens.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) 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 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 300,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 50 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

About Walgreens
Walgreens (www.walgreens.com), the nation’s largest drugstore chain, constitutes the Retail Pharmacy USA Division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Nasdaq: WBA), the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise. More than 8 million customers interact with Walgreens each day in communities across America, using the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice. Walgreens operates 8,229 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Walgreens digital business includes Walgreens.com, drugstore.com, Beauty.com, SkinStore.com and VisionDirect.com. Walgreens also manages more than 400 Healthcare Clinic and provider practice locations around the country.

Contacts
Margot Carlson Delogne
(781) 492-1039
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com

Markeisha Marshall
(847) 315-2923
Markeisha.marshall@walgreens.com


Recognizing National Donor Day

Posted February 14th, 2015 by

It’s Valentine’s Day, and besides flowers and candy, there’s a special way you can show somebody love today – by registering as an organ donor to give the most precious Valentine of all: the promise of life.

February 14th is also National Donor Day, and it’s all about recognizing those who have donated in the past and celebrating the lives of people who have thrived after receiving a transplant. To help, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has organized an awareness campaign including educational videos, stories of survivors and ways to participate today. If you haven’t already, search your state for an organ and tissue registry and learn how to become a donor. And don’t forget to share on social media using the #NationalDonorDay hashtag.

If you’ve received an organ donation – or are waiting for one – you can reach out to the transplant community at PatientsLikeMe and connect with members who have received heartkidneyliverlung or pancreas transplants, among many other types. You can also check out the extensive PatientVoice report on what life is like after a transplant and read about how PatientsLikeMe member Lori survived her lung condition through a lung transplant.

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“You can get better” – PatientsLikeMe member jeffperry1134 shares about his journey with PTSD

Posted February 12th, 2015 by

Many veterans are a part of the PTSD community on PatientsLikeMe, and recently, jeffperry1134 spoke about his everyday life after returning home from military service. In his interview, he touched upon his deployment to Somalia in the early 1990s, and how his memories of Africa cause daily symptoms like anxiety, hallucinations and nightmares. But despite everything, Jeff remains upbeat and reminds us that there is always hope. Scroll down to read what he had to say.

Note: the account below is graphic, which may be triggering.

Can you tell us a little about your military service and your early experiences with PTSD?

I entered the military in the Army in July 1990 as a heavy wheeled mechanic. I went through basic training and AIT at Ft. Jackson, SC. I went to my first permanent duty station in December in Mannheim, Germany. I was assigned to a Chinook helicopter unit. My unit was very relaxed and we got along well. As soon as the war broke out we received our deployment orders. We returned home in July from deployment. My PTSD was early onset after returning from Desert Storm. I experienced nightmares, depression, alcohol abuse and drug abuse. At the time I was a 19 year old alone in Germany away from my family struggling with this mental illness. My supervisors were able to help me hide my problems well and it was not discovered at that time. I feared being singled out for having these problems. Three days before it was my time to PCS stateside our company was deployed again, this time we were going to Somalia. I was told I could leave but I felt guilty so I volunteered to stay and deploy with my teammates. We deployed in November 1992 and returned in June 1993. During my time in Somalia it was rough. During the deployment my job was perimeter guard duty and body remover. During the deployment I used local drugs of Khat and Opium Poppies to control the symptoms of my illness. After returning from Somalia not only did I have the symptoms that I had earlier but now I was hallucinating hearing voices, smelling smells and seeing flashes. I went stateside a week after we returned. I went to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO in an engineer unit that was strict. I made a huge impression with my skills as a mechanic and a soldier so when I was having problems my superiors hid it for me to keep me out of trouble. I did get in trouble once after a night of heavy drinking and smoking marijuana and was given an article-15 for being drunk on duty. Before that day I had still considered myself as a career soldier and I decided then that I was not going to re-enlist. I spent the rest of my military time waiting to get out and finally July 1994 came and I was out and had a job at a local car dealership as a mechanic. After working a while I got into a verbal confrontation that turned physical with the business owner and had to be removed by the police from the dealership. After that my thinking became bizarre and very hyper-vigilant. I took newspaper clippings and taped them to a door so it would motivate me to exercise harder and be ready if I were ever in a life or death situation. At the time I was working with a great therapist and she did wonders for me keeping me stable. She convinced me to take my medications and stop drinking daily.

What were your feelings after being officially diagnosed? 

I was blown away when I was diagnosed in 1995 after a suicide attempt that ended up with me being hospitalized on a psych unit for a week. My sister walked in on me at my apartment with a loaded gun in my mouth. I was resistant to treatment or even acknowledging that I had this illness. I was linked up with a therapist and psychiatrist before leaving the hospital.

What are some of the symptoms you experience on a daily basis?

On a daily basis I usually deal with a lot of anxiety, some depression, occasional hallucinations and nightmares. On a bad day I will have sensory hallucinations with me smelling dead bodies, burning flesh or cordite. Usually when that happens I get physically sick.

You recently completed the Mood Map Survey on your PatientsLikeMe profile – what have you learned about your PTSD from your tracking tools?

I learned that my PTSD is not as well managed as I would like it. It made me press my doctor to give me an antipsychotic medication and I have a new therapist at the VA that is working hard to help me identify when my symptoms are becoming worse.

By sharing your story, what do you hope to teach others about PTSD?

I just wanted to show that you can get better and that there is hope and that they can get through it.

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Getting to know our Team of Advisors – Karla

Posted February 9th, 2015 by

This past Monday on the blog, Emile shared about her fibromyalgia and what being a part of the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors means to her, including how she hopes to help doctors understand that patients need to be treated as individuals, rather than just disease names. Today, we’re featuring Karla. She’s also a member of the Team of Advisors living with fibromyalgia as well. Read below to learn Karla’s views on patient-centeredness, open communication and healthcare in a rural community.

About Karla (aka kam-turtle)
Karla refers to herself as a Southern Gram, who tries not to let her fibromyalgia get in the way of having fun with her grandkids. Karla served as president of a community college prior to retiring from full-time employment in 2010. She has led volunteer boards and fundraising groups, worked in public relations and advertising, and actively worked in a variety of roles in her church. She continues to work part-time as a grant writer, researcher, and owner of a chicken farm where she has a rooster named Handsome. 🙂

After spending a long time finding treatments that worked for her, Karla is passionate about helping others shorten the time between diagnosis and condition management, and she would like there to be better understanding that fibromyalgia is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ condition.

Karla’s view of patient-centeredness
She believes patient-centered healthcare involves open communication between healthcare providers and the patient: “it should be an active and ongoing process to evolve the patient’s care toward results to create a more productive and comfortable lifestyle. It is a two-way communication stream based on mutual respect.”

Karla on being part of the Team of Advisors
Being a part of the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors is very humbling but also refreshing to my soul. At times when my illness is at its worst, I have always hoped my affliction could at least somehow benefit someone else, somewhere, even in the future. That is actually happening with the opportunity to be on the Team of Advisors. Like me, each team member is willing to share freely and openly in hopes of making the future better for others. It is so humbling to represent patients from so many walks of life and bring hope for a brighter tomorrow. The work PatientsLikeMe and the advisors have been doing can truly change the way health care functions.

Karla’s experience seeking care for fibro in a rural community
A decade ago, fibromyalgia was a foreign term in my rural community, even to me. Doctors dismissed me as stressed, depressed and overweight. Employers openly joked that people with chronic fatigue syndrome, bipolar and other hidden illnesses were lazy. One doctor said I had a ‘bucket condition’ or unknown problem. After two hospital stays, XRAYS, MRIs, CAT scans and three or four doctors later, I confided in a nurse practitioner who knew me. She knew me before I had spiraled down into a life of pain and she knew I was not faking. She suggested a condition called fibromyalgia and advised seeing a rheumatologist in a regional area. There I received the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I was devastated and utterly embarrassed. I didn’t want to suffer the ridicule from the uninformed public. When I was too sick to work, I would call in but if I had a doctor appointment, I would generally take vacation time so no one at work would know I was traveling to the rheumatologist.

I desperately wanted to learn about fibromyalgia to see if there was a cure or at least proven ways to manage the pain and fatigue. Eventually I had to give up my career and focus on my health. My family became educated about the condition and they understood my situation. So, then I began to own my situation and share my story. Amazingly, as word got out, many neighbors in my area contacted me to share similar frustrations. Healthcare in rural areas is in short supply, doctors are overloaded, hospitals are money-making machines and patients are deliberately kept uninformed. I firmly believe if not for the concern and care of one nurse practitioner who knew me personally, I might still be switching from prescription to prescription with no answers.

Unfortunately, ten years later, fibromyalgia is still very misunderstood. Based on my experience, I have learned to share about my fibromyalgia life, to advocate for hidden and chronic illness, to educate people about fibromyalgia and to encourage those on a personal journey to keep fibro from taking over their lives!

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“Not beyond us” – Recognizing World Cancer Day

Posted February 4th, 2015 by

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has organized today, February 4th, as World Cancer Day. This year’s theme: “Not beyond us.” It’s about highlighting that solutions to cancer are within our reach. Awareness is not beyond us. Prevention is not beyond us. And a cure is not beyond us. The UICC is encouraging everyone to take a positive and proactive approach in the fight against cancer by working towards these four goals:

  • Choosing healthy lives
  • Delivering early detection
  • Achieving treatment for all
  • Maximizing quality of life

You can become part of the World Cancer Day effort and raise awareness about what needs to be done. Whether it’s at an individual, community, governmental or global level, you can help in the fight. Visit the World Cancer Day website to learn how to get involved.

What are PatientsLikeMe members sharing about their journeys with cancer?

PatientsLikeMe member Glow4life was diagnosed with lung cancer (adenocarcinoma) this past June, and her story is a testament to never losing hope. She recently shared her experiences in an interview, and she spared no details in describing her challenges. Despite her terminal diagnosis, four rounds of chemotherapy and the sudden loss of her husband, Glow4life has remained positive, and she’s learned to take every day as it comes and live in the moment. Learn about her journey and how she shares love and hope whenever she can.

“Hope won’t make it happen” is Phil’s (PhillyH) personal motto in life. She’s a PatientsLikeMe member who hails from Northampton in the United Kingdom and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. Ever since then, she’s been learning to live with the ups and downs of her condition. She recently shared her experiences in an interview with us, everything from the reaction she had after her blunt diagnosis to her treatment decisions and son’s new tattoo. Phil also shared her thoughts on what every person who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer should know. As she says, “If you don’t know, you can’t do” – read about her lung cancer journey.

Meet Vickie, a PatientsLikeMe member who has survived cancer not once, but twice. She’s sharing her story, from diagnosis to survivorship, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. She spoke about her reaction to getting diagnosed, the anxiety filled months leading up to surgery and what recovery was like post-operation. Learn about her journey.

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Getting to know our Team of Advisors – Emilie

Posted February 2nd, 2015 by

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve already met three members of the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors – Dana who is living with bipolar II, Lisa who is living with Parkinson’s and Becky who is living with epilepsy. Now, we’d like to introduce Emilie, a social worker and therapist who is living with Sjogren’s Syndrome and fibromyalgia.

About Emilie (aka Memmie)
Emilie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who works with children living with chronic illnesses and their families. She’s also been a therapist for both children and adults with chronic illness and in her work has developed a pediatric diabetes pain management program. Emilie herself has an autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia — and recently had to resign from this work that she loves due to the pain, fatigue, and subsequent emotional strain. She hopes to return to doing similar work once her medical issues are more manageable.

Emilie on patient centeredness
Emilie believes the question should be asked, “what are the ways your health care provider(s) could be more helpful to you?” to better our understanding of patient centeredness. She believes that doctors need to listen to and respect that their patients know their bodies best.

Emilie on being part of the Team of Advisors
It was really special to be chosen, I didn’t ever in a million years think I would be chosen. When I got to the interview part I thought there’s no way they’ll pick me. When I found out I was chosen I was really excited because I felt like I had been to enough doctors in my life that I had something to share. I hoped that we could help researchers study the things that would be relevant to us — the collective us — instead of just the things they wanted to know and they wanted to study.

Being part of the Team of Advisors makes me feel like I’m more in control, like an expert about my own body. When you go to the doctor, they think they know exactly what’s happening — they’re going to treat it they way they treat everyone else with fibromyalgia or Sjogren’s or arthritis. It’s great to be able to have input to help doctors understand that we need to be treated as individuals and not like a disease name. Just because I have migraines, does not mean my migraines are the same as someone who just walked out of the exam room with migraines.

Others members on the site have contacted me because I’m on the Team of Advisors, and they’ve seen my picture or seen my name and have said “I’ve seen what you’re all doing, and I went to your page and I see you have some of the same things I do and I found you and I thought you could be a good resource for me.” So sometimes I’ve been able to help out and that has been nice.

Emilie on tracking on PLM
One of the things tracking my health on PatientsLikeMe has helped me recognize is that sometimes I think I’ve been feeling lousy forever — I think that’s easy for people with chronic pain to do — but when I look back at my InstantMe chart, I realize there are more days than I thought where I felt good. It gives me hope that things aren’t bad all of the time and that things can get better. When I go to my doctor and they ask me how things have been, I can tell them that things have been up and down, and sometimes there have been more good days than bad days.

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