6 posts from September, 2015

Cancer awareness in September: Prostate, ovarian and thyroid

Posted September 29th, 2015 by

September was an awareness month for three types of cancer – prostate, ovarian and thyroid – and the emphasis fell on early detection, something to keep in mind year round.

Man up. Get checked.  #manupgetchecked
This month, the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) teamed up with boxing legend Evander Holyfield for a PSA. The PCF also provides helpful guides including questions to discuss with your doctor.

WhyTeal? #TakeActionNotChances
The National Ovarian Coalition sponsors the WhyTeal awareness month for ovarian cancer. For them, raising awareness and promoting education about this disease is crucial in helping women to earlier diagnoses and supporting survivors – making a difference demands taking action.

Get a Neck Check!
With tips, awareness tools and graphics, and video and audio PSAs, the Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association offers enough information for people to stay involved throughout the year.

And don’t forget to stay on top of your own condition – by continuing to add your data and experiences on the PatientsLikeMe site. Every piece of information can help change medicine for the better!

Let’s stay aware, together.

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September is Global Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month

Posted September 28th, 2015 by

If you hadn’t already heard about September being named Global Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month by The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF), there are still two days for you to join in and help spread the word.

What does “global awareness” mean?

Pretty much just what it sounds like. It’s spreading awareness so that everyone around the world knows what PF is. If you’re living with it, you won’t have to explain it to those around you anymore. If you’re not, you’ll have an idea of what those with PF are going through.  And it means that we all make a unified commitment to improve the lives of patients through resources, research, and the development of new treatments.

How can you help?

Global also means everyone. Including you.

There are many ways you can get involved in raising awareness among family, friends, healthcare professionals, colleagues, neighbors, leaders in your community and anyone else in your life through the end of the month. (Hint: You can start by sharing this blog!)

You can “Blue-It-Up” if you want. For this social media challenge, draw attention to PF by putting blue in your hair, wrapping blue ribbon around your trees or visiting a spa for a blue mani-pedi with some friends and then sharing your pictures online with #BlueUp4PF.

Feel free to post your #BlueUp4PF pictures and share your own experiences within the PatientsLikeMe community. We’ll post some of the responses on our Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness.

For more information and ideas on how to participate, visit www.globalpfawareness.org. Thanks for sharing!

Let’s raise awareness, together.

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#NotAlone: On PatientsLikeMe, no one is alone

Posted September 14th, 2015 by

Our co-founder Jamie Heywood calls it “the big idea my brother inspired.” A community of people learning from each other’s shared health experiences, connecting with people who get what they’re going through, and tracking their journeys to inform new research and help others understand what might work best for them. That is PatientsLikeMe, and that is what Stephen Heywood inspired.

Today, more than 350,000 members are part of the community, and through learning, connecting and tracking, they are #NotAlone.

Over the next few weeks, we’re launching the #NotAlone campaign that’s all about how members continue to learn from and support one another through life-changing conditions.

What can you expect to see from #NotAlone?
We’ll be featuring some inspirational stories to show how members have felt less alone on their journeys. Here’s a preview into the #NotAlone experiences of Letitia, Nola, and Geof:

  • After Letitia learned about an epileptologist on the site and discovered she was a perfect candidate for surgery, she’s been seizure free for 3 years.
  • When Nola’s multiple sclerosis kept her from accessing her shower, Gary, a member she connected with in the forum, stepped in to help from 3,000 miles away.
  • Geof uses Adderall to combat multiple sclerosis fatigue, but, three days before his prescription was up, his insurance company denied the claim. He turned to the community and everyone who had tracked their own experiences with Adderall.

How can you get involved?
Share your own #NotAlone stories – whether in learning, connecting or tracking. Visit the forum to chat about your experience or chime in on Facebook or Twitter using #NotAlone.

And don’t forget to continue adding your data and experiences on the site. Every piece of information can help change medicine for the better and show someone else that they are #NotAlone.

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Data donations make wishes come true

Posted September 10th, 2015 by

Back in December 2014, the PatientsLikeMe community donated 450,000 health data points during the 24 Days of Giving campaign, and a special thanks to everyone who participated and have continued to donate their data for good. Every donation made wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions, and on behalf of the community, PatientsLikeMe made a $20,000 donation to Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which helped Keith and Scarlett take a break from aggressive and uncomfortable treatments and doctors’ visits to go on faraway adventures with their families. Read about their stories below:

Keith
When 17-year-old Keith was diagnosed with lymphoma, his life was forever changed. Instead of fishing and playing sports, like he used to before he got sick, he now spends time in hospitals, enduring uncomfortable treatments. Keith longed to take a break from doctor’s visits and have a carefree vacation with his family; he wished to tour the Hawaiian Islands with his family on a Norwegian Cruise.

The PatientsLikeMe community made this happen! Once aboard the cruise ship, the crystal clear waters mesmerized Keith, as they took him to the Hawaiian islands of Kahului, Hilo, Kona, and Nawiliwili. Each new island provided a new world to explore. Keith and his family enjoyed pristine beaches, volcano views, whale watching and deep sea fishing.

Keith’s trip renewed his strength and hope for the future. He told Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, “if you think about all the people who are emotionally going through so much because of what you’re going through, you become stronger than you can ever imagine. It shows your loved ones that there’s nothing to worry about.”

Thank you for donating your data and helping to give Keith and his family a vacation of a lifetime.

Scarlett
Though diagnosed with a brain tumor, three-year-old Scarlett wished to visit the TradeWinds Island Resort in Florida to explore the sea and the surf like her cartoon friends in her favorite movie, “Finding Nemo.” Scarlett and her family began their trip with a limousine ride to the airport. Upon arriving in sunny Florida, Scarlett tossed off her shoes to wiggle her toes around in the sand. She swam or built sandcastles on every beach – there was plenty for her to discover both in and out of the water. She even got to ride a giant waterslide and tried eating alligator meat at dinner.

Scarlett smiled all week long and her family savored quality time together. She had a week of carefree childhood. Scarlett’s mom and dad really enjoyed reminders of their daughter’s adventurous spirit.

Scarlett’s mom, Michelle, wanted to share with the caregiving community a few tips on coping with a young child who has a serious illness. Here’s what she shared:

When we were going through Scarlett’s treatment, people said to us ‘I don’t think I could do it’ and I always said to them ‘When you have to do something, you find a way.’ What were we going to do? Lay in bed and pull the covers over our heads? I would say:

  1. Don’t be afraid to accept any help that is offered (or ask for help) and don’t think people can read your mind. If someone asked, “What can I do?” I asked for specific things like “come keep us company during infusion weekends in the hospital” or asked for clothes when I was so stressed out that I lost weight and clothes for Scarlett after her surgery when she couldn’t pull a shirt on over her head.
  2. For couples – let one person be the emotional support and the other be the physical support. My husband is a nurse so he took care of making sure she drank plenty of water and ate plenty of fiber. I made sure that we still went to the park and birthday parties and lived life as normally as possible.
  3. My husband’s advice – drink prune juice and lots of water. Believe it or not, we probably saved her kidneys by giving her syringes filled with water all day when she didn’t want to drink. We kept her regular by giving her prune juice every day. Simple but very important.

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Tackling brain illness, together

Posted September 4th, 2015 by

Our partners at One Mind are advocating for a better understanding of the brain in general, and they’ve narrowed it down to a single statement:

Our brains need answers.

And that’s why they launched the “Needs” campaign story, underneath the hashtag #BrainsNeedAnswers. Think about it – what does your brain, or the brain of a friend or family member, need? It’s not just about researching better treatments or improving the diagnostic process for conditions like PTS and TBI. Rather, it’s about everybody coming together to share their own experiences with brain injury to help raise awareness and increase general knowledge about brain health. Tankmartin, a PTS member of PatientsLikeMe, is the centerpiece of the campaign. Read what he had to say:

If you’d like to participate in the #BrainsNeedAnswers campaign, visit One Mind’s website to learn more about how you can make a difference. And if you’re living with PTS, TBI or another mental health condition, reach out to others like you in the PatientsLikeMe community and find the answers to your own brain questions.

Don’t forget to share this post on Twitter and help spread the word for #BrainsNeedAnswers.


Talking brain donation with Dr. Deborah Mash

Posted September 1st, 2015 by

Dr. Deborah Mash is a professor of neurology and molecular/cellular pharmacology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She’s also the director of the university’s Brain Endowment Bank, and she recently spoke with PatientsLikeMe about her research and exactly what goes into donating your brain to science. As she says, “we still know very little about that which makes us uniquely human” – read her Q&A interview below.

What led you to study diseases of the brain? 

The brain is the next biologic frontier. We have learned more about the human brain in the past twenty years than throughout all of human history. And, we still know very little about that which makes us uniquely human – our brain. I was always very interested in the anatomy and the chemistry of the brain and in disease-related Neuroscience. I consider it a privilege to study the human brain in health and disease.

How would you explain the process of brain donation to PatientsLikeMe members who might be new or uncomfortable with the idea of donating this organ to science?

Brain donation is no different than donating other organs after death. Organ and tissue donations can give life or sight to another person. Transplanted tissues are used in surgeries to repair damaged bones and joints. And these donated tissues are also important for research studies to advance best practices that are used by doctors. The gift of a brain donation supports research studies that will bring about new treatments, better diagnosis and ultimately cures for disorders of the human brain like Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, ALS, schizophrenia and depression, drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, and multiple sclerosis to name a few.

A brain donation does not interfere or delay a family’s plans for the funeral, burial or cremation. There is no cost to the family to make this final gift.

What brain bank research would you most like to share with the PatientsLikeMe community? Our ALS, MS, Parkinson’s and mental health members might be interested to hear about brain bank research for their conditions.

Studies of the human brain have led to seminal discoveries including the loss of dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease and the association of beta amyloid with Alzheimer’s disease. Without examining the human brain after death, these discoveries could not have happened. Medications for Parkinson’s disease were advanced because scientists identified the loss of dopamine that causes many of the symptoms.

We have new technology that provides an unprecedented opportunity to rapidly examine large-scale gene expression of human brain for the first time. This powerful approach can facilitate understanding the molecular pathogenesis of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that is usually fatal in five years. Motor neurons in ALS undergo degeneration, causing secondary muscle atrophy and weakness. Studies of ALS in human brain are beginning to identify multiple processes involved in the pathogenesis of ALS.

We have yet to fully understand the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).

This disease is different for everyone who has it. The symptoms it causes and when they flare up is different not only between people but also throughout one person’s life. This makes the diagnosis difficult and complicates treatment. The science behind MS is slowed because there are too few brains donated for research. We get many more requests for well-characterized MS cases and too few brain specimens are available to support the research. This lack of donated brains from MS patients is a barrier for MS research.

Examining the brain after death is important to understand how well experimental treatments are working in clinical trials to see if the drug did what it was supposed to do. An autopsy follow-up on 13 patients from a recent Alzheimer’s drug trial showed that although the drug had cleared the beta amyloid protein, it hadn’t changed the course of the disease — an incredibly important observation needed to advance the direction of Alzheimer’s disease research. The same is true for anyone who participates in clinical trials for any brain disorder.

When you ask people (or their family members) to consider donating their brain to UMBEB or another brain bank, what do you want them to know?

A brain donation is a final gift that contributes to the health and well being of the next generation – your children and grandchildren. It is a very special endowment that lives on by advancing research that can lead to the next scientific breakthrough.

People who want to be organ donors typically sign a card letting others know their wishes, but brain donations require an additional pledge card. This is not always well promoted. How can PatientsLikeMe members who are interested in brain donation obtain the special brain donation pledge cards?

It is important to make your wish known by registering in advance. We make it an easy process and provide donor registration cards for your wallet. You can share this information with your family and friends. You can request information or become a registered donor by visiting us online at http://brainbank.med.miami.edu or call 1-800-UM-Brain.

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