24 results for “A Look Ahead”

PatientsLikeMeOnCall™: “A Look Ahead” at Openness in Healthcare (Episode 4)

Posted April 15th, 2011 by

“I think we can see there are a lot of ways where openness can be powerful.  What’s necessary is to help facilitate openness and reduce the barriers to sharing medical information.” – Ben Heywood

PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and President Ben Heywood

PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder Ben Heywood has blogged previously about openness and sharing – and how important they are for patients. In this edition of PatientsLikeMeOnCall, he talks about the progress we’ve made in achieving openness within the healthcare industry and his vision for the expansion of the patient voice.

How can we put patients back at the center of healthcare? What barriers do we need to break through so that patients like you can openly share your health information?  Ben answers these questions and more in the fourth and final episode of our “A Look Ahead” podcast series.

Tune in to Ben’s full interview here:

Did you miss any of the first three episodes?  Find them on our blog or iTunes page.

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman


PatientsLikeMeOnCall™: “A Look Ahead” at Patient Safety (Episode 3)

Posted April 1st, 2011 by

“What are the things that affect a patient’s safety? It’s everything – it’s not just whether the drug is good or bad, it’s the whole process.” –Jamie Heywood

Co-Founder and Chairmain Jamie Heywood

Why does the healthcare industry need to shift from drug safety to patient safety? PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood explains his view in this week’s edition of our podcast series entitled “A Look Ahead.”

No stranger to this topic, Jamie has written about patient safety on our blog before.  “By using structured data collection tools within the PatientsLikeMe platform, overseen by a drug safety professional, industry partners can improve patient safety,” he wrote.

In this edition of PatientsLikeMeOnCallTM, Jamie discusses the difference between drug safety and patient safety, why it is so important for the healthcare system to adapt more to patient safety and what this shift would mean for the future of healthcare.  He also makes the case for why pharmaceutical manufacturers need to follow up on any drug safety events when a new treatment has been developed.

To hear more, listen to Jamie’s full interview:

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman


PatientsLikeMeOnCall™: “A Look Ahead” at Patient and Industry Interaction (Episode 2)

Posted March 25th, 2011 by

“Social media is the canvas on which patients can really paint the entire picture of the experience they’re having with their disease and how it impacts their lives.” David Williams

David Williams, Chief Marketing Office and Head of Business Development

Why is it so important for patients and industry to work together?  Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Business Development David Williams tells us just that in this week’s installment of “A Look Ahead.”  We sat down to discuss the benefits of aligning patient and industry interests as well as the role that social media can play.

Among other win-win results, David shared that this alignment of interests can produce:

  • Faster development of treatments and services
  • Products that impact a patient’s quality of life, not just clinical outcomes
  • Greater patient influence and input on industry decisions

We also talked about how social media has become a key method of interaction, allowing pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies to better understand the functional impact of a disease on everything from mental productivity to the ability to stay employed.  Patients like you discuss issues like these online every day, and if the industry is paying attention, it can lead to richer data and improved services.

What successes has PatientsLikeMe had in bringing patients and industry together?  And what kind of possibilities do we see ahead?  Tune in to David’s full interview here:

Thanks for stopping by and listening to the second podcast in the “A Look Ahead” series. Next Friday, April 1, 2011, we will be talking with Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood about the transition from drug safety to patient safety. See you then!

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman


PatientsLikeMeOnCall™: “A Look Ahead” at Research (Episode 1)

Posted March 18th, 2011 by

Since 2006, PatientsLikeMe has made great strides in medical research for patients. Of course, all of the research that we do is made possible because of you, our members, and your willingness to openly share your health information, including your treatments, symptoms and outcomes.

Paul Wicks PhD, PatientsLikeMe Research and Development Director

PatientsLikeMe-led research has been published in at least six different scientific journals, including the Journal of Medical Internet Research and the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. (See our Research page for a full list.) And, if you look us up on Google Scholar, you’ll see that PatientsLikeMe has been cited by others in more than 900 published scientific articles. We’re proud to have made such a noteworthy impact on medical research in five short years.

So what’s next? What can we achieve now that our patient members number more than 97,000? Well, that’s what this podcast episode is all about! Our Director of Research and Development Paul Wicks PhD stopped by PatientsLikeMeOnCall™ to discuss the future of PatientsLikeMe research, some of the challenges we face and the powerful influence patients like you can have when you share your health data.

Tune in to hear Paul’s thoughts here:

Thanks for stopping by and listening to the first podcast in this new series. Next Friday, March 25, 2011, we will be talking with our head of marketing and business development, David S. Williams III, about the importance of patients and industry working together. See you then!

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman


Look Ahead with PatientsLikeMeOnCall™

Posted March 14th, 2011 by

PatientsLikeMeOnCall™  is proud to present a new podcast series called “A Look Ahead.”  Through these dynamic podcasts, we will be diving into the major shifts PatientsLikeMe sees ahead for patients, patient care and patient/industry collaboration.

David S. Williams III

At the end of 2010, PatientsLikeMeOnCall released an episode called “The Patient Rules.” In this group podcast, we sat down with Co-Founders Ben and Jamie Heywood, Chief Marketing Officer David S. Williams III and R&D Director Paul Wicks PhD to discuss how far patients like you have come in sharing health information and driving the healthcare process.

In this new four-part series, we will again be talking to each of them about the future of the healthcare industry. What changes are ahead in 2011? And what role will you play? To get you geared up for this series, here is a quick preview clip from my interview with David Williams about the importance of patients and industry working together.

The series premiere for “A Look Ahead” launches this Friday, March 18, 2011, with an interview with Paul Wicks. Look for the other interviews to run every Friday for the next three weeks.  To tune in, subscribe to the series on our iTunes page or listen to any of our podcasts on our PodBean page.

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman


What lies ahead – PatientsLikeMe member John shares his journey with ALS

Posted May 14th, 2014 by

It’s already the second week of ALS Awareness Month, and as promised, we’ve got an interview to share with John (johnpp) – a PatientsLikeMe member that has been living with ALS since his diagnosis in the spring of 2013. John talks about a new sense of urgency that he feels along with his reaction and outlook after being diagnosed with ALS. And as we speak, he’s traveling across the United States with his adorable dog, Molly (that’s her in the picture) to help raise awareness and funds for ALS through his artwork. Learn more about his efforts on the ART 4 ALS website and check out his full interview below. 


When did you first start experiencing symptoms of ALS? What was your diagnosis experience like?

I first experienced ALS symptoms early in 2012 as I was trying to wind down a career in metropolitan planning. At the time, I was also heading up the recovery group I helped establish in our hometown of Schoharie NY after the devastating floods from Hurricane Irene in August 2013. The flood had put 85% of all homes and 100% of all businesses in town out of commission. I’m proud of the response from the community and from all over. Our group organized over 400,000 volunteer hours in the first year after the flood!

By the fall of 2012, folks were commenting that they were having a hard time hearing me at meetings. At the time, I thought my speech difficulty was related to recent dental work or simply stress. My wife of 33 years and soulmate, Bobby, had serious medical issues and we were doing home hemodiaylsis daily (even during the three months we had to live in our motorhome while our house was uninhabitable).

I stepped down from the recovery group in April 2013 and decided that I should go to a specialist about my speech symptoms. I chose the Movement Disorders Clinic at Albany Medical Center and had blood tests, MRI, etc. In August, the EMG test showed scattered motor neuron damage throughout my body and the ALS diagnosis was pretty solid.

My initial reaction was (1) relief that my condition would likely leave my mental capacities intact. Both of my parents died of Parkinson’s with dementia and full-blown-dementia is not something I wanted to deal with. (2) shock that it was ALS. Whoever thinks that? (3) gratitude for the life I have had. For the first time, I understood the sentiment expressed in Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest person” speech.

You’re traveling across the country with your awesome dog Molly – can you tell us a little about ART 4 ALS and what you hope to achieve?

In December of last year, my neurologist was up front with my prognosis. He said that I am at a high risk for respiratory failure because of my bulbar onset and that, if the failure kicks in, I had about two years to live. If not, he said I have maybe five. He added that if I plan to travel, to do it within the next six months or a year before it becomes more challenging.

That night, I spoke with my wife and she agreed to try to get stronger so we could travel. The next morning she was so weak that she went to the ER. Her body gave up and she died within 36 hours.

After a few months, I decided I would like to travel while I am able, and realized I would need a purpose to make sense of the journey. Since my ALS symptoms (speech, swallowing, weak arms and hands) would be evident to those I encounter, I chose to make the trip about ALS awareness. I prepared a 4 x 5 inch handout that talks about the trip, my art, ALS and the need for research. Friends suggested that Molly would be the face of the trip, so she is featured on the handout and our website. (She is also keeping her own blog, which seems to be more popular than mine!) Often, folks will ask about Molly and that opens the door to talk about the trip and about ALS.

Interest in the trip is strong in Schoharie, so I also set up a way for individuals to pledge to ALS research on a per mile basis. (See www.art4als.com)

Molly (isn’t she cute?!)

Why did you choose to donate all proceeds from your paintings the ALS Therapy Development Institute?

I chose to donate the proceeds from any artwork to ensure I would actually do artwork during the trip. There are many valid avenues for giving to support ALS research. I chose the ALS Therapy Development Institute because of its focus on near-term treatment options.

You mention on your website that you now realize there is an urgency to everything – how has this outlook affected your day-to-day life?

If there is a blessing to having ALS, it is the fact that I have a pretty clear idea of what lies ahead. There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when I won’t be able to do the things I can today. So I make myself explore, observe, contribute, participate as much as is healthy while I can. I have several projects and trips planned with my grandkids later this summer, knowing that next year they won’t be as easy. I have observed that the major characteristics of PALS (Patients with ALS) include hope; advocacy; interest in innovative therapy options; frustration with declining abilities; and regret for not having done more while he or she was still able. I am determined to minimize my regrets.

How has the PatientsLikeMe ALS community helped you learn more about managing and living with your condition? 

There are a number of online community forums available to PALS. When I stumbled onto PatientsLikeMe I was amazed at the sophistication of the website and the amount of information volunteered by so many people. I have searched on the website for other individuals with symptoms that are taking a similar course to mine and am following them, gleaning ideas about adaptive devices I may consider in the future. I have reviewed the self-reported efficacy of different treatments I have considered. This information is available nowhere else. While other forums seem to be content with basic ALS information and random user discussions, PatientsLikeMe offers the breadth and depth of information that I need to live my life fully.

What’s one thing you’d tell someone that has just recently been diagnosed with ALS? 

It’s not quite one thing, but I’d say take time to process the shock; realize that the diagnosis is not just about you, and let your family grieve; and use your days productively in a way that you will reflect on someday with pleasure.

Thanks for asking.

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One for All: The Road Ahead with PatientsLikeMeInMotion™

Posted March 23rd, 2011 by

PatientsLikeMeInMotion

This Spring, as you’re out at disease-related fundraiser events, take note of the people in those bright blue t-shirts walking, running or biking by your side. Those are patients like you!

Since its launch in 2009, more than 1,700 people (including patients, friends and family members) have taken part in the PatientsLikeMeInMotion™ program to raise money and awareness for various conditions. Here are some fun facts about PatientsLikeMeInMotion and a video of some of our members who have participated.

2009 Quick Facts

  • 2009 marked the debut of the PatientsLikeMeInMotion program.
  • Approximately 40 PatientsLikeMe members signed up teams to participate in PatientsLikeMeInMotion and led more than 700 people on PatientsLikeMe teams across the United States.
  • In its first year, the PatientsLikeMeInMotion program donated over $9,000 for charitable disease foundations such as the National MS Society (NMSS), Parkinson’s Alliance and the ALS Association (ALSA).
  • The largest member team in 2009 was formed for the annual Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York. It’s here where we first met and interviewed some of our members (see our YouTube page to meet them).

2010 Quick Facts

  • A breakout year for the program, PatientsLikeMeInMotion doubled our number of sponsored teams from 38 in 2009 to 60 in 2010.
  • PatientsLikeMe members led teams of more than 1,000 people total wearing the recognizable, bright blue PatientsLikeMeInMotion t-shirts to events across 15 states.
  • Together, member-led teams raised more than $15,000 for their charitable disease foundations through PatientsLikeMeInMotion donations.
  • PatientsLikeMe teams were present at 20 NMSS events and 12 ALSA events, as well as fundraisers run by The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), The Epilepsy Foundation of America and the Parkinson’s Unity Walk.
  • PatientsLikeMe had the opportunity to sponsor Team Mid New England at the U.S. Transplant Games in Madison, WI (see highlights here.)
  • In 2010, we also launched our PatientsLikeMeInMotion Flickr page to host all of the photos our teams have submitted over the years. Check it out.

So, what will 2011 look like for PatientsLikeMeInMotion? That’s entirely up to you! Do you have an awareness event in your area you would like to be a part of? Sign your run/walk/bike team up for PatientsLikeMeInMotion and count on us to support you – both online and off!

PatientsLikeMe member lscanlon PatientsLikeMe member afleishman


Meet Kimberly from the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors

Posted December 8th, 2016 by

We’d like to introduce you to Kimberly (firefly84), another member of your 2016-2017 Team of Advisors. Kimberly lives with autonomic neuropathy and describes what it’s like to manage a condition that is at times invisible, how she tackles each day by taking “baby steps” and focusing on the moment at hand.

Before becoming ill, Kimberly worked as a registered nurse and discusses the challenging transition from “caregiver to the one needing care.” As someone who knows firsthand what it’s like on both sides of the patient/care team relationship, Kimberly shares why it’s important to her to help change the system and, in doing so, leave “a lasting impact that will benefit all generations to come.”

What has been your greatest obstacle living with your condition, and what societal shifts do you think need to happen so that we’re more compassionate or understanding of these challenges?

Prior to getting ill, I was working as a Registered Nurse in all areas of the hospital and had recently started doing home health and hospice as well. Suddenly I went from caregiver to the one needing the care. It’s been hard giving up the control factor. Healthcare professionals in general make horrible patients because we think that we should dictate our care. To a certain extent that works, but it also doesn’t allow you to just be the patient. Instead of sitting back and letting people take care of me, I have continued to take on multiple roles; ones that I probably shouldn’t be, but ones that I don’t know how to let go of. There are days when having medical knowledge is wonderful and it has saved me doctor appointments by calling in and saying that we need to adjust medications. But then there are also days when I wish I didn’t know anything about medicine, because then this condition wouldn’t be quite as scary.

A portion of this condition is invisible, so there are some days that I look fairly healthy. The whole “ill patient” scene needs to change. We need to be seen as real people, with lives that are affected in every aspect. We have spouses, families, financial responsibilities, and we still want to contribute to society. We didn’t pick our conditions; our conditions picked us. This isn’t how any of us saw our lives unfolding. These are the cards we got dealt. Society needs to be more accepting of chronic illnesses and understanding that every day is a challenge.

How would you describe your condition to someone who isn’t living with it and doesn’t understand what it’s like?

Automatic…think of the things your body does automatically. Now take those things (blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, temperature regulation, digestion) and put them into a blender. What comes out the other side? A mess…that’s how I think of it. The “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) and the “fight or flight” (sympathetic) nervous systems no longer communicate with each other. Think of the adrenaline rush and pounding, racing feeling in your chest if you were in an accident…that is what happens to me if I’m in small group with mildly increased noise levels. My body has become incredibly hypersensitive and totally unpredictable. This means that my heart rate and blood pressures basically do whatever they want, whenever they want (high or low). I lost the ability to sweat on 90% of my body, so anything involving outdoors is out of the picture once it is above 65 degrees. My worst symptom that is the most visible to people around me is flushing. Think of how hot a sunburn gets…now think of having that heat and redness for 16-20 hours per day, every day. Many things trigger it (showering, washing my hands, walking by the stove, having the sun shine on me). The hardest thing is that none of my symptoms are predictable, so I always have to plan ahead for multiple scenarios. That’s me…the blender scenario!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone newly diagnosed with a chronic condition, what would it be?

Take a deep breath. Focus on this moment, and this moment only. We can’t live in constant fear of what hasn’t happened yet. There are so many unknowns; do your research, find a support system. Hold tight to family and friends as they will be your rocks going forward. Always have one or two people that you can call when you’re having a bad day and cry your eyes out for no reason at all. Finally…baby steps; this is my mantra. Sometimes going one day at a time is too much. So you go one moment, one second, one minute, one hour, and eventually you will have gotten through the day…with BABY STEPS! As long as you can find one positive thing each day, you can get through anything. Sometimes it can be something as simple as the sky was blue today or maybe your pain improved for an hour. Don’t set big goals because if you don’t achieve them you feel like you have failed, but if you set small obtainable goals, then you have succeeded and most of all, you have survived.

What made you want to join the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors?

Navigating healthcare is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You get told that you have an illness, hopefully get a referral to a specialist, maybe get an official diagnosis, and then you’re on your own. Nobody tells you how to deal with insurance companies, how to expedite prior authorizations for procedures or medications, how to establish a good rapport with your healthcare team, or where to find resources and advocates. You are taken to the edge of a cliff and then told good luck. At least that has been my experience with several of my health issues.

Having worked within the healthcare system has given me an enormous amount of knowledge regarding how to successfully navigate the twists and turns. I wanted to join the Team of Advisors because I get so angry when the healthcare system fails patients time after time. I want to help change that, because it isn’t fair to anybody. We really can change things, but it has to be one step at a time. Advocating for community members and anybody with a condition is a lot like organ donation. Yes, we’re doing this for everyone right now, but we are leaving a lasting impact that will benefit all generations to come. That’s my reason!

 

 

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“When the wind turns against you, adjust your sails” – Member Steve opens up about living with ALS

Posted November 4th, 2016 by

Say hello to Steve (sheronemus), a member of the ALS community who also struggles with depression. We recently caught up with him to learn about how his life has changed since his diagnosis, the importance of doing what you love and how he manages multiple conditions.

Check out what he had to say about what helps him find peace and harmony while “living with ALS, not dying of it.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What are you passionate about?

I am a husband, father of 4 adult children, and grandfather of 2. I am all about making life better for others, especially for those living with disabilities. That involves consulting to our city administrator about accessibility, working with my national church organization to improve inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of church life including leadership, building an adaptive sailing program, and launching a company that provides affordable accessible housing units for sale or lease (www.roostsuites.com).

How has life changed since your diagnosis?

Living with ALS is obviously difficult, but I also have experienced many positive changes in my life. I have more time with my family and what I choose to do with my days is more aligned with my values. I have also stopped biting my fingernails!

In the forums you talk about the importance of doing what you love, like sailing. What do you like most about it, and what advice do you have for other pALS about following their passions?

I believe it is essential to find ways to enjoy those things that give you life, that uplift you. Always looking forward to something fun affirms that we are living with ALS, not dying of it.

I used to play many musical instruments, now we go to concerts. I grew up sailing, so I worked with industry experts to devise a way for functional quadriplegics to sail a boat on their own. This summer 5 pALS and 100 people with other disabilities were able to sail in our program. 4 of those pALS had never sailed before. It isn’t as hard as you might think, and we have great instructors.

Sailing is such a liberating sport. When living life in a wheelchair, mainly in a few rooms, the feeling of leaving the wheelchair on the dock and heading out into open waters, free to go wherever you want, is pure joy. It is also a great way to spend time with family and friends.

Sailing is all about working in harmony with nature to reach your goal. There is a saying among sailors “When the wind turns against you, adjust your sails.” I feel that is a perfect metaphor for living with ALS. We can’t change the wind, but we can still find peace and harmony. Sailing is good practice in finding that balance for me.

What’s it like managing multiple conditions?

Living with multiple conditions — for me, ALS and depression — is a daily exercise in a truthful self-evaluation of where I’m at, physically and emotionally. I’ve gotten much better at asking for help when I need it. We have found, too, that looking ahead to decisions down the road and staying mentally ahead of the diseases keeps us from feeling overwhelmed. Trying to make decisions in the middle of a crisis is a really bad idea for me.

 

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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


“You may not like it, but make the MOST of it.” – An interview with IPF member Nikki

Posted January 1st, 2016 by

When Nikki (Nimiha) was diagnosed with IPF in 2010, she was already a survivor of both ovarian cancer and a heart attack. Staying positive and up-to-date on new information is now this retired RN’s best defense – and she’s been sharing it with her IPF family on PatientsLikeMe since March.

We had the chance to connect with her recently, and here’s what we learned …

1. Tell us about your life. What are your hobbies and interests? How do you most enjoy spending your time?

I was born 71 years ago in a town named Escondido, in Ca. My mother had been a Wave in the Navy in Washington, D.C. where she met my father, a career Marine. It was war time and he was transferred to Camp Pendleton Marine base in Oceanside, where he was immediately sent overseas to fight. I was an only child with no family living close by so my Mother and I were very close. My father went up through the ranks and was up for Brigadier General, and was honored to take over training the 7th Marines at Camp Pendleton in 1962. Two weeks later he died of a heart attack and my mother and I were forced to change our lives as well as our homes and lifestyle. She moved us to a town ten miles from where I was born. I went to college at PALOMAR Jr. College where I majored in boys. I married my husband, George, in August of 1963, and became a mother June 1964. You know the plan to wait a few years just didn’t work for us. You remember I said I majored in boys. Seems I didn’t know how to count and messed up the birth control pills ‍‍. I became a stay at home mom and our son was born four years later. Amazing how quickly you learn to count when needed. As my children grew, I became restless and went back to school. I discovered I wanted to become a nurse and take care of others so that was what I did. The kids were growing up and we were all going to school. I graduated with my R.N. in 1979 and became an oncology nurse specialist. That progressed to orthopedic nurse, home care nurse, then a MDS coordinator. I retired in 1996 after my son became ill with testicular cancer. He healed, my father-in-law died, I had ovarian cancer and one Thanksgiving night after everyone went home I suffered a heart attack at 53. During the next year I had seven stents that failed, had a triple bypass and did really well until last year. Then I caught the lingering cold everyone was catching, but mine wouldn’t go away. On my birthday I finally went to the doctor after four weeks. I was placed on ABT’s inhalers, and steroids. One week later I returned unable to breathe. It was at that time I was told they heard crackles and the X-ray showed IPF scarring. I had purchased a cruise to Hawaii for our Christmas present, but was unable to go. I was on oxygen and not feeling better. The 13th of Jan. I was in the hospital with pneumonia. My life of playing bingo, gaming at the casino’s and cruising was over as I knew it. I was still able to read, enjoy my backyard, and the glorious sunsets and the multitude of hummingbirds I feed. My life was changed but not over. I was able to enjoy the little things that made me happy. I was lucky to have my husband of 52 years with me, my daughter and my ten-year-old grandson as well. They are all my daily blessings and sources of enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, it is not always sunny, but we are managing, one hour at a time. I have my moments full of tears, but, also joy in the little things. I try to deal with what cards I have been dealt with grace. Some days are better than others.

2. You’re very supportive to others in the forum. In a recent post, you said to another member, “We care, we know, we too are frightened by our diagnosis. Don’t feel alone, that no one cares. We may not be there physically to hold you in our arms, but you have many arms around you that DO CARE.” How have you, in turn, felt supported on the site?

I try to visit the site on a daily basis and interact with my family here. If they don’t post for a while I fret and worry. They fill my need to help others to help myself. This place is my safe place. I truly believe we are family and here to help each other. I am free to tell those who understand how miserable it is on some days. They understand and perk me up with their prayers and responses. I love that we are free to share everything or nothing. This is another part of home!

3. As a former RN, how do you think your past experience informs the advice you give to others?

Most often I have to censor myself because of my prejudices toward the medical profession today. I feel I know enough to give good information and resources if needed. I am not afraid to tell it like it is. We are not here for the fairytale version of what is happening to us. We are here for truth and knowledge that what we feel is normal or not. I listen to everyone and what they say to learn for myself. I hope they can feel the love that is offered even though there is such little hope at this time. I think the main thing I give is knowledge and comfort. At least I hope so.

4. Tell us about your diagnosis. What did you do/feel in the moments following it?

Like I said, it was very sudden when it finally showed up. A few years before before I was symptomatic, it was mentioned and I recall ignoring it, saying we would worry about it when we needed to. I was breathing and living a normal life and was truly not interested in it since it was incurable and not affecting me at the time. I think I knew last year when I was diagnosed my easy time was gone. I never wondered why me, never got mad. Why not me! I think what has affected me most is I promised my grandson to take him to see the glaciers in Alaska. I cannot afford the medical supplies that includes any longer and I hate that I didn’t take him sooner. I would love to book a cruise right now, but can’t afford to lose all that money if I get worse. I investigated it earlier last month and renting the portable concentrators that go high enough and the extra batteries and the scooter make it seem so much like a dream. I think the day I realized my dream to see my grandson’s face when he saw Glacier Bay and the calving was over was the day I felt the worst. I felt my dream die and even now it brings tears to my eyes and pain to my heart. My advice to my friends and family here is do what you need to do while you still can. Don’t let this disease kill your dreams if you can still do them. DO THEM IF YOU STILL CAN.

5. How would you best describe the feeling of living with IPF to someone who doesn’t have it?

I find it can be overwhelming depending on the day and what you want to get done. I am no longer independent and able to plan ahead. I need help with shopping because the cart won’t hold my oxygen and the weeks worth of groceries. I spend several days visiting different doctors every week between me and my husband, rather than going out to do what I want. I look good, feel pretty good for all that is wrong with me, I just can’t breath good. I tend to tire more easily than before and sometimes it is hard for people to understand. Like I say, I look well just sitting there with the cannula and oxygen tank or 50′ of tubing I walk around the house with. I have a love hate relationship with the oxygen. I am grateful for it making my like livable, but hate the way it looks, the constant noise and the dry nose and mouth.

Most people don’t know anything about IPF. I TELL THEM IT IS A TERMINAL DISEASE WHERE YOUR LUNGS QUIT EXPANDING AND COMPRESSING. They have two new medicines that may help prolong life with a better quality. Nothing out there to my knowledge will cure it. A lung transplant is a possibility for some but not me. I have already had my chest cracked when I had my bypass. I am too old and too fluffy to get one. So I live each day the best I can.

6. What advice would you give to a newly diagnosed person?

TALK, JOIN, DISCOVER ALL YOU CAN. THIS IS YOUR LIFE, KEEP UP WITH NEW INFORMATION. MOST OF ALL LOVE YOURSELF AND BE HAPPY YOU CAN CHANGE THINGS TO MAKE THEM BETTER with your attitude! You may not like it, but make the MOST of it.

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When children are the caregivers

Posted July 13th, 2015 by

In 1998, the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) was founded to help support a silent, vulnerable and hidden population in the United States – the thousands of children who provide care for family members, but are unable to manage their own lives independently. And to show these strong children that they are not alone, the AACY created the Caregiving Youth Project (CYP) that integrates healthcare, education and a community of support.

PatientsLikeMe is partnering with these two organizations to help shine a light on the lives of these caregiving youths. But who are some of these hidden heroes? Meet Katrina. She’s the oldest of three siblings, and growing up, she cared for her bedridden uncle, her sister (living with down syndrome and heart problems) and her brother (living with apraxia). But as she says, “this situation is a privilege because it is a challenge.” Read about her experiences in her own words below:

Katrina’s story
“Not many children grow up having a completely bed-ridden uncle living with them. Or a little sister with Down syndrome and severe heart complications. Or a little brother who could hardly hear as a young boy and who has Apraxia; but, those who do have a unique privilege. Why, you might ask, do I use the word privilege? Doesn’t the word “problem” or “difficulty” or “burden” describe the situation better? No. This situation is a privilege because it is a challenge. And it is in and through challenges that one may grow. Because my family has had these challenges, we have increased in love for one another and have been unified into a solid family. My parents have made enormous self-denying concessions to do what is best for their extended and immediate family in caring for those with physical and mental needs. 

As a child, my parents encouraged me and my siblings to help our uncle with simple needs, and we loved it when we were able to help. When my little sister was born, I was so proud and excited to be able to help care for her; it made no difference to me that she had Down syndrome–she was my sister. My mom was and is very disciplined with her time and responsibilities and taught me do the same. The importance of diligence and staying focused on the task at hand was important in general, but also because we never knew what might come up. My uncle, at that time, needed help almost every two minutes, and understanding my little brother was sometimes very difficult because he couldn’t communicate well with words.

I am thankful for my parents’ example of self-denial, discipline, and hard work, and I was able to carry those qualities, though probably not quite as well, into high school and apply them when doing homework, training for basketball, and leading the honor society. I am also thankful for their example of and passing on of a positive attitude; devoting time and energy to our family members and others is not a bothersome burden but a joy when looked at with proper perspective. Yet with the demands of household responsibilities, it was often hard to stay balanced getting my homework done while finding time to help my uncle and still be patient with my little sister too. But I made it through and finished on top and now feel somewhat prepared for the challenges ahead. And not only have these situations made me stronger and more mature as a person, but they enable me to help and sincerely empathize with those in similar situations.”

You can learn more about the AACY and the CYP by visiting their websites.

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“The human spirit is more resilient than we think” – PatientsLikeMe member mmsan66 shares her journey with ALS

Posted January 29th, 2015 by

PatientsLikeMe member mmsan66 was diagnosed with ALS back in 2008, but she’s been fortunate to experience an unusually slow progression, which currently affects only her legs. As a college professor, financial planner and ALS advocate, she raises awareness through her work with the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association. She even finds time to visit places like the Grand Canyon, and she shared all about her life in a PatientsLikeMe interview. Read below to learn about her personal journey. 

What was your diagnosis experience like? What were some of your initial symptoms?

I was diagnosed in 2008 at the age of 66 but, looking back, had definitely exhibited symptoms in 2007 or earlier. I had retired a few years prior, after a long career in Human Resource Management that included positions in the fields of health care, the Federal government, higher education (Northeastern University), and high technology (the former Digital Equipment Corporation).  But, rather than slow down and enjoy retirement, I started a second career in tax and financial planning. I became an IRS Enrolled Agent (EA), earned a Certificate in Financial Planning, and obtained my securities and insurance licenses.  I started my own business as a tax and financial advisor (Ames Hill Tax Services) and also began teaching undergraduate courses in Finance, Accounting, and Investments as an Adjunct Instructor at several local colleges and universities.

I definitely noticed a change in 2007, when I experienced a number of falls (for no apparent reason), culminating in a fall while on vacation in Florida in which I fractured my left wrist. Upon returning home, I scheduled appointments with several specialists to have my legs checked out and, after a series of neurological tests, received a diagnosis of ALS at the Lahey Clinic in July of 2008. I wasn’t completely stunned, as I had done a lot of internet research on diseases with symptoms similar to mine, but had gradually eliminated them one-by-one as each test result came back negative. However, like all PALS, I was hoping against hope that my suspicions would prove false. The one thing that kept going through my mind in the days following my diagnosis was that my life—— as I knew it—– would soon be over.

How has your ALS progressed over the past few years? 

In 2009, after learning that the average life span of a PALS was 3-5 years after diagnosis, my husband and I decided to sell our home of 36 years rather than modify it. Fortunately, they were in the process of building a luxury apartment complex on a hill in town, and we were able to move into a brand new handicapped-accessible apartment, complete with roll-in shower, and overlooking a pond complete with wildlife.

By 2010 I was no longer able to walk at all, and had to rely solely on a power/ manual wheelchair, as well as a scooter. Although confined to a wheelchair, I still maintain my active tax practice, preparing individual, corporate, and trust tax returns as well as representing my clients at IRS audits. When I realized it would be too difficult to travel to and from the various campuses at which I taught, I applied and was hired as an online instructor by the University of Phoenix, where I’ve been teaching Personal Financial Planning since 2010. At this point in time, after living with the disease for 8 years, still only my legs are affected. Thankfully, I still maintain my upper body strength, and my ability to speak, swallow, breathe, etc. remains completely normal. Somehow, I can’t help but feel that this slow progression might be due in part to the upbeat, positive outlook I continually strive to maintain, and the fact that I keep very busy with my family, clients, students, attending online CPE seminars (to maintain my professional licenses), and participating in ALS fundraising walks.

We read you like to travel – what are some things you’ve done to make traveling easier?

We’ve done some travelling since I’ve been unable to walk, but nothing extensive in the last couple of years. Our last long-distance trip was to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and several other National Parks such as Bryce and Zion. At the time, however, I was still able to transfer with my arms from my wheelchair into the passenger seat of our van. Now, since my legs are completely useless, a handicapped van is a necessity.  We will be going to Austin, Texas in October for a niece’s wedding. We’ve found travelling is a lot easier if you call ahead to lay everything on with the airlines. Reserving a wheelchair or a power chair at each destination makes things a lot easier. And, it’s of the utmost importance when making hotel reservations to specify a “wheelchair accessible” room, not just one that’s “handicapped accessible” (a motel that has a roll-in shower is the best!).  Also, contacting local ALS organizations in the areas you plan to visit well in advance can be very beneficial. They can direct you to rental agencies or, better yet, lend you the mobility equipment you will need while you’re there.

Can you tell us a little about your work and advocacy with the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association?

A few years ago, I decided to become involved in ALS Advocacy with the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association. I was invited to speak to groups of scientists at Biogen Idec in Cambridge, MA on the topic of living with ALS, and was interviewed by the Boston Globe and WBUR radio when Biogen discontinued the Dexpramipexole trials. I also attended the NEALS Consortium’s first Clinical Research Learning Institute held in Clearwater, FL in October 2011. There I was fortunate to personally meet many fellow PALS from around the US, as well as prominent researchers and clinicians engaged in the fight against ALS. (I also had the pleasure of meeting Emma Willey from PatientsLikeMe.)

In addition, I have spoken to groups at various other fundraising events sponsored by organizations such as ALSA, the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALSTDI), etc. and have represented these organizations at ALS Awareness events at Fenway Park. Because of my visibility as a PALS, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the ALS Association’s Mass chapter, and currently serve in the capacity of Secretary. 

What have you learned about yourself that has surprised you and/or your loved ones? 

I think the first and foremost thing I learned, is that the human spirit is more resilient than we think. I would never have imagined that I could be diagnosed with such a terminal disease, and still continue on with my life as best I could, finding pleasure in simple daily activities. We had travelled extensively around the world in the early years of our 47-year marriage (lived in Hong Kong for 2 years) and planned to travel internationally once again once we retired and our daughter embarked on a career of her own. Now, I appreciate just being able to get into our handicapped van and take local day trips with my husband. Never mind viewing the Taj Mahal by moonlight, now an excursion to the grocery store or taking in a local college hockey game is a welcome diversion and takes some planning.

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“Strength will come, somehow, from somewhere” – PatientsLikeMe member Glow4life shares her journey with lung cancer

Posted January 26th, 2015 by

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 below and how she shares love and hope whenever she can.

How did you react after getting diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013? What was the diagnosis process like?

I had a routine X-ray in February 2013, after attending A & E with chest pains (which turned out to be nothing). A few days later I received a letter asking me to return in 6 weeks for a follow up X-ray, as there was a suspect area, probably scarring from a previous chest infection but best to check. My general practitioner reassured me it was unlikely to be sinister, if cancer was suspected I’d be looked into immediately. I thought no more about it and returned for the repeat X-ray as scheduled. The following day my GP rang me to tell me there was a tumor on my left lung that required further investigation, and gave me the number to ring for a scan, which took place within a couple of weeks. I asked if this was likely to be cancer, and he told me it almost certainly was. The scan did, in fact, reveal a cancerous tumor, and I was referred for a PET scan and bronchoscopy. On the 27th of June, I was seen by the specialist who gave me the news that adenocarcinoma was confirmed, and had spread to the other lung, and right adrenal gland, and was given an appointment with an oncologist, who would assess appropriate chemotherapy. It’s impossible to describe how this feels, but you know that your life has changed forever. I saw the oncologist on the 7th of July and was offered a course of cisplatin/premetrexed, a course of 4 to 6 treatments, every three weeks, in an attempt to shrink the tumors and prolong life.

I was told my prognosis was terminal, and that with successful chemo, 20 percent of patients survive a maximum of 12 months. If we were shocked before, nothing compared with this, it was like being hit by a wrecking ball. I started my chemo on the 23rd of July and had the fourth session in October, which was followed by a CT scan. This showed that the tumors had shrunk and no further chemo was necessary. A maintenance course of premetrexed was available but not recommended, as the chemo had made me very ill. Since then I have been on watch and wait, every three months, last time extended to four. I go for X-ray and blood tests before my appointment with Dr. Brown, my oncologist. My cancer is stable, though not cured, and my general health is good, as is my quality of life. I do tire very quickly, but then I’m getting on a bit!

You’ve received treatment for your tumors – what’s it like being on a “watch and wait” plan?

Being on ‘watch and wait’ is like having the sword of Damocles hanging over your head, you never know when it might drop. But I try not to dwell on that, it would be wasting the extra time I have been given in pointless worry and speculation. I try to forget about it between visits, and for the most part I do, though I must admit to a certain amount of anxiety in the couple of weeks prior to the next appointment.

How has your day-to-day life changed since being diagnosed and treated for lung cancer? 

Well, I thought the worst possible thing had happened to me and things couldn’t possibly get worse. But I was about to find out different. It’s hard for me to answer this objectively, as 3 months after the diagnosis, and while I was in hospital having my 2nd chemo, my husband Tim was found dead at home, having suffered a cerebral occlusion. Tim was 11 years younger than me, and in perfect health, so the shock was profound, for all of us. I passed the next few months in a fog of chemo and grief, it was the hardest time imaginable, but the days passed and I got through it.

My life has changed beyond all description and I can say with all honesty that living without Tim is much harder than living with cancer. Loneliness is my biggest issue now, and wishing he was here to help me through this, which I know he would wish he was here to do. One thing I did learn was that having a terminal illness doesn’t make us closer to death than anyone else, and that life can be taken from any of us, at any time. So it’s important to take each day as it comes, and make each one count. When I die, nothing will be left unsaid, no actions regretted or opportunities missed.

I fear death much less than I did, while still embracing what life is left to me. We all have a time to leave this world and move on to whatever adventure lies beyond, and I know that the time is coming when Tim and I will be reunited in spirit. I will be sad to leave my beautiful family, but happy that I’ve been given this time in which we’ve all been able to prepare, and make the very most of the chance to let them know how much I love them. And we all have to leave sometime!

What have you learned from using the InstantMe feature on PatientsLikeMe?

What I’ve learned from PatientsLikeMe is that I’m not alone in this, so many of us are dealing with similar issues, and that while cancer is different to each individual, what is the same is that most of us are devastated by the effect it has on our loved ones. It’s so hard to see their sorrow, and know you are the cause and can do nothing to stop it. I’ve also learned that many people are much worse off than I am, having succumbed so much faster, while I am still here and comparatively well. Each time I go for a scan/bloods/chemo, or to oncology I see the waiting room full, and think, so many of us, all with similar fears and trepidation of what is coming our way.

We read that your motto is “Never give up, never give in” – along with that, what else would you say to someone who has been recently diagnosed with lung cancer?

What I would say to anyone recently diagnosed is this: You will wonder how you are ever going to find the strength to cope, how do people do it? But be assured that the strength will come, somehow, from somewhere, and you’ll find your way through. Take one day at a time, and make each one count. Prepare for every eventuality, but never lose hope. Follow good advice, not fads. Try not to look too far ahead and live in the day, or even the moment. Don’t think of yourself as dying from cancer, but as living with it. One of Tim’s favorite sayings, when the times were tough, was “Head up, son” I say that to myself every day.

And don’t Google! You’ll frighten yourself with out-of-date misinformation and meaningless statistics. Listen to the experts.

Finally, share love and hope wherever you can, while you can.

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