160 posts in the category “ALS”

Raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Posted May 1st, 2013 by

May is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Awareness Month. As many out there know, PatientsLikeMe was inspired by the life experiences of Stephen Heywood, who was diagnosed with this serious neurological disease back in 1998. Stephen’s brothers (Ben and Jamie) made many attempts to slow the progression of his condition, but their trial-and-error approach just wasn’t working. They knew there had to be a better way, and in 2004 PatientsLikeMe was created.

Every year, about 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS in the U.S. It can affect any race or ethnicity and there is currently no treatment or cure that will reverse or even stop its progression.[1] By getting involved, you can help change that.

31

The ALS Association has put together a terrific calendar of events called “31 Ways in 31 Days.” For each day in the month they’ve created a simple way to get involved and help raise awareness.

 

TDIYou can also find upcoming awareness events on the ALS Therapy Development Institute calendar. There will be picnics, charity golf tournaments and “The Cure is Coming” 5k and awareness walk. And don’t forget, we’d love to sponsor your run/walk team through our PatientsLikeMeInMotion program. Your whole team will get free t-shirts, a donation and more!

Looking for more info on non-profits during ALS awareness month? There are a bunch of organizations dedicated to the cause. A fellow PatientsLikeMe community member put together a great list in his forum thread Comparison of ALS/MND Organizations.

If you’re living with ALS, find others just like you in our growing community of almost 6,000 ALS patients on PatientsLikeMe. Learn what they’re doing to manage their condition with symptom and treatment reports, and share your own experience with a personal health profile or in the community forums.

 


[1] http://www.alsa.org/about-als/facts-you-should-know.html


Raise Your Hands for Rare Disease Day

Posted February 28th, 2013 by

Today, February 28th, is Rare Disease Day, a worldwide event showing solidarity with rare disease patients and their families around the globe.  The theme for this year is “Raise and Join Your Hands,” and everyone is being asked to participate, whether you’re an individual, an office with 10 people or a public gathering with 1,000 people.

Here at PatientsLikeMe, we are taking part by raising our hands and sharing our group photo in solidarity with the campaign as well as all of our members living with rare diseases, which affect 1 in 10 people worldwide.  You are encouraged to submit your own photo here.

PatientsLikeMe Employees Raising Their Hands for Rare Disease Day 2013

Rare diseases are a special passion for PatientsLikeMe, as our company was started due to our founders’ experience with a rare disease called ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  Since then, we’ve partnered with the Global Genes Project to form the RARE Open Registry Project to connect patients fighting rare diseases and help them share and learn.

“It’s terrifying to think you’re alone and manage your rare illness with a doctor who might not have ever seen another patient like you,” says PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder Jamie Heywood. “We will change that.”  Most recently, we launched the world’s first open registry for patients with alkaptonuria (AKU), the first genetic disease discovered.


What Is Health?

Posted February 20th, 2013 by

It seems like a basic question, but at PatientsLikeMe, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means.  Check out Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood’s thought-provoking presentation below at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue’s “Future of Human Longevity” conference.

Can you really understand concepts such as health, mobility or well-being without measuring or comparing them?  See why Jamie argues that you can’t – and also why one’s “health span” may be more important than one’s “lifespan.”  Click the image below to tune in.

Click on this screenshot to begin the slideshow presentation.

*After clicking the image above, select the “08:45” link to your left to start the presentation.


Coping with Changes in Physical Appearance

Posted January 24th, 2013 by

When you are diagnosed with a life-changing illness, your doctor may prepare you for how the disease will affect your physical functions.  But as our members point out, patients also need to be prepared for the changes in physical appearance they may experience.  For example, how do you deal with hair loss, facial swelling, weight gain, blotchy skin or other unexpected changes?  Or get comfortable with the use of new equipment such as leg braces, walkers or wheelchairs that may attract attention?  Most importantly, what can you do to still feel beautiful?

A cute hat can help to cover thinning hair or bald spots.  Image courtesy of Stock Free Images.

Here are some suggestions from members of our PatientsLikeMe Forum, where patients with different conditions come together to discuss universal issues:

  • Using attractive scarves or hats to cover thinning hair or bald spots
  • Experimenting with different cosmetics to see what works best
  • Treating yourself to a spa manicure and pedicure as a pick-me-up
  • Trying out different explanations for your new brace/walker/wheelchair when asked to see what feels right and what produces the most acceptable responses
  • Soaking in a scented Epsom salt bath to ease pain and relax
  • Consulting with a hair stylist about better styles for thinning hair
  • Using gentle, non-drying facial cleansers and lotions
  • Switching to an electric razor to improve ease and safety
  • Donating your hair to Locks of Love to put a feel-good spin on it

Have you discovered other tricks to help you deal with a changing appearance?  Join this ongoing discussion in our forum or share your experiences in the comments section.


Live Better Together in 2013

Posted January 4th, 2013 by

Last year, over 170,00 patients learned from each other’s shared experiences every day on PatientsLikeMe. In 2013, we promise to continue putting the patient first. We’ll provide better, more effective ways for sharing real-world health experiences that help you, other patients like you, and organizations that focus on your conditions.

You’ll hear us talk more than ever this year about living better, together. What does that mean to you? As we kick off 2013, just know this…what inspires us most to live better, together is YOU.

From everyone at PatientsLikeMe, Happy New Year!

rare-disease-day-2013-plm-employees-raising-hands


A Patient Poem for the Modern Age

Posted December 31st, 2012 by

Can you be friends with someone you’ve never met in person?

The members of our online health community – now 170,000+ patients strong – think so.  In fact, many of them say they depend on other members for support and encouragement, and for the all-important reminder that they are not alone.

As evidence, here is a touching poem written by a newer PatientsLikeMe member.  Although he wishes to remain anonymous, he says that he wrote the poem to “uplift people who feel like no one understands them.”

Dedicated to Internet Friends

It’s strange to have a friend

that you have never hugged,

lightly touched their arm,

or looked into their eyes.

But you have touched their soul

felt their heart

been embraced by their warmth of being.

A friend unseen is not a friend untouched.

The eyes of the soul will gaze,

the heart will embrace

the image will stand tall

but only in a dream.

Want to connect with those who can truly relate?  No matter what health condition you have – from multiple sclerosis to fibromyalgia to Parkinson’s disease – find others like you at PatientsLikeMe.


Out of the Office: PatientsLikeMe Visits ALS Pioneer Steve Saling

Posted December 19th, 2012 by

Earlier this month, PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and President Ben Heywood, along with marketing intern Jenna Tobey, went to visit the Steve Saling ALS Residence, which is part of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation’s Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, MA. The foundation has been providing high-quality care for over 90 years and includes the nation’s only specialized ALS residence.

The Steve Saling ALS Residence Is Located Within the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, MA

When Steve Saling was diagnosed with ALS, a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease, in 2006, he immediately began to “secure a way to provide for care” as his condition advanced. His expertise as an architect, his keen interest in technology and his diagnosis all proved vital as he worked with Barry Berman, CEO of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, to create the first-ever, fully automated ALS residence. This state-of-the-art residence soon became a reality and opened its doors in August 2010. Despite this tremendous accomplishment, Steve isn’t done yet. He has also created the ALS Residence Initiative in an “effort to duplicate the project nationwide.” The next facility to open will be in New Orleans.

PatientsLikeMe President and Co-Founder Ben Heywood Getting a Tour from Longtime PatientsLikeMe Member and ALS Activist Steve Saling

Steve greeted Ben and Jenna at the door and was excited to get the tour started. Unable to speak on his own, Steve communicates through a sight-based technology that can translate eye movements on a computer screen into audible speech. As he showed Ben and Jenna the residence, Steve demonstrated the independence that advanced technology and the center provide him by opening doors, turning on lights, operating elevators and changing TV channels. The foundation also encourages this independence by getting their residents out and about.  Steve described some of their recent excursions, like going to the movies, downhill skiing at Nashoba and traveling to Disney World.

The Dining Area of the Steve Saling ALS Residence

Steve became a PatientsLikeMe member seven years ago following his diagnosis. Since then, he has been a model community member, regularly updating his symptom reports and frequently chiming in on the ALS forum. In his PatientsLikeMe profile summary, Steve says, “I accept my new challenges and take a great deal of satisfaction in adapting to my losses.” The PatientsLikeMe ALS community is nearing 6,000 members, with patients learning from each other’s shared experiences every day.  Join the conversation anytime; they’d love to hear from you.

To learn more, check out the video below, in which Steve discusses “the dire need for residential living options for the chronically disabled.”

ALS & MS Residences at the Leonard Florence Center for Living from Steve Saling on Vimeo.


Not Recognizing the “New Me”

Posted December 10th, 2012 by

Are You Resistant to the Idea of a Wheelchair?

For many newly diagnosed patients, accepting help can be as difficult as accepting the diagnosis itself.  According to some of the members of our Parkinson’s disease community, here are a few signs that you may be struggling with the idea of becoming someone who might need help.

  • Have you found yourself feeling resentful when family, friends or strangers try to assist with something?
  • Have you resisted using a complimentary wheelchair (e.g., at the airport or on cruise ship) out of embarrassment?
  • Have you worried that becoming someone who receives help is going to change your lifelong identity?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are far from alone.  Many PatientsLikeMe members report that learning to accept help gracefully is one of the most challenging aspects of chronic illness.  And it’s not just allowing the help itself, per se, but seeing yourself in a new light, as one member puts it.  It’s not unusual to take great pride in being a superman or superwoman, the type of handy, resourceful person who does it all and is always helping others in the family or community.  This can be part of your self-image, as well as a source of self-esteem.

So what do you do when you are suddenly the person being helped instead of the helper?  It requires a psychological shift, according to our members, that involves letting go of ego and viewing the care and assistance you are receiving as a gift, not an insult.  It also means communicating frequently and lovingly about the issue, so as to address “the elephant in the room.”  If you can manage the task yourself, speak up and say so politely, advises one patient.  Otherwise, practice saying “thank you” and “I love you” with gratitude, encourages another member.  Ultimately, as our members state over and over, the best tools for coming to terms with the realities of your new life are a positive attitude, humor and support from others like you.

Can you relate to this common hurdle?  Join this insightful discussion in our forum or share your thoughts in the comments section.


PatientsLikeMe at the 2nd Annual White Coat Affair for ALS TDI

Posted November 28th, 2012 by

On Friday, November 2nd, several PatientsLikeMe team members donned their finest to attend the 2nd Annual White Coat Affair, a charity gala benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI).  Founded by PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood in 1999, ALS TDI is the world’s most advanced research laboratory dedicated to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The PatientsLikeMe Team Along with ALS Patient Steve Saling (Front) at the 2nd Annual White Coat Affair for ALS TDI

This gala fundraiser was held in conjunction with ALS TDI’s 8th Annual Leadership Summit, which included in-depth scientific presentations by top ALS researchers, a discussion panel with industry leaders and an awards ceremony honoring individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to ALS research and advocacy.  (View the summit webcast here.)  PatientsLikeMe was a proud sponsor of this annual gathering of the most influential minds in the ALS community.  In particular, we were honored to witness the posthumous awarding of the Stephen Heywood Patients Today Award – given annually to an individual who exemplifies what it means to be an educator, role model and advocate – to beloved PatientsLikeMe member Persevering (Rob Tison).

Keeping with the Laboratory Theme, The Name Cards Were Inspired by the Periodic Table of Elements

Held at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston the next night, A White Coat Affair was an opportunity for summit attendees to unwind and socialize via cocktails, a dinner program, live music and dancing.  In honor of the theme, servers wore white lab coats, name cards were labeled like the periodic table and vases were filled with brightly colored liquid to resemble lab tubes.  A special highlight of the dinner program this year was the Young Perspectives on ALS segment, which featured the stories of two young people living with ALS (Corey Reich and Pete Frates) as well as four young people who are the children of ALS patients (Katie Shambo, Sam Ketchum, Jenn Sutherland and Alex Heywood).

As you might have guessed, Alex Heywood is the son of Stephen Heywood and nephew of PatientsLikeMe Co-Founders Jamie Heywood and Ben Heywood.  Both ALS TDI and PatientsLikeMe were inspired by Stephen’s seven-year battle with ALS, a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease with an average life expectancy of two to five years following diagnosis.

Young ALS Patients and the Sons and Daughters of ALS Patients Were the Focus of This Year's Dinner Program

Approximately 350 guests attended A White Coat Affair, helping to raise $450,000 towards ALS TDI’s efforts to discover and develop effective treatments for ALS. After a decade of progress, the institute is entering a time of great promise, with several therapies in clinical trials and their own work on Gilenya (a drug currently approved for treating multiple sclerosis) and other potential therapeutics moving into the clinical realm.  Learn more about ALS TDI’s current research projects here.

To see more photos from the 2nd Annual White Coat Affair, visit the event’s Facebook page.


Honoring Family Caregivers Everywhere

Posted November 26th, 2012 by

Is there a caregiver in your family?  For example, someone who looks out for an elderly parent or grandparent – or who cares for a child or spouse with a debilitating illness?

November Is National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time for recognizing the important role of family caregivers in our society as well as the challenges they face on a daily basis.  Currently more than 65 million Americans (or approximately 29% of the US population) are serving in a caregiver role in any given year, averaging 20 hours per week.  Approximately 66% are women. The value of services these caregivers provide for “free” when caring for older adults is estimated to be $375 billion per year.

Yet what many people may not think about is the economic and health impact on the family caregiver.  Financially, caregiving families have median incomes that are 15% lower than non-caregiving families, and women caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty than non-caregivers.  In terms of health and well-being, approximately 40 to 70% of caregivers report clinically significant symptoms of depression, according to one study, while 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.  Read other eye-opening caregiver statistics here.

PatientsLikeMe strives to support and involve caregivers with our “CareTeam” concept, which was developed to include everyone who participates in the care of our patient members.  That could be a spouse/partner, parent, child, doctor, therapist, home health worker, sibling, relative or friend.  Patients can invite caregivers to join PatientsLikeMe, and once they are members, send them a CareTeam invite to link together their profiles.  That way, both the patient and caregiver can stay abreast of how the other is doing physically, emotionally and socially.

ALS patient Persevering’s CareTeam members (his wife and his sister, respectively) are displayed in the “About Me” section of his profile.

Currently, there are more than 7,000 caregivers registered with PatientsLikeMe, many of whom are active users of our forums, who chart their own symptoms and treatments and who are seeking information, guidance and support directly from patients or other caregivers.  Browse their profiles – even if they have no specific health issues, caregivers can monitor their well-being with tools like our InstantMe and Quality of Life surveys – and find out what their life is like today.


What’s Positive About Disease?

Posted November 21st, 2012 by

What Are You Unexpectedly Grateful for?

It may seem counterintuitive, but according to some of our members, there are actually some good things that can come out of being diagnosed with a serious illness.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving – a time when many people are reminded of all the things they have to be grateful for – we thought we would share some of our members’ uplifting sentiments.

From our Fibromyalgia Community, some of the unexpected benefits include:

  • Getting to spend more time with children or grandchildren
  • Taking advantage of “good days” with a little extra gusto
  • Appreciating what you have…and knowing it could be worse
  • Refocusing on new hobbies like gardening and meditation

From our Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Community, some of the unexpected benefits include:

  • Letting go of the pressurized feeling that you have to do it all
  • A deeper understanding of how many people face major challenges
  • Discovering new artistic talents, such as painting or needle work
  • Slowing down the pace of life and prioritizing sleep – without guilt

From our Epilepsy Community, some of the unexpected benefits include:

  • Learning to never judge a person by only what you see
  • Becoming more patient and not taking anything for granted
  • Filtering out fair-weather friends and uncaring partners
  • Having extra motivation to live the healthiest lifestyle possible

What about you?  Have you noticed some positive takeaways from your illness?  Share them in our comments section in honor of Thanksgiving.  And, from everyone at PatientsLikeMe, we wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday!


What We’re Reading at PatientsLikeMe

Posted November 7th, 2012 by

Here are some of the media items that grabbed our attention recently.

Four Things I Learned from Living with a Chronic Illness
Wise advice from a teenager who had to give up competitive gymnastics and find a new perspective on life after being diagnosed with a disease that causes chronic pain.

Access to Doctors’ Notes Aids Patients’ Treatment
A new study finds that patients better understand their condition and feel more in control when they can read their doctors’ notes (something you’re legally entitled to access).

Why We Need Ecological Medicine
Do we need exposure to a diversity of bacteria and germs for optimal immune health?  A thought-provoking essay about the “germ theory,” “hygiene hypothesis” and more.

What We're Reading at PatientsLikeMe.  Image Courtesy of Stock Free Images.

Coming Next:  Using an App as Prescribed
A New York Times piece about whether healthcare apps – now regulated by the FDA – could reduce costs and change the way we monitor health.

Help with ALS via Twitter
An article about our partner ALS Untangled and how they are applying scientific rigor to the investigation of alternative therapies in ALS, having reviewed 45 to date.

Mining the Internet for Speedier Alerts on Drugs
The Wall Street Journal examines the results of a study showing that Internet search algorithms can detect adverse events for certain drugs ahead of FDA warnings.


Leaving a Legacy of Data at PatientsLikeMe

Posted October 30th, 2012 by

ALS member Persevering in front of the US Capitol, where he was participating in ALS Advocacy Day 2011.Recently, our ALS community mourned the loss of Persevering, a highly proactive three-star member who was known for his unfailing efforts to support fellow patients, record and share data, report website problems and recruit ALS clinical trial participants.  Offline, he was also a tireless advocate for ALS awareness and research, attending conferences and lobbying on Capitol Hill.  Persevering passed away on September 10, 2012, at the age of 42, and is deeply missed by both our members and our staff.

While we are unable to recognize every member who passes away on our blog, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight how our community responds to loss as well share what happens to a deceased patient’s profile data.  When our community managers are notified of a member’s death – typically by a family member, caregiver or another member who was close to the person – they add the date of death to the member’s profile. This automatically updates their icon nugget with a black band to show that the member has passed away. (See image below.)

Persevering’s icon nugget – with the black band representing that he’s no longer with us after his three-year battle with ALS.

Also, our members often create a forum thread about the member, to which the tag “In Memory” is added by other members or the community manager so that it is searchable and “followable” using this tag. In these emotional threads, members acknowledge the deceased member’s contributions, reflect on the loss to the community and pay their respects.  Essentially, it’s a place for remembering a friend, telling stories, supporting one another, sharing funny memories and sending condolences to the family.

Each month, our community managers update our “In Memoriam” thread in the PatientsLikeMe forum with a list of members who have passed away during the previous month, and they include links to each profile. That way, members who haven’t logged on for a while or may have missed the news of someone’s passing can stay up-to-date.  Members can also choose to “follow” that thread if they wish to be notified whenever there is a new monthly update.

As for the profiles of members who have passed, they effectively create a legacy of data on our site, as their profile pages remain accessible to our members in perpetuity.  As a result, present and future members may continue to access these profiles to compare and learn from similar experiences.  Persevering’s detailed treatment, symptom and disease progression data, for example, will live on as a rich source of information and insight for other ALS patients.  What was his experience in the Phase II Study of NP001?  Read his comprehensive treatment history here.  What side effect led him to stop taking Riluzole?  Find out here.

Persevering’s Functional Rating Scale (FRS) data, showing his ALS progression over time.

So as you can see, Persevering is still helping others today, and we thank him for that.  We also want to recognize his contributions to our recent publication about NP001.  We have dedicated this new work to him as it was inspired by his keen desire as a “citizen scientist” to analyze and understand the impact of NP001 on his ALS progression.

As a result of these myriad achievements, Persevering will be posthumously awarded the Stephen Heywood Patients Today Award at the 8th Annual ALS Therapy Development Institute Leadership Summit on November 1st in Boston. Learn more about this beloved and influential ALS advocate by checking out the Facebook page created in his honor, entitled Persevering – You Are a Game Changer.


PatientsLikeMe Featured on Bloomberg TV

Posted October 15th, 2012 by

On October 9th, Bloomberg TV aired a four-and-a-half minute “Innovators” segment profiling PatientsLikeMe’s journey as company.  Filmed partially in our office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the piece features PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood as well as Ed Sikov, a PatientsLikeMe member with Parkinson’s disease.  Our thanks go to Bloomberg’s Nicole Lapin for her in-depth coverage of our evolution into a data-sharing platform that, as she puts it, “functions more like a clinical trial.”

Visit our Press page for other recent PatientsLikeMe media highlights.

Watch the Bloomberg TV profile below: