89 posts tagged “community”

“There were so many people asking the things that I was too afraid to ask”

Posted May 15th, 2017 by

It’s the 10-year anniversary of the MS community, and we’re sharing a story from one of our members, Jackie (OldSalt). Jackie was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) in 2007 and more recently, her condition transitioned to secondary progressive MS (SPMS). She found PatientsLikeMe in 2008 and believes that being part of the site over the last nine years has made a difference in her life, and the course of her illness.

A jarring diagnosis

“Some may say I was “lucky” that I had little trouble being diagnosed compared to many who spend years chasing answers to understand why they are feeling as they do. It can be frustrating wondering what’s happening to your body.”

The summer before her diagnosis, Jackie found herself suddenly unable to walk or move her limbs for nearly two full weeks. After diagnosing her with an unspecified virus, her physician prescribed an antibiotic over the phone. The antibiotic didn’t help.

A month later, after experiencing terrible pain in her left eye, Jackie went to an ophthalmologist. He believed she had MS and contacted her physician to request an immediate consult with a Neurologist for a Lumbar Puncture and an MRI.

“This all took place within a 48-hour period and I had my diagnosis immediately.”

 

Coming to terms with her new normal 

“To say I was stunned would be a gross understatement. My only prior knowledge of this illness had been of my maternal uncle and his hard-fought battle with MS, which he lost while bed-ridden to pneumonia 25 years earlier. I was terrified.”

Jackie, a mother of three children over 15, was grateful that she could rely on her family for support, but still worried about her future and the future of her family.  As an active woman who enjoyed downhill skiing, boating, working in the yard or just tending to her family business, she worried.

“What would this mean for me?  For us as a couple?  Would I be in a wheelchair soon or bedridden young as my uncle had been?  I was only 44 years old and my husband and I had so many plans…so much life ahead of us. What would life be like now?”

Treatment challenges

Following the advice of her neurologist, Jackie began having monthly IV infusions of steroids After 15 to 18 infusions, Jackie thinks that, though an infusion of steroids may help hasten the duration of a relapse, she came out of it with additional bone damage.

“My bones and teeth have been weakened to a point that I am best described as “Humpty-Dumpty” if I were to ever foolishly attempt to ski and fall or merely slip on the ice in my own driveway.”

Jackie began taking a disease modifying drug (DMD) called Rebif that caused flu-like symptoms that severely impacted her quality of life. One week after starting the drug, she experienced full anaphylaxis.  Jackie’s daughter found her unable to speak or breathe properly, requiring an emergency trip to the hospital.

She also tried Copaxone. Since she was still relapsing and paying out-of-pocket, (Jackie lost her insurance because she has a pre-existing condition) the price of $3,500 monthly just didn’t seem prudent.

Finding hope in the forum

“PatientsLikeMe is invaluable to me. I’ve learned everything of value about how to come to terms with (early on), live with and manage my illness through the people I have met here throughout the years. I’ve made some wonderful and lasting friendships and met many in person. I continue to communicate with several on a regular basis both on and off the forum.”

With an overwhelming diagnosis, difficult symptoms and frustrating treatment experiences, Jackie wanted to connect with others who were experiencing the same things.  For Jackie, finding PatientsLikeMe changed everything about her life and how she views herself and her illness.

“There were so many people asking the things that I was too afraid to ask and the number of replies were staggering. I felt like I had finally found a place that I could really belong.”

Jackie found more than social support in the forum. After seeing a photo of a strange red line moving from Jackie’s foot to her calf, and thinking it might be MRSA, lady_express_44 (whom Jackie considers to be the guru of all things medical) encouraged her to go to the hospital immediately. It was MRSA and Jackie’s doctors told her she could have lost her lower leg.

Taking back control

 Being diagnosed with a chronic and progressive illness is perhaps one of the most daunting things that can happen to a person. It’s frightening and for good reason. Jackie’s advice?

“Don’t waste time worrying about things unknown and make your best effort to live for today. Take charge of your illness and make the very best possible decisions for your health. We must advocate for ourselves and our future.”

Jackie also advocates for connecting for connecting with others, especially on a web site such as PatientsLikeMe where there are so many wonderful and knowledgeable people to share their experience and expertise.

“It has made a monumental difference in my life and I believe, the course of my illness. I don’t view my MS as an end to anything but rather as something I simply have and something I’m managing to live with. It truly isn’t who I am, but rather just one more aspect of my being.”

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Meeting PF patients where they are

Posted May 8th, 2017 by

Say hello to John (John_R), a father, grandfather and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) survivor. Sound familiar? Last year he shared his story about life after a double lung transplant and the importance of considering a lung transplant early. This year, John started a Facebook group to live-stream pulmonary fibrosis (PF) support group meetings and conferences.

“I am very passionate about honoring the precious gift provided by my donor family and in living a life worthy of their generosity.”

John received a bilateral lung transplant on January 1st, 2015, and believes he’s alive today thanks to his donor family and care team at UT Southwestern in Dallas. Now, he’s committed to raising awareness for the needs of the pulmonary fibrosis community.

Life after transplant

John’s life before transplant included the use of supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and what he calls, “an eminent expiration date” in his near future. He couldn’t visit family in Colorado or the higher elevations of New Mexico due to the altitude, and every breath was a struggle.

“The biggest thing about life after lung transplant is that I no longer have a firm expiration date, I can have hope. I can go to Colorado and attend medical conferences. I can help others by sharing my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained. I have also learned to cherish the moments that make living wonderful.  A moment of kindness, shared empathy or even a smile mean so much to me now. The rest doesn’t really matter. Life is good.”

Fighting isolation with the help of Facebook

According to John, many people diagnosed with IPF have never even heard of the disease prior to hearing of it from their doctor. Then they learn that their disease has no cure and only a couple of treatments that slow the progress of fibrosis for some. Online research about IPF offers little comfort either. John’s experience motivated him to start an online support group using Facebook Live.

 

“IPF can be a very isolating disease. Your friends and family have never heard of it and you are reminded of your mortality with every breath. In my case, each trip to the pulmonologist was just proof that my disease was progressing. A support group can help with the feelings of isolation and loneliness, plus provide valuable information and hope for the future.”

 

After trying a paid platform to share their meetings, but finding it too difficult for some participants to access, John thought Facebook Live seemed a good option. Once someone has joined the group they get a notification when the support group goes live.

“They are then just one click away from being able to join the meeting and participate with folks who share the same journey.”

Though the Facebook group is new and participation is growing, John hopes that it will help people understand that they are not alone, and that he can provide some valuable information about IPF and lung transplants.

Managing with PatientsLikeMe

“I use PatientsLikeMe to track my data and as a platform to share with others in our community. I can easily view my lung function both before and after my transplant, track my weight loss and ensure I am maintaining a healthy weight, and keep an eye on A1C, cholesterol, and all my medications in one place. PatientsLikeMe has also given me the opportunity to participate in studies and share my voice with the healthcare community.
 

“The pulmonary fibrosis community on PatientsLikeMe was my anchor when I was coming to terms with my IPF diagnosis, and continues support now that I’ve had a transplant.”

 

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#NotAlone Recap: On PatientsLikeMe, no one is alone…

Posted October 16th, 2015 by

As our #NotAlone campaign wraps up, we hope you’ve been encouraged by the thoughts and personal stories of how other members have felt less alone by learning, connecting and tracking on the site.

We recently had a look at all the member posts in the #NotAlone forum and wanted to share some highlights with you!

 “I feel less alone coming here; it also helps me keep track of things in a way I never could before … It helps to know others truly understand, as someone who hasn’t ‘walked in our shoes’ cannot fully understand.” – member living with MS

“…we all belong to a group where we have many similar experiences, where physical chronic pain seems to be one of the overwhelmingly major characteristics of what we all experience. That bonds us together as nothing else can. It does make me feel like I’m not alone, that none of us are alone as long as we have each other.” – member living with Fibromyalgia

“I have learned more here than I ever imagined possible and I have made friends. Good quality friends that really understand. I have shared with them and they have shared with me … I have learned there is power in numbers.”  – member living with MS

You can always revisit the #NotAlone forum threads to see more of what people said, and keep sharing your own stories whether in the forums or on your profile. Remember, you can help someone just like you see they’re #NotAlone every time you reach out to others and share your own real-world experiences.

#NotAlone, 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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Throwback Thursday: Diabetes and stress

Posted August 27th, 2015 by

Just about two years ago, nearly 600 members of the PatientsLikeMe community completed a survey called the Diabetes Distress Scale (DDS), a 17-item questionnaire which measures the amount and types of problems diabetes can cause in a person’s life. And today, we’re throwing it back to the summary of the results. Here’s what Dr. William Polonsky, the Founder and President of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, and the co-creator of the DDS, had to say at the time about diabetes and stress:

“I believe it’s important to understand the physical, behavioral and emotional sides of illness. Diabetes, in particular, is so highly dependent on what people do every day.  It is, therefore, almost all about behavior− how do you talk yourself into taking on new tasks and making changes in your lifestyle, some of them which may seem not so pleasant or worthwhile, that you’d rather not do.”

You might recognize Dr. Polonsky from his subsequent blog podcast and additional research with the WHYSTOP scale. You can view the results of the DDS as a PDF, but check out some of the graphs below.

 

Have you had an A1C test done in the past year?

If you’re living with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, find others just like you in the growing communities on PatientsLikeMe. Almost 20,000 people with type 1 or type 2 are sharing their experiences to help others, for good.

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Caregivers and companions – PatientsLikeMe members talk about their service animals

Posted August 10th, 2015 by

Service animals are often a topic of conversation in the PatientsLikeMe community, and many members frequently share their experiences with their furry friends. For example, Ted wrote about his service dog Catti-Brie in his blog interview.

Here’s what other members are sharing about their animals:

“Just last night when I was having a rough dream [my dog] stood with his paws front paws on the bed and barked till I picked him up and he laid across me and snuggled me to sleep again.”

“I have a mobility service dog that helps with my balance. It’s like having a smart cane. When we go for walks she wears her mobility harness, but when we are home she only wears it when I’m having a bad day. She is also trained to do many other things like get items for me, and pick up things I dropped. She can also turn on/off the lights and open/close doors.”

“Mali is my mobility and medical alert service dog. She has saved my life twice so far… as well as told two of my friends when they had tumors. She went through a spell when she was younger when she thought she had to tell everyone who was ill where their boo boos were.”

Previously, members shared their experiences with service animals in a Canine Caretakers blog post, and others contributed to forum posts on the same topic. If you would like to share about your service animal, head to PatientsLikeMe. Don’t forget to share a cute picture of your pooch (or other animal)!

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Getting ready for psoriasis awareness

Posted July 31st, 2015 by

Image courtesy of the National Psoriasis Foundation

Tomorrow is the official start of Psoriasis Awareness Month. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) wants people with psoriasis to know they are not alone: Over 7.5 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the condition, and more than 4,800 people with psoriasis are sharing what it’s like on PatientsLikeMe.

What does psoriasis look like? It’s a skin condition caused by unknown factors, and most people have red, itchy, scaly patches, especially around their knees, elbows and scalp. Psoriasis IS NOT contagious, yet people living with this skin condition often experience stigma when others notice their symptoms.

The NPF has a calendar full of events to create awareness about treatments, and offer support for the psoriasis community. Visit their website to learn more about what’s going on in your city or town. You can join “Team NPF” to participate in a walk, run, or other fund-raising event near you.

During Psoriasis Awareness Month, check out PatientsLikeMe posts on psoriasis, including the results of our “Uncovering Psoriasis” surveys, patient interviews with MariaDavid and Erica, and learn what doctors Jerry Bagel and Steve Feldman have to say about psoriasis. And if you’re living with psoriasis, don’t forget to connect with the community at PatientsLikeMe.

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Q & A with Dr. David Casarett, author of “Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana”

Posted July 22nd, 2015 by

If you’ve been following the blog lately, you might already know Dr. David Casarett – he’s a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the author of “STONED: A Doctor’s Case For Medical Marijuana.” He recently worked with PatientsLikeMe on a survey that asked members how they felt about marijuana, and the results were just released last week. Below, read what David had to share about the inspiration behind his novel, his thoughts on online communities like PatientsLikeMe and the intertwined future of marijuana and medicine.

 

What inspired you to write “Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana?”

A patient – a retired English professor – who came to me for help in managing symptoms of advanced cancer. She asked me whether medical marijuana might help her. I started to give her my stock answer: that marijuana is an illegal drug, that it doesn’t have any proven medical benefits, etc. But she pushed me to be specific, in much the same way that she probably used to push her students. Eventually I admitted that I didn’t know, but that I’d find out. Stoned is the result.

Inside the book, you say “For Caleb. I hope he found the relief he was searching for.” Can you share a little about his story and why you dedicated the book to him?

I describe my meeting with Caleb in the first chapter. He was a young man with advanced colorectal cancer who drove his RV to Colorado to get access to medical marijuana. He got there, and marijuana was legal, but he couldn’t afford it. He had access to other legal drugs like morphine and ativan through his hospice, but he didn’t use them because they didn’t work for his pain, and made him feel sick. The only thing that worked for him–marijuana–was out of reach.

Sounds like you went through some interesting research experiences while you were writing the book. (Pot wine? Marijuana paste on your leg?) How did those experiences influence your perception of marijuana as medicine?

I was trying to understand what the best way is to get the “active ingredients” of marijuana into people. I saw lots of ads for various methods, and all sorts of products are available, but I wanted to know what works. It turns out that some methods, like marijuana tea or beer or wine, aren’t very effective. But others, like vaporizing, definitely are.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about marijuana in the medical community?

The biggest misconception about marijuana in the medical community is probably that it offers no medical benefits. At least, that’s what I thought when I started researching Stoned. Actually, there have been some good studies that have shown very real benefits for some symptoms. True, there isn’t as much evidence as I’d like. But there will be more. New research is coming on line every year, and we’re gradually figuring out whether and how marijuana works.

How do you see online communities like PatientsLikeMe contributing to the medical marijuana discussion?

I think the biggest potential contribution of PatientsLikeMe is a source of crowd-sourced science. Medical marijuana science is lagging far behind the way that people are using it. For instance, in researching Stoned, I spoke with dozens of people who were using marijuana to treat the symptoms of PTSD, but there haven’t been any randomized controlled trials of marijuana for that use. That doesn’t mean that marijuana doesn’t treat PTSD symptoms, just that we don’t know (yet) whether it does.

We need randomized controlled trials, but those trials will take time, and money. That’s where communities like PatientsLikeMe come in. We can learn from PatientsLikeMe members what they’re using medical marijuana for, and how. And we can learn whether they think it’s working. Those reports can help patients learn from each other, and they can help researchers figure out what to focus on.

What did you find most interesting about the PatientsLikeMe survey results?

I was surprised that 87% of people weren’t at all concerned about becoming addicted or dependent on marijuana. We know that although the risk of addiction is small (about 10%), it’s very real. That risk probably isn’t enough to convince most people to avoid medical marijuana, especially if it’s helping them. But we should all be aware of those risks, so we can be alert for signs of dependence, like impairment of function, or effects on work or relationships.

You mention that the future of medical marijuana is the most interesting, yet hardest to answer question. But that said, what do you think the future holds for medical marijuana?

Some of the most exciting advances in the science of medical marijuana, to me, are related to what marijuana tells us about the endocannabinoid system – that’s the system of hormones and neurotransmitters and receptors in all of us. We don’t know a lot about what that system does, but we do know that marijuana ‘works’ by tapping into that system. The cannabinoids in marijuana trick the body by mimicking naturally occurring endocannabinoids like anandamide.

So although it’s fascinating to think about what marijuana could do, and although clinical trials of marijuana are essential, the really neat science of the future may focus on that endocannabinoid system – what it does, how it works, and how we can use it to promote health.

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Results From PatientsLikeMe Survey Highlight Patient Beliefs About Medical Marijuana

Posted July 14th, 2015 by

Cambridge, MA, July 14, 2015—A new survey of 219 PatientsLikeMe members has found that patients with certain conditions who use medical marijuana believe it is the best available treatment for them, with fewer side effects than other options and few risks. The survey, conducted in June 2015, is among the first to gauge patient perceptions about the benefits and risks of medical marijuana and their level of willingness to recommend its use.

PatientsLikeMe’s Vice President for Advocacy, Policy, and Patient Safety, Sally Okun, RN said that while the number of respondents and conditions represented is limited, the survey and its results come at an important time. “As more people consider using medical marijuana, and more states legalize it, patients need to know what others are experiencing. This survey starts to gather real world data about marijuana as medicine—information that may be useful for patients and their physicians as they explore options and make treatment decisions.”

Half of the survey respondents started using medical marijuana in the last five years, while 25% started to do so in the last two years. Smoking (71%), edibles (55%), and vaporizing (49%) were the most commonly used methods for taking the treatment. The top three conditions represented were multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and depression. Key findings are as follows:

Usage and Perceived Side Effects

  • About three quarters (74%) of survey respondents agree that medical marijuana is the best treatment available for their health issue. Another 20% are unsure if there is another option available.
  • 76% report that they use medical marijuana because other treatments weren’t working and/or caused too many side effects. About 21% use it to avoid the side effects of other treatments.
  • When asked about the severity of side effects from using marijuana, 86% of PatientsLikeMe members who report using marijuana indicate the side effects are either “none” or “mild.” The same group says those side effects include dry mouth, increased appetite, and sleepiness.

Perceived Benefits and Risks

  • Survey respondents use medical marijuana for more than one reason, including to treat pain (75%), muscle stiffness or spasms (69%), insomnia (67%) and anxiety (55%). The majority (63%) considered marijuana as a treatment option because they think it is more natural.
  • Most (93%) say that they would recommend medical marijuana to another patient.
  • About 61% say their healthcare provider is supportive of their medical marijuana use, and 60% have a letter of recommendation or prescription.
  • Most patients report a low level of concern (“Not at all” or “A little”) with long-term health risks, such as developing lung cancer (89%), long-term lung damage (86%), or becoming addicted/dependent (96%).
  • One in four patients (26%) report being “Somewhat” or “Very” concerned with legal problems.

Infographics on these and other survey results and the complete list of questions and responses are available at http://news.patientslikeme.com.

David Casarett, M.D., a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the author of the newly-released book STONED: A Doctor’s Case For Medical Marijuana, worked with PatientsLikeMe on the survey. “This is an important first step in crowdsourced science about medical marijuana. Until we have a lot more large, high-quality clinical trials, patients will need to rely on each other to learn about whether and how medical marijuana might help them.”

Medical marijuana refers to the use of the cannabis plant as well as synthetic THC and cannabinoids as medicine. It is legal in Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, and in some U.S. states.

Survey Methodology
Between May 26 and June 10, 2015, PatientsLikeMe invited 1,288 members who added medical marijuana to their profile to respond to the survey; 219 completed it. The mean age of the respondents was 49 years (SD: 12.2); the age range was 19 – 84 years. Most respondents (81%) reported their location as the United States, while 13% are from Canada and the rest are from Australia, Europe, South Africa or Israel. Four respondents did not report their location.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 350,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 60 peer-reviewed 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
781.492.1039


Throwback Thursday: Are you sleeping?

Posted July 9th, 2015 by

It’s time for another Throwback Thursday, and today, we’re rewinding back to the summer of 2013, when the staff at PatientsLikeMe shared about how they sleep. Sixty one employees helped kick off the “Are you sleeping?” campaign in a quick poll, answering questions about how long and how well they sleep each night. Check out the highlights below:

How well are you sleeping?
All in all, we found that the majority (89%) of our staffers were sleeping OK or better.

How well are you sleeping?

 

On average, how much sleep do you get every night?
Although our Zzzz’s were OK, 61% of respondents were only getting between 5-7 hours a night (and according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s way less than the recommended 7-8 hours for adults).

How many hours?

 

Do you have a problem…
For those who confessed to having sleep troubles, more people said it’s staying asleep that was the issue (77%).

sleep problems

 

What have you tried to help you fall asleep?
When it came to needing sleep aids to catch Zzzz’s, more of our employees turned to solutions like books (60%), lifestyle changes (50%), TV (31%), relaxation (31%) and sex (33%). Some tried over-the-counter interventions (22%), prescriptions (16%) and homeopathic techniques (14%). We also asked what was least helpful, and found ‘watching TV’ topped that list.

Tried to fall asleep

 

Since joining the PatientsLikeMe team, do you…
And last but not least, since joining the PatientsLikeMe team, only a handful had changes in their sleep, with 13 people saying they slept less (23%), and surprisingly, 5 (8%) actually slept more.

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If you’ve been struggling with sleep, read what PatientsLikeMe members Lori (living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) and Marcia (living with multiple sclerosis) had to say about their insomnia. And don’t forget to reach out to the community in the Sleep Issues forum on PatientsLikeMe – over 40,000 members are sharing about everything related to their sleep.

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Visualizing insomnia

Posted July 2nd, 2015 by

Jenna Martin is a photographer living with insomnia, and her sleeplessness is the inspiration behind much of her work. Much like the Seeing [MS] campaign, she tries to visualize her experiences through unique photographs that capture what it feels like to manage bouts of insomnia.

Her photographs were recently featured in the Huffington Post, and as she told the organization, “on average, I only get a few hours of sleep every three days or so. During a bad bout, I’ll go close to five days with no sleep. When that happens, reality and the dream world become switched in a way: reality is very hazy and hard to remember, and any sleep I do get has dreams that are incredibly vivid. Everything starts to blend together; I’ll begin seeing things from a third person perspective and it’s hard to tell if I’m awake or if I’m dreaming.”

Check out some of her pictures below, and see more of her work on her Facebook page.

Jenna Martin Photography

Jenna Martin Photography

Jenna Martin Photography

If you are living with insomnia, you’re not alone – over 2,200 people on PatientsLikeMe know what you’re going through. You can also visit the Sleep Issues forum to ask questions and learn more about sleep (or lack thereof).

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Chris Hannah, founder of CHSG, talks cluster headaches, clinical trials and more

Posted June 29th, 2015 by

In the beginning of June, we posted about National Headache and Migraine Awareness Month, and today, we’re continuing the conversation with Chris Hannah, the founder of Cluster Headache Support Group (CHSG). He recently sat down for a PatientsLikeMe blog interview, and he spoke at length about everything related to cluster headaches. Below, read what he had to say about PatientsLikeMe, new drug treatments for cluster headaches and his own personal experience with “the worst pain he has ever felt.”

What do you feel is the most important information people should know about cluster headaches vs. other types of headaches?

First and foremost, if you are a cluster headache sufferer, it is important to know that you are not alone. It may seem that way since so many have never even heard of it and often mistake it as just another name for a regular headache. It is actually one of the most painful conditions known to medical science (you can Google that). It’s also not a form of migraine, it is a primary headache disorder but is quite different from migraine in many ways, especially given its odd periodicity where sufferers will have attacks at the same time of day, even the same time of year, over and over again. The pain is excruciating, typically centered around the eye on one side of the head. It also is accompanied by parasympathetic nerve response, causing tearing of the eye, eyelid drooping, running or blocked sinus, and ear ringing. It is quite disorienting when it occurs, and may occur 8 or more times in a single day lasting from 30-90 minutes typically. An attack may also be triggered at any time by consuming alcohol, chemical or perfume smells, second-hand smoke, and many foods.

For those who know someone diagnosed with cluster headache, please know that they are dealing with an insidious and debilitating condition. They are most likely under the guidance of a highly skilled neurologist who specializes in headache disorders. It may be hard for them to socialize as they did before onset, even with family and close friends, because they fear having an attack in public. Where migraineurs can lay their head down, cluster headache sufferers are unable to stay still, often including odd behavior like slapping their head or walking in small circles. This is not a conscious choice, rather the body’s way of dealing with the intensity of the pain. Please give them space but also your compassionate support. They are not looking for things to try that you may have heard about. They are probably experts in all options available to them as is the case with many chronic pain conditions and rare diseases.

How do you feel CHSG.org members might also benefit by becoming members of PatientsLikeMe?

I think one of the key benefits of PatientsLikeMe is codifying anecdotal data that all too often gets lost in the daily dialog of our support group. I think both are still very important, especially in terms of the experience and expertise of the community. Keep in mind that as a global organization, we benefit from the patients of some of the greatest minds in healthcare from all of the major headache centers, along with the many years of experience of many of the members. Although we have that information capital, turning that into quantifiable data for research can be quite challenging. PatientsLikeMe helps us translate each person’s experience with treatments, symptoms, co-existing conditions, and emotional well being into aggregated data that may help clearly identify new research targets, correlations to other disorders or demographics, even the number of patients who suffer similar disorders. It is done so in a positive way, helping the patient with excellent recording and tracking capabilities, even a doctor’s visit report. At the same time, it is helping to accumulate data over time across a diverse patient audience all living with the same disorder. We have a name for this ongoing data collection, reporting, research cycle, called SpiralResearch. We frankly see this collaborative approach as the future path of medical research for rare disorders in comparison to the onerous process of enrolling people in a point in time survey or one-off study that eventually gets published in summary as a document in hopes that someone will take it further, or better, correlate the results across many publications. We think there is an opportunity for greater synergy and insight in the process of continuous data gathering and analysis.

Do you have a personal cluster headache story you’d care to share with the PatientsLikeMe community?

I was in the prime of my career in the pharmaceutical industry when I initially encountered the worst pain I had ever felt. I was at a Harry Potter movie with my family and had to go straight to the emergency room. I truly thought I was going to die. It took six months from that point to get a diagnosis of cluster headache. Unfortunately, due to its rarity, approximately .3% of the population, even healthcare professionals are not all that familiar with it and may have never seen a case. I ended up getting a clear diagnosis first at the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia and a second opinion confirmation from the Cleveland Clinic Headache Center. Until then, I was prescribed opioid pain killers which were largely ineffective. I was having on average 8 attacks per day interspersed with an ongoing baseline headache that made it hard to do anything. Of course, I didn’t sleep much either during that time and actually was housebound for most of the time, like I dropped off the face of the earth. That’s not easy for a man with a family, friends, a high profile job, and an avid golfer and outdoorsman. I had no idea such a thing even existed until I got it myself.

I searched out any and all information about cluster headaches. I found some online communities, but frankly, I did not like them much. They were full of people who were self medicating, self harming, and there were frequent issues of suicide. In fact, cluster headache is nicknamed the “suicide headache” because the effects are so profound on daily living. I decided there must be a better way, especially a way to work within the healthcare system, with pharma and other organizations to improve the quality of life and the resources available to cluster headache sufferers. There remain no preventive treatments specifically indicated for cluster headache although there are some partially effective off-label medications typically prescribed with varying results. For some like me who are chronic sufferers, finding relief is a long path. It is a life-long disorder, incurable currently. We hope to change that. In fact, since starting CHSG in 2010 and incorporating in 2012 as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we have contributed to several new clinical studies and have even introduced effective treatment options through the headache centers we touch. We also offer a safe, compassionate place for sufferers to learn, share, connect, and engage with activities like our integration of PatientsLikeMe in our overall strategy of spiraling toward a cure.

In your opinion, what are the most promising drug treatments available to people suffering from cluster headaches? What about clinical trials—do you feel people with cluster headaches are good candidates for new drugs still in clinical trials?

We (CHSG) have most recently been working to trial ketamine infusion therapy in the hospital setting with excellent results that will, in fact, be published this year in Cephalgia and Neurology. Ketamine got a bad name from illegal street abuse, but in fact it is an approved, safe, and effective treatment for several neurological disorders, pain, and anesthesia. It is also opioid reducing, meaning it reduces dependency on opioid pain killers for chronic pain. Opiods are highly addictive and in the case of chronic pain conditions, often have diminishing efficacy, so people take more or seek stronger pain relievers. It’s not a viable path. Ketamine, on the other hand, is effective, non-addictive, and has a short half-life in the body. One of the most compelling effects of ketamine infusion therapy is based on neuroplasticity, meaning the brain actually has the opportunity to create new pain pathways, eliminating the “broken” and overexcited pathways common to chronic pain conditions. This is currently my primary treatment.

Another interesting avenue we are pursuing is that of TRP Channel antagonists, specifically TRP V1, A1, and M8. TRP channels are a basic mammalian sensory system that react quickly to certain noxious stimuli, including bright light, chemical smells, certain tastes like the hot in hot pepper, atmospheric pressure change and mild temperature increases. Interestingly enough, these specific stimuli are also the most common triggers for both migraine and cluster headache. There are several candidates currently in the pipelines of both biopharm and pharma as TRP channel antagonists. We do have some work to do to initiate evaluation for cluster headache and migraine and are actively in pursuit.

For many sufferers, there are viable medications that show efficacy at least for a time. Most do have to switch medications throughout their course due to taking relatively high dosage levels of “borrowed” medications primarily indicated for blood pressure regulation, anti-seizure, or serotonin gating. The high dosage levels prescribed for cluster headache introduce many side effects, including heart arrhythmia, low blood pressure, dizziness, severe fatigue, and even confusion. There are also two very good abortive approaches. Sumatriptan injection is effective for most, but limited to no more than 2/day and 4/wk which leaves quite a gap. High-flow oxygen at 12-15LPM also works for many and is quite safe with little side effect. Unfortunately, there is no complete solution yet for most sufferers.

How to you feel tracking or logging on to websites like ours is useful in terms of identifying headache triggers, learning about pain-management therapies, and moving researchers to find treatments for cluster headaches?

There simply can’t be too much real information, but making sense of it can be quite a challenge for the patient, especially in the mix of so much misinformation on the Internet. PatientsLikeMe and CHSG both help distill that information into a quickly understandable and informative format that is based on both experience and research. There is always more to learn, more options to consider, and new information coming from the ongoing collection of data across a wide base of users. Distilling that down into an easily digestible form is what PatientsLikeMe does best, in my opinion. It’s not just about patient tracking and learning about their own conditions, which is quite important; it is also about looking at the data across the patient base and identifying key commonalities and correlations that may not have been visible previously. This information is shared freely with all patients, ongoing. That “informing” process makes better patients, frankly, and puts the knowledge in their hands to help them better manage the dialog with their healthcare provider and others. It builds up the community both individually and as a patient group.

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The Patient Voice- PTS member David shares his story

Posted June 27th, 2015 by

Today is PTS Awareness Day, so we wanted you to meet PatientsLikeMe community member Cpl. David Jurado, who lives with post-traumatic stress (PTS). David developed PTS while serving in the military. After he retired, he continued to deal with daily symptoms, and he encourages members to connect with others on PatientsLikeMe, because “if you want to make changes for yourself and the PTS community, you’ve got to share your story. The same thing may be happening to them.”

David is not alone – and neither are you. There are more than 1,000 vets living with PTS that are part of the community. We’ve heard members like David talk about how important it is for them to connect with people who ‘get it.’

Not a veteran living with PTS? You’re not alone either. With more than 8,000 PTS members, it’s easy for anyone with PTS to share their story and get support.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word for PTS.