52 posts tagged “health”

Recapping with our Team of Advisors!

Posted June 19th, 2015 by

Many of you will remember meeting our inaugural Team of Advisors from when we first shared about this exciting team last year! This group of 14 were selected from over 500 applicants in the community and have been incredible in their dedication and desire to bring the patient voice directly to PatientsLikeMe. As the team is wrapping up their year-long term as advisors, we wanted to make sure we update the community on all the hard work they’ve done on your behalf!

First Ever In-Person Patient Summit in Cambridge
Your team of patient advisors travelled from all over the country to join us for 2 days here in Cambridge. They met with PatientsLikeMe staff, got a tour of the offices and began their collaboration together as a team!

Blog Series
The advisors have also been connecting with the broader community as part of an ongoing series here on the blog! This is an impressive group and we hope you’ll read through to learn more about the team.  Some of the interviews featured so far include profiles on BeckyLisaDanaEmilieKarla, Deb, AmySteve, Charles, Letitia and Kitty. If you haven’t had the chance to read their stories and what they’re passionate about yet, feel free to check these out!

Best Practices Guide for Researchers
As part of their mission, this group discussed how to make research more patient-centric and ways that researchers can learn to better engage with patients as partners. Out of this work, the team developed and published the ‘Best Practices Guide for Researchers’, a comprehensive written guide outlining steps for how researchers can meaningfully engage patients throughout the research process. You can hear more about the whole process in this exciting video from some members of the team as they discuss their experiences with the creation of this guide:

Community Champions
The advisors have been wonderful community champions throughout the year, providing invaluable feedback about what it’s like to be a person living with chronic conditions and managing their health. This team has weighed in on new research initiatives, served as patient liaisons and been vocal representatives for you and your communities here on PatientsLikeMe. Whether it was sitting down with a research team to give their thoughts on new projects, discussing their experiences with clinical trials, giving feedback about medical record keeping or opening up about patient empowerment – this group has been tireless in representing the patient voice and PatientsLikeMe community!

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Getting to know our Team of Advisors – Kitty

Posted June 18th, 2015 by

Kitty represents the mental health community on the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, and she’s always ready to extend a helping hand. She’s a social worker who specializes in working with children in foster care, and below, she shares how her own journey with major depressive disorder (MDD) has helped her truly connect with and understand the needs of both her patients and others.

About Kitty (aka jackdzone):
Kitty has a master’s degree in marriage, family and child therapy and has worked extensively with abused, neglected and abandoned children in foster care as a social worker. She joined PatientsLikeMe and was thrilled to find people with the same condition who truly understand what she’s going through. She lost her job as a result of her MDD, which was a difficult time for her. Kitty is very attuned to the barriers those with mental health conditions might face, and has great perspective about how to be precise with language to help people feel safe and not trigger any bad feelings. Kitty is passionate about research being conducted with the patient’s well-being at the forefront, and believes patient centeredness means talking with patients from the very beginning by conducting patient surveys and finding out what patients’ unmet needs are.

Kitty on patient centeredness:
“To me, it means that it’s all about the patient from start to finish. In the beginning, it’s talking with patients, conducting patient surveys and reading any written material that would be helpful in order to find out what patients are most wanting and needing and not getting. In healthcare, this would translate to a doctor engaging with a patient in a way that is especially helpful for the patient. This may require asking a question a certain way in order for the patient to answer truthfully and to feel that their doctor really cares about them as a person. (I was fortunate enough to have had one primary doctor like this for many years and it makes a huge difference!) It puts the focus on that particular patient at that moment and requires empathy and understanding (and not just going through the motions) in determining what is best for that patient.

In the area of research, the same is true. Research of this kind is done to improve the client’s physical and/or mental life in some way. Any research should be done with the patient’s well being at the forefront. Questions should be asked in a way that will lead the client to be very open about their experiences. The client should be fully informed regarding any research in which they participate and be asked at the end if there is anything that has not been covered that they have questions about. They should be informed of the results of the research afterwards and perhaps be allowed to give their thoughts about the findings.”

Kitty on being part of the Team of Advisors:
“A year ago, when I read that PatientsLikeMe was putting together a Team of Advisors, I didn’t hesitate to apply. I wanted to be part of something that had helped me a great deal during a part of my life when I was the most depressed and struggling. When I was eventually chosen to be on the team, I was and have continued to be very honored. I feel such a strong affiliation with PatientsLikeMe and want to be able to help others in anyway that I can. During this past year, I’ve been able to participate in helping to compose a patients’ rights handbook and be interviewed by a researcher regarding how patients view clinical trials. Being on the Team of Advisors has given me the chance to become an advocate for myself and others. It is something that means a lot to me and something that I enjoy doing–and I think it’s something I will continue to do in whatever capacity I can throughout my life.”

Kitty on helping others:
“From the very first day that I joined PatientsLikeMe several years ago, the website has meant a great deal to me. Most of the people in my life did not really understand what I was going through. At times, they thought I really could have done more, but that I was just being lazy. When you are suffering from MDD, this viewpoint from others only increases your depression. I didn’t know where to turn. What I found on PatientsLikeMe were others who were also suffering from MDD and were experiencing the same symptoms and challenges as myself. As I began posting on the site about what I was going through and how depressed I was feeling, I felt somewhat better just by being able to express myself and even more so when others with MDD began reaching out to me with advice and encouragement. I can really say that this made all the difference to me in the world.

After awhile, I made it a point to also reach out to encourage others. I noticed that some people seemed to be very depressed on a daily basis with very little hope and I felt I had to reach out to them in some way. I began responding to their posts. A lot of times I just said that I was sorry that they were feeling bad, as I didn’t know what else to say. I hoped that just this much would encourage them. I didn’t want to be overly upbeat if that wasn’t how they seemed to be feeling, because I felt this was a disservice to them. I felt that the more I could just be there for them right where they were and with how they were feeling the more I could be of help.”

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Let’s talk about men’s health

Posted June 10th, 2015 by

On average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women. Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death, and by the age of 100 women outnumber men eight to one1.

Sometimes men just don’t talk about their health problems. Or they might not go to the doctor or for their health screenings as often as women2. This month is National Men’s Health Month and it’s a time to raise awareness and encourage early detection and treatment of preventable disease among men and boys.

There are several ways to get involved and join in the conversation. If you’re looking for a place to start, here are a few ideas:

Join the Men’s Health Forum discussions
Men make up 29 percent of PatientsLikeMe – and 81 percent of these members are sharing about their conditions, tracking their symptoms and connecting with one another in the men’s health forum. If you’re interested in learning more, visit today.

Wear something blue
The Men’s Health Network (MHN) is encouraging everyone to wear blue and share their pictures with the #showusyourblue hashtag on social media.

Research the facts
Learn about Key Health Indicators, common men’s health conditions and leading causes of death on the MHN’s information center.

Check your resources
Here’s a great list of resources and things to do in June, courtesy of the MHN.

Listen to patient interviews
Several men have shared their experiences on the PatientsLikeMe blog – watch Bryan (IPF) and Ed (Parkinson’s disease) speak about their conditions, and listen to David Jurado’s podcast on life with PTS.

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1 Life Expectancy data is from CDC/NCHS, Health, United States, 2013
2 http://www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/menshealthfacts.pdf


“In my own words” – PatientsLikeMe member Edward shares about living with schizoaffective disorder

Posted May 19th, 2015 by

Meet Edward, a member of the PatientsLikeMe mental health community. He’s been living with schizoaffective disorder since the late 1970s, and over the past 35 years, he’s experienced many symptoms, everything from paranoia and euphoria to insomnia and deep depression. Below, he uses his own words to take you on a journey through his life with schizoaffective disorder, including a detailed account of what happened when he stopped taking his medications and how he has learned to love God through loving others.

How it all began:
In my early twenty’s in 1977, I was doing GREAT in college, double majoring in Mathematics and Electrical Electronic Engineering and in the top 1% of my class when I started having problems with mental illness. My first symptom was an intense mental anguish as if something broke inside of my head. Then my sleep started to suffer and I would fall asleep in my college classes, which was not at all like me. Then I started having strong mood swings and I became very delusional. I experienced all of this without the use of any drugs or alcohol; in fact I have never used any street drugs or alcohol. Life became HELL and I tried suicide. My parents then put me in a psychiatric hospital, where I stayed for about a year.

What schizoaffective disorder feels like:
When not on any antipsychotic medications, I feel like; others could hear my thoughts (broadcasting), that I could hear other people’s thoughts (mind reading), that I could communicate by thought with others without speaking a word (telepathic communication), not only could I communicate with other people in this way but I could communicate with other things as if they had human like qualities (anthropomorphic telepathic communication), believing that I am super important to the world (grandiose thinking), that others were out to kill me (paranoia), and I would become very delusional. But, now after taking the antipsychotic medications for some time, not only do I not believe that these things (powers) were never true for me, I also believe that no one else has these powers. Maybe some people may have others out to kill them, but this is not true for me. Also, for over 35 years (1977 – 2013) I believed that God would talk to me personally and would give me personal instructions, but now, I don’t believe this is/was ever true.

On top of having psychotic episodes, my mood has fluctuated from being euphoria, extremely joyful, super happy, with very little sleep, feeling like I didn’t need to sleep, etc. to suicidal lows, dysphoria, deep dark depression, and sleeping a lot with not being able to get out of bed, etc. My mood swings greatly in duration and intensity for reasons I am not fully aware of.

My quality of sleep is very poor. When I lay down in bed to go to sleep, my body/mind tortures me so much that if I haven’t gone to sleep within about five minutes I get up out of bed to relieve the torture like sensations. The torture sensations might be; restless legs, a general restlessness of my body or mind, a sensation in the back of my throat, an itch, or any thing that my mind can not stop focusing on. Once I have gone to sleep, I only sleep for about an hour before I awake. Once awake I go through all of the problems of falling back to sleep again. The sleep I do get is not refreshing. My mood and sleep go hand in hand, when my sleep is bad, my mood swings are bad and when my mood swings are bad, my sleep is bad and vise-a-versa. I have had a recent improvement my mood/sleep problem. It may be due to my new medication, Latuda that I am taking. Only time will tell if Latuda will continue to help.

What happened when I tried to stop taking my meds:
I stopped taking all my medications because I wanted to see if they were doing anything for me. Everyone told me that this was a bad idea, but I did it anyways.

As time progressed I could tell that my wife, Audrey, wanted to confess something to me, but was scared that I would not be able to handle it. I could also tell that Audrey talked to my counselor about this, and that my counselor agreed with her not to tell me. They were keeping something a secret from me. We danced around the issue, as if there was a white elephant in the room that no one was willing to talk about.

I figured that Audrey was having an affair with the senior pastor of a local mega church that she belongs to. It appeared to me that Audrey was willing to break off the affair and go public with it, but the pastor was not. To keep it from going public, I figured that the pastor hired a hit man to kill me. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure of it.

One day after Audrey left for work, I panicked. I started running. The first thing I did was try to get a hotel room without showing ID. However, all the hotels that I tried required ID. The way the hotel staff acted made me all the more sure that the pastor was getting help in finding where I was. At this point, I went into a Jack in the Box to get something to eat, and I could tell by the way people were acting that they had received the reverse 911 call on me. I figured the senior pastor that was having an affair with my wife knew that I knew about the affair and that I was running, so he convinced the police that I was either a danger to myself or to others, and that they should put out a reverse 911 call to find me.

I quickly left the Jack in the Box and got back in my car. I drove to a Rite Aid store and bought some bottled water, because I was planning to hide in the desert. The employees at the Rite Aid seemed to be acting strange around me, as if they, too, received the reverse 911 call on me. I quickly got in my car and drove into the desert, trying to find a safe place, but I saw a helicopter in the distance, and I knew I was not safe there either. I got on the freeway and headed north.

I had not been sleeping well for weeks and was getting very tired. Having a bottle of 200-milligram caffeine tablets with me, I took one. It helped only a little. I was also taking them to help me feel better, and I already had a lot of caffeine in my system. After driving for about fifteen minutes, I felt sleepy again, so I took another caffeine tablet. This sequence of events continued. I was taking a caffeine tablet about every five to fifteen minutes.

After driving for about two hours, I was scared that I might be a danger to myself or, worse, to someone else, because I could easy fall asleep behind the wheel. I pulled off the freeway into the parking lot of an old run down hotel. I figured that these people would be willing to hide me.

I booked a room, even though I had to show my ID. They too appeared to be acting strange. I figured that my picture must be on TV, so that people could be on the lookout for me. Everywhere I went people were looking at me funny. At the hotel I tried to lie down on the bed to get some rest, but I could not rest. I was wired. I got back in my car and drove north again.

After driving for about another hour, I came to the conclusion that I could not hide, and that they would eventually find me and kill me no matter where I went, so I stopped running. I called Audrey and told her I was coming home. Still very tired, I got back in my car and took another caffeine tablet or two.

I do not remember if my son called me or if I called him, but my son and I talked. I told him that I thought his mother was having an affair. Talking to him did help me stay awake while driving. After talking to my son, I called a friend to have him talk to me to help me stay awake. I was still taking a caffeine tablet about every five to fifteen minutes.

Half a bottle of caffeine tablets later, and with the help of everyone, I finally made it home that night. My wife and I got ready for bed, but I could not get any rest.

I got up and started playing on my computer. This was no help, for I started to worry about the Internet crashing, which would cause havoc to our society. Not only was I worried that the Internet could fail, but I believed that I could make it crash, if I wished. This really bothered me a lot.

The way I figured it was, if I did not make it crash, myself, it would someday crash by itself. The more I thought about this, the more I was sure of it. The problem was that if it crashed later we would be worse off and our society would not be able to recover.

I figured that the Internet could not handle human emotions, so I decide to make it crash that night by causing it to be jealous of my other computer—that was not connected to the Internet. I told my computer that was connected to the internet, that I loved my other computer more.

In the morning, Audrey took me to the emergency room at a hospital where there was a behavioral health unit.

Now, I was really afraid of just about everything and everybody. I thought that the internet was out to get me. I believed that the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security were called in because I was viewed as a national threat. I also believed that the hospital needed time to get agents into the locked ward to act as patients.

After spending most of the day in the emergency room, I was all the more sure that these things were true. I thought they would put me in the behavioral health locked ward, but they did not. Instead, they put me on the surgical floor.

Now, I really believed something was up. Why would they do that? This scared me even more.

On the surgical floor, they had a nurse sit by my bed. I thought she was working for the government to find out if I was a national threat or not. I told her everything about my relationship with my computers and how I caused the Internet to crash. At this point, I thought the Internet had already crashed and it was all over the news, because the hospital staff would not let me watch TV.

To make matters worse, I was craving sex, badly. I was hoping the nurse would be willing to do something with me, if Audrey gave her okay. It seemed to me that Audrey did not want to have sex with me, and she might be willing to let me play with someone else. So, if she was willing, I was willing. But this never happened.

I was scared out of my wits. I wanted the hospital staff to put me in lock-up. Believe it or not, I felt more comfortable in the lock-up ward than I did on the surgical floor.

Later they put me in the mental health lock ward and placed me on a three-day hold, and then on a two-week hold. They stated that I overdosed on caffeine, that I was a danger to myself and others, and that I could not care for myself.

At first I refused to take the medication they wanted me to take, but later I did take it and I got better.

Now I can see that I was very delusional.

Where I’m at today:
My life has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns, which have taught me an important fact, keep the main thing the main thing, which is to love God with everything I got by loving others as I would have them love me with forgiveness, compassion, endurance, patience, mercy, grace, charity, tenderness, strength, wisdom, kindness, and with all that causes good to happen. The way I see God is He is more of a Spirit than a being, like Santa Clause is more of the spirit of giving at Christmas time than a actual being. Different psychiatrists have given me different diagnoses and prescribed different medications at different times in my life. When I am not suffering with my symptoms of mental illness, I enjoy working with my robot, studying and doing math, writing books, writing computer programs, and thinking about God stuff. If you have any questions either about myself or my fight with this illness, please ask me.

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Schizophrenia: Living well and working towards a cure

Posted May 18th, 2015 by

Today marks the start of Schizophrenia Awareness Week, and what better way to begin than with the story of an inspiring woman who is living with schizophrenia and advocating for better treatments.

Dr. Elyn Saks was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a college student. At first she struggled with her diagnosis, and it took a while before she found treatments that worked for her. Ultimately she excelled in her studies and became the Chair Professor of Law at USC’s Gould School of Law. She even won a MacArthur Genius Grant for her work in mental health research and advocacy. Recently, she sat down with Brian Staglin of Brain Waves, a video program sponsored by the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO). Dr. Saks talked about her experience with schizophrenia and her work for the empathic treatment of people with mental illness.

Dr. Saks’ story is just one of many. Schizophrenia affects 2.5 million adults in the United States alone, and thousands more have not been officially diagnosed.1 Schizophrenia can be difficult to recognize, as some of the symptoms, like mood swings, impulsive behavior and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there), are common in other mental health conditions. Schizophrenia may also be mistaken for depression, since some people with schizophrenia have a flat mood and slowed speech, or they withdraw from friends and family.2

Stay tuned for a special “In My Own Words” entry from a PatientsLikeMe member.  And if you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia, join more than 700 others in the online community.

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What do you know about stress?

Posted April 17th, 2015 by

This April, some people aren’t thinking about stress – the crazy snows of winter are just about gone, flowers are blooming and temperatures are rising. But with these positive changes comes a responsibility to recognize the importance of stress and how it affects people’s health. Federal Occupational Health (FOH) has deemed April National Stress Awareness Month, and together, everyone can help raise awareness for stress, its causes and how it can be managed.

The medical definition of stress is “a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.”1 Stress can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term), and it causes a wide range of symptoms, ranging from the physical (chest pain, fatigue, muscle tremors) to the emotional (anxiety, restlessness, depression).2 And while acute stress is a natural feeling to experience, chronic stress has been linked to increased instances of health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Stress is experienced by people of all ages, genders and backgrounds – below is what the PatientsLikeMe community is saying about how stress affects them:

“Stress is beyond anything I have ever faced in my life. My tremors all completely out of control. I feel like it is getting too hard to handle. Could I have moved a stage up because of all the stress?”
-Parkinson’s member

“Stress is definitely a killer for me! It multiplies my [fibromyalgia] symptoms by many times and I am extremely stress sensitive. I was a victim of prolonged stress (I have been under a lot of pressure (stress) for over 20 years) and I am convinced that’s why I developed [fibromyalgia].”
-Fibromyalgia member

“I have been dealing with so much stress and anxiety that I have been sick with severe stomach pain, I can’t eat, don’t want nothing to drink. I am just so worn out.”
-Mental health member

This April, visit FOH’s website to learn more about getting involved in raising stress awareness. And don’t forget to share your experiences with stress on social media via the #stressawareness hashtag.

And if you’re living with stress and looking to connect with others who know what you’re going through, join PatientsLikeMe and add your thoughts to the discussions on stress.

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1 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003211.htm

2 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987


PatientsLikeMe and AstraZeneca announce global research collaboration

Posted April 13th, 2015 by

          

Five-year agreement focused on improving health outcomes for patients across main therapy areas

CAMBRIDGE, MA, April 13, 2015—In a major step forward to make patient-centric evidence a cornerstone of scientific discovery and development, PatientsLikeMe and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) have signed a five-year agreement to provide access to PatientsLikeMe’s global network in support of AstraZeneca’s patient-driven research initiatives.

AstraZeneca will use patient-reported data from PatientsLikeMe to shape future medicine development and help improve outcomes across its main therapeutic areas, with an initial focus on respiratory disease, lupus, diabetes and oncology.

“Understanding what patients are experiencing every day and how they define the value of their treatments are fundamental to our ability to push the boundaries of science in developing the next-generation of medicines,” said Briggs Morrison, EVP Global Medicines Development, AstraZeneca. “Our partnership with PatientsLikeMe will help us to harness the important perspectives of patients through their advanced technology and real-world, real-time evidence to support our research and development programs.”

The agreement is the latest to embrace PatientsLikeMe’s global network, which delivers a unique depth and breadth of data about the patient. Ed Godber, Executive Vice President of Life Sciences Ventures, said the wide-ranging collaboration with AstraZeneca also marks a significant step in realizing PatientsLikeMe’s mission to make patients true partners in science.

“It’s rare to find a partner so committed to listening to and integrating the patient voice into the heart of its scientific development and operations. We’re excited to work together to transform the discovery and healthcare model and develop products and services tailored to what patients experience and truly need,” Godber said.

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 325,000 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.

About AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit: astrazeneca.com.

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


“I am slowly building my self-esteem “ – PatientsLikeMe member SuperChick shares about her journey with PTSD

Posted March 4th, 2015 by

PatientsLikeMe member SuperChick is a veteran living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and her story is one of learning to cope with emotions and frustrations. She’s living proof that things can get better – she’s a loving mother of two, has a great husband and is managing several other mental health conditions. Below, she shared about the sexual abuse she experienced while serving in the military and explained how her previous husband physically assaulted her. Superchick also describes the symptoms of her PTSD and how the community on PatientsLikeMe has been “a huge help” to her. Read about her journey below.

Note: SuperChick shares about her story of abuse, which may be triggering.

Can you speak a little about your PTSD and what led to your diagnosis in 1986?

I was originally diagnosed with PTSD after being raped while I was in the military. I believe I was more susceptible because I had been molested as a child and didn’t have good family support or dynamics. I worked through it, but was diagnosed again in 2007 after leaving a severely abusive marriage, where I was raped multiple times and choked at least twice. I was emotionally abused and didn’t even realize it was abuse. I stayed for fourteen years trying to change myself because my ex-husband had convinced me I was the problem and couldn’t do anything right. It destroyed my self-esteem and any healthy coping skills I had.

What are some of the symptoms you experience because of your PTSD?

Since being diagnosed with PTSD the second time, I have numbed my emotions, I experience anxiety, and I have trouble falling and staying asleep even though I may be thoroughly exhausted and am taking medications for sleep. Sometimes I am afraid to go to sleep. I sometimes have nightmares, although not nearly as often as I used to. I have difficulty fully trusting my current husband, or people in general for that matter, even though I know he would never harm me and treats me with tremendous respect. I have suffered from a very low self-esteem and for a long time felt responsible for the trauma. I react more intensely to triggering situations than other people would. I am slowly building my self-esteem, but that is still a struggle for me.

You’ve got two wonderful children – how does PTSD affect your family life?

Because my children spend half their time with their father, I worry about them when they’re with him because I know how abusive he can be. I worry about them being sexually abused or harmed and am very protective of them around anyone I don’t know very well. I’m afraid of my daughter becoming involved in abusive relationships when she grows older and my son becoming an abuser. In a positive sense, I am very affectionate and make time to listen to them and engage in activities I know they enjoy because I want them to experience healthy love. I am remarried to a man who truly loves and respects me. My husband and I try to model a healthy relationship for them.

It’s hard for my husband and me, though. The fact that I still have to be involved with my ex-husband and am told over and over again by the court system, child protective services, and all the mediators we’ve worked with that I have to get along with him makes things very difficult. It minimizes or completely dismisses the trauma I’ve experienced. My husband wants to protect me, and this makes him feel frustrated and powerless. There is no way to get along with a narcissist and abuser. I want to move on and not have him as the focus of our lives, but then something happens and it starts all over again. Sometimes my husband feels shut down when he suggests something I have already tried and found to be futile.

I’ve come to realize that while I have been dealing with all of this for over seven years, he came into this halfway through and is in a different place than I am, having to deal with emotions and frustrations I’ve already experienced and dealt with. He is beginning to understand that his approach can sometimes trigger my symptoms, so when he feels like I’m shutting him down I am actually trying not to go back to that pain. It’s hard in that respect for me to be there for him. We plan to go back to family therapy to help develop a healthier focus for our lives. We’ve been dealing with adversity that has out of necessity been the major focus of our lives, but now we need to move on.

How have you learned to live and cope with your PTSD?

I’ve been in therapy since before I left my marriage, and finally found a therapist who has helped me overcome many of the symptoms of PTSD through EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), which helps change the way I react to the memories. For the most part, I am able to remember the trauma without it bothering me. I still experience triggers, but am able to process the emotions using cognitive behavioral therapy skills and journaling. When I am triggered, I make sure I take care of myself through prayer, talking with my husband and therapist, and doing things that help me relax, ground me, and fully engage my mind, like playing my flute and piano.

The community on PatientsLikeMe has been a huge help. I’ve been able to get support from people all over who have been through what I was going through, and that has helped me cope and make better decisions about my health. I was able to see what my main issues were through the mood map and monitor the effectiveness of my medications. There were many times the PatientsLikeMe community were far more helpful than my doctor.

You’re also living with bipolar II, depression and a few others conditions – how do these affect each other?

I believe the PTSD triggered the bipolar, because I never had symptoms until after I left my marriage and had symptoms of severe PTSD. As I look at symptoms of PTSD, it explains a lot of behaviors I didn’t fully understand, like self-harm, which began as I started to talk about and process the trauma of long-term sexual abuse in my previous marriage. As I’ve worked through many of the issues causing the PTSD, I’ve found that I no longer experience the symptoms of bipolar and have been able to decrease my medications. If I do experience depression now, it is short-lived and related to a specific experience.

As a veteran, what is one special message you’d send to your fellow veterans also living with PTSD?

I think veterans have experiences that only people who have been in the military can understand. Military units are like family, and I find I miss that sense of community now that I’m retired. Meeting with other veterans, especially those with shared experiences of PTSD, may be helpful because those people are more likely to relate well.

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PatientsLikeMe member Tam builds first-ever ‘by patients, for patients’ health measure on the Open Research Exchange

Posted January 21st, 2015 by

Back in March last year, we shared on the blog about a new grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that would help support two patient-led projects on our Open Research Exchange (ORE) , a platform that brings patients and researchers together to develop the most effective tools for measuring disease. We were overwhelmed by the response from the community, and we’re excited to share that one of those projects is very close to being completed.

Tam is living with multiple sclerosis (MS), and she’s been a PatientsLikeMe member for more than 4 years. After her diagnosis and experiences with her doctors not “getting” what pain means to her, Tam decided to create a new tool for anyone who might be experiencing chronic pain. Her idea is to build a measure that can help doctors better understand and communicate with patients about pain.

Watch her video above to learn about her journey and listen to her explain her inspiration behind the new ORE project.

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What do you know about cervical cancer?

Posted January 20th, 2015 by

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, but it’s not just a month to learn more about cervical cancer, it’s about learning how to prevent it. Since the 1950s, there’s been in increased effort to raise awareness for prevention screening, and from 1955 to 1992, the cervical cancer incidence and death rates declined by 60 percent.1

But there’s still work to be done, as the NIH estimates that over 12,000 women will still be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015.1

Our own Priya Raja spoke about cervical cancer awareness on the blog about a year ago, and she stressed the importance of Pap smears and making them available to all women around the world. During January, the awareness focus will be on preventative screening as well as cervical cancer itself, because as Priya said, “being screened just once can reduce the likelihood of having cancer.”

You can learn more by checking out the National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s website and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s infographic on cervical cancer (featured to the right). And if you’ve been recently diagnosed with either HPV or cervical cancer, reach out to others like you in the PatientsLikeMe community.

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1 http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=76


“…about 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day…” – An interview with Dr. Sarika Aggarwal

Posted December 29th, 2014 by

Sarika Aggarwal, M.D. is Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Fallon Health, and it’s her job to make sure all plan members get appropriate, effective and high-quality care. We caught up with Dr. Aggarwal for an interview, and she talks about how she came to spend the last 26 years practicing medicine in Massachusetts, what the new partnership between Fallon Health and PatientsLikeMe means for members, and a bit about her work—especially her focus on helping seniors stay and get care in their own homes whenever possible.

A bit of background: Dr. Aggarwal graduated from Grant Medical College at Bombay University and then completed her residency at UMass Memorial in Worcester, Massachusetts. Before joining Fallon Health in 2012 as Vice President of NaviCare Clinical Programs, Dr. Aggarwal was Medical Director in the Office of Clinical Integration at UMass Memorial Medical Care and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UMass Medical School.

Dr. Aggarwal, we know a little bit about your background in India. What made you decide to come to the United States?

My husband had been studying in the U.S. for about six years and went back to India to visit his parents. [That’s when we met, and] … I came to the United States three days after we got married. I finished my fourth year medical school clerkships here before starting my residency program.

What drew you to Fallon Health? How have things been going since you took over the role of Chief Medical Officer?

I was Medical Director of Clinical Integration of an academic health system on the provider side during my last job. I realized with the advent of the accountable care organizations (ACOs) that the providers needed to learn to manage risk and develop health plan capabilities, such as utilization management and population health management capabilities—things that the health plans had mastered for many years.

As Medical Director, I was working closely with Fallon on one of its programs for seniors called NaviCare. When I learned of a position to lead the program, it was the opportunity I was waiting for.

The role of Chief Medical Officer has been challenging but exhilarating. It is a work in progress, building new programs to improve member heath, looking for opportunities to reduce waste in the system, and building a culture of continuous process improvement.

How are you bringing your experience with nursing home alternatives for seniors to your new role?

NaviCare was a good training ground for learning about taking care of seniors with multiple chronic diseases. Since about 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, and a large number of them have more than one chronic disease, we spend a lot of time working on ways to give this population the best care, in the right place, at the right time. A lot of my work in NaviCare involved transition of care models to keep the patients independent at home, and out of the hospitals and nursing homes. We are now using some of these successful care management best practices with our other populations.

What’s your favorite success story during your time at Fallon?

In 2013 we started a pilot with a government provider-payer program. This program involves helping the providers with care coordination for the members we share together, efficient sharing of data and successful embedding of case managers and navigators in the provider sites. We have grown membership in this program, and our care team now participates in the provider team office meetings. We have had a lot of member success stories in this program, which shows what collaboration between the different healthcare entities can achieve.

We’re very excited to be partnering with you and bringing PatientsLikeMe to Fallon members as a free online resource. How do you think your members will benefit from an online community and health-tracking site like PatientsLikeMe?

I think when patients are diagnosed with a new medical condition, whether it is rare or common, they need more than clinical care from their provider. In this complex medical environment, they need support and knowledge from a reliable source. PatientsLikeMe is a great tool that can provide a family of support beyond your own family – a family of support that “gets it.”

Even as a provider, it is hard for me to completely understand all the ramifications of an illness in a patient’s life, since I myself do not live with this illness. PatientsLikeMe is a group of people, a forum where you can meet people to talk to, who understand you and who are just like you. In addition, you can track your progress and learn more about your condition from a reliable source, all in partnership with your providers. It is a win-win situation for all in the healthcare system.


2014 recap – a year of sharing in the PatientsLikeMe community

Posted December 23rd, 2014 by

Another year has come and gone here at PatientsLikeMe, and as we started to look back at who’s shared their experiences, we were quite simply amazed. More than 30 members living with 9 different conditions opened up for a blog interview in 2014. But that’s just the start. Others have shared about their health journeys in short videos and even posted about their favorite food recipes.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who shared their experiences this year – the PatientsLikeMe community is continuing to change healthcare for good, and together, we can help each other live better as we move into 2015.

Team of Advisors
In September, we announced the first-ever PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, a group of 14 members that will work with us this year on research-related initiatives. They’ve been giving regular feedback about how PatientsLikeMe research can be even more helpful, including creating a “guide” that highlights new standards for researchers to better engage with patients. We introduced everyone to three so far, and look forward to highlighting the rest of team in 2015.

  • Meet Becky – Becky is a former family nurse practitioner, and she’s a medically retired flight nurse who is living with epilepsy and three years out of treatment for breast cancer.
  • Meet Lisa – Lisa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2008, and just recently stopped working as a full-time executive due to non-motor PD symptoms like loss of function, mental fatigue and daytime insomnolence. Her daughter was just married in June.
  • Meet Dana – Dana is a poet and screenplay writer living in New Jersey and a very active member of the mental health and behavior forum. She’s living with bipolar II, and she’s very passionate about fighting the stigma of mental illness.

The Patient Voice
Five members shared about their health journeys in short video vignettes.

  • Garth – After Garth was diagnosed with cancer, he made a promise to his daughter Emma: he would write 826 napkin notes so she had one each day in her lunch until she graduated high school.
  • Letitia – has been experiencing seizures since she was ten years old, and she turned to others living with epilepsy on PatientsLikeMe.
  • Bryan – Bryan passed away earlier in 2014, but his memory lives on through the data he shared about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was also an inaugural member of the Team of Advisors.
  • Becca – Becca shared her experiences with fibromyalgia and how she appreciates her support on PatientsLikeMe.
  • Ed – Ed spoke about his experiences with Parkinson’s disease and why he thinks it’s all a group effort.

Patient interviews
More than 30 members living with 9 different conditions shared their stories in blog interviews.

Members living with PTSD:

  • David Jurado spoke in a Veteran’s podcast about returning home and life after serving
  • Lucas shared about recurring nightmares, insomnia and quitting alcohol
  • Jess talked about living with TBI and her invisible symptoms
  • Jennifer shared about coping with triggers and leaning on her PatientsLikeMe community

Member living with Bipolar:

  • Eleanor wrote a three-part series about her life with Bipolar II – part 1, part 2, part 3

Members living with MS:

  • Fred takes you on a visual journey through his daily life with MS
  • Anna shared about the benefits of a motorized scooter, and a personal poem
  • Ajcoia, Special1, and CKBeagle shared how they raise awareness through PatientsLikeMeInMotion™
  • Nola and Gary spoke in a Podcast on how a PatientsLikeMe connection led to a new bathroom
  • Tam takes you into a day with the private, invisible pain of MS
  • Debbie shared what it’s like to be a mom and blogger living with MS
  • Shep spoke about keeping his sense of humor through his journey with MS
  • Kim shared about her fundraising efforts through PatientsLikeMeInMotion™
  • Jazz1982 shared how she eliminates the stigma surrounding MS
  • Starla talked about MS awareness and the simple pleasure of riding a motorcycle

Members living with Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis:

Members living with Parkinson’s disease:

  • Dropsies shared about her frustrating Parkinson’s diagnosis experience and how diabetes might impact her future eating habits

Members living with ALS:

  • Steve shared the story behind his film, “My Motor Neuron Disease Made Easier”
  • Steven shared how technology allows him to participate in many events
  • Steve shared about creating the Steve Saling ALS residence and dealing with paramedics
  • Steve told why he participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Dee revealed her tough decision to insert a feeding tube
  • John shared about his cross-country road trip with his dog, Molly

Members living with lung cancer:

  • Vickie shared about her reaction to getting diagnosed, the anxiety-filled months leading up to surgery and what recovery was like post-operation
  • Phil shared the reaction she had after her blunt diagnosis, her treatment options and her son’s new tattoo

Members living with multiple myeloma:

  • AbeSapien shared about his diagnosis experience with myeloma, the economic effects of his condition and his passion for horseback riding

Caregiver for a son living with AKU:

  • Alycia and Nate shared Alycia’s role and philosophy as caregiver to young Nate, who is living with AKU

Food for Thought
Many members shared their recipes and diet-related advice on the forums in 2014.

  • April – first edition, and what you’re making for dinner
  • May – nutrition questions and the primal blueprint
  • June – getting sleepy after steak and managing diet
  • July – chocolate edition
  • August – losing weight and subbing carbs
  • September – fall weather and autumn recipes
  • Dropsies – shared her special diabetes recipes for Diabetes Awareness Month

Patients as Partners
More than 6,000 members answered questions about their health and gave feedback on the PatientsLikeMe Open Research Exchange (ORE) platform. ORE gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their opinion about each question in a researcher’s health measure. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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PatientsLikeMe and USF Health collaborate to empower cancer patients

Posted December 4th, 2014 by

Partnership Marks the First Between the Patient Network and an Academic Health Center

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—December 4, 2014—PatientsLikeMe and the USF Health Internal Medicine Department have partnered to improve health outcomes for multiple myeloma patients. People living with multiple myeloma and other cancers will be directed to PatientsLikeMe to access patient-reported symptom and treatment information and connect with others to guide their treatment discussions and decisions.

The partnership is PatientsLikeMe’s first with an academic health center. The companies will exchange and publish information on multiple myeloma on their websites and work collaboratively with PatientsLikeMe members to continuously enhance the health and education of people living with the condition. The organizations also expect to collaborate on specific research initiatives in the future.

USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida (USF), is a partnership between USF’s health-related colleges and schools and the USF Physician’s Group. “It is an honor as a cancer physician and scientist to become part of a larger community of patients with multiple myeloma,” said Damian Laber MD, Hematology/Oncology division chief at USF and senior member at Moffitt Cancer Center. “This partnership enables patients and their families worldwide to receive the most relevant and current medical information, and will enable us to learn as much as possible from patients so that we not only support them, but improve outcomes for others.”

The agreement is the newest in a series of oncology-focused partnerships for PatientsLikeMe designed to ensure that the patient voice guides cancer research, said Executive Vice President of Marketing and Patient Advocacy Michael Evers. “Every day, thousands of people learn they have cancer. More and more of them are joining our site to not only get information and support, but to contribute their health data for research. We’re excited to help USF Health members improve their day-to-day lives, and to partner with such a distinguished research and educational institution so that we can have an impact on people’s lives longer term.”

USF Health members interested in joining PatientsLikeMe can sign up at www.patientslikeme.com/join/usf.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 300,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 50 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blogTwitter or Facebook.

About USF Health
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu.

Contacts
Kristy Andre, USF Health Department of Internal Medicine
kandre@health.usf.edu
813-300-9006

Margot Carlson Delogne, PatientsLikeMe
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com
781-492-1039


“I just kind of went on with life.” – PatientsLikeMe member Fred shares his experiences with MS

Posted November 19th, 2014 by

We’ve interviewed a lot of members on the blog over the years, and each has a different perspective on life with MS. Fred1118 has taken sharing about his life with MS to a whole new level, documenting his life in a personal photoblog and posting the pictures with the world online. Fred shared all about his experiences in a recent interview, everything from his handicap-accessible house to how physical therapy helps him stay mobile. Read his story below.

What went through your mind when you were diagnosed with RRMS back in 1994?

I didn’t really know too much about MS at the time. I’m not sure if I had even heard of it, so didn’t know what to think. The diagnosing neurologist said, “you have a mild case of MS.” I was young and carefree at the time and didn’t really worry about it too much. I kind of just went on with life.

It looks like you’ve done a lot of work on your house to make it handicap accessible. What are some tips and tricks you can share with the community?

I would say that everyone’s needs are different. It’s a good idea to have an occupational therapist that is experienced in doing home safety and accessibility evaluations come work with you in your home to see what your abilities and limitations are so he or she can make proper recommendations. I advise that people not wait until modifications are absolutely necessary before making them. I’ve been guilty of that in many regards, including waiting too long to get a power wheelchair. I should have gotten one sooner. It would have expanded my ability to go places and do things.

We saw some pictures on your photoblog of you in physical therapy – is that a daily routine? How does it help you manage your symptoms?

I was getting in home PT 3 days a week for a few months after suffering a seizure that prevented me from driving for several months. The PT is of course not a cure for MS, but it does provide exercises and strength training options that can help you maintain some abilities. When you’re sitting in a wheelchair all day, I think you can lose some function not just from the MS, but also from being sedentary, so it’s important to exercise.

Can you tell us about your daily meal set-up? 

I have a pretty simple daily meal routine. I often eat the same things day after day. For breakfast I eat some yogurt, a multigrain type bar and a banana. That rarely changes. Lunch is almost always a sandwich (some kind of meat and cheese along with some mayo) and a piece of fruit, maybe an apple, pear or peach. Dinner varies a little. A friend who lives here with me often makes a pretty bountiful garden salad that includes lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and more. Sounds good huh! In addition I’ll eat something else like canned soup, a bowl of cereal, maybe a pre-made Indian dinner that I like. Almost all meals are eaten on my wheelchair tray.

Your photoblog takes viewers through a day in your life – what inspired you to give back to others and raise awareness for MS?

I’ve been a long time volunteer with both the National MS Society and the Myelin Repair Foundation. I had never really done much volunteer work prior to my MS diagnosis. After I stopped working full time I didn’t really do much of anything productive with my time. It was actually a girlfriend who suggested contacting the MS Society to see if they had volunteer work I could do. They did, and I caught the volunteerism bug. I would recommend it to anyone. I often say that doing volunteer work is as beneficial and rewarding to the volunteer as it hopefully is to the people you’re volunteering to help.

Not everyone is as open about their personal experiences living with MS as you. What was it like working with the photographer and putting yourself out there?

I guess I’m kind of an open guy. After meeting Ted (the photographer) I felt comfortable with him and trusted him. I decided pretty much right away that I was going to be all in on this project. I figured if you’re going to do something, do it right. We hoped to have an impact with the photo essay, and only being half in so to speak wouldn’t do the job. I didn’t really do anything other than let someone take pictures of me doing things I normally do. I know Ted was amazed at how open I was. I didn’t really feel like I was doing anything all that amazing.

Photos courtesy of TGoldmanPhotography.com

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