19 posts tagged “lung cancer”

World Cancer Day – Voices from the community

Posted February 3rd, 2017 by

Over the last year, we’ve shared many stories from the cancer community on the PatientsLikeMe blog. This year, in honor of World Cancer Day, we’d like to highlight some of those stories:

 

Member Iris (Imartinez), shared her story for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Iris opened up about getting diagnosed at just 28 years old, the challenges of her treatment journey and her passion for riding her motorcycle. For Iris, attitude is everything: “Having a POSITIVE mindset, I believe, makes a big difference.” Revisit her story.

 

 

 

 

Member Clare (Riverdale) shared her story – a diagnosis of non small-cell lung cancer while her husband was already living with prostate cancer. While supporting each other through chemotherapy and radiation, the couple has made an effort to eat healthy and keep up the active lifestyle they led before. Learn about her journey.

 

 

 

Member David, a member of the 2015-2016 PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, opened up about living with Stage IV lung cancer and how he hopes to be an inspiration to other cancer patients. David stresses the importance of forging a strong partnership with his care team and reflects on what he calls “some of the best years of my life.” Check out what he had to say.

 

 

Share your awareness efforts and experience with cancer in the PatientsLikeMe forum.

#WeCanICan, together.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


Lung Cancer Awareness Month: An interview with member Clare

Posted November 23rd, 2016 by

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and to share some insight into what it’s like to live with this condition, we talked to member Clare (Riverdale). When she was diagnosed with non small-cell lung cancer, her husband was already living with prostate cancer. While supporting each other through chemotherapy and radiation, the couple has made an effort to eat healthy and keep up the active lifestyle they led before. Get to know Clare below, and see what she has to say about “the value of a loving mate” in her experience with lung cancer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 73 years old, grew up on a farm in Alberta. My father smoked a pipe and used to joke about turning the air blue. No one else in the family got cancer. I smoked starting at age 20 while studying for exams, trying to stay awake, then continued as people who smoked got a coffee break and those who didn’t smoke really didn’t get a break. I continued to smoke less than a half a pack a day till age 28, then thanks to Nicorette gum stopped easily, as did my husband. We are very physically active. I rode my bike several miles to my job — weather- permitting — as we have great bike lanes and didn’t live too far from the center of the city. We continued to ride daily after retirement for exercise and belong to the European Waltz Time Society for bi-monthly dancing.

You were diagnosed with lung cancer after going to the emergency room for severe back pain—what went through your head when you received the news?

I was glad to hear that my pain was not a heart attack and that my cancer had been detected in an early stage.

In your profile, you mention that your husband is living with prostate cancer. How has it been supporting each other while managing your own health?

I was so sick during my husband’s treatment with radiation that I did not support him much but he seemed to sail through. The staff at radiation called him the entertainer and the coffee shop he attended daily called him by name and had his coffee ready as soon as he walked in the door. Only once did he have to delay because he had to have a bowel movement and a full bladder each day prior to treatment. He still has prostate pain and takes pain meds for that but his PSA says the treatments were successful and every 3 months the bladder checks say he doesn’t have bladder cancer. All I can say is that without him I would be willing to die now. But he says he can’t stand the thought of being alone, and I worry about him for that reason.

We noticed you regularly track your quality of life and symptoms on PatientsLikeMe. Have you seen benefits from tracking?  

I find it difficult to put in new things like a change in dosage of a medication, or if I want to mention my right breast is getting larger and nipple is painful. I have used it a few times to remember when an event happened.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your journey with lung cancer that you’d like others to know?

Something I learned in my lung cancer journey is the value of a loving mate. Going through this alone, I would stay in bed and in misery but because of my mate, I eat properly, I exercise and he gets things done when I couldn’t manage. Maybe I would but because I don’t have to, things are better. Yesterday I spent the night worrying about pain in my tongue and wondering if a jagged filling was causing the sore. He called the dentist and I was taken right in and reminded about one of the side effects of Giotrif is mouth sores and to rinse with salt water. Alone I would have continued to stew instead of starting right away on treatment. That is why an advocate is so necessary.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


PatientsLikeMe Welcomes Next Patient Team of Advisors

Posted November 14th, 2016 by

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass, November 14, 2016PatientsLikeMe has named 11 members to its patients-only 20162017 Team of Advisors, which this year will focus on elevating the patient voice. Team members will share their stories, participate in community initiatives, and give real world perspectives to our industry and research partners.

“Each year, our Team of Advisors has proven an invaluable source of inspiration and support for the PatientsLikeMe community,” said PatientsLikeMe CEO Martin Coulter. “We look forward to learning from this year’s team as we partner to identify how we can change healthcare for the better.”

More than 500 PatientsLikeMe members submitted applications for this year’s Team of Advisors. Those selected represent a range of medical and professional backgrounds and ages. They are living with a cross-section of conditions, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autonomic neuropathy, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), lung cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease. Members named to the team include: Cris Simon, Gary Rafaloff, Ginny Emerson, Glenda Rouland, Hetlena Johnson, Jacquie Toth, Jim Seaton, John Blackshear, Kimberly Hartmann, Laura Sanscartier and Lindsay Washington.

John Blackshear is living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and looks forward to the opportunity to share his story with others, and collaborate with PatientsLikeMe and other members of the Team of Advisors. “My experience with PatientsLikeMe has been filled with exploration, information and conversation. My health journey has been positively impacted through my connection with other members, by the various tools for tracking and logging health data, and by opportunities just like this – to participate in an advisory capacity.”

The 2016-2017 Team of Advisors recently kicked off their 12-month collaboration with PatientsLikeMe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will convene several times during the upcoming year. This is the third Team of Advisors the company has formed. The 2015 team focused on redefining patient partnerships and established new ways for the healthcare industry to connect with patients to deliver better care. In 2014, the inaugural group provided feedback to the research team and discussed ways that researchers can meaningfully engage patients throughout the research process.

About PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services, and care. With more than 400,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 85 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact
Katherine Bragg
PatientsLikeMe
kbragg@patientslikeme.com
617.548.1375


Patients as Partners: John and David share their clinical trial experiences

Posted June 1st, 2016 by

We’ve been hearing from members of the Team of Advisors about how they’ve used the Partnership Principles in their health journeys. Recently, we sat down with John (Dockstoy), living with ALS, and David (Davidgewirtz), who’s living with lung cancer. John and David are both interested in research and have been involved in a few clinical trials. Below, they share their firsthand trial experiences, offer up some advice for others, and talk about the importance of collaboration and mutual respect with their care teams along the way.

Can you tell us a little about the clinical trials you’ve participated in?

John: I took part in trials at:

  1. Massachusetts General Hospital (September 2014) – phase 2, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled Multicenter Study of Autologous MSC-NTF Cells in Patients With ALS
  2. Bronx VA – Brain and nerve stimulation for hand muscles in spinal cord injury and ALS
  3. Weill Medical College of Cornell University – Safety of Capryclic Triglycerides in ALS: A Pilot Study

Team of Advisors member David, living with lung cancer

David: I was diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer just about five years ago. June 2011. Since that time my only form of treatment has been targeted therapies which were available to me through clinical trials. The first clinical trial I received the drug Erlotinib known as Tarceva for three and a half years. The second clinical trial I am now on for about fifteen months targets a mutation that is responsible for resistance to Tarceva. The Clovis pharmaceutical company makes the drug with the code name C01686 which does not have FDA approval and Clovis recently disclosed that the drug has been withdrawn from future development. Both drugs have enabled me to live a very high quality of life and unless told nobody would know I had a terminal disease.

Clinical trials require the patient to be an active participant in the treatment modality. For me both clinical trials required that I have monthly visits to the clinic for blood work and scans every two months. The routine of my CT scans include my chest, abdomen, and pelvis plus a whole body bone scan. Normally I spend six hours at the hospital to compete these tests. That I am monitored very closely is a double edged sword. The downside is the frequency of scans exposes me to significant radiation which overtime is also associated with cancer. There is also generalized anxiety that comes with this routine. When you’re done with one cycle which includes a discussion with the oncologist about the radiology report, you automatically start to think about the next cycle. The silver lining in this cloud is that detection of new disease is caught very early and more often treatable than not – a really good benefit, which takes some of the sting out of the routine.

Have any of the partnership principles helped you get involved in these clinical trials?

John: I believe all principles apply. Respect is key; and alignment and teamwork from both parties involved.

David: “Know your needs” was the principal driver of why I entered a clinical trial. This principle requires that the expectations of the patient (me) are aligned in a partnership with the goals of the oncologist. In my situation there was a shared expectation of the value of clinical trial. In collaboration with my oncologist we discussed the likely benefits, side effects and the efficacy of the trial as a treatment plan for my advanced stage lung cancer. We shared the belief that the benefits of the trial far exceed the risks associated with taking Tarceva. We shared the value that (1) I would receive state-of-the-art treatment with the expectations that the drug Tarceva would (2) not not only control my cancer, but would extend my progression free survival of my disease.

How do you decide if a clinical trial is right for you?

Team of Advisors member John, living with ALS

John: Timing is a critical decision factor. What I mean by that is many clinical trials have two-year and three-year exclusion criteria. Also, location — most trials do not reimburse for travel or nominal reimbursement. You must believe that the trial will have a benefit, not only to you but for those to follow.  

David: In collaboration with caregivers the patient must know his/her needs in terms of the benefits and risks of entering a clinical trial. This requires that the care team fully explain the benefits of the trial versus the risk of participating. A phase one trial poses the most risk to the patient with an uncertain outcome. In contrast, a phase three trial poses the least. For example, my first clinical trial was a phase three trial where I was given the drug Tarceva with expectation that my medium progression free survival would be 12 months. In my case I did not progress until 3.5 years. Truly a great outcome despite some manageable side effects or risks.

A patient also has the opportunity to enhance the understanding of their disease. All types of clinical data captured in the study helps organizations like PatientsLikeMe market data to pharmaceutical and insurance companies who are stakeholders needed to fast-track new drugs from the bench to the clinic. In the end, your participation along with others may save or prolong the quality of your life. This possibility was the primary driver for me to enroll in another clinical trial that has kept my cancer in check, now five years, with minimal side effects.

What advice do you have for other patients who want to learn more about participating in clinical trials?

John: Research, research, research! Scour the Internet for details, speak with friends and family, ask your doctor what they think and what they see on the horizon for new trials. Be prepared to look at what’s next in clinical trials so as one completes you can start up another.

David: The decision to participate in clinical trials encompasses many of our PatientsLikeMe partnership principles. For example, where you are in your treatments phase may dictate what principles are more important than others. If you are at the start of your treatment, then you must have a very good understanding of what a clinical trial can do for you — how much more quality time the treatment offers. You can only arrive at this decision point if you and your care team have a shared understanding of the benefits of participating in a clinical trial versus pursuing a different line of treatment. Through my experience with clinical trials you are well served if you operate under the assumption that participation is a shared responsibility. Alternatively, if you reach a milestone in your treatment where you must go to another line of treatment then it is critical to reflect, evaluate and reprioritize if your current care team is the right team to meet your needs. Finally, regardless of the phase you enter a clinical trial, you must self-educate yourself

That means you have done some basic research by:

  1. Reading about relevant clinical trials on sites like the National Cancer Institute, which has a listing and description of all clinical trials in the U.S. and worldwide.
  1. Preparing yourself for entering a clinical trial by visiting the government website that explains what patients and caregivers should know about participating in clinical trials.
  1. Participating in organizations like PatientsLikeMe that have communities where patients share their treatment experiences, side effects and their success and failures. Personally, these organizations have empowered me through emotional support and knowledge of other clinical trials that may become options for me while I travel on my journey.

 

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


Leaning on loved ones—An interview with lung cancer member Clare

Posted February 23rd, 2016 by

When Clare (Riverdale) was diagnosed with non small-cell lung cancer, her husband was already living with prostate cancer. While supporting each other through chemotherapy and radiation, the couple has made an effort to eat healthy and keep up the active lifestyle they led before.

We recently connected with Clare, who emphasized “the value of a loving mate” in her experience with lung cancer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 73 years old, grew up on a farm in Alberta. My father smoked a pipe and used to joke about turning the air blue. No one else in the family got cancer. I smoked starting at age 20 while studying for exams, trying to stay awake, then continued as people who smoked got a coffee break and those who didn’t smoke really didn’t get a break. I continued to smoke less than a half a pack a day till age 28, then thanks to Nicorette gum stopped easily, as did my husband. We are very physically active. I rode my bike several miles to my job — weather- permitting — as we have great bike lanes and didn’t live too far from the center of the city. We continued to ride daily after retirement for exercise and belong to the European Waltz Time Society for bi-monthly dancing.

You were diagnosed with lung cancer after going to the emergency room for severe back pain—what went through your head when you received the news?

I was glad to hear that my pain was not a heart attack and that my cancer had been detected in an early stage.

In your profile, you mention that your husband is living with prostate cancer. How has it been supporting each other while managing your own health?

I was so sick during my husband’s treatment with radiation that I did not support him much but he seemed to sail through. The staff at radiation called him the entertainer and the coffee shop he attended daily called him by name and had his coffee ready as soon as he walked in the door. Only once did he have to delay because he had to have a bowel movement and a full bladder each day prior to treatment. He still has prostate pain and takes pain meds for that but his PSA says the treatments were successful and every 3 months the bladder checks say he doesn’t have bladder cancer. All I can say is that without him I would be willing to die now. But he says he can’t stand the thought of being alone, and I worry about him for that reason.

We noticed you regularly track your quality of life and symptoms on PatientsLikeMe. Have you seen benefits from tracking?  

I find it difficult to put in new things like a change in dosage of a medication, or if I want to mention my right breast is getting larger and nipple is painful. I have used it a few times to remember when an event happened.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your journey with lung cancer that you’d like others to know?

Something I learned in my lung cancer journey is the value of a loving mate. Going through this alone, I would stay in bed and in misery but because of my mate, I eat properly, I exercise and he gets things done when I couldn’t manage. Maybe I would but because I don’t have to, things are better. Yesterday I spent the night worrying about pain in my tongue and wondering if a jagged filling was causing the sore. He called the dentist and I was taken right in and reminded about one of the side effects of Giotrif is mouth sores and to rinse with salt water. Alone I would have continued to stew instead of starting right away on treatment. That is why an advocate is so necessary.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


Meet Peggy from the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors

Posted February 10th, 2016 by

Say hello to Peggy, another member of your 2015-2016 PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors. A survivor of both kidney cancer and Stage II breast cancer, Peggy believes that most of us are “ill-prepared to be ill,” and that better health education can lead to better outcomes.

After years of teaching and volunteering, patient advocacy has come naturally to Peggy. She’s determined to teach others about their treatment options, and writes a blog covering new studies. Her goal is to empower patients to approach their doctors with more confidence.

Here, Peggy touches on how she overcame survivor’s guilt and the challenges of navigating the healthcare system.

What gives you the greatest joy and puts a smile on your face?

In front of me is a bulletin board of picture, heavily featuring my two young grandchildren and a few of my own five children. The sheer joy of seeing my family grow up is in sharp contrast to the realization I could have missed it all, had I not had excellent care of my kidney cancer. In gratitude for what had been given me, and in appreciation for the sacrifices others had made, I am determined to teach others about their kidney cancer and their treatment options. I was horrified to realize that many patients were not only late in being diagnosed, but also receive substandard care. This is generally due to lack of knowledge and I knew that I could educate patients to pursue the best care. This new role as patient advocate seemed to be a natural extension of my life’s work as teacher, mother and community volunteer. I can only hope that other patients can continue to be a part of their own families, thanks to the work that I do.

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

My condition is now that I am a healthy person. Except for scars and CTs, no one would think I had been ill. That permits me to examine challenges that patients face as they come to deal with their illnesses, and how our society’s expectations and the convoluted health system limit patient outcomes. For example, people rarely learn how to be effective patients, and are ill-prepared to be ill! They have been taught to be passive in healthcare settings, have not learned how to assess the information given them, and have no experience in navigating a complex health system. Further, they are asked to trust in doctors who do not communicate well, assess conflicting information, and of late, encouraged to be “their own best advocates,” but without any training to do so. Of course, this is usually done at the time in which the patient is most vulnerable!

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

My kidney cancer and my “long-term remission” is an example of what is happening in cancer care and research today. It is a story of great advances in research, hampered by a grim history with its negative expectations, and the time constraints in modern medicine. Though the tools we have at present can reveal the cancer at an earlier stage, or offer more ways to destroy the tumors, we have a very uneven usage of those tools. Rarely is care integrated, with medications sequenced with surgery or radiographic ablation. The typical diagnosis is inadequate, yet that drives treatment into a guessing game, with dire outcomes all too likely. Again, this does not have to be, as simply providing treatment that reflects the recognized guidelines would improve outcomes. Those guidelines can provide basic care, but using all the information now available, and doing so in a timely manner, could change kidney cancer statistics dramatically.

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

I would recommend that the patient first understand as much about his own general health condition as possible, recognizing any special challenges. What the patient brings to that party is as important as the diagnosis in treating the disease. Next would be to learn as much about the new condition, and assess whether the diagnosis is complete, or indeed, correct. There are many conditions which are described in “typical” terms, and to understand where the patient fits or does not fit is valuable information, most likely to come when the patient understands the disease and his own situation.

Next would be to learn to say, “I am the kind of patient who wants to learn everything about my disease and how to deal with it. I will probably ask you many questions and hope you can guide me. I will want copies of my tests, any reports and your assessment of me. How do we make this work?”

How important has it been to you to find other people with your condition who understand what you’re going through?

I had a unique situation in that I was essentially cured of my “incurable” Stage IV cancer. There was a time I felt guilty to talk about my successful treatment, feeling that it would be more hurtful for other patients who were not getting the kind of response that I had. I hesitated to offer advice and to share my knowledge, until someone explained that I had “survivor’s guilt.” That feeling had a name, but no initial direction. I knew I had to share the valuable information I could gather. My old schoolteacher/mothering instincts finally made me realize that I could provide a good example for others, and help guide them through the swamps they were in. That role as a “good example” suited me, and made it far easier to give not only information, but advice in a similar role.

Recount a time when you’ve had to advocate for yourself with your provider, caregiver, insurer, or someone else.

When I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer, which was my second cancer, I felt quite capable of dealing with the treatments to come. Then I met my new oncologist! Recommended through my Medicare Advantage group, I was surprised when his online bio did not mention anything about his skill in treating breast cancer. He noted that his area of specialist interest was in prostate and blood cancers, which did not fit my needs.

Nevertheless, I went to the first appointment. The biopsy report was in my purse, but wanted to hear his interpretation. That report clarified my type of breast cancer, the size of the tumors and location, all of which have a tremendous bearing on treatment. But first I asked about taking certain bone-strengthening agents in the presence of breast cancer, recommended in recent research. “Don’t even worry about such things. You won’t need it,” he said, this despite the existing guidelines. Moreover, he did not even discuss the pathology report, but recommended I see a certain surgeon, saying, “Go get your breast removed and come back to me, and then I will take care of you.”

More stunning than this statement was to learn that the surgeon was especially skilled in abdominal and vascular surgery. Closer to the breast than the prostate, I thought but still not close enough! He did not sound like the type of doctor who could do the best breast surgery on me, nor would he have the expertise to determine the level of surgery—lumpectomy, mastectomy or reconstruction.

The HMO had no particular experts in breast cancer, as “they all can do it,” as an explanation. I quickly shifted back to Medicare, and sought the expertise of a surgeon from a breast center in an academic center. My first appointment was thorough, the pathology discussed at length, as was the size and location of the tumors, which required a complete mastectomy. I understood that I was not a candidate for a lumpectomy, but was offered immediate reconstruction and to anticipate taking hormone inhibitors for the coming years.

In a short time, I had the necessary mastectomy and reconstruction, was set up with a physical therapist, and was comfortable enough to travel overseas just two weeks after surgery. I just don’t think that the prostate guy and the abdominal surgeon would have made that possible!

What makes you a valuable member of PatientsLikeMe when you are not dealing with the daily impact of either of your cancers?

I have asked myself what value I might bring to PatientsLikeMe, and to other patient-to-patient forums for several years. As I had discussed earlier, this role may be unique inside PatientsLikeMe, as most patients are dealing actively with treatment. My profile of how I feel is pretty boring, as I am happy and healthy 99% of the time. But my example might also be of value to other patients who confront serious diseases and find relief from the disease itself, yet never from the anxiety and impact of that illness. I might also be an example of more patients to come, who successfully conquer a cancer — for some time — only to have it return years later, or another take its place.

As cancer and other illnesses are becoming more like chronic illnesses than swift and savage killers, the affected patients and their families are changed forever. Never again will an odd bump or lingering cough pass unnoticed, nor will the fear that the cancer, in its drive to survive, will emerge again.

In addition, many of us are here because we did not get a good diagnosis early in the course of the disease, which may have cost us years of health or even a cure. Much of that should be attributed to the tenacity of diseases or our own cells missing a step at an inopportune time. However, a system which helps the patient work to get a diagnosis earlier, and one which teaches him how to engage his doctor in better care is possible, and the most effective way to benefit all of us.

Thus, my emphasis in PatientsLikeMe will continue to be an example of how one must learn to be engaged with one’s own health, knowing that this will vary from patient to patient, and from event to event. Engagement is a dynamic process, but is empowering, which alone can have a healing effect on the patient. I would hope other patients would recognize the value of their input into the research questions, that they support clinical trials, and work to create partnerships with all their healthcare providers.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


Meet David from the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors

Posted February 3rd, 2016 by

We’d like to introduce you to David, another member of your 2015-2016 PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors. David has been living with Stage IV lung cancer for four years and hopes to be an inspiration to other cancer patients.

He has worked to raise awareness for his condition as a political advocate for the NGO Lung Cancer Alliance. And as a retiree, he stays active by cycling, gardening and baking bread.

Here, David stresses the importance of forging a strong partnership with his care team and reflects on what he calls “some of the best years of my life.”

What gives you the greatest joy and puts a smile on your face?

Knowing at the end of a day that my time was spent wisely and productively. To me this means, like any other person, I have accomplished one or more tasks that are important to me. As a retiree each accomplishment mostly orbits around my avocations that include (1) road cycling (2) gardening or working in my greenhouse (3) baking artisan bread (4) photography and (5) traveling. Each avocation reinforces my emotional well-being and belief that despite having a terminal disease (Stage IV Lung Cancer) I can live like any other retiree and enjoy my life. I have successfully adopted this mental framework for the past four and a half years and know that my disease does not define me. Equally important, I have demonstrated while cancer maybe active in my body, my mind has the power to control my response to the disease. I have chosen to embrace life through my hobbies; I successfully rejected the alternative, which is to fold and identify myself as a hopeless, depressed, terminally ill cancer victim. How ironic that the years since I was diagnosed with cancer have been some of the best years of my life.

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

While nobody has directly asked me what is it like living with Stage IV lung cancer, a terminal disease, I suspect many people want to know. Outwardly, they see me living a normal if not an envious life and simply cannot comprehend how mentally this is accomplished (without folding) knowing that I have a terminal disease. I would tell them that advanced lung cancer patients can be grouped into two large cohorts.

The first group represents 80% of all NSCL lung cancer patients that do not have equal access to breakthrough therapies and are treated with traditional chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments exact a toll on the physical condition of the patients, and others often experience the person as looking sick. Then there is a much smaller group (20%) that can benefit from breakthrough therapies, which are called targeted and immune therapies. I fall into the targeted therapy group where you take a pill(s) that controls the cancer without the debilitating effects on the body of those that receive traditional therapies. This is why people who know that I am sick greet me with the words “Dave, you look great.”

Despite this façade, living on targeted therapies has significant psychological consequences. Dr. Vicki Jackson, chief of palliative care at MGH, commented on the emotional state of long-term survivors living on targeted therapies: “It’s amazing, because people can live like they don’t have cancer, just by taking a pill. But patients either expect it’ll happen forever, or the roller coaster ride of waiting to see whether there’s another trial drug…gets incredibly stressful.” Truer words were never spoken. The life that I live becomes soul searching every two months before my next scans. What will be the outcome and how might it impact my long-term journey with advanced lung cancer? Emotionally the ritual is wrenching to the psyche.

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

My advice to a person recently diagnosed with lung cancer would be to take a protracted deep breath so that you have time to absorb the shocking news your provider delivered to you. Once your equilibrium has been restored, develop a partnership with your oncology team so that you can informatively participate in your treatment options. Given your situation, be chary about popping the big question “How long do I have to live?” Your blunt question makes your provider respond in kind and the answer may not serve you well. No one lung cancer presents in the same way. Our immune systems are unique and how our disease responds to a treatment modality can be very different from others treated like yourself. For example, my surgeon told me I had one to three years to live. In December I will be alive for four and a half years living through targeted therapies as though I did not have lung cancer.

The more self-serving first question to ask your oncologist is if a DNA analysis designed to reveal mutations in your tumor has been performed. This is extremely important because the answer will help you and your providers to decide where and how you should be treated. If the analysis reveals the tumor harbors an activating mutation, for which there is a targeted therapy, then where you are treated can become a critical question. If clinical protocols are not available at your hospital do you make the decision to travel several hours to another hospital to enroll in a clinical trial? Know that research data shows that targeted therapies can significantly extend the progression free survival of a patient. Alternatively, if no activating mutation is found does it make a difference in outcome if I am treated locally versus being treated at a research hospital?

For the newly diagnosed my final words of wisdom would be to cautiously use the web for information. There is a natural tendency for our minds to go to dark places in this situation. The web offers a plethora of data to reinforce the darkness, which may compound depression and a sense of hopelessness. What is most important in the early stages of your journey is to form a good partnership with your oncology team and to find an anchor that shines a light of hope and promise in the dark spaces of your mind.

How can you use life insurance to reduce the financial burden associated with lung cancer?

People purchase life insurance for a variety of reasons so that families can absorb the loss of income when you pass. Typically, families need money to pay off medical bills, pay off a mortgage and to provide a spouse to give the family time to readjust to a new standard of living. Most people purchase term insurance which insures people for a stated period of time. Buried in some of these policies is a benefit sometimes called Accelerated Death Benefit or Living Benefit. This policy benefit is intended to help ease the financial burden of an individual who has a terminal disease and is expected to die within six or twelve months of their diagnosis. By default, stage four lung cancer qualifies for this benefit. Therefore, without question this allows a policy holder to cash in half of the value of the life insurance policy. The money is considered a death benefit and is not taxable. The other added value to the family is that the premium on the policy is reduced by half.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


“I am not a quitter, I never have been” – An interview with lung cancer member Jacquie

Posted November 19th, 2015 by

Jacquie today.

For Jacquie (Jacquie1961), a business owner and entrepreneur from New Mexico, 2013 was the worst year of her life – she’d lost two beloved pets to old age and then was diagnosed with lung cancer, which soon turned into colon cancer. After rigorous chemotherapy and the adoption of a new dog, Roman, Jacquie joined PatientsLikeMe this past

Jacquie in September of 2013, shortly before her diagnosis.

September and has been sharing her positive, never-back-down attitude with the rest of the community. We took time to connect with her recently and this is what we learned…

Tell us a bit about your life.

After a long career of juggling my own real estate firm and landscaping company, I decided to obtain my esthetician’s license in 2011. In late 2012, I opened a spa for skincare. It was in 2013, as I was building up my new business, that I got my first diagnosis of lung cancer.

What I didn’t know was that I also had cancer in my colon that went unnoticed by the first oncologist I had. I was getting sicker by the day, losing more weight, but no one even did any blood work on me or examined me for five months. I asked about chemo and was told every month that my doctor hadn’t decided on that yet. After Christmas of 2013, my parents urged me to change oncologists.

Jacquie with her boxer, Roman.

Because I was severely anemic, I spent a month and a half getting blood weekly before I could have a colonoscopy under the care of my new oncologist. In March of 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung to colon cancer. My surgeon told me that there were only 12 documented cases of lung to colon cancer and the prognosis for life expectancy was not good. I had the colon surgery with resection and started a hellish year of chemo. It wasn’t until May that I closed my business because my job was now to save my life!

I have a new dog, a Boxer named Roman. He is my rock! He’s a rescue and came into my life at the right time. He gave me a reason to get up in the mornings, take short walks, laugh and have a constant companion as most of my time was spent in bed if I wasn’t at chemo or the hospital or a doctor’s office. I never had children so animals to me are my family. The only good part of 2013 was finding Roman.

Jacquie and her father on her wedding day.

How has your life changed since your diagnosis?

Wow, I have to say I am not the same person I was before I was diagnosed and gone through everything I did. I don’t think anyone can. I find myself less tolerant of people who complain about the smallest of things like burnt cookies because they don’t matter.

Material wealth means nothing to me anymore. I lived well, worked hard and made good money. Now that is not that important to me. I’ve had all that and lost it due to cancer. And anyone’s life can be changed on a dime. So cherish what you have now, enjoy life and create memories. And take care of your health.

I am also now in the process of starting a new business with my father – a pawn and antique shop. It’s coming along slowly, but we’ll get there soon to open.

Cancer is a mentally and physical life altering journey. Mine was pretty extensive, but I am sure there are a lot of other women and men who can identify with this. If you approach it with knowledge and a positive attitude the transitioning is much easier.

In 2013, Jacquie was recovering from lung cancer surgery and her family wouldn’t let her be without a Christmas tree. Knowing her love for the ocean, they brought her a white tree. In 2014, after recovering from lung and colon cancer, Jacquie added 2 smaller trees as symbols of her strength in fighting cancers.

I lost all of my hair head to toe in the first few treatments of chemo, but I made it work with hats and an assortment of wigs. Cute hats, wigs, and learning ways to use makeup can make a huge difference in how you see yourself and how you feel about yourself. I still went to charity dinners, events, and I’ve done several fashion shows for cancer even on chemo. No one was the wiser that I was even wearing wigs. I never liked looking at myself in the mirror but accepted it as part of my “job.” My hair is growing back in and I’ve gone out in public. It’s not me at all, but it’s who I really am right now.

Now is the part where I pick up the pieces and put myself back together. How do I deal with the hair growing back? I let it breathe, use some cream to style it and a headband. I wear my wigs or a cute cap when I am running errands. I am trying to put together a monthly course to teach women how to apply makeup and wear scarves. I am lucky that I already have the experience, but it surprised me how many women do not know what to do with themselves so they stay home. Not right…Getting cancer is bad enough but having to feel ugly shouldn’t be part of it.

You mention that you had to be your own advocate with doctors. What would your advice be to others who must advocate for themselves?

As I explained above regarding my first oncologist, I learned from that experience that I better watch out for myself. I didn’t have anyone who had experience with cancer to tell me what to do. Having been through this and seen the mistakes made with my care, I’m adamant that if something is not right with me or I don’t feel right I talk to my doctors about it. I read every scan and I ask questions. Doctors are very busy and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Keep a file with all of your tests. Keep a journal of things you need to have done. I know every three months I have to have scans and a colonoscopy. I often have to remind my doctor that it’s time. Keep track of your scripts as well.

You’ve said in a recent forum post that you’re “a firm believer in keeping up a fight even in the face of adversity.” What keeps you going? And how would you encourage others in your situation to keep going?

I am not a quitter, I never have been. Even given a diagnosis I may not live very long, I was sure to prove the doctors wrong. And yes, I am still here. I was ready to start living life again and then recently hit another bump in the road with a diagnosis of coronary artery disease. My cardiologist will decide whether to put in stents or do bypass surgery. Okay, whatever it takes. And now, I’m also supporting father – my best friend – through his first experience of chemo. After a bout of bad health, I took him over to my doctor and she diagnosed him with non-hodgkins follicular lymphoma stage 4. Since I’ve been through this, he is now my patient.

This August, Jacquie modeled for a local cancer charity, CARE. All funds raised go to people of her town for assistance with bills and medical expenses.

Some days I think my world is falling apart, but I still keep going. I think there is more work for me to do on this earth and God picked me to do it. I’m not a religious fanatic by any means but I have had a world of prayers around me. Everyone is different in how they handle traumatic and life-changing events. I try to tell people to find strength within, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I see the beach at the end of mine and know I will get there someday soon. People need goals, baby steps – and remember that tomorrow is another day. Every morning and day is a gift that was not promised. Take that gift with gratitude. And spread it!

It doesn’t have to be a curse or a death sentence. It is an illness. You’ll have good days and bad days. If people find themselves depressed or anxious and unable to cope there is help. Find a support system, a therapist, a best friend, a forum like PatientsLikeMe. Surround yourself with positive people. You are a survivor and that is something to be very proud of. I have a group of friends and we call ourselves the Warrior Women. We are a tough group who’ve fought the beast and we are winning.

You’ve been very supportive to other members in the PatientsLikeMe forums. What has been your experience on PatientsLikeMe?

I’m very glad that my mother actually told me about this site. It makes me feel good to think that just maybe I can help someone else because of my experience. Or maybe I know of some way that their journey will be easier on them. I’ve enjoyed conversing with several other women. I’ve also learned more about lung cancer than I knew before through others’ experiences and how they are dealing with it now. I know it’s better and helpful to talk or converse with others who’ve experienced the same thing you have or similar. It’s hard with family and friends as I believe one can’t truly understand what you have been through unless they have gone through it themselves. PatientsLikeMe brings like-minded people together.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.

 


Shining a light on lung cancer

Posted November 2nd, 2015 by

What began as one awareness day back in November of 1995 has grown into Lung Cancer Awareness Month, now in its 20th year, as the lung cancer movement expanded and activities increased. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, but is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.[1] Although the risk of developing lung cancer is highest in smokers (about 90%[2]), many people who do not smoke develop lung cancer each year.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways for you to get involved and help spread lung cancer awareness throughout the month of November – and year-round.

  • Shine a Light on Lung Cancer: This year’s 7th annual global event, hosted by Lung Cancer Alliance, is taking place on November 5, and is largest coordinated awareness event for lung cancer in the U.S. The lighting of the flashlights in local communities honors survivors and loved ones, and provides hope, inspiration and support for everyone touched by lung cancer. Find the Shine a Light on Lung Cancer event near you!
  • Do your part in fundraising for a cure: Participate in the event of your choice, on your own or with family and friends, and fundraise to support Lung Cancer Alliance or another lung cancer mission of your choice. Don’t forget, PatientsLikeMe will make a donation to your fundraising efforts – and provide team t-shirts – through PatientsLikeMeInMotion. All you have to do is join PatientsLikeMe, get 3 stars on your profile and submit your team details.
  • Take part in local, national or global events: Take part in one of many events hosted by Lung Cancer Alliance, our partners at LUNGevity, or host and attend your own event!
  • Spread awareness through social media: Make a difference in your social networks. Lung Cancer Alliance offers some sample posts to get started.
  • Become a #LUNGFORCEday social ambassador: Launched by the American Lung Association, the LUNG FORCE initiative aims to unite women to stand together against lung cancer and for lung health.

How are you showing your support for those touched by lung cancer this November, or in the months ahead? Share your awareness efforts, and experience with lung cancer, in the PatientsLikeMe forum, and connect with more than 3,380 others living with lung cancer on the site.


[1] http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/specialcoverage/how-acs-fights-lung-cancer
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/resources/features/lungcancer/

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


New partner, Schwartz Center, calls for nominations: National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year

Posted April 6th, 2015 by

Remember a time when you were in the hospital or doctor’s office, feeling nervous and anxious about a shot, treatment or diagnosis? And remember there was someone who made you feel safe, answered all your questions, or did something small that had a big impact?

It’s like what Ken Schwartz said during his battle with lung cancer, “These acts of kindness – the simple human touch from my caregivers – have made the unbearable bearable.” Those experiences inspired Ken to create an outline for an organization to promote compassionate care so that patients and their caregivers can relate to one other in a way that provides hope to the patient, support to caregivers and sustenance to the healing process. And just days before his death in 1995, he founded the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare.

For 16 of the last 20 years the Schwartz Center has been honoring extraordinary professional caregivers and teams who embody characteristics of compassionate care, like listening carefully, showing empathy, instilling hope and more. We’re proud to be partnered with them in their continued efforts. And you can be a part of it, too.

The Schwartz Center is calling for nominations for its National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year (NCCY) award, and you have until May 1 to submit your nomination.

Award-winning author Atul Gawande will present the award at the Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Healthcare Dinner in November, which coincides with the Schwartz Center’s 20thanniversary. His work focuses on the difficult choices caregivers, patients and families face every day and the issues that can make it hard to provide high-quality, cost-effective and compassionate healthcare.

Do something special
If you have special healthcare providers in your life, honor them for their excellence by nominating them for National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year. It’s a simple but powerful way to show your appreciation for a job well (and compassionately) done.

“Receiving the Schwartz Center award … affirmed that rewarding feeling at the end of an encounter with a patient, when you see hope and relief in their eyes – it’s priceless,”  said Thea James, MD, last year’s Schwartz Center Compassionate Caregiver Award recipient.

More about the partnership
Over the last 20 years, the Schwartz Center focused on providing compassionate care, while over the last 10 years, we’ve brought the patient voice and the patient story to the life sciences community. We’re excited about the new alliance, which will help us better understand the patient’s perception of compassionate care. We can strengthen the relationship between patients and their healthcare providers, which leads to better health outcomes, lower costs and greater patient satisfaction.

Working together, we’ll survey our members to gather their feedback on a proposed Schwartz Center Compassionate Care Scale™, designed to let healthcare organizations measure and reward the compassionate care that doctors, nurses and other caregivers provide to patients and families. Jointly, we’ll create content to teach patients what compassionate care really is and how to ask for it.

Julie Rosen, executive director of the Schwartz Center, commented on the part PatientsLikeMe will play in evaluating compassionate care:

“As in other areas of healthcare, we believe measurement can play an important role in improving patients’ care experiences, and we are thrilled to have a collaborator that can help us ensure that we’re measuring what is most important to patients in language they can understand.”

Share this post on Twitter and nominate your candidate for Caregiver of the Year.


“I am not alone in this” – PatientsLikeMe member Rikwood55 shares his journey with lung cancer

Posted March 23rd, 2015 by

New member (and New Zealander) Rikwood55 was diagnosed at age 58 with non-small cell lung carcinoma (stage 4), and he said he joined PatientsLikeMe in the hope of connecting with people on the same or similar lung cancer immunotherapy treatments. Rick took part in a clinical trial, and is now tolerating the immunotherapy treatment well. His scans are looking good, and he sums it up this way:

“Five rounds of Carboplatin Chemo was hard going, as it is for everyone. Now more stability has returned and with it, hope for the future.”

Read Rick’s interview below and share your own experiences.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Rick.

I am Rick, and I was diagnosed at age 58 with NSCLC stage 4 metastasis. I am a New Zealand-born resident currently receiving immunotherapy treatment in a clinical trial every 3 weeks at Auckland Hospital. I have received 14 treatments to date. Scan results have been good and I am tolerating the treatment well. I have joined PatientsLikeMe in the hope of connecting with people on the same or similar lung cancer immunotherapy treatments. Please, no clinical specific info, which would in any way compromise study results. Let’s talk about living day to day…I think you’ll know what I mean.

You were diagnosed about 2 years ago – what went through your mind after your diagnosis?

Diagnosis day was a tough day. Mentally paralyzing. No soft landing. I dealt with it as best as I could. Fortunately my beautiful wife was there for me. 

You’re a brand-new member of PatientsLikeMe – welcome! What do you think of the community and site so far? 

Thank you for your ‘new member’ welcome to PatientsLikeMe. What I have seen so far, this site looks to me to be very impressive, I found the section on sleep very reassuring. Insomnia is a big issue for me. I see now from your research data that I am not alone in this.

On your profile, you’ve noted that one of your interests is in clinical trials. What about clinical trials makes you passionate about them?

I do not think I am passionate about clinical trials per se. However, I am very enthusiastic about the immunotherapy study treatment that I am fortunate to currently be on. It has given me hope. A sense of hopelessness was never far from my mind in the first year after diagnosis. Five rounds of carboplatin chemotherapy was hard going, as it is for everyone. Now more stability has returned and with it, hope for the future.

Finally, what is one thing you’ve learned over the past two years since your diagnosis that you’d like to share with the lung cancer community?

Maybe one small way that I can try and say thanks to the cancer researchers, biotechnicians, study administrators and clinical care staff is to show support and encouragement for the groundbreaking work they are doing. They deserve all the flag waving acknowledgment possible for giving me back hope.

To paraphrase Mel Bernstein/Harris Yulin in Scarface, (1983), “Everyday above ground is a good day.”

Cheers!

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


“Not beyond us” – Recognizing World Cancer Day

Posted February 4th, 2015 by

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has organized today, February 4th, as World Cancer Day. This year’s theme: “Not beyond us.” It’s about highlighting that solutions to cancer are within our reach. Awareness is not beyond us. Prevention is not beyond us. And a cure is not beyond us. The UICC is encouraging everyone to take a positive and proactive approach in the fight against cancer by working towards these four goals:

  • Choosing healthy lives
  • Delivering early detection
  • Achieving treatment for all
  • Maximizing quality of life

You can become part of the World Cancer Day effort and raise awareness about what needs to be done. Whether it’s at an individual, community, governmental or global level, you can help in the fight. Visit the World Cancer Day website to learn how to get involved.

What are PatientsLikeMe members sharing about their journeys with cancer?

PatientsLikeMe member Glow4life was diagnosed with lung cancer (adenocarcinoma) this past June, and her story is a testament to never losing hope. She recently shared her experiences in an interview, and she spared no details in describing her challenges. Despite her terminal diagnosis, four rounds of chemotherapy and the sudden loss of her husband, Glow4life has remained positive, and she’s learned to take every day as it comes and live in the moment. Learn about her journey and how she shares love and hope whenever she can.

“Hope won’t make it happen” is Phil’s (PhillyH) personal motto in life. She’s a PatientsLikeMe member who hails from Northampton in the United Kingdom and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. Ever since then, she’s been learning to live with the ups and downs of her condition. She recently shared her experiences in an interview with us, everything from the reaction she had after her blunt diagnosis to her treatment decisions and son’s new tattoo. Phil also shared her thoughts on what every person who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer should know. As she says, “If you don’t know, you can’t do” – read about her lung cancer journey.

Meet Vickie, a PatientsLikeMe member who has survived cancer not once, but twice. She’s sharing her story, from diagnosis to survivorship, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. She spoke about her reaction to getting diagnosed, the anxiety filled months leading up to surgery and what recovery was like post-operation. Learn about her journey.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word for World Cancer Day.


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

Posted January 26th, 2015 by

PatientsLikeMe member Glow4life was diagnosed with lung cancer (adenocarcinoma) this past June, and her story is a testament to never losing hope. She recently shared her experiences in an interview, and she spared no details in describing her challenges. Despite her terminal diagnosis, four rounds of chemotherapy and the sudden loss of her husband, Glow4life has remained positive, and she’s learned to take every day as it comes and live in the moment. Learn about her journey below and how she shares love and hope whenever she can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.