41 posts tagged “Parkinson’s Disease”

The ‘something’ that helps you forget

Posted April 24th, 2013 by

If you’re living with a life changing condition, it’s sometimes hard to take your mind off it. We become consumed by medications, side effects, symptoms and everyday living. But every once in a while, we find something that can take our minds somewhere else. And for a time, no matter how brief, all those worries just drift away. For your fellow PatientsLikeMe community member Parkinson Pete, that ‘something’ is music.

“I have been absorbed in my music project…I realized being that absorbed I really, for the first time in years, forgot that I have PD.” -Parkinson Pete


Parkinson Pete was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) back in July of 2008 and he joined PatientsLikeMe shortly after. Just this past February, he started a forum thread (I have found a way to reduce PD- do something else) talking about his new music project and posting some of his great recordings for all to hear.


What happened next was quite simply…awesome. Parkinson Pete was playing every instrument in his recordings except the drums. So fellow community member Shawden offered up his skills as a drummer. And the duo was formed!

Probably the coolest part of it all is that one lives in Washington, the other in California. Parkinson Pete records the guitar and vocals, and then sends it over to Shawden to add in the drums. Their songs are posted up on YouTube and they share them in the PD Forum. Don’t forget to check out the duo’s latest hits. Two talented people discovered and share their love for music on PatientsLikeMe, and aren’t letting PD get in the way. Can’t wait for their next post.

Young professionals, students and patients gather to collaborate at 5th Parkinson’s Disease Summer School

Posted April 9th, 2013 by

The Parkinson’s Disease Summer School was founded in 2008 by Paul de Roos of the European Medical Students’ Association and Krzysztof Nesterowicz of the European Pharmacy Students’ Association. This year, the school is leaving its European roots and relocating to Montreal, Canada.

Brain Logo HQ - t-shirt

Thirty participants from around the world will work in small teams to develop “relevant and realistic research project proposals.” While the chosen participants come from a variety of professional backgrounds, they all share a common interest in advancing Parkinson’s disease (PD) research. The ultimate goal is to get participants thinking outside the box to create future projects that can “make an impact on the lives of PD patients.”

Just like PatientsLikeMe, the summer school knows that to advance research we have to connect with people who aren’t just studying disease, but living with it. Sara Riggare, a PhD student in Sweden with early onset PD, and Jill Ames-Carson, a physiotherapist from Canada living with PD, will both be at the summer school. Their participation and contribution will help lift patient centered thinking about PD to the next level.


“This year we celebrate the 5th edition of the summer school. We are pushing the boundaries by intensifying our engagement with Parkinson’s patients in our learning and evaluation process.” –Paul de Roos, MD

Some of the experts that will be guiding the participants through their work were selected by the Movement Disorder Society. The summer school is also teaming up with The World Parkinson’s Congress so that participants can showcase their research ideas directly to Parkinson’s professionals.

If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease, find others just like you in the growing community of almost 7,000 Parkinson’s patients on PatientsLikeMe. Learn what they’re doing to manage their condition with symptom and treatment reports, and share your own experience with a personal health profile or in the Parkinson’s disease forum.

Raising Awareness for Parkinson’s Disease

Posted April 1st, 2013 by

Did you know that four to six million people have Parkinson’s disease (PD) worldwide? And that 50,000-60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year in the US?[1] April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and there are more ways than ever for you to “Join the Fight” against this neurodegenerative brain disorder.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 11.33.30 AM

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation has created an awesome toolkit called “30 Ways to Raise Awareness of Parkinson’s.” You’ll discover ways to reach out to your local media, find tips and tricks for fundraising, and learn how to get your public official to join in the fight. You can download the toolkit for free and start spreading the word today.

If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease, find others just like you in the growing community of almost 7,000 Parkinson’s patients on PatientsLikeMe. Learn what they’re doing to manage their condition with symptom and treatment reports, and share your own experience with a personal health profile or in the Parkinson’s disease forum.

[1] http://www.parkinson.org/parkinson-s-disease.aspx

Spotlighted Author: Parkinson’s Humorist Bev Ribaudo on Dispensing Laughter

Posted October 25th, 2012 by

Parkinson's Disease Humorist, Blogger and Author Bev Ribaudo ("YumaBev")PatientsLikeMe member Bev Ribaudo (“YumaBev”) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at age 47, but it hasn’t dampened her flair for comedy.  “Humor comes naturally to me, and a little disease like Parkinson’s can’t take it away,” she says.

In fact, her condition has given her a new purpose:  entertaining other “Parkies” with her deep reservoir of funny stories.  She began a blog called Parkinson’s Humor, and most recently, she’s collected the tales from her blog into a book, Parkinson’s Humor:  Funny Stories about My Life with Parkinson’s (available in paperback and Kindle editions).  Find out what she’s gotten out of sharing her sense of humor in our interview.

1. Tell us about the role that humor plays in your life – and why it’s so important.

Humor has always been a part of my life. Both of my parents had good senses of humor; they needed it with five accident-prone kids. I had a lot of tragedy in my life when I was young – my first husband died in a car crash when I was 23 and my mother died of lung cancer 15 months later. She used to joke about her bald head (from chemo) and pretty much kept on laughing right up until the day she died.

My wonderful husband and I used to do comedy shows tailored for seniors. We traveled the country in a RV and did shows from Florida to Washington. I used to come out dressed as Dolly Parton and then I did a standup routine as Daisy Jane (Minnie Pearl’s niece). It was a lot of fun and we both enjoyed making people laugh.

Bev Performing as Daisy Jane, the Niece of Minnie Pearl

When my mystery illness curtailed our travels, we performed closer to home. We stopped when I just couldn’t physically do it anymore. After diagnosis, I performed various skits at the RV Resort where we lived at the time. Whenever they needed some “entertainment” they’d just call me. I now live in a house and when I found a Parkinson’s chat room early one morning, and people who needed cheering up, I started sharing my funny stories with them and that’s how Parkinson’s Humor, the blog and book, began. I have seen what laughter can do for people, and I know that laughing helps me as well.

2.  You’ve tallied 59,000+ blog visitors to date. What have you gained from sharing and connecting with other PD patients online?

More than you can imagine. I am still not quite sure how it happened, how people from countries I have never even heard of found my blog, but the feedback I get inspires me to keep writing. My wonderful husband says, “Parkinson’s didn’t take anything away from you, it gave you a new life.” And he’s right. I have learned so many things from the people I connect with online and in turn, have shared right back.

I feel like I have a whole new family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents as well as a dozen or so new parents, LOL. I have one close online friend who ends every reply with “Love, Mom.” She had a daughter who was born the same year as I was, but died as a toddler and she thinks that her daughter would have looked just like me.

3. What led you to turn your funny stories into a book?

The Cover of Bev's New Book

I made the blog stories into a book for just one reason: for people who are not computer literate. I had so many people say, “I printed out one of your stories for my Dad (Grandma, Aunt, Neighbor), who has Parkinson’s. He doesn’t do computers. Will it ever be a book?”

So, I spent most of this summer making it into book form. Sales have been pretty good considering I self-published and did all the marketing myself. I donated the first profit check of $250 to my local PD support group earlier this month. I hope to get a major sponsor soon, so I can send a book to every support group in the country for their library. I will not keep any money from the book for myself; it will all be donated to Parkinson’s. I hope to have huge sales for Christmas (fingers crossed).

4.  You had Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery on October 18th. What was that like, and how are you feeling?

The first part of the surgery went very well and I am feeling very good. Tomorrow is the second part and I am told that the recovery will be longer and more painful, but I hope to feel well enough to go to a Halloween Party Saturday night. I’ve got my costume all ready (complete with antennae, LOL). There is a blog post detailing the entire surgery on the www.ParkinsonsHumor.com website right now.

Life with Parkinson’s Disease: What We’ve Learned

Posted December 15th, 2011 by

On Tuesday, our interview with blogger Steve Ploussard of “Attitude & Fitness Wins” revealed how one person is managing his Parkinson’s disease (PD).  Today we take a closer look at this progressive neurological condition using the data and experiences shared by our 5,920 PD members.

Age at Which Patients Experienced Their First Parkinson's Symptom

Taking a look at the makeup of our PD community, 52% are male, and 48% are female.  More than 98% identify PD as their primary condition, and just shy of 20% report experiencing their first symptom between the ages of 50 and 59.  Others report experiencing their first symptom anywhere from adolescence to their seventies.  (See the chart for a complete breakdown.)  What exactly are the symptoms of this condition?  Some of the most commonly reported include stiffness/spasticity, slowness, sexual dysfunction, memory problems, excessive daytime drowsiness and constipation.

As Steve’s interview revealed, Carbidopa-Levodopa (Sinemet) is one of the most commonly prescribed treatments for PD as it helps to control tremors, one of the most visible manifestations of the disease, and other movement dysfunctions.  Currently, more than 1,698 members report taking this medication, and 300+ of them have submitted Sinemet treatment evaluations, which review the drug’s effectiveness, side effects, dosage, cost and more.   Here’s what one patient writes about Sinemet on her evaluation:  “I notice my leg limp and motivation to walk improves dramatically when it kicks in. The tremor is much less.

Some of the Most Commonly Reported Treatments for Parkinson's, As Reported by PatientsLikeMe Members

Other commonly reported PD treatments include prescription medications such as Ropinirole (Requip), Pramipexole (Mirapex), Rasagiline (Azilect) and Amantadine; OTC supplements such as CoQ10; and surgical procedures such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).  Click on the treatment name to see the data we’ve amassed for each, including hundreds of treatment evaluations submitted by our patients.

This is just a sample of the wealth of experience and data to be found at PatientsLikeMe.  Dive in today to learn more about PD.

Spotlighted Blogger: Parkinson’s Patient Steve Ploussard of “Attitude & Fitness Wins”

Posted December 13th, 2011 by

PatientsLikeMe Member and Parkinson's Blogger Steve Ploussard Doing His Best "Heisman Trophy" Pose

Last week we kicked off a new blog series featuring patient bloggers, and today, we’re pleased to present our second installment.  Please meet Steve Ploussard, a longtime PatientsLikeMe member who writes a blog about living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) called “Attitude & Fitness Wins.”  Steve decided that blogging was the perfect way to “come out” about his Parkinson’s diagnosis and become more at ease with it. Check out our interview with Steve below to learn how he developed his “fighting spirit,” what he’s doing to raise PD awareness and who inspires him the most.

1.  What’s it been like “going public” about Parkinson’s on your blog?

Going public (“My Coming-Out Party”) on my blog has been a very emotional experience for me.  When I clicked “Publish” after writing the post, I felt as if the weight of the world was off my shoulders.  I became relaxed when talking about having PD with my family and friends just knowing they had read my blog and finally knew I had the disease.  I believe one of the reasons my tremors have become less frequent and not as pronounced is that I’m more comfortable with whom I am, a 55- year-old man with Parkinson’s.

I had basically been trying to hide that I had PD for seven years. Just try keeping a secret (of the magnitude of having Parkinson’s) for seven years.  It wears on you and can consume you if you let it.  Going public has also allowed me to create awareness of what Parkinson’s disease really does to a human being and their family.  The perception most have is that the disease is life-threatening and some have similar thoughts as if I had cancer and was going to die from it.  I use the opportunity to educate that PD does not kill you.  It only makes it more difficult to live a normal life due to the symptoms.

2.  What role does PatientsLikeMe’s Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (PDRS) play in your disease management?

The PDRS is the only tool I am aware of that a patient can actually use to track the progression of PD.  I have taken the test (a series of multiple choice questions about everyday activity) at least once a quarter for the past four years, and it has helped me immensely, especially from an emotional standpoint.  When I first took the test back in November 2007, my score between 0 to 100 (100 being the worst or the furthest along with Parkinson’s) was 7.  Just before I started to answer this question today, I took the test and scored an 11.  My high was a 22 back in May 2011.

A Sample Section of PatientsLikeMe's Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (PDRS)

Obviously, I have a very slow progression of the disease. That gives me confidence I can live a normal life for years to come.  The PDRS may not be an exact science, but it does give us a baseline in measuring PD.  Your score can be used in determining what your next step is in fighting the disease and/or increasing or decreasing your medication(s).  Over the years, every time I meet someone with Parkinson’s, I ask if they are aware of PatientsLikeMe.  If not, I direct them to the website and explain about the benefits of the site, emphasizing the use of the PDRS.

3.  What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten from other PatientsLikeMe members?

The information and history on the PatientsLikeMe website of approximately 6,000 members [with PD] is phenomenal.  The wealth of knowledge you have at your fingertips is extremely powerful.  If you have PD and are not member, you are simply missing out.  Neurologists specializing in Parkinson’s, in my humble opinion, should have PatientsLikeMe and the forum as required reading in their daily practice.

The following is one example of an experience I had recently with PatientsLikeMe.  At 3:00 a.m. one morning, not able to sleep, I went online to the PatientsLikeMe website.  The following is an outtake I posted on the [Parkinson’s] forum within PatientsLikeMe:

Over the past 2 years I have tried to go on Carbidopa/Levodopa 3 times, the 3rd time being this past week, in hopes it would help control my increasing tremors.  And now for the 3rd time I am stopping due to the side effects.  For the 3rd night in a row I could not sleep due to the constant high anxiety/buzzing feeling along with uncontrollable gyrations of my head and arms.”

Within 24 hours, four members responded with their advice, which was basically to start with a lower dosage and increase very slowly, but to give the drug a chance.  J. Marley, Lexiegirl, Parkinson’s Pete and equus, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I made the dosage change and gave the drug a chance and now Carbidopa-Levodopa [brand name Sinemet] is my friend.

4.  You talk a lot about your fighting spirit on your blog.  Where do you draw inspiration and strength?

Good question.  My #1 inspiration in fighting the disease is having the right attitude and conviction to win the battles and the war against PD. This is why I am so obsessed with proper fitness and working out every day.  I made the commitment back in September 2009 that, at the very minimum, I would go to the gym six days a week and do 60 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of weights and 15 minutes of abdominal work.  I am currently in the best shape of my life, which is an extreme confidence booster that I can win the war and hold off this disease until we find a cure.

Outside my family, there are three men that I draw inspiration and strength from almost daily.  They are Coach Jim Valvano (“Jimmy V”), Michael J. Fox and Mohammed Ali.  This past week was the anniversary of Jimmy V’s memorable speech at the ESPY awards on ESPN, when he was still alive fighting cancer.  I have heard and played the speech so many times I can almost recite it by heart.  The main strength I draw on is what Coach Valvano asked us all to try and do each day.  We need to be deep in thought about something important to us every day.  Each day we need to laugh and enjoy life.  And lastly, each day we need to have emotions that move us to tears.  If we can have deep thought, laughter and cry in the same day, that’s a BIG DAY.  The tagline of the V Foundation, “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” is the mission statement on my blog (www.AttitudeFitnessWins.com).

As we go through life, we all have our heroes we look up to for inspiration.  For me that has changed as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser.  When I was young, my heroes were sports stars like Mickey Mantle, Pete Maravich and Jack Nicklaus.  In my adult life family members have become my heroes and support as I fight PD and try and live a normal life.  My Dad, my Mom, my Uncle Jack, to name a few, have always inspired me to be the best I can be.

Boxing Legend Muhammed Ali, Whose Attitude Inspires Steve Ploussard on a Daily Basis

Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, my motivation to make an impact and help others living with PD comes from Michael J. Fox and Mohammed Ali, both of which have had Parkinson’s for many years.  Michael J. Fox is an incurable optimist that I have respected since reading his book, “Always Looking Up.”  His quest through his foundation in finding a cure for the disease in his lifetime is unsurpassed and is my Holy Grail.  And then there is The Greatest, Mohammed Ali.  My blog’s mantra, “Attitude & Fitness Wins,” says it all.  I draw strength and a confident attitude every time I see it.  His jubilation and his commitment to fitness and being a winner are attributes I want to portray in my life and hopefully pass on to others and have an impact on their lives as well.


To find out more about PD, check out our follow-up blog post, “Life with Parkinson’s Disease: What We’ve Learned.”

Today’s Photo: Uniting for Parkinson’s

Posted November 29th, 2011 by

Please meet Parkinson’s disease (PD) patient Judith, who led a PatientsLikeMeInMotion-sponsored team at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York City last April.  Held annually in Central Park, this massive grassroots event donates 100% of funds raised to PD research.

Judith and Team Members at the 2011 Parkinson's Unity Walk

Congrats to Judith and all of our PatientsLikeMeInMotion-sponsored teams for your efforts to raise funds and awareness for your condition. We’re honored to support you every step of the way.  For more PatientsLikeMeInMotion team photos, check out our Flickr gallery.

Thinking about organizing a team for next spring?  Learn more about the PatientsLikeMeInMotion program today.

Canine Caretakers: How Service Dogs Can Help Many Types of Patients

Posted May 17th, 2011 by

Service Dog Mali

Now that PatientsLikeMe is open to any patient with any condition, we’ve noticed more patients with different conditions sharing similar lifestyle modifications. One example is the use of a service dog.

What are the benefits – both expected and unexpected – of a four-legged assistant?  We asked some of our members to talk about their service dogs’ best qualities.

The Uncanny Seizure Predictor

  • “[My seizure dog Mandy] has awakened me two times just as a seizure was about to start. I don’t know how she does it but she does. In fact, I had a seizure outside once (doesn’t happen often), and Mandy ran to a neighbor’s house and barked until they came to me.” - Mandysmother (Epilepsy patient)

The Sensitive Tear Licker

  • “He is my balance dog. He knows when I am about to have a migraine or a seizure and he even knows when I am hurting. Isn’t that funny? He licks my tears when I am crying, and he knows when to stay away from me.”  - Some1Special (Mental Health and Behavior patient)

The Good-Humored Mind Reader

  • “[My service dog Mali] was the best decision I ever made. With her I now have some of my independence again, and for a woman who used to climb mountains and water ski, going to the store again after years never going anywhere alone, this means the world to me. The fact that Mali has a sense of humor and seems to read my mind is only another blessing to go along with my newfound freedom.” - Anahit (Fibromyalgia patient)

The Anti-Tripping Companion

  • “My neurologist thinks the service dog is preventing my gait from freezing! (When he heels, he constantly moves his head near my knee to check for a command.) I haven’t ended up on the ground or floor since I got him. He is great company! He is always willing to join me on my ’5 miles/day,’ and since I got him, no one has mistaken my Parkinson’s for being intoxicated!”
    - FriendlyTraveler (Parkinson’s disease patient)

Do you have an outstanding service dog too?  Share your experiences in the comments section and don’t forget to add “service dog” to your list of lifestyle modifications.

PatientsLikeMe member jdevita

The Choices Patients Like You – and Like My Mother – Face

Posted February 14th, 2011 by

Patients like you with life-changing conditions have to make choices every day, just like anyone else. These choices, however, typically have more at stake than how to RSVP to a party or even whether to walk away from an “underwater” home. For patients like you, your lives may be at stake.

I have watched my mother deal with three different types of cancers for more than 25 years, and the choices she had to make for me and my siblings to be successful were stark. As a single mother with a doctorate and two master’s degrees, she had to take jobs that paid less because cancer limited her energy. She took on enormous debt because she wouldn’t let her illness stop her from giving her children a private school education. Those choices started from physical and emotional hardship, then led to economic hardship.

Patients like you – and like my mother – have conditions you didn’t ask for, and your ability to keep a job and maintain economic stability isn’t just based on your talent or training, but also in your management of your conditions. Brought on by infection, age, genetic pre-disposition or unknown causes, these conditions factor into every choice, every decision—and in my mother’s case, which job to seek. We all make choices each day, but patients like you often have to choose between living well and just living.

One of the most important choices for patients like you is how to treat your disease. With your health care team, you try to make the best choice with the given information. The problem is information is scarce, untrustworthy or impersonal. That’s right, impersonal. What is a miracle treatment for one person could land another in the hospital. At PatientsLikeMe, we try to shine light on the information that can help each of you reach your best outcome. This is why we don’t just provide aggregate information, but allow you to access the profile of a person who is taking a medication to see if that person is “like you.”

The figure below speaks to the choices patients like you have to make about your treatments in a world with imperfect information. The chart depicts thousands of patient evaluations of efficacy and tolerability among major therapies across our 22 represented conditions. What jumps out immediately? That treatments for HIV and Parkinson’s are both more effective and easily tolerated than others out there for other diseases. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been devoted to research in those areas, and it’s paid off. Many believe Parkinson’s has a cure in sight, and HIV has, in less than 30 years, become a manageable chronic condition rather than a death sentence.

Efficacy vs. Side Effects

But what if you have other conditions? You are clearly making a choice between efficacy of the medications and the side effects that come with them. While aggregated data is great for directional insight, PatientsLikeMe is designed to let you drill down deeper. You can ask each person taking the treatment how it works for him or her. Why? Like everyone, you trust people like yourself who are going through or have gone through the same experiences. Only patients with similar situations can give you specific insight into what tradeoffs need to be considered when potentially trying a new medication. How will it affect my sleep? Is there daytime fatigue or “down time”? Can I operate heavy machinery? Will this treatment impair my ability to work in my profession?

These are the questions many of you are asking. These are the choices you make every day. My mother made her choices and has lived to see the fruits of her sacrifice. If we at PatientsLikeMe are going to help each of you answer the question, “Given my status, what is the best outcome I can hope to achieve, and how do I get there?”, then we have to continue to show the benefits of openly sharing information with each other. We have to excel at illuminating the real-world efficacy and risks of all kinds of treatments, and we have to help you connect with patients like you in a way that you get personal answers to your questions.

The more data you choose to share, the more we can all make the world of treatment information less imperfect and more personal. Simply stated, we’re all in this together.

PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams

Share and Compare: A PatientsLikeMe Year in Review (Part III – more R&D)

Posted January 5th, 2011 by

The research team is very proud of how our team has grown in 2010 and the impact we’ve made in the academic community.  In 2010 alone, PatientsLikeMe and our work were mentioned in scientific literature more than 133 times.  All of this is because of what you share with us.

Yesterday, we highlighted some of the research work we’ve done in 2010 across our four newest communities.  Today, we’ll highlight our older communities.  Below is also a highlights reel of some of this work.


  • Throughout 2010, we discussed the goal and benefits to measuring your quality of life (QoL). This concept of measuring QoL started in our HIV Community at the end of 2009. Earlier this year in a blog and podcast, Researcher Michael Massagli Ph.D. discussed some of the insights that are being shared by HIV patients through the QoL survey. For instance, we found that the average physical, mental and social well-being score of patients with a CD4 count below 200 is significantly lower than for those of you with a count above 200.

Parkinson’s Disease

  • The Parkinson’s Community has always excelled in reporting their health status through the Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (or PDRS). When answering the questions on this scale, members often asked us: “Should I respond when my drugs are working and I’m at my best (‘On’) or when my drugs aren’t working and I’m at my worst (‘Off’)?” Back in October, we released a brand new feature in the PD community that allows you to rate your symptoms as either “On,” “Off”, or in both conditions so now you can see the effect of your medications for yourself.

Multiple Sclerosis

  • We hear a lot from you about the difficulty of adhering to medication. Early last year, our research team developed a new rating scale for patients with MS to assess the difficulties of sticking to their medication. We presented findings at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC), the main North American conference for MS specialist physicians, nurses, and researchers. The team is currently working on publishing these findings.


  • Co-founder Jamie Heywood discussed our research into lithium in ALS at the TEDMED conference late in 2009. In early 2010, TEDMED released the video of his presentation where he shares our vision of the future of medicine. The team is currently working on publishing the lithium findings.
  • PatientsLikeMe, in collaboration with researchers at Oxford University, discovered that when ALS patients get symptoms in their arms first, they’re most likely to get it in their dominant hand. This research was presented at the ALS MND Symposium and cited on this MND Research blog.
  • We also collaborated with the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) to examine the decision-making process that patients with ALS go through when considering whether or not to take part in research studies; this was published in the peer-reviewed journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Here’s a short video highlighting much of the research you’ve helped us do in 2010.

Finally, I want to recognize how our team has expanded this year to better focus on what matters to you most.  Some new additions include:

  • Brant Chee, Ph.D. – a specialist in natural language processing and detecting drug safety data in patient reported text
  • Kate Slawsky, MPH – an outcomes researcher helping to develop custom surveys for our partners and our platform
  • Shivani Bhargava – a research assistant supporting the team in ensuring our platform holds high-quality data about our patients

Thank you all for having a voice in research. There’s so much being learned from what you are sharing every day, and we are excited about what 2011 will bring.

PatientsLikeMe member pwicks

Overcoming Obstacles – Newsletter Highlight 2010

Posted December 27th, 2010 by

Last week, we posted highlights from our December community newsletter interviews. As we close out 2010, we want to spotlight another question asked this month – one that is relative to all members, all patients (no matter the condition).  What obstacles have you faced and overcome this year?

To review all of our newsletters, you can visit our archives page here.

* * *

2166 (Amy) What obstacles have you overcome this year?
(ellieGADsufferer – Mood Conditions Community)

First of all, I became well enough to leave my local psychiatric hospital after having been an inpatient for six months. My anxiety means that all new things – even getting on a bus to go somewhere new – make me have severe panic symptoms.

I now make sure I am out of bed by 0700hrs during the week and make myself go out at least three times per week, whether it is meeting friends for coffee or attending appointments. Otherwise I will return to “avoidance,” whereby I cut off all contact with friends and family, including calls and text messages.

kidneygirl (kidneygirl1198and0505 – Transplants Community)

I have had to deal with and overcome the struggles that come with tardive dyskinesia. Reglan has been black-boxed [with a FDA-mandated warning about the risk of tardive dyskinesia] over the past two years, but I took it for three or four years before that. [Read kidneygirl1198and0505's Reglan treatment evaluation for more details.]

Signs of tardive dyskinesia may include: continuous and repetitive movements of the mouth, tongue, and jaw; facial grimacing; lip smacking, puffing of the cheeks; uncontrollable movements of the arms, legs, fingers, and toes; and swaying motions of the trunk or hips.

Mine has gotten so bad that I have regular grand mal seizures from time to time, and sometimes it’s hard to carry on a conversation without looking weird.

mtnlady (mountain lady – Parkinson’s Disease Community)

One of the biggest obstacles in my life this year was getting over the death of a very close friend.  This person became ill and died within a few months.  Her death made me more aware of how precious life is.

Another obstacle was in the adjustment of my medicine for Parkinson’s.  My doctor wanted me to try a new medicine with fewer long-term side effects.  I tried it for several months but did not do very well.  I am currently back on my original medicine, taking a little more than before, but I have readjusted well.

andrew (andrewn78 – HIV Community)

This year I overcame a hard breakup. It was difficult because I thought we were going to be together for a longer term relationship than we were (only nine months).

It was also difficult to start dating again. I forgot how many people don’t know much about how HIV is contracted and that there are many people who would never date someone who is living with HIV or will date someone living with HIV but the fear of contracting HIV puts too much of a damper on the relationship. It’s a difficult process.

tommymkr (Tommy Maker – ALS Community)

I’ve spent a lot of time this year getting used to the fact that I have become dependent on others.

Prior to diagnosis, I sat on the local council, was involved in the organization of all types of public elections and I was a trade union official. These were voluntary roles which involved helping others. Yet, initially, after diagnosis, I had an enormous difficulty accepting help from others. However, I’ve come to realize that I have a loving family, fantastic friends and very supportive colleagues. I have found that many of them don’t know what to do and are very glad when I am specific as to what they can do for me.

I’ve also learned that no question is too personal. I struggled a lot with questions about personal hygiene and when I found the courage to ask these most intimate questions, I found that the professionals were so familiar with the questions asked that, beyond the initial embarrassment, we quickly went on to find solutions. I have also found that when people ask questions about my condition, they are entitled to an answer, an honest answer.

nates (Nates-Sweetpea – Fibromyalgia/CFS Community)

Oh my, 2010 has been a huge year! I didn’t know how I was going to get through it whole, but here I am knocking on 2011, one step at a time. I had to rejoin the workforce on a part-time basis this year, after years of not working (not being able to work), but I had to as my husband had lost his job about 18 months previously, and we were facing bankruptcy!

So I’ve been working part-time since last February, about 17 to 32 hours a week. We did go through bankruptcy, lost our home, vehicles and our high 700′s credit score with it. But you know what, I survived.  Actually, no, I overcame, with the help of a very supportive Sunday School class, great friends, and a wonderful husband and daughter.

(kg10043 – Epilepsy Community)

I work for the US Forest Service and, as of July, made it to retirement age still working. Two times they tried to force me to take a disability retirement. To keep working I have had to move around to several jobs in four different states because of my health. Not only have I made it to retirement age, but I am still working even though they are trying to get rid of me once again. (What a joke when you consider that the federal government has a quota for disabled employees).

It has meant I have not only had to work in a variety of locations, but doing different kinds of work. Just in the time on this forest I have worked as the Oracle DBA in the computer shop, in GIS, later in Forest Planning, with a crew of five Soil Scientists, a Botanist and myself mapping the soils and ecological types and writing recommendations for management.  And now for the last two years I have been “unfunded” and doing all kinds of random jobs for projects in the office. Just this year that has included supporting the USFS in legal challenges as well as jobs so simple as filing paperwork and addressing envelopes.

cobe (cobebu8 – MS Community)

For me, with multiple sclerosis and ADHD, my main problems have been the concentration to do what I need and want to do and fighting the progression of MS. I have RRMS [relapsing remitting MS] but since I have had it for 25 years, ever so slowly, it is progressing at the same time I get exacerbations. I have a new neurologist too, and he is part of a big group and getting through when I am having problems, is a problem.

Plus, with only SSDI [social security disability insurance] and not being able to find a part-time job, I have had to stop taking some needed meds and not going to necessary doctor’s appointments (e.g. my eye surgeon/doctor to see if the optic nerve is still swollen and I can’t do a necessary MRI because the insurance company won’t pay.) So to get help for my asthma, I am doing a research study to get free care. I haven’t found one for MS or depression yet.

PatientsLikeMe member lscanlon

Sharing and Learning with PatientsLikeMe

Posted December 22nd, 2010 by

In December community newsletters (launched earlier this week), we asked some of our members to think about what they’ve shared and compared in 2010.  Below are highlighted answers from each interviewee across all nine community newsletters.  Thank you for your contributions.

We also want to thank all of you who have contributed to the 90 newsletters we ran this year, including the newly launched ones in our Epilepsy and Transplants communities.  Finally, a special thanks goes out to our newsletter writer, Amy Morton, for pulling these together every month.

To review all of our newsletters, you can visit our archives page here.

* * *

2166 (Amy)

How has PatientsLikeMe helped you learn and share this year?

tommymkr (Tommy Maker – ALS Community)

PatientsLikeMe has provided me with new friends-people who are experiencing the same problems as I am. I’ve learned that there isn’t a single question that won’t get a vast myriad of answers from the community. I’ve learned that we’re all very different people, and I’ve learned we don’t always agree.  I’ve learned that we all care enormously for each other and are very eager to help those who find themselves in the same boat as we are. But most of all I’ve learned that I am not on my own.  I’m not the only one facing a bleak future and not the only one who is able to appreciate what he has at the moment.

cobe (cobebu8 – MS Community)

I really like it here in that I can keep track of all my meds with their side effects, etc.  Plus I like it that I can list symptoms and have a history of all of it to review and learn from and share with my doctors. I hope that my input on meds, therapies, etc., helps other people. It is good not to be alone.

mtnlady (mountain lady – Parkinson’s Disease Community)

It has given me the experience of reading about others who are in situations similar to mine.  It has shown me that I am not alone.  I love reading the newsletters and the comments from other readers. It also helps to keep me up-to-date on any new suggestions or treatments.

Also, I became acquainted with someone online through PatientsLikeMe.  We actually live in the same town, both work in the field of Education and have had Parkinson’s for the same length of time.  Getting together with her was a pleasure, and she introduced me to the idea of meeting with a support group, which I had never done before.

(ellieGADsufferer – Mood Conditions Community)

It is invaluable. I find the Symptoms and Treatments areas so helpful. I have learned (from genuine people who are taking these meds) that some of my “quirky” side effects and sufferings from the meds I take can and do happen to others and are not imaginary.  (My general practitioner and Consultant just brush the list aside and shrug their shoulders).

I have learned that I am not alone with my illnesses, which is good to know, and I have also learned that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”  I try to keep my profile as up to date as possible in the hope that it will be helpful to at least one or two members. I rate my Daily Mood [now called InstantMe] at least five days per week and always complete my Mood Map, again for the same reasons.

Well done PatientsLikeMe and its members. Keep going, you are doing really good work and long may it continue.

andrew (andrewn78 – HIV Community)

I love organization and having PatientsLikeMe help me to organize all of my medical information. I would like to have an ability to log simple notes on the PatientsLikeMe profile so every time I go to my doctor I can make some general notes (if needed) for that visit on my experience and what was covered with my provider.

(Note that all users can now use InstantMe to add notes/annotations to your Doctor Visit Sheet)

nates (Nates-Sweetpea – Fibromyalgia/CFS Community)

PatientsLikeMe has been such an encouragement to me, not only in what others have given to me through sharing their stories, but also by opening up a window for me to be an encourager also. I love the newsletters that are super reminders of how to not get off track, and also how to be good to myself.

(kg10043 – Epilepsy Community)

I think I have been pretty good at sharing, but this has been one new method, especially with some of the health issues with others facing similar situations. In the past I have answered questions for people who had their first seizure or just questions, but with this site, I am able to communicate with others who have had the same operations, take the same medications, etc., and really understand things better (from a different perspective).

kidneygirl (kidneygirl1198and0505 – Transplants Community)

PatientsLikeMe has helped me so incredibly much!  I’ve made so many friends that I thank God for every day.  It’s just like, no matter what you have or haven’t had transplanted, whichever organ you need or have, everyone on here understands you and what you’re going through.

I just really hope that people can say that about me.  It took me awhile, but no one is alone out there.  Everyone is going through their own personal struggles.  I just want everyone to know I am all ears!

PatientsLikeMe member lscanlon

The Patient Voice | Episode 5: A Little Elbow Grease and a “Can Do” Attitude

Posted November 2nd, 2010 by

I don’t think about what I can’t do,
I think about what I can do.  – Cher441


Over the past month, we’ve heard several stories about how PatientsLikeMe Parkinson’s Disease community members came together online and made a quilt that has traveled all around the world providing warmth, comfort and a sense of unity for each of its recipients. So where is the quilt now and what is it being used for?

I recently sat down with member Cher441, who currently has the quilt. An advocate for raising awareness about Parkinson’s, Cher441 is involved with many support groups including, The Courageous Steps Group, The Parkinson’s Disease Bootcamp group, The Ohio Parkinson Foundation Northeast Region group, as well as several other local awareness groups near her.  Recently, The Courageous Steps and Parkinson’s Disease Bootcamp groups hosted events where Cher441 brought the quilt for everyone to see.

Being a member of so many groups didn’t come easy to Cher441 in the beginning and she credits the connections she has made through PatientsLikeMe as the kick-start for her involvement in everything else.  Listen in to my conversation with Cher441 about how she has been using the quilt to raise awareness about Parkinson’s Disease.

As this podcast series about the PatientsLikeMe Parkinson’s quilt comes to an end, there’s no doubt that the story goes on.  Thank you to all of my guests who have contributed to this first series, including PokieToo, Browncat, VigWig, Aunti J and Cher441.  You’ve warmed and inspired us all with your pieces of this quilt.

Stay tuned for more of The Patient Voice in the coming weeks.

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman

The Patient Voice | Episode 3: When a Community “Becomes Family”

Posted October 19th, 2010 by

“I’ve met a lot of people from all over the world,
we are all one happy family.” – Vigwig

Around and around we go, strap on in for Episode 3 of our podcast series, “The Patient Voice.”   To continue with the PatientsLikeMe Parkinson’s Disease (PD) quilt story, our guest today is community member VigWig. A few years back, VigWig underwent surgery for DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation). As word spread throughout the vigwigpatch3community, Vigwig’s online friends arranged for the quilt to be there waiting for him when he returned to his room from surgery.

Inspired by his Parkinson’s “family” (as he calls them), VigWig plays a more active role in the PatientsLikeMe PD community, and in raising awareness about PD. His story was published in the The Courier of Montgomery County, and VigWig submitted quilt patches to Parkinson’s Quilt Project (coordinated by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and displayed at the World Parkinson’s Congress). An honest-to-goodness story about an online “family” rallying together to support one of their own…here is our interview with VigWig.

PatientsLikeMe member afleishman