22 posts tagged “patient blogger”

“Life is good” – PatientsLikeMe community member John_R speaks about his new life after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis

Posted March 11th, 2014 by

Several people in the PatientsLikeMe community use the phrase “new normal” after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (PF), and PF member John_R doesn’t’ think his new normal is all bad. This month, he chatted with us about getting diagnosed with PF, bringing oxygen to the workplace, and how living with his Sweetie keeps him focused on the positive moments of his journey.

You were recently diagnosed with PF in 2013 – can you tell us a little about your diagnosis experience?

I was initially diagnosed with PF back in 2002 via a CAT scan with contrast. Around 2000, some haziness was seen on an x-ray, and my doctor recommended that I see a pulmonologist. I was getting ready to move to Texas, so I waited until I settled down and found a new GP. It was after my first physical with my new doctor that I was sent to see a pulmonologist. He sent me for a series of CAT scans from April of ‘02 to Jan ’03.

The first scan indicated “There are several patchy areas of infiltrate identified peripherally in both lungs. These are identified at the anterior and lateral upper lobes as well as in both lower lobes. Mild patchy infiltrate in the lingual and right middle lobe are also seen.” The third scan concluded “….these findings suggest mild fibrosis.” and “…mild stable interstitial airspace disease consistent with fibrosis given stability.”

The doctor indicated that my PF was “mild” and “stable” so not much to really worry about. Each time I visited, pulmonary function testing showed that my Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) dropped a few percentage points. My doctor did not seem to worry, so neither did I. In May of 2011 my father died from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). That was when my pulmo started to show concern about my PF. In 2013 my FVC dropped to less than 50%. Off to another CAT scan with contrast. Insurance denied that procedure and required an HRCT (hooray for my insurance company!). The scans showed lots of damage, but were not conclusive for IPF. In August I had a VATS Biopsy performed that proved IPF.

Following the biopsy I was referred to my ILD Specialist at UT Southwestern.

You talked a little in the forum about your first day at work with oxygen – can you share a little about that for our blog followers? 

The first day I used oxygen was on Christmas Day. Since I had been out from work for the Biopsy in August, everyone knew I had lung issues. The week before Christmas I let my boss, the ladies in the front office and my guys know that I would be coming back from Christmas using oxygen so there would be no surprises.

I use the small M6 oxygen tanks in a bag that slings over my shoulder for my portable O2 use. That first day of using oxygen at work was the first day in a long time that I could climb the stairs up to the office without having to sit at my desk for a few minutes, gasping for breath and regaining my mental clarity. It was also the first time in a long time that I made it home with some energy left.

My oxygen use was quickly accepted at work. There were a couple of double takes when people who did not know I was going on O2 saw me for the first time. A quick smile from me was returned and all was back to normal.

How is life different with PF than before? What have been some of the hardest losses, and what have you gained?

“The New Normal” How do I explain how life has changed without sounding much more negative than I really am?

Life is different not just for me, but also for my Sweetie. Our new normal does not include some things that were important to us. We had to find a new home for our parrot, Tinker. Lighting a fire in the fireplace on a cold winter’s evening is part of our past. No more soaking in hot tubs or spending time at the shooting range.

We find other ways to be romantic, so the hot tubs and cozy fires are not that big an issue. I do miss Tinker and miss my time on the range.

Making sure I have plenty of oxygen has become a part of pretty much every decision we make. I am still the cook in our house. When I was first routing the tubing around made sure I could reach the stovetop with a bit of slack to spare. I also do the grocery shopping and, as we talked about before, still work.

Every chapter of my life that I get to spend with my Sweetie is the best chapter to date. Life is good. For the first time ever I have a year’s worth of vacation planned in advance. Vacation is going to be spent with family and I am really looking forward to those get-togethers.

Looks like you use your PatientsLikeMe PF Severity Score, track your treatments and chart a lot on your profile. What do you find most useful about these tools?

MyCharts is an awesome tool and more people should use it. The charts give a nice visual snapshot of how you are doing. The information is great to print out and bring with you to doctor’s appointments and I wish I had found PatientsLikeMe much sooner. I was just filling out paperwork for a genetics study and had to use several sources to collect information on medication history. It would have all been there if I had started charting sooner.

I also like to look at other peoples’ charts. I compare where I am to where they are and what they are going through. This helps me come to grips with my future.

What advice would you give to others who might be newly diagnosed with PF?

Number one, find an Interstitial Lung Disease specialist. Community pulmonologists are just not that knowledgeable about PF. The vast majority of their patients have COPD, Emphysema, Asthma and the like.  They just have little or no experience with PF.

Next I would advise to not read too much of the medical literature found on the Internet until after you have spoken with a specialist. There is a whole lot of scary stuff out there that probably does not pertain to you. I know you are going to read it anyway, so after you do, take a deep breath and remember that you are not average and that your circumstance is different from every other person with PF. My fibrosis was discovered a dozen years ago.

Finally, hang out in the forums. Ask questions, post ideas and help us support one another.


“MS cannot stop you from living your life and following your dreams” – an interview with patient advocate and PatientsLikeMe member Starla Espinoza

Posted February 7th, 2014 by

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month is fast approaching in March, but we just couldn’t wait until then to share our recent interview with patient advocate and PatientsLikeMe member Starla Espinoza, also known as baebae. On top of being a PatientsLikeMe member since 2007, tracking her health and sharing experiences with the community, she’s also a blogger and big advocate for raising MS awareness all year round. Check out what she had to say about her supportive family, her passion for MS awareness and the simple pleasure of riding a motorcycle.

 

 

 

Can you remember what your first signs or symptoms were? And what was your diagnosis experience like?  

My first significant symptom was a buzzing sensation in my left hip. I always describe it as “a microscopic bee or hummingbird” trapped in my hip that is desperately trying to escape. It was the strangest feeling, especially since I didn’t know what was going on. My diagnosis took almost a year from the time that the buzzing in my hip started. I had more symptoms like numbness from the waist down, a tight gripping sensation around my midsection (MS hug), and dizziness for 6 weeks, just to name a few. Within a 6 month time frame, I underwent tons of testing, including blood tests, spinal taps, MRI’s of my brain and spinal cord, a CT scan, and an x-ray of my spine. I was eventually told that I had Transverse Myelitis. On December 13, 2007, I was finally diagnosed with MS. My neurologist showed me my latest MRI scans and sent me home with a bag of information and a prescription for my MS treatment to be started immediately. I cried as soon as I left his office. Within 3 minutes I heard God’s voice saying, “Don’t cry, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”

As a mom with three daughters, how has MS impacted your family life?

As a mom of 3 girls, my MS diagnosis brought us all closer than we already were. Their names are Daesia, Dayna, and Aliya and they were only 12, 7 and 6 when MS presented itself. The girls saw me at my worst before we knew what was wrong with me. They know how to support my condition and me. My first treatment involved daily shots, and they even participated in the beginning by helping their dad care for me and give me my shots. They, along with my husband, are very active in my efforts to raise money for the MS Society every year. We bake goodies for our bake sale and we have all pounded the pavement together to solicit donations from local merchants for prizes to include in our annual raffle drawing. My girls and my husband are true MS Warriors and advocates for MS. Makes me teary-eyed just thinking about all we have done together for the past 6 years to show people that MS cannot stop you from living your life and following your dreams. My girls are now 18, 13 and 12, and they want to do everything that they can to fight MS. We are all in this together.

You mention your religious faith and passionate activism to raise awareness for MS. Can you tell us a little about that?

My story proves that God can use me. You see, God has been by my side since the beginning of my MS journey and even longer than that. He showed me His purpose for me in this MS journey. I discovered that He could use me to raise awareness for a condition that a lot of people were unaware of. A passion was sparked inside of me by God to take ownership of this cross that I had to bear, known as MS. I developed the strongest desire to tell everyone everything that I knew about MS. That even though I have MS, it does not have me. I wanted to use my voice in the most effective way possible, and He made me a patient advocate about 3 years ago. I often get the opportunity to speak at events and dinners, radio and news interviews, and now an interview here on PatientsLikeMe.  All I can say is, wow, 🙂 I’m really doing this.

It looks like you use your Multiple Sclerosis Rating Scale, and track you symptoms and treatments a lot on your PatientsLikeMe profile. What inspires you to share and donate so much of your health data with the community?

Sharing my health information with the community is part of being an advocate. If I am willing to be transparent, hopefully others will be inspired to do the same. Together, we are soldiers in this battle against MS. Sharing helps me track important health information and improve research about this disease. It’s very easy for me to do, and I can even do it from my phone. In turn, it benefits us with new treatments and ways to deal with MS. I get excited just thinking about it. Tears again, oh my.

For those who might not follow your blogs yet, can you share what they’re all about?  

My oldest daughter Daesia gets credit for the creation of my MS blog. She was 12 when I was diagnosed and after 2 years, she started to realize that most of the people she encountered had never heard of MS. Her peers and teachers had no idea what it was. She wanted me to blog about how MS personally affects me. I was already a blogger so it was a no brainer. Daesia named my blog, Did I Mention My MS. What a genius idea for a 14 year old! In my MS blog, I share personal details about my MS journey. I even shared a post that Daesia wrote for a school paper.  Wow, it sure does give me a lot of insight about how she viewed MS in her young mind. My blog posts include information about my MS treatments, medications that I take to combat the side effects of MS, what I’m doing in my community to raise funds and awareness, personal struggles with doctors and how I fought for my rights at work as someone with an “unseen” disability. It’s all about the good, the bad and even the ugly issues that I have personally dealt with as an MS patient.

What’s it been like to connect to others living with MS on PatientsLikeMe?

The first time I heard about PatientsLikeMe, I thought, “What a great idea!”  Connecting with others who live with MS on PatientsLikeMe has been super beneficial in so many ways. MS patients are sooo resilient because after all, MS is not limited to one area of our bodies. It affects us from head to toe, physically and emotionally. We draw so much strength from each other, and PatientsLikeMe gives us the platform to share how we cope with everything from new treatments, clinical trials and social security disability benefits, to name a few of the topics discussed in our forums. I have even established a relationship with a patient who lives in my area via PatientsLikeMe, and she has even joined my walk MS team, The MS Warriors. I love the fact that PatientsLikeMe brings all kinds of patients together. I have shared the PatientsLikeMe website with so many people, including a friend fighting bipolar disorder and even my husband, who struggles with chronic pain.

Finally, we see that you like to ride motorcycles! Awesome! Tell us about your travels on the open road.

Aww, the joy of riding a motorcycle. I ride with my husband and it is such an exhilarating, invigorating and therapeutic experience, all at the same time!  We live in Northern Nevada (Reno/Sparks), and with the mountains in the background, we discover some of the most beautiful and picturesque scenery on the “open” road. You have no fear; it’s like flying like an eagle (the symbol often seen on motorcycle clothing and gear). I started out riding with my husband as a passenger until he bought me my own small bike for my birthday. It was only 550 cc’s, and he taught me how to ride it. Before I knew it I was following him on his 1850 cc Harley Davidson Electraglide Classic around town. I used to love it when we would go to downtown Reno. You see so much more when you are on a motorcycle. After 3 years, I sold my bike, and now I am a passenger again on my husband’s big (custom painted) Harley Davidson Electraglide Classic. We even have matching helmets to match our bike. Not meaning to brag, but a motorcycle enthusiast such as myself cannot talk about riding motorcycles w/o specific details. This gives the whole experience to non-riders and understanding to riders. Sometimes we ride in groups and take trips to Lake Tahoe, my favorite place. Surrounded by tall pine trees, cabin homes and casinos with the lake in the background makes the drive such a vibrantly wonderful experience. Every year in Reno, NV there is an event called Street Vibrations. It’s all about motorcycle enthusiasts. People travel from all over the country, sometimes on their bikes alone or in a pack with their club. It is a loud 3-day event, and we always look forward to it every year.


“Sleep has become a process.” Checking in with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patient and PatientsLikeMe member Lori

Posted November 11th, 2013 by

Some of you probably remember seeing her on the PatientsLikeMe blog before. Lori is living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and when we first chatted with her last July, she shared her experiences with blogging, the difficulty in finding the right diagnosis and how connecting with others has positively impacted her life. For our “Are You Sleeping?” initiative, the PatientsLikeMe community is taking a closer look at how sleep impacts our health, but also how our health affects sleep. Check out what Lori has to say about it in our follow-up interview with her.

lori2

Don’t forget to check out Lori’s blog too, called Reality Gasps. She balances stories of her daily struggles with dashes of humor that can make anyone laugh.

How have you been doing since the last time we talked? It looks like you said on your blog that you broke an ankle?!  

I did break my ankle and had to have surgery to put in a plate and 8 screws! I had refilled the bubbler on my concentrator and didn’t realize I hadn’t screwed it back on just right. As a result, I wasn’t getting enough oxygen and when I stood up, my sats dropped quickly.  I collapsed and must have twisted my ankle, dislocating it and breaking the tibia in the process.  Surgery was quite an adventure. Because of my IPF, I can’t go under sedation, so I had a spinal and was awake for the whole thing.  I have three weeks left in the cast, and then I’ll move to a boot. I’m basically chair-bound right now, so I am eager to get mobile again!

We’ve been talking a lot about sleep on PatientsLikeMe lately. What are your sleeping problems like? Have you been officially diagnosed with insomnia?

I don’t have an official diagnosis of insomnia, but it is definitely a side-effect of my medication. I am on prednisone, which can cause insomnia at higher doses. I was just getting over an infection when I broke my ankle, so I was on a higher than usual dose of prednisone.

In addition to periodically having troubling getting to sleep, I also have periods where I wake up several times during the night because my O2 sats drop. Everyone breathes more shallowly when they sleep, and if I am having a flare or an episode, this can be a particular problem for me at night. Since changes in weather can affect my breathing, I’ve been having more trouble during the past few weeks.

When I do wake up at night, I check my sats immediately. If they’re low, I do some deep breathing to bring them up and can usually drift back off to sleep. Though, I have unintentionally started my day at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning more than a few times!

How do you think lack of sleep impacts life with IPF? Or is it the other way around for you, that IPF affects how well you sleep. Maybe both?

I think sleep and IPF are definitely intertwined for me. To make it easier to breathe, I sleep with my head elevated. I was never a “back” sleeper, so I’ve had to get used to a whole new position. It still doesn’t quite feel “natural” to me, and it becomes one more thing to obsess about on those nights when I just can’t fall asleep. And as I’ve mentioned, medication and O2 levels affect my sleep as well.

When I can’t sleep, I get sluggish, both mentally and physically. Mental fog is especially dangerous because I need to be aware of how my body feels at all times. If I am moving and my oxygen supply cuts out or is reduced, I collapse within seconds. That’s how I broke my ankle. More directly, I notice that I cough more and my chest generally feels tighter if I am fatigued. Plus, when I am tired, it’s hard to get up the energy to keep moving. And one thing I’ve learned is that remaining active is a key factor in fighting IPF.

You mentioned that you take Ambien sometimes, but that it might not work if you’re on other medications too. Can you tell us about that? 

I take a low dose of Ambien, which usually is just enough to let me drift off to sleep. But, when I am on higher doses of prednisone, Ambien often won’t cut it. My doctor gave me a dosage range of 5-10 mg so I could adjust for those situations. But I’ve found that when I take 10 mg, I wake up feeling really groggy and that feeling lasts for several hours. I also worry about taking too much sleeping medication because I don’t want to subdue my nighttime breathing too much. I’ve started using relaxation techniques in addition to the Ambien, and this seems to be helping.

I still long for those days, though, when my bedroom was quiet (no huff-chuffing machines) and I could flip onto my belly and just snuggle down for a lovely snooze! Like everything else with my disease, sleep has become a process.


“Retooling my attitude.” An interview with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patient & PatientsLikeMe member Lori

Posted July 7th, 2013 by

As part of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series, we’re talking with people who are sharing their personal health experiences to help raise awareness of disease and change healthcare for good. For our latest interview, we’re talking with Lori, an idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patient who started blogging about her journey back in October 2011. Her blog is called Reality Gasps and she balances stories of her daily struggles with dashes of humor that can make anyone smile. If Lori sounds familiar to some of you, it’s because she’s also part of the PatientsLikeMe community.  She recently took some time to talk with us about why she started blogging, the difficulty in finding a diagnosis and how connecting with others has positively impacted her life.

Lori

What made you decide to start blogging about your experience? What’s been the community response?
When I was first diagnosed with IPF, I started researching online (like everyone else). The medical sites gave me an idea of what was happening to my body, but they said nothing about how to live with this disease – and when I really thought about it, that’s what I needed. So, I turned to blogs written by other patients and caregivers. They were (and remain) incredibly helpful. I started my own blog as a way to make sense of what was happening to me. I’ve been a writer all of my life and the blog is my way of “talking it through.” I also see the blog as a way to give back to the amazing PF community. I hope that by sharing my experiences and passing along information, I’ll be able to help others cope with all that PF entails.

The response to my blog has been more than I ever hoped for. It’s a great way for me to keep family and friends abreast of what’s happening to me without managing an email list. Plus, other bloggers have discovered me and through them, I have also found several excellent blogs. Through the comments section, other PFers are sharing some really helpful insights for the whole community. And I love that we can all share a laugh or two about the craziness of our daily routines. What I’m happiest about, though, is that several readers have told me they forward some of my posts to others who they think might benefit from the message. IPF may be the source of my struggle, but what I go through on a daily basis isn’t unique. Fear, uncertainty, anger, stress, joy, motivation – these are the issues I deal with in my blog and they are universal.

When did you first know that something wasn’t quite right? Do you remember what your first sign or symptom was?
I was diagnosed officially in September of 2011. About 2 years before that, I started noticing shortness of breath when I climbed a flight of stairs or walked quickly. I shrugged it off as being overweight and out of shape. The shortness of breath continued to increase and my doctor prescribed a Flovent inhaler, figuring this was some kind of asthma or reactive airway condition. The Flovent didn’t help, and about a year later I developed a dry cough. It wasn’t much to start with, but over the next several months it got worse. I sucked on cough drops all day every day, and frequently coughed until I vomited. By the summer of 2011, I was so short of breath when I walked that I’d have to sit down and gasp for a while.

We’ve spoken to others with rare lung disease that had a hard time finding an official diagnosis. Was that your experience too?
Getting someone to understand that my symptoms went way beyond mild asthma was a long and arduous process. Even I had a hard time thinking it was anything more that just poor fitness and extra weight. But the coughing had gotten so bad that it was affecting my quality of life – I worried constantly that a coughing fit would cause me to vomit in public. My allergist thought the cough was caused by medication and started switching things around. As an afterthought, he ordered an x-ray. That’s when everyone saw the infiltrates throughout both of my lungs.

I didn’t know what infiltrates were, but I knew they were bad, so I got online and started researching pulmonologists. I wanted an experienced diagnostician who would help figure this out. I was fortunate because I unknowingly chose a doctor who belongs to the only non-university based IPF research center in the country. He ran extensive tests on me and did an open-lung biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. I talked with him extensively about his experience and felt comfortable that not only was he extremely knowledgeable about IPF, but that he would be an active partner with me as I learned how to manage and live with the disease.

That’s my biggest piece of advice to anyone – do your research and find a doctor who understands the disease. You may have to travel a bit to find him/her, but your life is worth it.

You titled one of your recent blog posts, “Retooling My Attitude.” Can you tell us about that?
On the surface, “Retooling My Attitude” is an homage to my grabber. I’d been thinking about getting a grabber for a long time – to retrieve things off the top shelf or recover socks that some how wound up behind the dryer. After I got sick, when I realized that simple tasks like picking up my bedroom were getting more and more difficult, I saw the grabber as more than just a simple convenience. Suddenly, it was a tool that offered me a little bit of control in an out of control situation. My disease has given me a new perspective on many elements of my life, and that provides fodder for much of what I write about. It’s also shown me that a good laugh can brighten even the darkest day, and so I also try to inject as much humor into my posts as I can.

It looks like you have quite a following on your blog. How do you think connecting on a blog or through an online community like PatientsLikeMe can help others with IPF?
From the beginning, I’ve been impressed with how warm, strong and supportive the pulmonary fibrosis community is. With the help of online locations such as PatientsLikeMe, I have friends across the globe who are always available to offer insights about everything from potential side-effects with a new medication to ideas for dealing with painful muscle spasms. It’s also really comforting to be able to connect with people who understand exactly what I’m going through, like the guilt that comes along with being “the sick one” in a family. And it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who manages to get my cannula caught in the oven door!


“I choose hope.” An interview with multiple sclerosis blogger Tricia

Posted April 29th, 2013 by

In our “Spotlighted Blogger” series, we’re talking with people who are sharing their personal health experiences to help raise awareness of disease and change healthcare for good. For our latest interview, we’re talking with Tricia who’s writing about her journey with multiple sclerosis (MS) on her blog Love My MS Life. Some of you may know her on PatientsLikeMe as jakesmama. Check out her full interview below where she talks about the impact of connecting with others and why it took 11 years to get a diagnosis.

Tricia

Why did you start blogging about your journey with MS and how has the community reacted?
I started blogging about my journey with MS last year. I’ve had MS for over 20 years and have been an avid fundraiser, MS Champion and MS Advocate ever since. My goal was/is to share my experiences with others living with MS to hopefully inspire and encourage them, while “telling it like it is.”

The reaction has been wonderful! When I hear people tell me they relate to my experiences because they “get it,” it makes me feel like I’m doing something good for others that share this disease.

 

In one of your posts, you mention that your first symptom started 11 years before you were officially diagnosed. Can you tell us about that?
When I was 13 years old, I had the virus mononucleosis. One afternoon the vision in my left eye became blurry but I disregarded it. The next morning I woke up and the vision was basically gone in my left eye. I was dizzy, nauseous and was taken to the hospital. The doctors called my bout of optic neuritis a “fluke thing” and I went home. During my high school years I would have bouts of optic neuritis in my good eye and would be given oral prednisone to bring the swelling of the optic nerve down. It wasn’t until my son Jake was nine months old that my ophthalmologist sent me for an MRI. This was 11 years later and when I was diagnosed with MS.

 

What’s it been like to connect to others with MS on PatientsLikeMe?
A friend of mine told me about PatientsLikeMe years ago. It’s a great way to connect with others living with MS, to compare symptoms and offer suggestions. I use it as a helpful tool to track my disease progression, keep notes, and learn from others.

 

What’s one bit of knowledge no MS patient should be without?
One of my favorite quotes is, “Never, never, never give up,” by Winston Churchill. I believe all patients living with MS struggle daily whether we can see it or not. I choose to have HOPE for my future and HOPE for a cure!

 

If you’re living with MS, find others just like you in our growing community of more than 34,700 MS patients on PatientsLikeMe. Learn what they’re doing to manage their condition with symptom and treatment reports and share your own experience with a personal health profile or in the community forum.


Keith & Sarah’s personal journey with rare lung disease. Part I, “Fine”

Posted April 18th, 2013 by

As part of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series, we’re talking with people who are sharing their personal health experiences to help raise awareness of disease and change healthcare for good. For our latest interview, we’re talking with Sarah and Keith. Sarah started writing about her fiancé Keith’s journey with a rare lung disease back in July of 2012 on her blog Taking a Deep Breath. In this first part of our three-part series, Keith and Sarah talk about why they started blogging, and the difficulties of finding the right diagnosis.

Keith:Sarah1

What prompted you to start blogging about Keith’s journey and what’s the reaction been? 

[Sarah] When Keith’s health took a turn for the worse in the winter of 2011, I asked him repeatedly if he would allow me to share his story, knowing that we were likely going down a very difficult road, and selfishly wanting lots of support while we (I) went down that road. He wasn’t comfortable sharing until the day we drove away from his respirologist’s office, after an appointment where the doctor said that Keith was “fine,” wasn’t a candidate for transplant, and didn’t need to be on oxygen. We knew different. I blogged, we got a second opinion, and Keith was on oxygen within 4 days, and referred to the transplant program at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) within 2 weeks.

At what point did you know that something was not right? What was your first symptom?
[Keith] I got a cold that wouldn’t go away, and it turned into a pneumonia. I was hospitalized in the fall/winter of 1997. I never fully recovered.

What was involved in finding a diagnosis? Did Keith ever receive an official diagnosis?
[Sarah] Keith visited various specialists and respirologists and was misdiagnosed with various diseases (BOOP {bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia}, COPD, asthma) before the final diagnosis of diffuse panbronchiolitis (DPB) was given. It was a strange diagnosis since the disease strikes people of Asian descent, and Keith is Caucasian. DNA testing was done to see if there was Asian blood in his makeup, but there was not. Interestingly enough, in the final pathology of Keith’s old lungs after removal – this diagnosis was confirmed.

What advice do you both have for patients that are struggling to find a diagnosis? 
[Sarah & Keith] Ask as many people as you can who have experience with lung disease, or know someone who has it. Find out doctors’ names, get referrals and stick to your guns. If you don’t feel right, tell someone!


My War with Psoriasis: An Interview with British Blogger Simon

Posted December 17th, 2012 by

Welcome to the latest installment of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series.  Earlier this year, we focused on psoriasis bloggers, including Lissa, Alisha B., Jessica and Joni, and today we’re pleased to add a male perspective to the mix.  PatientsLikeMe member Simon’s witty blog, entitled My Skin and I, discusses his decade-long battle with psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition that can cause itchingrashes and plaques.  What has he learned along the way?  Find out that and more in our interview.

Psoriasis Blogger Simon of "My Skin and I" Relaxing and Enjoying the Holidays

1.     Why did you start blogging about psoriasis, and what’s the reaction been?

I started blogging as a way to vent my feelings. I don’t really talk about my feelings, even to my family, and found it very hard to explain what was going on in my head and in my life.

When I spoke to people about psoriasis, I kept a lot back and, to write it, even if I hadn’t published it, was a release. I decided to make it public partly as I needed my family to understand what I had been going through and also to help raise awareness.

The reaction has been positive.  I have been told I made a few people cry and even had other friends suddenly announce they also have the condition. This showed me that I wasn’t alone and that there are many people that feel the same way and hide their emotions. I am quite pleased that I haven’t had much in the way of sympathy as that’s not why I started the blog.  The worst thing is people saying, “you poor thing.”

2.     You write about your “war with psoriasis.” Are you winning these days?

Ask me this question on different days and I might answer it differently each time. I would say generally yes, although I have lost a few skirmishes lately. The last couple of months have been extremely stressful due to personal and work issues, which hasn’t helped, and psoriasis clings on to moments like that. Also, with the cold weather in the UK at the moment, especially with the sudden freezing weather, my skin is quite sore and dry despite using my creams.

My skin is still at a manageable state, though, and even though it has got a little worse over the last week, it’s nothing I can’t handle. I just have the slight wobble, then think of Christmas coming, and there has been plenty going on lately to keep my mind occupied. The dark space that psoriasis occupies in my head is quite small at the moment.

3.     You recently joined PatientsLikeMe. What’s your impression thus far?

My first impression is good. I haven’t been that active on the site but then I haven’t done much on the blog either recently, or on my food blog that I also write, purely because I’ve been so busy. The people I have come into contact with through the site have all been positive and friendly, which is great. There is a time when the purely psoriasis groups/sites get a bit depressive, and I find myself backing away.

What’s Simon’s other big passion beyond psoriasis awareness?  Food, as this photo of him preparing Coq D’Argent shows. Does he alter what he eats based on his psoriasis?  Click to read the answer.

Psoriasis does seem to bring a lot of anger with it, and I quite understand that.  I just wish my fellow sufferers were a bit friendlier to each other now and then. And there are some who are brilliant; in fact, you have interviewed a few already. It is quite sobering to read what others go through, and this helps me get some perspective on my own condition.

4.     What advice would you give someone who’s newly diagnosed with psoriasis?

I would say make sure you see your doctor (GP here in the UK) and ask for a referral if you think your skin is bad enough. Find one of the many supports sites, like this one, which can measure your severity. But if the doctor can’t seem to help you, ask to be referred no matter how bad your skin is. Also persevere with the medication, as your skin is very unique to you and, just because one treatment works for one person, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Give them time to work and, if there’s no response, try something else.

The other thing is to talk.  It doesn’t have to be to your family or anyone close. The most important person is your doctor – don’t just show them your skin, tell them exactly how it makes you feel. If you can’t tell anyone, then write it down. There are many support networks out there with people who have the same condition and who will understand what you are going through. One last thing:  do not give up the fight.

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Want to hear how other psoriasis patients are dealing with dry air, cooler temps and other seasonal changes?  Check out our recent Patient Voice report on coping with psoriasis in the fall.  Also, find all of our blog coverage of psoriasis here.


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.


How Social Media Is Changing Research (Part II): A Guest Post by MS Clinical Trial Participant and Blogger Jeri Burtchell

Posted September 13th, 2012 by

Today’s guest post is written by PatientsLikeMe member Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink), who has been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 13 years.  A tie dye apparel store owner and mother of two, she writes a blog entitled “Gilenya and Me:  My Story of Being an MS Patient, a Hypochondriac and a Guinea Pig.”  Her patient advocacy and social media presence led to her being invited to speak the Disruptive Innovations conference taking place in Boston this week.

Read Part I of Jeri’s guest post first!

MS Patient, Blogger and Activist Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink at PatientsLikeMe)

Because blogging a clinical trial from start to finish was unheard of, I attracted the interest of not only patients, but those in charge of clinical trials. They are interested in the impact of social media on clinical trials, and how they can utilize it to their benefit. Sites such as personal blogs, FacebookTwitter, and PatientsLikeMe are here to stay and people naturally want to share information.

I got a direct message on Twitter from Craig Lipset, who is Head of Clinical Innovation, Worldwide Research & Development for Pfizer. Social media brought us together to have a conversation about research that never could have taken place before the Internet. Everyone is more connected and approachable now. Naturally, I blogged about it.

But that was just beginning.  Tomorrow, September 14th, at 9:45 a.m. , I will be speaking along with Craig at the Disruptive Innovations conference, where the leaders in pharmaceutical research will be gathering to share ideas and come up with innovative ways of conducting clinical trials that take the “ePatient” into consideration. The 30-minute segment is entitled “Patient Leaders as Key Stakeholders in Clinical Trials,” and I will be there to represent – and put a human face to – clinical trial patients everywhere.

Knowing this is a chance of a lifetime for a trial patient to have the researchers as their audience, I wanted to reach out to those who have participated in past or current trials. My question to them is: “If you could ask or tell researchers just one thing about your own experience as a trial patient, what would that be?”

I plan to attend this conference and speak on behalf of all patients and put a face to the humans behind the data. I want to show them that we are connected now more than ever by social media. Researchers need to harness that power to their benefit. Soon they may use it to recruit and retain trial participants. I would like to see them provide a monitored gathering place for these trial patients to reduce the spread of misinformation as patients share data.

How Many of the 35,000+ Clinical Trials Currently Recruiting Do You Qualify for?  Use PatientsLikeMe's Clinical Trials Search Tool to Find Out!

To people who are considering a trial I recommend using tools like PatientsLikeMe and ClinicalTrials.gov to stay informed about ongoing research and find a doctor willing to support your interest in participating. Remember that not every trial will culminate in a drug that wins FDA approval. By joining a clinical trial you will be taking risks, but you may also be reaping benefits long before the general public will have access to the drug. Never forget that you are a pioneer and by entering a trial you are giving the greatest gift possible. Without volunteers we would have no medical advancements.

I hope that researchers never forget the impact they are having on the lives of people everywhere. They aren’t just going to work every day; they are the makers of miracles. Often patients are joining these trials as a last resort. The work of researchers gives us all promise for a brighter future.

I hope that patients everywhere will take one clear message away from this: NEVER GIVE UP! It would have been so easy that day to end it all. I was depressed and certain my life could get nothing but worse. But, by choosing to fight, I have changed my life forever and doors continue to open for me. By reaching out through social media I know I am not alone. You never know what tomorrow may bring, so don’t give up on today!

Editor’s Note:  Jeri isn’t the only PatientsLikeMe member blogging about her experience in a clinical trial.  See our interview with PGen study participant PF Anderson for another patient’s chronicle!


How Social Media Is Changing Research (Part I): A Guest Post by MS Clinical Trial Participant and Blogger Jeri Burtchell

Posted September 12th, 2012 by

Today’s guest post is written by PatientsLikeMe member Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink), who has been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 13 years.  A tie dye apparel store owner and mother of two, she writes a blog entitled “Gilenya and Me:  My Story of Being an MS Patient, a Hypochondriac and a Guinea Pig.”  Her patient advocacy and social media presence led to her being invited to speak the Disruptive Innovations conference taking place in Boston this week.

MS Patient, Blogger and Activist Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink at PatientsLikeMe)

One rainy day in April 2007, I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, talking myself out of suicide. I was having another MS relapse. This time it was attacking the part of my brain responsible for controlling emotion. As a result I was having panic attacks almost daily. Along with the emotional issues, I was also having trouble walking and horrible spasticity.

I had been diagnosed with MS for eight years at that point and, although I was on one of the FDA approved treatments, I was continuing to relapse three to four times a year. It felt like standing in the ocean; every time I would stand up and catch my breath, another “wave” of MS knocked me back down.

Deciding against suicide, I made some proactive choices that led to my meeting with the lead investigator of the Fingolimod (now marketed as Gilenya) clinical trials in Jacksonville, Florida. At my first appointment we discussed the Fingolimod trial called TRANSFORMS. I took the informed consent document home and went over all the risks and benefits with my family. After extensive baseline testing, I officially started the trial on August 20, 2007, a.k.a. “Randomization Day”, when I received my first dose of medication. I would return for regular testing many times over the next several years.

Joining the trial changed my life. I was very fortunate that I did not suffer any major side effects, and I am happy to say that my last MS attack to date was the very one which led me to contemplate suicide that day in April 2007.

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I was fascinated by the research during the trial. They did a lot of testing, and I have never felt more assured that my overall health was being tracked, observed and cared for as I did in the clinical trial. Since I did not have medical insurance, this was a plus on top of benefits I might be getting if on the real drug.

When the trial began, I wanted to know what to expect. I tried searching the Internet for a clinical trial from a patient’s perspective and could find nothing. I decided to share my experience with the world so others considering a trial might have their own fears put at ease. Thus my blog, www.gilenyaandme.com, was born.

I blogged all of my checkups and along the way something unexpected happened. Many people wrote to thank me for being the reason they felt able to overcome their own fears and join a clinical trial. We began connecting and sharing our personal experiences in a way only the Internet could enable.

Read Part II of Jeri’s guest post!


Spotlighted Blogger: Meet Psoriasis Patient Joni of “Just a Girl with Spots”

Posted June 6th, 2012 by

Psoriasis Blogger Joni of "Just a Girl with Spots"

Welcome to the latest installment of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series.  This spring we’ve been focusing on psoriasis patient bloggers, starting with Lissa in March and Alisha B. and Jessica in April.

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Joni (girlwithspots), a PatientsLikeMe member who writes a blog called “Just a Girl with Spots.”  How has she found acceptance with this chronic skin condition (which can cause itching, rashes and plaques) as well as the courage to wear a bathing suit?  Check out our interview below.

1.  Tell us about being diagnosed with psoriasis.

My diagnosis at age 15 was frustrating and dramatic. I was already super awkward – tall and lanky with a mouth full of braces – so to me it was the end of the world. The spots seemed to come on overnight and they took control of my skin. I felt self conscious and ugly all of the time. Even the word psoriasis felt ugly to me. I wasn’t comfortable talking about my skin condition to even the closest of friends. My friends and family knew that I had psoriasis, but not any of the emotions and stresses that I felt as a result of it.

At the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t understand why there was no magic pill that I could take and the spots would go away. Though told over and over, I also didn’t fully understand that my lifestyle and choices would help to play a large role in controlling my outbreaks. I played lacrosse and danced on the kickline, so I wouldn’t allow it to stop me from doing the things that I loved. But there were always the extra steps I had to take to cover it up to feel a sense of comfort – always two pairs of dance tights, leggings and long sleeves in the heat, extra make-up, etc. So even though I did the things I wanted, there was always something that held me back from feeling as carefree as a teenage girl should be.

2.  You’ve blogged about finding acceptance with psoriasis.  What are your top tips, and how does blogging play a role?

Not talking about my condition stuck with me until very recently, and it feels amazing to have finally let go of that internal struggle. Growing up with psoriasis was a challenge that I’m glad I had, it’s allowed me to find myself in a way that may not have happened otherwise. Blogging about living with psoriasis has been extremely therapeutic for me and is the reason why my skin is currently under control. It’s allowed me to get to know my skin on a deeper level and pinpoint what is and what isn’t working for me. My skin is always top of mind, but I always felt stressed and emotional about it, which was actually making it worse. Through a daily journal and blogging, my treatment plan is focused and I feel more relaxed than I ever have about my skin.

A Glimpse of Joni's Blog, "Just a Girl with Spots"

Psoriasis treatment is so much about trial and error; there are things that work wonders for others and would do absolutely nothing for me. It’s helped me to organize my thoughts and my own personal research to discover the right formula for me. For me, it’s eating fresh and organic foods that are higher anti-inflammatory, it’s exercising 3-4 days a week, using tea tree oil and heavy moisturizing creams and taking several supplements that I’ve found to be beneficial (daily multi-vitamin, omega-3 fish oil, milk thistle, turmeric, biotin, vitamin B-12, acidophilus). But I always find my biggest relief through the sun, so maybe it’s time insurance starts picking up the tab for my tropical vacations!

3.  I see you vacationed in Florida over Memorial Day weekend.  How did you cope with being in a bathing suit and “having spots”?

I had really wanted to find a new bathing suit for the summer that was white with red polka dots, so I could call it my new camouflage. I decided that instead of running from my spots, I needed to own them in my own way! But unfortunately I didn’t find one in time before I left for Florida! But even knowing and deciding that, I still had anxiety about being in a bathing suit. The past few sunny weekends had pretty much cleared up most of my upper body. But the spots on my legs have always been stubborn, so prior to the trip I had been treating them with a steroid ointment. That only left me with red spots and dark bruises, so not much better!

I decided the day before I left to stop stressing about it. I was going to Florida to celebrate the birthday of a close friend and I wanted to focus on enjoying the weekend, not hiding my spots. I posted about it a few days before I left and got several emails from friends with words of only love and support. I know that attitude plays a large role, but I also believe it’s necessary to only surround yourself with people who love you for you. And that doesn’t just go for people with psoriasis, that’s for everyone.

4.  What’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned at PatientsLikeMe?

PatientsLikeMe has shown me that I’m not alone in my struggles and feelings about living with psoriasis. Having the ability to connect with people who understand exactly what I’m going through has reinforced the reasons that I started my blog. People with psoriasis are always there to provide guidance, treatment recommendations, and most importantly, their love and support. If I can help at least one person with my blog, then I’ve done what I set out to accomplish.

Answering frequent questions about my own condition lets me track my progress and allows me to take a hard look at how my skin is reacting from day to day, week to week, month to month. PatientsLikeMe really understands how different conditions can affect your day to day health, but most importantly how it affects your mental well-being. You understand how important a healthy mentality is and the large role it plays in battling any disease or condition.


Living with Psoriasis: PatientsLikeMe Member Lissa Featured on Patient Power

Posted June 4th, 2012 by

“I don’t really know too many people around here with psoriasis.   It was hard to relate with somebody.  My family, my friends, my husband, they’re great support, but they can only see what I’m going through, they can’t go through it the way I do.  It’s really important to be able to connect with people who truly understand what you’re going through.”

Psoriasis Patient Lissa

In March, we introduced you to Lissa, a psoriasis patient who had recently started blogging about life with this chronic skin condition.  At that time, she had begun UVB photo therapy treatment for her psoriasis.

Now, several months later, you can see how Lissa is doing after completing her 51st UVB photo therapy session – and how PatientsLikeMe continues to play a role in her wellbeing – in a Skype video interview with our partner Patient Power, a site dedicated to connecting you with the experts on your condition.  That means doctors and patients.

Lissa Conger: Managing Psoriasis and Harnessing the Power of Patient Communities from Patient Power® on Vimeo.

Powered by Patient Power

Check out Lissa’s engaging interview with Patient Power founder Andrew Shorr, a leukemia survivor, above.  And stay tuned for more Patient Power videos featuring PatientsLikeMe members – including patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and cancer.


Spotlighted Blogger: Meet Jessica of “Jessica and Psoriasis”

Posted May 8th, 2012 by

Psoriasis Blogger Jessica Gough of "Jessica and Psoriasis"

Welcome to the latest installment of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series.  This spring we are focusing on psoriasis patient bloggers, starting with Lissa back in March and Alisha B. a few weeks ago.

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Gough, a 19-year-old from the UK who recently started a blog called Jessica and Psoriasis.  What kind of reaction has she gotten?  And what tips does she have for those who feel isolated due to this chronic skin condition, which can cause itching, rashes and plaques (scaly patches)?  Check out our interview below.

1.  How are you feeling about being a newly minted “psoriasis blogger”?

The best word to describe how I feel about being a psoriasis blogger is relieved. I chose relieved because there is so much I have experienced throughout my psoriasis journey – both positives and negatives – that I wanted to talk about that even my closest friends and family were unaware of.  By writing my blog I have been able to explain all of my experiences without having to face the challenges of approaching the subject in general conversation. I have also found that by using my blog to share my journey with psoriasis it has enabled me to talk and share information with other psoriasis sufferers, which I have found warming and comforting.  Since starting my blog the support and feedback I have received has been overwhelming.

2.  Tell us how psoriasis affects your daily decisions – from shaving to clothing.

I believe with psoriasis you choose how much you let it affect your daily life and decisions. For me I would say my psoriasis majorly affects my decisions based upon the way I present myself for the day. If I wake up and skin has flared up or has worsened, I find I have to choose the right kind of clothes. I tend to wear leggings most of the time as the material doesn’t rub my skin and they are cool in comparison to jeans for example. Also if I want to wear a jumper I make sure I have a top protecting my skin underneath so my skin doesn’t become itchy.

Jessica's Arms During a Psoriasis Flare-up

Dependant upon the look of my skin also affects decisions such as whether I can wear makeup or whether I can shave my legs in the shower. If my skin is red and flaky I try as much as possible not to touch it with products that could make it worse. This includes shaving my legs, although if I am going out to a nightclub or party, though, I will plan in advance in order to make sure I can shave my legs, and I will use moisturizers to make my face suitable for makeup. Other than clothes and personal care, I try to make sure my psoriasis does not affect my decisions.  However, sometimes with a flare-up my mood can be worsened, and I tend to find things harder to cope with generally.

3.  What is your personal recipe for getting through a psoriasis flare-up?

My personal recipe probably has to be not to give up. When you have a flare-up, it is a perfect opportunity to put tips and techniques to the test, ask other people what they would recommend or go back to your consultant and ask for help. I do usually have a routine of making sure I have a bath every night to relax and then covering myself in moisturizers and creams before bed to help me sleep better. I also wear socks and gloves depending how bad my skin is to stop me itching and making my skin bleed. I find the more I itch, the more distressed I become, which obviously worsens the flare-up. So I try to stop it from becoming a cycle.

4.  Any advice for someone who feels alone or isolated due to psoriasis?

I think feeling alone is a common feeling amongst psoriasis sufferers, and I certainly felt alone before writing my blog. My advice would be to talk to other people, find out about chat boards, blogs and charities relating to psoriasis, and use these resources to share ideas, stories and experiences with others.  You may be surprised at some of the feedback you receive. I used to feel that even though I had support from many people around me, no one ever actually understood what I was really feeling and what I was going through. Talking to other people gave me the freedom to say how I really felt and not be embarrassed. I personally believe that talking with others about living with my psoriasis has been part of my therapy.


Spotlighted Blogger: Psoriasis Patient Alisha B. of “Being Me in My Own Skin”

Posted April 16th, 2012 by

Psoriasis Blogger Alisha B. of "Being Me in My Own Skin"

Welcome to the latest installment of our “Spotlighted Blogger” series.  So far, we’ve interviewed patient bloggers living with gastroparesistype I diabetesbipolar I disorderParkinson’s disease and ALS, and today we introduce Alisha B., who felt alone in her struggles with psoriasis until “coming out” on her blog, Being Me in My Own Skin.

Alisha is currently participating in the WEGO Health Activists Challenge, which encourages health bloggers to write 30 posts in 30 days during the month of April.  To make it easy, WEGO sends out a daily theme to tackle.  Alisha has risen to the occasion and produced inspired posts such as “Dear 16-Year-Old Me” and “I Do This for One Reason.”  How has blogging changed her?  Find out that and more in our interview below.

1.  Tell us about growing up with psoriasis – the physical and emotional impact.

Growing up with psoriasis was not an easy battle.  I was not only dealing with the regular stuff like puberty and body image, but throwing psoriasis in the mix made it a lot tougher. I’ll be honest, confidence was not something I had very much of as a child. Although, I was not a depressed child. I was considered the class clown or goofy one among my friends, but deep down inside I was hurting.

I just wanted to be “normal” and in my eyes that was a life without psoriasis. I may have been this confident chick to somebody from the outside looking in, but I stopped myself from a lot due to my condition. Now that I look back on my teenage years everything I did was virtually shaped around my psoriasis. The decisions I made, the activities I participated in, the events I went to, even the clothes I wore.

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

I started my blog in June 2011 after going to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) conference. I remember sitting in a workshop they had about using social media to advocate for your condition. I had seen other psoriasis bloggers, and I remember saying to myself, “I can do that.” On the way home from the conference, ideas were flowing to my mind on different posts I could do, and it was a really great feeling.

"When I started to really and truly love myself, accepting my psoriasis became a lot easier." - Alisha B.

Going public with my condition through my blog has been liberating! I wish I would have done this a long time ago. A lot of times I hid, uncertain of how people would accept my condition. But today, the more people I discuss my disease with, the more I realize that the things I was telling myself mentally were only because of my own insecurities. People are a lot more understanding than I could have ever imagined.

My outreach has also helped me to connect with other people dealing with psoriasis, and I no longer feel alone like I did just one year ago.

3.  What are the most helpful things you’ve learned from other psoriasis patients?

I met a young lady named Kasi at the NPF conference. Her psoriasis condition was equivalent to mine. Her skin was very visibly broken out. She was so confident with the way she walked and the clothes she wore, it really inspired me to stop hiding. Kasi as well as others at the conference really made me feel good and encouraged me. I’ve had this type of encouragement from family and friends, but nothing is like the inspiration that you receive from people who are actually living with this disease. Other psoriasis “conquerors” encourage me to not be ashamed and to embrace my condition.

4.  Tell us about the WEGO Health Activists Challenge and why you’re participating.

The WEGO Health Activists Challenge was suggested to me by the NPF. Doing the challenge is exciting because there are new topics to discuss everyday and I get to connect with other activists. I decided to participate in the challenge to bring more attention to psoriasis. A lot of people are silent about it out of fear of ridicule, and I was once one of these people. The more people who know about this disease, the faster the stigma will end.