4 posts tagged “patient story”

Member Christine’s Instagram takeover for World Lupus Day

Posted May 11th, 2018 by

In case you missed it or you’re not on Instagram, on World Lupus Day (May 10), PatientsLikeMe member Christine took over our Instagram to share her experiences and help raise awareness of lupus (May is Lupus Awareness Month). Christine is a native Californian, a social butterfly, an advocate and a member of our 2018 Team of Advisors (check out a quick video about her here!)

Hi! My name is Christine and I am a lupus patient. One of my goals is to help spread awareness and educate others, so today I’ll be sharing key moments in my life with lupus and lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Did you know that 1 in 4 lupus patients lives with a comorbidity (multiple chronic illnesses occurring at once)? In addition to lupus, I’ve been diagnosed with 34 other conditions. My case is complicated and severe, and while I know that there is not much that can be done for me, I hope that my experiences can lead to a better understanding of lupus and will inspire others to speak up, take action and find a cure.

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” —Winston Churchill

Finding the right treatment for lupus can be difficult. Most patients, myself included, will try a number of different medications in order to achieve remission. These medications, while they may help, can also have very toxic side effects. In fact, some of the side effects can be worse than the disease itself. I have had three drugs that have caused significant damage to my body. I now have hydroxychloroquine retinopathy, avascular necrosis and toxic encephalopathy as a result. Though scary, it is a reality for so many patients.

Despite the setbacks, the experience has taught me how important it is to advocate for yourself. As a patient, it’s your duty and your right to do your research. If you are uncomfortable with a drug or the side effects are too severe, make sure to speak with your doctor. Remember, no one knows your body better than you do.

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” —Maya Angelou

Dealing with an illness isn’t easy, and going through it alone can make things even more difficult. Support is one of the most important aspects of dealing with any disease, including lupus. While family and friends can be a crucial part of your support system, I’ve found that it helps to seek advice from others not involved in your immediate circle.

Many people frown upon support groups as a place where people go to complain and commiserate, but most support groups are nothing like that. Finding other patients to connect with is an amazing experience. To be able to talk to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through makes all the difference in the world.

My support group is not just a support group — they are my confidants, my motivation, my inspiration and, most importantly, my friends. Regardless of your condition, I’d encourage you to reach out to other patients, both online and in person. There is so much that can be learned and shared among us.

“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” —Misty Copeland

With beauty playing such a pivotal role in our society, women are often criticized for changes in their appearance. About 90% of lupus patients are women, which makes dealing with the disease even more difficult since lupus can wreak havoc on both the body and mind.

The photos above were taken only one year apart and that adorable little girl is now a teenager. I had been on high-dose steroids and put on 70 pounds within the first month. I was unrecognizable and my self-esteem gone. At my heaviest, I weighed in at 220 pounds, all due to medication.

It’s not easy to go through the physical changes of the disease, but I’ve always found the light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back, I wish I had taken more pictures during that time. I missed out on so many memories because I couldn’t stand the way I looked. It took a while but I’ve learned to embrace myself, regardless of my weight.

“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” —Coco Chanel

Recently, a friend of mine from high school passed away. My heart breaks for his family and wife. His death has brought to light the question of our mortality. As someone with a serious chronic illness, I have been told more times than not that my chances of survival are slim and I’ve even had my last rites read to me.

The thought of death is often far more real for those of us with chronic conditions. It looms in your mind and forces you to question the things in life that you thought were once so important. It’s a valid fear and a harsh reality, often dismissed by others. My post is not meant to be depressing, but rather to encourage you to live your life to the fullest, be happy and help others. With that, I’ll leave you with a final quote. Thanks for following along!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain

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Confessions of a research study addict: “It’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

Posted March 14th, 2018 by

Elizabeth is a member of the 2018 Team of Advisors living with MS and a self-described research addict. Here’s what she had to say about her experience contributing to research and why “it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

I’ve always been a sucker for a focus group. Give me some free pizza and I’ll tell you everything you want to know about your product, service or ad campaign. In fact, I got into advertising as a career because I liked the research part of it so much.

So, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I applied that same mindset to my disease approach.

The first MS research study I did came a few months after my doctor prescribed Avonex. For someone with a virulent needle phobia, a weekly intramuscular shot sounded almost worse than having MS. So I spent the next few months imagining myself on a beach—right before I tried in vain to push an inch-and-a-half needle into my leg. The meditation didn’t quite take, but my passion for research didn’t waiver (thank goodness for a husband who didn’t mind giving shots and, later, the Avonex quick inject pen!)

Next came the EPIC Study — “an intensive observational study of over 500 people with MS who have been carefully studied since 2004.” I even got my parents involved as a control group. Once a year for twelve years I’ve been getting evoked potentials, an eye screening, a hand-eye coordination exam, and a bonus MRI — I also play a dreaded number addition memory game. I’m proud to be part of this study—last week I was lucky enough to see some of the preliminary findings that I contributed to (hint: there is some AMAZING stuff happening in the MS therapy world.)

I made a brief, but unsuccessful, journey into a Copaxone clinical trial where I had the honor of getting lipoatrophy faster than any patient my doc has ever seen. My case even made it into a medical journal. And while the dents in my thighs never let me forget this one, I like to think my experience helped someone else avoid their own unseemly dents.

My research obsession doesn’t stop with MS. I fit a patient profile for a breast screening study to determine if mammograms alone or with a DNA test can improve outcomes for detecting early cancers. I was happy to be a part of this work, plus I learned I don’t have a carrier gene—a nice bonus of helping out.

Yes, health studies are a bit addictive to me. I get a thrill from trying a new approach or having my data contribute to a new protocol. And while there are different levels of research (especially when it comes to drug trials), every observation, every data point moves our collective understanding about MS and chronic illness forward. I’m grateful to play a role in that; it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.

So, what’s next? The other day I heard about an MS gut microbiome study. The details are…a little gross. But sign me up!

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