2 posts tagged “self knowledge”

Life-changing second opinion stories: “I decided to get a second and third opinion…”

Posted 8 months ago by

Stories showing the importance of second opinions have been popping up in the media and on PatientsLikeMe. Check out the recent news headlines, hear a remarkable story of a PatientsLikeMe member who received a life-saving lung transplant after getting a second (and third) opinion, and share your own experience of piecing together your health puzzle.

Extraordinary second opinion stories

The Washington Post recently featured two powerful pieces related to second opinions — one about a man who got a second opinion at his mother’s urging (and received life-saving treatment for metastatic testicular cancer), and another about a woman who did not seek one and underwent unnecessary major surgery (removing her breasts and uterus). “I am damaged for the rest of my life,” the woman said.

PatientsLikeMe member Theresa (Pipersun) recently shared her “whirlwind experience” and remarkable second opinion story in the forum.

After two bouts of severe pneumonia earlier in 2017, a CT scan in June confirmed Theresa had a serious lung condition, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). While the diagnosis was correct, her doctors did not believe her condition was as advanced as she suspected.

“My pulmonologist was terrible,” she says. “He would not prescribe me oxygen, and would not sign a referral for pulmonary rehabilitation, stating it would do me no good, that if I had COPD he would. We talked about my life expectancy and lung transplant. He thought I had about 5 years, and I stated then how come I feel I am going to die in 3-5 months. He also made a derogatory statement, [he sat on the lung transplant review committee for the Northeast region] he stated ‘why would I put you on the list when there are so many children that need a lung.’ I responded that I didn’t think I was in the same [transplant candidate] group. But his attitude kick started my drive to find out as much as I could about organ donation regions, stats, etc.”

When her doctor denied an oxygen prescription, fellow members with IPF urged her to seek another opinion.

“I decided to get a second and third opinion,” she says. Consultations with two specialist groups in August – and her rapidly declining condition (which landed her on life support in September) – resulted in her receiving a lung transplant. “They admitted me to ICU and that’s the last I remember for 9 days,” she says. “I became conscious with a new set of lungs on Sept. 28.”

“I had to advocate for myself all the way and believe in what my body was telling me versus specialists in Oregon,” she says. “Even my GP thought I was in the early stages. If I would have listened to them, I would not be here/alive today. I am 57 years old, they said I have a new birthday, September 28.”

Pointers on second opinions

Steven Petrow, the writer who shared his second opinion success story in The Washington Post, offered some tidbits and tips for other patients in his Op/Ed piece:

  • 10 to 20 percent of all medical cases nationwide are misdiagnosed, affecting at least 12 million people, according to a Mayo Clinic researcher who has studied misdiagnoses
  • Don’t be talked out of a second opinion — doctors should support and encourage them (as PatientsLikeMe members have noted, “A good doctor will not be offended”)
  • “Be upfront and respectful with your doctor” — this can help ease the process of sharing records, and help you maintain a relationship if you stick with your original physician
  • Everyone has a right to a second opinion, and they’re usually covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid (but check with your own insurance)
  • “Not all second opinions are created equal” — find a doctor who’s board-certified in their specialty and (ideally) affiliated with an academic medical center with a strong reputation (avoid only relying on recommendations from friends or a referral from your doctor, because there could be some bias)
  • Consider all your options, including online second opinion resources(Petrow mentions examples like Dana-Farber’s online oncology programCleveland Clinic’s MyConsult and SecondOpinionExpert)

More members chat about second opinions

On PatientsLikeMe, there are more than 4,000 mentions of second opinions in the forums (trend-spotting: you often encourage each other to seek them, as member Peggy recommended in her blog post about self-advocacy). Here are some of the communities that have talked the most about second opinions in the forums — join PatientsLikeMe to see what folks say:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Mental health
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • ALS
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer and lung cancer

What’s your second opinion story? Share it in the comments.

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Know Thyself. Quantify Thyself.

Posted August 13th, 2012 by

Are you someone who likes to track things about yourself?  For example, do you keep an exercise log of how many reps you did – or a food journal that details what (and how much) you consumed?  Do you monitor your health and disease progression at PatientsLikeMe?

Quantified Self

If so, you might not know it, but you are part of the growing Quantified Self (QS) movement.  Also known as “Body Data” and “Life Hacking,” the QS movement was started by Wired magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007.  The idea is to increase self knowledge through self tracking.  More specifically, QSers use technology to record data on various aspects of human life, from “inputs” (food, air) to “states” (moods, blood oxygen levels ) to “performance” (mental, physical).

The hub of the movement is http://quantifiedself.com/, an online community where QSers can share their methods and learn from what others are doing.  In addition, QSers get together face-to-face for regular Show&Tell meetings in various cities around the world as well as an annual conference, which takes place this September in Palo Alto, California.  According to the website, the conference is a “working meeting” for users and tool makers looking to collaborate on self-tracking projects and explore the potential effects of self-tracking on society.

Larry Smarr, Founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the University of California at San Diego.  Photo Credit: Grant Delin, The Atlantic.

For many QSers, such as astrophysicist-turned-computer scientist Larry Smarr, self-tracking conveys huge benefits.  According to this fascinating profile in The Atlantic entitled “The Measured Man,” Smarr sees it as a tool for battling obesity, defeating incurable diseases (in his case, Crohn’s disease) and revolutionizing healthcare.  He’s got a good reason, too:  this is a man who monitored his own blood work and detected an inflammatory state in his body long before his first Crohn’s symptom appeared.   While some people feel that with enough data every person could find something wrong with their health, Smarr argues that it’s far better to detect that something’s “beginning to go wrong” and seek “preventative maintenance,” just like you would with an automobile.

It’s a striking analogy.  Could we as human beings extend our lives – just as we extend the lives of our cars – through data tracking and “tune-ups”?  It’s one of the big questions at the heart of the QS movement.  But as far as we’re concerned here at PatientsLikeMe, self knowledge – as well as shared knowledge – is always a good thing.  That’s why we’ve developed tools to help you measure your disease progression (e.g. our Multiple Sclerosis Rating Scale), track how your treatments impact your quality of life, monitor over 200 lab results (e.g. Vitamin D, cholesterol, PSA levels) and record how you are feeling day-to-day (our InstantMe survey).  Better yet, we help you share that data with other patients like you, so that everyone benefits and learns.

What do you think?  Has “quantifying yourself” led to any breakthroughs for you?