6 posts tagged “Crohn’s disease”

“I still haven’t given up hope.” An interview with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patient David

Posted May 23rd, 2013 by

Say ‘hi’ to David. Some of you may know him on PatientsLikeMe as db.09. He developed his first visible symptom of psoriasis at the very young age of 3. Now 22, he’s sharing his personal journey with this highly stigmatized autoimmune condition, along with psoriatic arthritis and Chron’s. See how his conditions have actually given him motivation and how connecting with others has positively impacted his life.

David Burns

Are you living with both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis?
Yes, I am living with psoriasis, arthritis and also Crohn’s.

How old were you when you were first diagnosed? Have you had to deal with any stigma at such a young age?
I developed psoriasis at the age of 3, and 3 years later at the age of 6, I developed arthritis. I was experiencing symptoms of Crohn’s since the age of 11. However, I was only diagnosed with Crohn’s at the age of 17. I’m currently 22 years old. My childhood and teen years were very challenging. My conditions had a massive impact on my education. I missed much of school growing up, due to hospital appointments, and just generally suffering with the effects of living with the conditions. I think the worst was growing up with psoriasis, from a social perspective. It shattered my self-confidence and self-esteem. I haven’t had a girlfriend my entire life.

What impact has living with psoriatic arthritis had on your life?
Well, I’ve basically hit the inflammatory jackpot. The odds were so low that I was destined to develop psoriasis, and from that arthritis, and following that, Crohn’s. Over the past few years, I’ve been on 4 different biologics, each failing to provide me with the promised relief that I crave so badly. I’ve tried many different systemic, biologic, and topical treatments over the years, all without any avail. I’ve been through hell and back and I’ve come out smiling.

About three years ago, my psoriasis and arthritis flared up so badly that I was a prisoner to my bed. I had to pull myself along the floor to even get to the toilet, my arthritis was that bad. I was put on extremely high doses of steroids. I put on a lot of weight due to the steroids and eating tons of junk food, and fell into a deep depression. I lost friends and had to drop out of school because I missed so much. As my conditions started to improve, I couldn’t stop myself from looking in the mirror and recognizing what I’ve just been through. I’d developed extremely strong mental strength. I’d reached the lowest point of my life and come out stronger than ever.

I used that strength to motivate myself to lose the weight I’d gained. I was weighing in at 118kg (260.14lbs). I took up interval training and weight lifting. There were days that my arthritis and psoriasis were so bad, but I used the mental strength I obtained and pushed myself as far as I could. The days that I was feeling the worst I’d make sure I trained double as hard. I started eating clean and I lost 40kg (88.18lbs), as well as gaining muscle. I’ve now taken up bodybuilding. My goal is to prove that anything is possible and to never let your health get in the way of your dreams. I still train 6 days a week. I use my previous and current pain as motivation to push me that extra step. So in some aspects, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to develop this outlook on life, as I can apply it to every other aspect of my life. I started up my own IT company and I’ve been working really hard to develop it. I’m currently 85-90% covered with psoriasis, and I’ve been using crutches to walk around for the past couple of weeks. I still haven’t given up hope yet.

What’s it been like to connect with other psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients on PatientsLikeMe?
It’s been an enriching experience connecting with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients on PatientsLikeMe. I’ve formed friendships that will last a long time. It’s very rare that you find people that share the same pain that you get from suffering with psoriasis and/or arthritis. It’s a great feeling being able to connect with people on an emotional level and really feel that they know what you’re going through, and that they really do understand. My friends and family try to understand what I go through, but they just can’t relate, as they’ve never experienced it for themselves. PatientsLikeMe takes away the “imagination” factor that my friends and family can only provide me with, when they say, “I can only imagine what you’re going through.”

What is one bit of info that no psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis patient should be without?
Every psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patient needs to know that there is someone out there that is going through exactly what you’re going through. They should know that you’re not alone in this fight. There may be times when you’re cornered, with your back against the wall, but you’ll make it through with strength and hope. It’s not an easy feat by any means. However, life would be boring without a challenge. Try and find someone on PatientsLikeMe that understands what you’re going through. It helps, trust me. It’s a good feeling to know you can fight against your disease with someone else at the same time. They should also keep in mind that there is treatment that will help out there. You just need to be patient enough to find it. I’ve tried 4 biologics, without relief, but I still haven’t given up hope.


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?