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“I continue to be inspired by those who share this fight with me” – PatientsLikeMe member Doug shares his journey with HP

Meet Doug. He’s part of the pulmonary fibrosis (PF) community on PatientsLikeMe and is living with a condition specifically known as chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP). It’s similar to other types of PF, but also has its differences. We caught up with Doug for an interview to help spread the knowledge about these two conditions, but learned so much more. He shared what it’s like to live with HP, how he uses PatientsLikeMe to learn more about his own health and how the community has helped him to stay inspired in his fight. Can you share a bit about your chronic HP? Can you explain to our blog followers how it’s different than IPF? I believe the major difference is that with hypersensitivity pneumonitis there is a cause. If I’m correct there are three forms: acute, subacute and chronic. All are caused by exposure to an antigen that may or may not be identified. In my case, I have chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP). My specialists have determined that it’s not necessary to identify the antigen since my condition is chronic and cannot be reversed.1 What was your diagnosis process like, and how was it different than what you’ve heard about getting …

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“…about 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day…” – An interview with Dr. Sarika Aggarwal

Sarika Aggarwal, M.D. is Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Fallon Health, and it’s her job to make sure all plan members get appropriate, effective and high-quality care. We caught up with Dr. Aggarwal for an interview, and she talks about how she came to spend the last 26 years practicing medicine in Massachusetts, what the new partnership between Fallon Health and PatientsLikeMe means for members, and a bit about her work—especially her focus on helping seniors stay and get care in their own homes whenever possible. A bit of background: Dr. Aggarwal graduated from Grant Medical College at Bombay University and then completed her residency at UMass Memorial in Worcester, Massachusetts. Before joining Fallon Health in 2012 as Vice President of NaviCare Clinical Programs, Dr. Aggarwal was Medical Director in the Office of Clinical Integration at UMass Memorial Medical Care and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UMass Medical School. Dr. Aggarwal, we know a little bit about your background in India. What made you decide to come to the United States? My husband had been studying in the U.S. for about six years and went back to India to visit his parents. [That’s when we met, …

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“In my own words” – PatientsLikeMe member Vickie shares about her experiences with lung cancer

Meet Vickie, a PatientsLikeMe member who has survived cancer not once, but twice. She’s sharing her story, from diagnosis to survivorship, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. She spoke about her reaction to getting diagnosed, the anxiety filled months leading up to surgery and what recovery was like post-operation. Learn about her journey below. The journey Occasionally I received cards in the mail offering discount lung or heart screenings. I think most people do now and then. I always throw them in the trash. In May 2012, I received one. For some reason I didn’t throw that one away. I called and scheduled an appointment for the heart and lung scan. Was told I’d get a letter in two weeks letting me know the results. Imagine my surprise when 4 days later I received a voice mail asking me to call the hospital back as soon as possible. With feelings of dread and fear, I returned the call. Was told they were concerned about 2 places in my left lung. Was cautioned to not jump to any conclusions. They could be any number of things. I needed to have testing done. Was scheduled for MRI and PET Scan. Those results were …

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“I just kind of went on with life.” – PatientsLikeMe member Fred shares his experiences with MS

We’ve interviewed a lot of members on the blog over the years, and each has a different perspective on life with MS. Fred1118 has taken sharing about his life with MS to a whole new level, documenting his life in a personal photoblog and posting the pictures with the world online. Fred shared all about his experiences in a recent interview, everything from his handicap-accessible house to how physical therapy helps him stay mobile. Read his story below. What went through your mind when you were diagnosed with RRMS back in 1994? I didn’t really know too much about MS at the time. I’m not sure if I had even heard of it, so didn’t know what to think. The diagnosing neurologist said, “you have a mild case of MS.” I was young and carefree at the time and didn’t really worry about it too much. I kind of just went on with life. It looks like you’ve done a lot of work on your house to make it handicap accessible. What are some tips and tricks you can share with the community? I would say that everyone’s needs are different. It’s a good idea to have an occupational therapist that …

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“Perseverance, patience and acceptance” – PatientsLikeMe member Steve shares what it’s like to live with MND

Those three words describe how PatientsLikeMe member Steve says he has adapted to life with motor neuron disease (MND). He was diagnosed with MND (also known as ALS) in 2007, and technology has helped Steve navigate the challenges of living with ALS while raising three children. He’s also made a video about his journey, called “Motor Neuron Disease Made Easier.” Steve spoke with us about the decisions that come with a MND diagnosis, the inspiration for his film and “how adaptable one can be in the face of adversity.” Read more about Steve’s story below and head to his blog to watch his film. Looking back over the last 7 years since your diagnosis with ALS/MND, is there anything you’d like to have known sooner that has helped you along your journey? I think I was fairly pragmatic about researching the condition from the outset, so there haven’t been many surprises apart from the fact that I am still here 7 years later (and I just realized it’s actually 7 years to the hour as I write). One of the difficulties with the disease is the uncertainty of the rate or nature of its progression. There is so much equipment, …

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“I was just doing my job” – PatientsLikeMe member Lucas talks about his experiences with PTSD after serving in the Marines

PatientsLikeMe member Lucas (Freedom666420), or Sarge, as his friends and fellow soldiers call him, served in the Marines during two tours in Iraq and was injured while literally hoisting his entire squad up and over a wall to take cover from enemy fire. He recently spoke with Sarah, a PatientsLikeMe community moderator, and shared about his experiences in an interview. Lucas talked about his recurring insomnia and nightmares, and how quitting alcohol and speaking with fellow veterans has helped him cope with his PTSD. Read what he had to say below. Will you tell us a little about your story? I enlisted in the military right before I turned 18, graduated basic training about a week after I turned 18. I was in the Marine Corps for about three years total after all the paper work was done. I was discharged medically- honorable retirement discharge because I was injured. I was on my second tour, about half way through when we were taking air fire and I was trying to get everybody over the wall and I looked back, after I got the last person over, I looked back to make sure everything was clear and that’s when I saw an …

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“Speak up!” PatientsLikeMe member Dee speaks about her journey with ALS

  There’s been a lot of awareness going on for ALS with the IceBucketChallenge, and to help keep the momentum going, PatientsLikeMe member Dee (redrockmama) shared her personal experiences with the neurological condition. She made the decision to install a feeding tube early in her journey, and now she is managing her weight through overnight supplements. Read on to learn more about her ALS story and why she thinks every person living with ALS should become their own best advocate.   Tell us a little about yourself and how you are doing, Dee. I am 62, married and a mother and grandmother. I have bulbar onset of ALS. I have always been very active and independent to a fault. I was raised horseback riding and still have a horse. I am told my disease is progressing slowly but of course to me it doesn’t feel that way. Many people in the community talk about how finding an official diagnosis isn’t easy – what was your experience like?  I actually found out fairly quickly. My symptoms started in April 2013. First doctor thought it was a stroke, second told me it was stress and of course they did MRI’s and blood …

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“MS doesn’t define anyone” – PatientsLikeMe member Anna shares about her journey with MS

We’ve had the pleasure of featuring many PatientsLikeMe members on the blog, but never one with a nickname quite like this. Anna is living with MS and we caught up with her to talk about coping, finding support, her motorized scooter and where the name “Mad Anna” comes from. Read below to see what life with MS means to her along with a poem she wrote not long after being diagnosed. Thanks for sharing, Anna! Will you tell us a little about yourself? I’m 56, mad as a brush (but responsible in the necessary ways). Love nature and the great outdoors. Used to walk (had dogs) and cycle loads. I’ve mostly worked with vehicles/transport after a start in office work, which I hated, so I moved on to chauffeuring, bus driving, driving instruction (cars, buses and lorries), agency lorry driving while I ran down my driving school in readiness for…tube train driving. Fate playing its hand in getting me from a self-employed status to employed by a company (London Underground) who doubled my 10-year pension with them and medically retired me when I was too crocked to stay there. That move also enabled me to leave a bad marriage, but …

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“In my own words” – PatientsLikeMe member Eleanor writes about her journey with bipolar II: Part 3

Over the past few months, Eleanor (redblack) has been sharing about her bipolar II on the blog, and today, we’re posting the final part of her series (thank you Eleanor for being so open and taking the time to share with everyone)! Eleanor talks about her relationship with her psychiatrist Jon and how they recently sealed “nearly four decades of struggle, pain and healing.” Read on for the final chapter, and if you missed Eleanor’s two previous entries, check them out here.       My Psychiatrist of Thirty-Seven Years: Jon Betwee What can I possibly say? Jon Betwee became my psychiatrist thirty-seven years ago, a month after we moved to Maui from western New York. He retired February 1st, but not before personally placing a few of his patients with one of the very limited number of therapists here. I was fortunate to be in that group. I am seeing a female nurse practitioner, licensed to write prescriptions and well-versed in bipolar disorder. As my PatientsLikeMe friend, Kitty, said to me last week, “She’s no Jon, but she just might turn out OK yet.” Jon is very reserved outwardly, but extremely discerning and compassionate inside. He became the best …

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“In my own words” – PatientsLikeMe member Eleanor writes about her journey with bipolar II: Part 2

Back in May, Eleanor (redblack) wrote about her some of her experiences with bipolar II to help spread the word for Mental Health Awareness Month. She’s continuing this month by sharing about the personal support system she’s developed through a wonderful relationship with her husband Jim, her special bond with a particular mood community member and how she’s learned about the value of sharing the “whys” of her bipolar II. If you’ve been following along, keep an eye out! We’re going to post the third and final part of her interview in July. Miss the first part? Read that here. The benefits of spousal support My husband of thirty-seven years, Jim, is my strongest and most dependable support. We met forty-two years ago teaching high school in New York State. I was the single mother of two boys, four and five, who are Native American and Black on their biological father’s side. Jim was a Catholic priest. The boys soon adopted him as a father figure. We married five years later and moved to Maui. Jim adopted Mike and Mark, and later, we had James and Kalea. Before our marriage, he had already helped me through one suicide attempt. Over …

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