patient interview

Lupus Weight Gain: Q&A with the founder of Making Lupus Look Good

Alyshia Merchant knows first-hand how lupus can affect you inside and out. After her diagnosis in 2012 and struggles with visible symptoms and self-esteem, she launched an organization called Making Lupus Look Good, which provides wigs and “glam sessions” to people with lupus-related hair loss and other symptoms. The organization currently serves people in Alyshia’s home state, Virginia, but she hopes to establish a 501(c)(3) and take the organization to a national level soon. Alyshia recently shared more with us in this Q&A. Can you tell us more about Making Lupus Look Good and what inspired you to start it? My entire experience with lupus has affected my self-confidence tremendously. I would take pictures of myself and compare them to older pictures, and it was a very emotional experience. In the midst of my struggle, I developed a passion to help rebuild the self-esteem of other women living with the same insecurities that I struggle with day in and day out. My life is now dedicated to helping women see that they are still beautiful – despite whatever insecurities lupus may throw their way. It was my own pain that inspired me to create Making Lupus Look Good. I’ve found that …

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From preclinical to approval: How clinical trials bring new treatments to market

Often we hear of new treatments becoming available, but have you ever wondered what each new treatment had to go through to get approved by a regulatory body like the FDA? Before a new treatment is approved for commercialization, it needs to go through a meticulous trial process to prove a number of things: Is the drug safe? What are the potential side effects? Does the drug do what it’s supposed to do? All of these questions and more need to be answered before a drug can be considered for approval by the FDA, so that’s where clinical trials come in. Here’s a breakdown of what’s involved in the drug development process, from preclinical through to commercialization and post-approval monitoring. (Click to enlarge) How can I participate in a clinical trial or find out more? You can learn more about research and clinical trials by joining or logging into PatientsLikeMe and clicking on the Research tab Use the PatientsLikeMe Clinical Trial Finder to search for trials that could be a good fit for you Check in with local associations and hospitals to see if they are recruiting for any trials Talk to your healthcare provider/clinician to see if there are opportunities …

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PF Awareness Month

September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month, and in honor of that, we’re rounding up what members of the PatientsLikeMe community have shared about pulmonary fibrosis on our blog. First off, for those who don’t know – what is pulmonary fibrosis (PF)? It’s a chronic, progressive scarring or thickening of the lungs, which makes it difficult for oxygen to transfer from your lungs into your bloodstream. It may be caused by certain medications, environmental exposures or underlying diseases of the autoimmune system (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma). Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), the cause of which is still unknown, is the type of PF most people might’ve heard of, but there are many other forms of PF, such as sarcoidosis and cryptogenic organizing pneumonia. Now let’s take a look back at some blog posts about PF. In 2013, member Ian shared about his journey from having “stiff lungs” and getting diagnosed with IPF to undergoing a lung transplant. “I was bloody determined to have a transplant,” he said. Read more here. In 2014, member John_R discussed his adjustment to his “new normal” of living with IPF and using supplemental oxygen. “My oxygen use was quickly accepted at work,” he said. “There were a couple of double takes when people …

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“Everyone needs a “Me too!” moment” – Member Shannon on exposing her truth

“With every part of me that becomes less than what it used to be, a different part of me usually becomes more than what it used to be. In fact, maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult.” Shannon (Sna2164) is a wife, mother, animal lover and writer, living in southern California. She was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 27 years old, with three children under the age of four. In a recent interview, Shannon told us about her diagnosis, starting a blog and her journey to peace and contentment with MS. Check out her story about exposing her truth and helping others who feel misunderstood. Searching for answers While others can go through years of suffering while waiting for a diagnosis, Shannon’s experience was comparatively quick. It started six months after her youngest daughter was born. She began having terrible pain in her right eye, combined with temporary loss of vision in that same eye anytime she went from darkness to light or vice versa. In her quest for an explanation and solution, she used eye glasses she didn’t need and took antibiotics for sinus infections she didn’t have. A few months into trying to solve the mystery …

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“I finally feel like there is hope for me to have a life that has purpose.” – Member Robin shares her story living with complex PTSD

Robin (survivinglife) is a PatientsLikeMe member living with complex PTSD. Recently, she shared her story with us, from her childhood to now, delving into the hardships she’s faced and how she continues to find the courage to forge through. Content within this story may be triggering for some readers. Here’s her story… I am a 41 yo female. I’ve never been married. I’ve never dated or had any type of long term relationships – even long term friendships. My mood swings and constant need to be reassured that I am cared about and wanted is too much for people to put up with for more than a couple of years at best, a few months at worst. My faith is very important to me – it is one of the reasons I have been able to be as successful as I have been in my life. I struggle every day with my faith – with believing that I was not an accident and that I have purpose to my life. I live on 6 acres which I enjoy watching the wildlife and listening to the birds. I have 2 dogs – a pit mix and a poodle mix. They are …

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“There were so many people asking the things that I was too afraid to ask”

It’s the 10-year anniversary of the MS community, and we’re sharing a story from one of our members, Jackie (OldSalt). Jackie was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) in 2007 and more recently, her condition transitioned to secondary progressive MS (SPMS). She found PatientsLikeMe in 2008 and believes that being part of the site over the last nine years has made a difference in her life, and the course of her illness. A jarring diagnosis “Some may say I was “lucky” that I had little trouble being diagnosed compared to many who spend years chasing answers to understand why they are feeling as they do. It can be frustrating wondering what’s happening to your body.” The summer before her diagnosis, Jackie found herself suddenly unable to walk or move her limbs for nearly two full weeks. After diagnosing her with an unspecified virus, her physician prescribed an antibiotic over the phone. The antibiotic didn’t help. A month later, after experiencing terrible pain in her left eye, Jackie went to an ophthalmologist. He believed she had MS and contacted her physician to request an immediate consult with a Neurologist for a Lumbar Puncture and an MRI. “This all took place within a …

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Meeting PF patients where they are

Say hello to John (John_R), a father, grandfather and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) survivor. Sound familiar? Last year he shared his story about life after a double lung transplant and the importance of considering a lung transplant early. This year, John started a Facebook group to live-stream pulmonary fibrosis (PF) support group meetings and conferences. “I am very passionate about honoring the precious gift provided by my donor family and in living a life worthy of their generosity.” John received a bilateral lung transplant on January 1st, 2015, and believes he’s alive today thanks to his donor family and care team at UT Southwestern in Dallas. Now, he’s committed to raising awareness for the needs of the pulmonary fibrosis community. Life after transplant John’s life before transplant included the use of supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and what he calls, “an eminent expiration date” in his near future. He couldn’t visit family in Colorado or the higher elevations of New Mexico due to the altitude, and every breath was a struggle. “The biggest thing about life after lung transplant is that I no longer have a firm expiration date, I can have hope. I can go to Colorado and …

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Oceans of Hope: An interview with PatientsLikeMe member Beth

Beth (sailebeb) has been living with MS since 2010, but it hasn’t stopped her from leading an active lifestyle. In the spring of 2015, she joined a crew of MS patients on a sailing trip from Tahiti to American Samoa. The journey was organized by the Sailing Sclerosis project, Oceans of Hope, to change perceptions that people with chronic diseases like MS are “trapped by their condition.” Here, Beth describes her experience onboard and what she learned about herself along the way: “Oceans of Hope is showing me I can still take chances.” Tell us a little about yourself. What are some of your hobbies and passions? I like to garden, both flowers and vegetables. Started glass fusing after I got MS. Love to travel. We have had many different types of campers and are also trying to figure out what will be the next best one (for the least money of course). Always have four or five projects, and most of them are 90% done. I also have a 14-year-old son, and that is a hobby and a passion all by itself. What went through your mind when you were diagnosed with MS in 2010? Denial. I think that is common. I thought I’d …

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“We are the ones that know what is required to give us the care we deserve” — Member Ann shares her story for Rare Disease Day

 February 29 only comes around every four years – and this year, it’s extra special: Today marks the 9th annual Rare Disease Day. In the United States, a disease is considered rare if it affects less than 200,000 people at any given time.1  This year’s theme is all about elevating the patient voice, so we caught up with member Ann (annpkerrigan) to learn more about what it’s like to live with alkaptonuria (AKU), a rare disease that affects 159 PatientsLikeMe members. Here’s what she had to say… How would you describe AKU to someone who has never heard of it? I suffer from AKU, which is a rare genetic disease with no cure or treatment but not fatal. This is what I was told six years ago when diagnosed after many years attempting to identify my condition. AKU is a metabolic disease, which causes severe early-onset osteoarthritis. It can be a painful and degenerative disease. Over the years, I’ve learned to adapt and make changes to my home. I live alone and it’s crucial I can manage everything. Prior to diagnosis my knees were very painful so I moved to a ground floor apartment in Bristol to be closer to work and because using stairs became impossible. My GP referred an …

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“I had no idea that my thyroid controls so much” — PatientsLikeMe member Barbara shares her experience for Thyroid Awareness Month

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. So, how much do you know about the small, butterfly-shaped gland that influences the way your heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin function? To help spread #thyroidawareness, we asked member Barbara to tell us about living with thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism, a condition that affects over 6,000 PatientsLikeMe members. Barbara shares how her thyroid issues have taken an emotional toll on her, as well as some advice on being your own advocate: “Fight for your right to feel normal again.” Tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies and passions? I really love photography and a new passion is gemstones. I have been taking photos since I was a kid.  I love landscapes and different and interesting people. I still have several film cameras but I love the freedom of digital. I enjoy video and web design as well. I have gotten the opportunity to study gemstones and it has opened up a big new world. I am currently studying how to identify gemstones. It is like being a detective.  There are so many different types. Learning their origins has been fascinating. I also love watching Kung Fu movies with my husband. When you were diagnosed, what went through your mind? My diagnosis was a little odd. …

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