How to Raise Blood Clot Awareness: Discover Your Personal Plan

March – Blood Clot Awareness Month – has been a very eventful month for our community. This month has provided us with an opportunity to come together as one not only to raise blood clot awareness, but to share stories, ideas, and life-saving information about blood clots. This month, I have read countless stories from you. There have been stories from people who are celebrating survival and stories from people who grieving the loss of a precious loved one. I have spoken to people who had no idea that a blood clot could affect them, and I have spoken to people who work hard every day to share information about blood clot risks and signs and symptoms. I have spoken to people who are newly diagnosed with a DVT and/or PE, and I have spoken to people who have been battling blood clots for years. Some people have reached out for reassurance and support, while others have reached in to give back to the community that has helped them. Some people are scared, hurting, and overwhelmed, and others are joyful and reassuring. Some people are healed, some people are not. Some people are at the beginning of their journey, while others have not even stopped on their journey to look back until now.

What this month has done is brought us all together, in one place at one time, to raise a united voice about an issue that has deeply affected us all, in one way or another. And believe it or not, people are listening. You can see it in the comments, the shares, the likes and the readership here, and in all the other communities you are all a part of. If you doubt, simply type #BCAM into a social media or internet search bar, and see all the conversations that are have taken place this March, and are taking place right now (it’s not too late to jump in on any of them, either).

On this last day of Blood Clot Awareness Month, I want to leave you with something everlasting, something that you can take with you into the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead. Just because March is over, does not mean we should stop communicating, connecting and sharing about blood clots, or how they have impacted our lives. In fact, it is my hope that we use the momentum this month has created to continue talking about the issues that affect us all, and to continue alerting people who don’t know, about how dangerous blood clots are. Not only that, it is my hope that we continue to bring awareness to blood clots, and we continue to support the organizations, groups and communities that can effect change to ensure no one ever stops talking about blood clots, an often-overlooked public health concern. It is a concern that indeed affects us all.

Along with these thoughts, I am leaving you with a personalized plan for raising blood clot awareness. Anyone can do it, and anyone can make a difference. In fact, you already have. These are the things I did to start talking about blood clots, and today, my work here reaches over 25,000 people a month. Over 1,000 people a month receive my newsletter, and nearly 5,000 people connect with our community on Facebook every day. The good news is, you don’t have to start a blog or have a thousand followers to raise awareness. You can raise awareness where you are right now, with what you already have, regardless of what month it is, in just three simple steps. Here’s how:

 Step 1: Find your passion

After my blood clot, it seemed that my entire life fell apart. Everything in my life suffered – my job, my relationships, my health, and my happiness. I lost everything, and I had no idea how to get it back. I felt alone, scared, worthless, and even self-destructive at times. I was fighting a losing battle, and nothing anyone said or did, including myself, could make it better. It was the worst I have ever felt in my life.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what purpose any of my suffering had, and what my purpose in life was. My attempts to discover this was futile, leading me to one dead-end answer after another. There was no justification for the suffering I was going through. There was no explanation for why I had lost everything. There was nothing I could possible give back to a body – and a world – that had treated me so cruelly.

Then one day, I stopped looking for a purpose, and I started listening. I wasn’t the only one who had been through a DVT and PE diagnosis. As it turned out, there were a lot of people out there who had also lost everything, just like me. There were a lot of people out there who had no idea what had happened to them, or why. Things started to shift in my mind, and I began to focus on what I believed was my passion: Helping other people through a blood clot diagnosis and recovery. I became determined to be the guide that I wished I had after my experience. I started Blood Clot Recovery Network – not even sure if anyone would read it. But, people did read it, a lot of people, and my work here continued to grow. Over the years, my work here has led to speaking engagements, freelance writing opportunities, advocacy events, and eventually, my career in the same field.

When I look back from where I am now, to where I was then, I still cannot believe one thing sometimes: My passion to lead me to my purpose.

If your passion leads you to blood clot awareness, you can: Talk about your experience, write about your experience (publicly or privately), tell everyone you know about blood clot signs and symptoms, tell everyone you know that they could be at risk for a deadly blood clot (and tell them why), educate other people about how to prevent blood clots, and get involved with patient advocacy groups programs and services. With the far-reaching impact of social media today, anyone can make a difference, and anyone can share their story. By sharing our stories, we share facts about blood clots. Facts that matter. The possibilities are virtually limitless. Use your social media platforms – and your voice – to make a difference. Do as much – or as little – as you can or want to.

Step 2: Let nearly everything that you do be to help someone else   

After my blood clot diagnosis, I felt worthless. It is hard for me to describe just how worthless I felt, in fact. It was unlike anything I had felt before, or anything I have felt since. I thought it would never get any better, and I thought there was nothing I could ever do to feel self-worth again. To sum it up, I couldn’t figure out what I had not died, because I had no reason to live anymore, I felt so hopeless.

Slowly, and not without pain and heartache, I started to realize that I was not worthless, and there were things I could do. These things came primarily in the form of helping other people, and were things I was already starting to do. Whether it be sharing my story, sharing my experience in an online forum, telling someone about what my PE felt like, or simply letting someone else know I felt the same, hopeless way that they did – I was helping someone else. How do I know that? People started to tell me, even a simple “Thank you,” is evidence that you have made a difference. People would say, “I didn’t know this could happen to me!” I started to realize, that because of me, now they did know a blood clot could happen to them. Never underestimate the power of helping another human being, especially during their darkest hour.

Ways you can help other people: Share your story, share information about blood clots, share information about recovery, tell your friends and family about what you are going through (if they don’t listen – that’s okay – they can save this for later), get involved in online support groups and forums, and tell your doctors about what you are experiencing after a blood clot diagnosis.  

Step 3: Always remember that there is hope for healing from blood clots

Each day, I talk to numerous people who are at different stages of their recovery. Some people are at the very beginning – they don’t even know they have recovery to do – and some people are far, far removed from the horrible things that happened to them – yet, they still have a story to tell. Some people have been recovering for a week, while others have been recovering for three years. Each of us is different.

I am often asked, “How far are you in your recovery from blood clots?” It has been four, almost five, years since my DVT and PE, and now, I consider myself healed. Sure, I will always have medication to manage and things to take into consideration that I never did prior to my diagnosis, but I am through the hard part, and I have seen that there is life – and purpose – on the other side of blood clots. There is beauty and healing and compassion and freedom from pain and suffering.

For some people, healing takes a lot longer, and still some people seem to struggle their entire lives. I don’t believe everyone moves through recovery with the same outcomes, but I do believe there is hope for healing. That healing might not look the same for all of us, but it is there.

What helped me heal more than anything, was helping other people heal. Each day, I try to remember that in the work that I do. Helping other people is healing – for me and hopefully, for them too.

What you can do to help people heal: Share your experience, share your struggles, share your joy, let other people know they are not alone, invite them to join you in the online groups and communities, set up a weekly check-in email or message with someone you have connected with, and learn as much as you can about blood clots.

There you have it, your personal plan to raise blood clot awareness and to share life-saving information about blood clots. Take this information, think about it, and begin making a difference when and where you can. You are a valuable person, you have a lot to contribute on this subject. We all do. When you have been affected by something like blood clots, awareness is ongoing. There is not right or wrong way to do it, when it comes to your personal story. I know you can and will make a difference, because you already have.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 


Reader Writes In: How are you going to raise awareness? What is a part of your personal awareness-building plan?


That’s Called Hope: A special message for you during Blood Clot Awareness Month


Want more BCAM information? Find out why blood clot #AwarenessMatters.

 

“The Patient’s Playbook” Review

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I have been given this product as a part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. Although this product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own, and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Often times throughout my recovery, I wished for a guide to get me through the situations I was facing. I went from never being sick to facing a health crisis that nearly ended my life – and I had no idea what to expect or how to deal with it. It felt like around every corner throughout my hospitalization, diagnosis and recovery, there was something I needed to be prepared for – only I had no idea what those things were, so I couldn’t be prepared. It was just one devastating blow after another. I was frightened, alone and unsure of the future. If only I could have read a book that said, “do this,” or “understand this,” and I would have felt just a little bit more in control of what was the most out-of-control situation of my life – navigating a health crisis that should have killed me.

As we know, there is no guide to understanding a blood clot diagnosis or recovery from blood clots, aside from the growing number of internet resources and support groups, often patient-led and patient-run. However, there is a guide to help you save your life during a medical crisis – or the life of someone you know – and ensure you are receiving the best medical care available.

The Patient’s Playbook by Leslie D. Michelson is that guide. It can help you change the way you manage your health – for the better. Each year, too many Americans die as a result of preventable medical error, such as mistakes, complications and even misdiagnosis. Many more people are not receiving the best care possible, simply because we don’t know to get it – or we are too afraid or overwhelmed to ask for it. The Patient’s Playbook can help you change that.

Leslie D. Michelson, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Private Health Management, and former CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, is devoted to helping people achieve superior medical outcomes at every stage of their lives. His real-life stories and relatable examples in The Patient’s Playbook provide expert advice to help you choose the best doctors, select the right treatment plans, do better research online, organize and utilize your support team and ultimately prevent medical errors.

I’ll admit – I was skeptical about reading this book. I didn’t think there was anything I could possibly gain from it. After all, I had already been through and (narrowly) survived a medical crisis – it felt like a gigantic waste of time to read something that could have helped me then, not now. The truth is, I read this book very quickly and felt like a sponge while doing so – I couldn’t get enough of the information inside. Even though I have already been through the exact type of medical situation that Michelson seeks to prepare me for, this book is now an invaluable resource for me, should I ever face another medical crisis, or should my family ever have to go through something like I did. Everyone should read this book.

I could easily – and gladly – tell you about everything that I learned in this book, but that would get really long and really boring for you. Michelson uses some great examples to get his points across – many of which reminded me of my own situation – which is one of the things I loved about the book, and something you just have to experience for yourself. Instead, I am going to share the key points that struck me as invaluable. While I highly encourage you to read this book – if you don’t, or can’t – I want you to at least have some knowledge from reading my insights. These are three topics I see on a regular basis in the Blood Clot Recovery Network discussion forum, on Facebook and around the web – and they’re good ones to discuss.

Your primary care physician (PCP) is everything. And if he or she is not, do something about it – NOW.

Your PCP should be the foundation for everything in regards to your care. If he or she is not, find someone who is. You have the right to search for a PCP like an employer would search for an employee. If your PCP is not providing you with care that is helpful or knowledgeable, or care that you are comfortable with – get a new PCP. I cannot stress that enough. You have the right to look for a PCP that is a partner in your care. He or she should be an expert in you. He or she should be finding problems before they become bigger problems – and helping you get to where you need to go if the problem is out of his or her hands. I see time and time and time again, people become complacent with the care provided by their PCP, are afraid to speak up, or don’t think they can, and that is hurting you, the patient, in the long run. Please, consider your relationship with your PCP and determine if you are receiving the best care out there, with the help of The Patient’s Playbook.

You need a to see a specialist – and your PCP should help you get to one.

Now that I have made the case for a good PCP – your PCP cannot solve everything, but he or she should be able to direct you to where you need to go to continue your care with a specialist. Your PCP should have a network of specialists that he or she trusts to help you, should you face the worst situation. Rely on your PCP to get you to a specialist, but not to provide specialized care. You might have to see a specialist – like a hematologist for your blood clots and/or blood clotting disorders – discuss who to see with your PCP, and find a plan for seeking our specialized care in The Patient’s Playbook.

Second opinions are really, really okay – and so is questioning your diagnosis.

If you have questions about your diagnosis, treatment or care – ask them, ask them. Even if you have to get a second opinion, get one. That is okay….it is okay to ask for a second opinion. You are not going to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you might hurt your health by not asking. You deserve the right opinion from the right expert. The Patient’s Playbook provides lists of where to go to seek reliable information about illnesses and specialists to help you with this part.

Michelson’s work is packed with examples and resources – packed. There are even some valuable tips that I know you all discuss every day in our support communities, such as how to stay safe in the hospitals, how to stay connected with your support systems, and how to get in sooner when you need to see your doctor or specialist – it’s all in this book.

Michelson wraps up The Patient’s Playbook with two thoughts that resonated with me beyond belief (and don’t worry, I am not spoiling it for you, if you decide to read it).

The first point is when he writes –

“Anyone who’s conquered a potentially fatal illness comes back a changed person. The crisis of confidence you may go through can take years to process.”

Just let that sink in for a moment – I had to. And then I read it again, and again. Michelson “gets it,” he really does. After all, the changed person that I am, and the years of processing, is a large part of why Blood Clot Recovery Network exists. Surviving a near-fatal blood clot changed me, it changed you, and together, we’re trying to process it and heal.

And secondly, he writes –

“If you have come through a life-threatening illness, the best was to do something with your survival is simple: Use your experience to help someone else.”

It was at this point that I had to set the book down for a while and take a deep breath (good thing it was towards the end). Think about it, the best way to do something with your survival – with my survival – is to help someone else. Every single day I try to take what has happened to me, and reach out to someone else who is scared, suffering, hurting or alone, because that is how I was when I first got out of the hospital and for weeks and months after that. And each and every day, at least one other person asks me what he or she can do to help. That’s it. That’s all you, me, we have to do – we have to help someone else. The very best way to do that, that I have found, is so simple – and Michelson agrees – just reach out. Tell your story, talk about what you have been through, share what you did or learned, and let someone else know they are not alone.

 

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 


Reader Writs In: Why do want to read The Patient’s Playbook by Leslie D. Michelson?


You Survived a Blood Clot…Now What? If you’re newly diagnosed, read this.


Heading to your first follow-up appointment? Take these questions to your doctor’s appointment.

#HealtheVoices16: Making Connections that Count

HealtheVoices16 Group

I have been thinking about what to say about #HealtheVoices16 since I got back two weeks ago and the wholehearted truth is, I don’t know what to say. I have tried to write this post a handful of times – I’ve started it six different ways, changed the layout twice and deleted it each and every time. I’ve selected pictures, re-selected pictures and then changed my mind on those pictures, yet again. In addition to all of that, I’ve felt a surmounting anxiety along the lines of “Why can’t I say what I want to say?! What is wrong with me?!” It’s no secret – I get into writing slumps like any other blogger – but this time I actually have something to say, and I can’t find the words.

So, I’ll simply start at the beginning. HealtheVoices is a revolutionary conference for online patient advocates and if you’re here, I’m sure know blogs, online support groups and social media are changing the way we address, treat and live with illness and disease. HealtheVoices was created by the thought leaders at Janssen Pharmaceuticals to bring advocates from a variety of illnesses and conditions together, in one place at one time, to talk about the issues we face as advocates, supporters, doers and thinkers and to give us the tools we need to do our job better – our job being to support, nurture, help and give hope to people just like you, who are reading this blog. I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural conference last year and was on the Advisory Panel this year. Janssen graciously paid for my travel and accommodations to Chicago, Illinois for this year’s event.

Chicago City

Being on the Advisory Panel really pushed me out of my shell, even more than I thought possible (yes, I have a shell when it comes to real-life interactions). Here’s me talking a little bit about my story – which is a lot hard to do than write it down. It’s also hard to share pictures of myself, just so you know.

Me speaking

As a panel member, not only did I get to give my insights in the planning of this conference, I was able to take more of a leading role in Chicago and really help people who I knew were, well, feeling just like I was – nervous, alone and unsure exactly of what to do, what to say or where to go and when. It’s hard to manage chronic illness, anxiety and hey, life, at home – let alone in a strange place with people you don’t know. I am grateful for the opportunity to help others, above all else.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Deeply Rooted Connections” and aside from some of my favorite learning sessions – which included learning about video blogging with Josh Robbins, legal issues when it comes to sensitive material with Jimmy Nguyen, content creation with Amy O’Connor and the power of social media to transform the medical field with Dr. Kevin Pho – I have been spending the majority of my post-conference time thinking about my deeply rooted connections.

Friends

These people – and so many others who are not pictured here – are my strength and source of inspiration when my job gets a little tough. And before HealtheVoices – as an advocate – I had nowhere to turn when the job got tough. I was the lone blood clot blogger and I never thought of reaching out to other health bloggers for support because I did not know they existed. Now, because of HealtheVoices, I do.

Most notably, I got to meet a fellow VTE advocate and influencer in the blood clot support community: Lisa Wells of Surviving A Silent Killer (SASK).

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Lisa and I connected early on in my journey as an advocate and she has been a source of strength and inspiration to me ever since. We each run a private Facebook Support Group and while they are different, we rely heavily on one another to ensure our groups run smoothly by sharing information and resources and supporting one another in triumphs and challenges. To meet her in person was more than I ever could have hoped. Having Lisa attend the conference with me furthered my sense of community and connection to the VTE community and I know this connection – and friendship – will continue throughout this year and the years to come.

I also met a local (to me) health advocate who represents the HIV community, Kevin Maloney. Even though Kevin and I were on the planning committee together, we did not meet before the conference; although, we did have plenty of time to talk – for six months – leading up to it. At first, we talked mainly about planning committee things like, “Wait, what were we supposed to do this week?” and “Did you turn in your thoughts yet?” From there, we started talking about advocacy in general and our communities. Then, I found myself talking to Kevin about my personal story, about his personal story and about living my everyday life.

As luck would have it, we shared the same flight out to Chicago and I can say without a doubt – because we were not so lucky to be on the same flight on the way back – flying with Kevin made all the difference in the world for my anxiety for two reasons: I realized I wasn’t alone in my travel worry and well, I wasn’t alone on my flight. I know Kevin will remain a friend of mine in the weeks, months and hopefully years to come.

Avisory Panel Group Hug

In summary, I have some pretty deeply rooted connections now from attending #HealtheVoices for the last two years and I can’t to see where those roots – grow – from here.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

 

 


Reader Writes In: Did you see #HealtheVoices16 trend on Twitter? Have you ever traveled to Chicago? What did you do there? Tell me in the comments.


HealtheVoices16 Intro CoverThank you to the teams at Janssen, Everyday Health and Tonic Communications for an incredible weekend at #HealtheVoices16.

To learn more about #HealtheVoices16 read #HealtheVoices16 (Why it’s kind of a big deal).

To be a part of the private Facebook community, go here, and ask to join the group. Chat with you there.

HealthEVoices16 (Why It’s Kind of a Big Deal)

HealtheVoices16 Intro Cover

It’s no secret — especially for those who know me in person — that I am terrified of flying on planes. It’s also no secret that my fear doesn’t stem from long periods of sitting that may contribute to my blood clot risk – I really don’t think about blood clots when I am flying, even thought I regularly stretch my legs and request a Pre-Boarding Pass so that I can get an aisle seat. My fear is rooted in the fact that I am not in control of the plane, nor am I in control about what happens to it. Lack of control — combined with the fear of the unknown — will keep me up for days prior to any plane travel I have scheduled.

ae945163-1d80-44d0-97b1-5bbb85604e2eYet, in less than one week, I will board a plane to travel to Chicago for the 2016 #HealthEVoices Online Patient Advocacy Conference – and I could not be more excited about going. I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural conference last April as the only VTE patient advocate and this year, I was invited by Janssen to not only attend, but to be a part of the planning committee as well. Janssen is graciously paying for my travel (flight, ground transportation) and my hotel stay while I am there.

So, you might be wondering, aside from the plane trip, what’s the big deal?

Well, first let me tell you about HealthEVoices16. It is a conference created by Janssen in partnership with Everyday Health for people like me to make an even greater difference in the lives of people like you. Since you’re here, you probably have a good handle on the fact that social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, online discussion forums) is largely shaping the way patients and caregivers make decisions about healthcare for themselves and for their loved ones. HealthEVoices is the only conference created exclusively for online health advocates across a broad spectrum of health conditions. The mission of the weekend is to provide the tools, resources and inspiration to improve online patient and caregiver communities and expand reach even more. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with other health activists and learn from experts in health, social media and advocacy. You can find out more about this year’s event and watch a pretty cool video here: HealthEVoices16.com

HealthEVoices_logo_outlines

When I stared this blog almost four years ago, I felt very much alone in my recovery from blood clots. As I began to process and understand the difficult journey that was ahead of me, I wanted nothing more than to reach out to others who might be feeling the same. I wanted to give others who experiecned a blood clot guidance – and ultimately hope – in what might be the worst time in their lives, so I created Blood Clot Recovery Network. As time went on and I felt less alone in my recovery, thanks to the robust community that you have helped to create here, I started to feel alone again, but in a different way. I felt alone as one of the few DVT and PE blood clot advocates. When I attended HealthEVoices last year, I found myself at another low point in my life. I was turned down for a job I wanted then, I was struggling to continue making a difference here at BCRN and I felt like I had nowhere to run to (save for nature and a weekend away) when I was overwhelmed with inquiries, requests and stories. On top of it all, I started to feel guilty for thinking about myself, feeling like I was letting the community down. I went to HealthEVoices a wreck, and not just because of the plane ride.

I still cannot believe how much one weekend changed my outlook on patient advocacy and gave me the tools I so desperately needed to continue doing the work I do at BCRN – and do it happily. I gained some valuable isights to combat compassion fatigue, tools to handle patient inquires in a wise and legal manner and information to establish or maintain a successful entrepreneurship and not “just a blog.”

More so than the tools and information I gained, though, were the connections I made. I connected with other advocates from a variety of different health conditions (oh yeah, I have social anxiety too so that was hard) who were going through the exact same things I was – despite our different illnesses. I wasn’t alone after all, I just didn’t know it. I left the conference last year feeling immediately empowered, newly invigorated and re-committed to my work as an advocate here at BCRN. I had some extra time before I flew home and I even took the train by myself into NYC and crossed a dream off my bucket list — visiting Central Park. <<P.S. the worry on my face is the result of hoping a) I make it back to NJ on the subway b) I don’t miss my flight and c) I don’t get lost in NYC>>

HealtheVoices16 Intro post NYC Central Park

This year, I cannot wait to re-connect with people I met in New Jersey last year, many who have become a source of daily support to me since that time. They include Debbe of the AFib Support Forum, Jill of Get up and Get Moving and Brian of A Marine and HIV. I’m also looking forward to connecting with Kevin of Rise Up to HIV who is not only a neighbor of mine, but a source of support and laughter for me during the planning process – especially when it comes to addressing my flight anxiety.  

I cannot wait to meet new people. I am beyond excited to – finally – meet another VTE advocate in person, that person being Lisa of the widely recognized Facebook Patient Support Group Surviving A Silent Killer. Lisa and I met virtually a couple of years ago after facing similar diagnosis and we, along with a few others, work closely together in terms of keeping our Facebook groups a safe place for all of you to be. The fact that she and I will be at HealthEVoices together solidifies in my mind that we will be able to collaborate even more to provide you with the best support and patient resources available. And, of course, I cannot wait to meet even more advocates representing other communities.

<<< Insert future picture of Lisa and I here >>>  

I cannot wait to make BCRN the best online patient support and advocacy community it can be for people recovering from blood clots.

Reader Writes In: What do you wish you had in terms of patient support from BCRN? How can I strengthen this community for you?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

 

 

From Make-A-Wish Employee to Making One of My Own Wishes Come True

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After my blood clot in my leg (DVT) and blood clot in my lung (PE) in the summer of 2012, I felt pain, fear and isolation with a degree of finality that I had never felt before. Physically, I had never felt as much pain as I did then and after losing all normal aspects of my life, I had never felt as hopeless and alone. I spent my days worrying about my health, my career, my ability to do the things I loved again and ultimately, my future. I did not know what I would be able to do with my life after blood clots, but I knew in regards to my personal and professional endeavors, it was always been important to me make a difference in the lives of others.

In searching for a way to get my life back on track after my diagnosis, I began working at Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana in hopes of finding a place where I could once again make a difference, this time in the lives of children facing life-threatening illnesses. From the beginning, I found I could relate to the Make-A-Wish mission to provide hope, strength and joy to those families going through unspeakable hardship, because I had been through a similar experience in my own life. Make-A-Wish gave me hope when I had all but given up on my future, strength to stand on my own two feet again, and joy in the opportunity to bring happiness to others.

When I launched Blood Clot Recovery Network in the early 2013, it was my goal to create a place where people could come together to share, learn, discuss and ultimately gain hope that, as a Survivor of blood clots, there is life and wellness. That while the pain, fear and isolation was the worst I had ever encountered, these feelings wouldn’t last forever and even more importantly, they didn’t have to be endured alone. While I hoped to make a difference once again in the lives of others, I feared that no one really cared about blood clots at the end of the day. Still, I said to myself, if I could help just one other person out there, I had done my job and I continued to pursue my advocacy work through BCRN.

Since that time, I know from your emails, posts, messages and tweets that I have reached countless people – far more than I ever thought possible. In fact, it was this community that gave me hope through some of my darkest days when I realized that I wasn’t going to be well in a week or two, or even six. Through it all, I kept writing and as this community expanded, so did my desires and dreams for raising even more awareness and elevating my work to another level that would give me the opportunity to reach an even greater number of people or make an even greater impact in the VTE community.

In light of those dreams, it is with great excitement that I have accepted a full-time position with the National Blood Clot Alliance as part of the Communications and Health Marketing team. In this role, I am excited to now be able to fully dedicate my days and my work to what I enjoy most, raising awareness about VTE. I am able to better pursue my passion and focus singularly on raising awareness and making sure people get the information they need to know about blood clots. Working with the National Blood Clot Alliance, and given the organization’s resources and unparalleled reach in the VTE community, I am confident I have an amazing opportunity to reach an optimal number of people, both those already affected by blood clots and those who don’t know what a blood clot is or how it might affect them.

It is without doubt that BCRN and the community you have helped create will continue. I look forward to continuing to blog and interact with you here. Your support, encouragement, stories and thoughts have made a difference, not only in my life, but in the lives of one another — in the lives of those who have survived, those who have lost a loved one, those who are scared, those who are recovering, those who are in pain, lonely and afraid, and those who are learning to live again. While I have provided the resources, it is you who has nurtured this community to make it what it is today.

To you I am grateful, and I hope you will continue on this journey of hope and healing with me, both here at BCRN and in my wonderful new relationship with the National Blood Clot Alliance.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

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Three Years of Recovery from a Blood Clot

Three Year Recovery Cover

Three years ago, my life changed forever in ways that I could have never of imagined before that day. I had just kicked off a new marathon training season by running about two miles with my best friend and although I was slightly discouraged (my knee hurt again and I was out of shape), I was looking forward to what was going to be a great season.

I stumbled through the weekend, my supposed-knee injury getting worse by the minute. I had no idea anything was wrong besides overdoing it on my run Saturday. I didn’t know the symptoms of DVT and PE, even though I had heard of both before. By Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t speak in full sentences, couldn’t lay flat and couldn’t walk. By late Sunday night, I was in the ICU of the hospital with an extensive DVT behind my left knee and a PE in my left lung. I was lucky to be alive as it was and nowhere near stable. I was in the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life, I was scared and I had no idea what was happening.

In the coming days, I was diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, an autoimmune blood clotting condition, and eventually placed on blood thinners that were injected into my stomach. I left the hospital with an oxygen tank and a wheelchair. In the coming weeks and then months, I lost my job, many friends, what remained of my self-confidence and any hope I had that things would get better. My relationships with the people that mattered most, mainly my husband, became strained, and I hated myself and my body that had carried me through countless half marathons and physical accomplishments for what it did to me. I sank into a deep depression, uncertain of the future and uncertain that I even wanted to live if this was how the future was going to be. Physically, everything hurt and I was making slower than slow progress; mentally I was incapable of finding any hope in my situation and emotionally I was a shell of the person I had once been. In my eyes, I was unrecognizable. And, I never, ever thought things would change.

And I was wrong. I have come long way in three years of recovery and in the beginning, I thought nothing would ever change. I write this post so that you too may know there is hope for recovery and while we all must adjust to a new normal, that doesn’t mean we cannot make progress, heal, find happiness and become accustomed to the changes we have faced.

Physically

Out of the woods and into…another woods. Critical Care Becomes Longterm Care.

At three years, I consider myself physically healed, for the most part. In the beginning and for the first six months of recovery, I vividly remember being in constant pain. My leg hurt, my lung hurt and it hurt to do anything. I begged for someone to chop off my leg (I was serious) because it hurt so bad and I could not fathom any relief. I cried all the time as a result of the pain. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, and I never hope to feel it again.

Physically What Has Changed: I am no longer on oxygen and I no longer need a wheelchair, either. The pain in my leg is all but gone on most days, although I feel like I deal with more overall fatigue and pain. I do not have chest pain anymore and if I did, it would concern me enough to visit the ER. My leg still swells and compression stockings are part of my everyday wear (although I have been wearing them about three days a week lately with my doctor’s knowledge). The severe purple and brown discoloration in my leg has decreased immensely, much to my surprise. I get my INR checked via blood draws every 6-8 weeks, compared to twice a week in the beginning. Day to day, I do not get fatigued as easily (for example, walking up the stairs), but I do notice when I get fatigued, it lasts longer and is harder for me to get out of, even with rest. I can sleep for 12 hours and still be exhausted. I take warfarin, aspirin, vitamin k, folic acid, synthroid and progestin-only oral contraceptives, all under advisement of my doctor. My menstrual cycles are incredibly heavy (which my doctor believes is due to my birth control and blood thinner), and I have painful side effects that pretty much keep me sidelined for the duration of my cycle, which is unpredictable in length. I’m not as sensitive to touch as I was in the beginning, and I once again enjoy physical affection and a healthy and regular sex life with my husband. The blood clot in my lung is gone and my lung function has retuned to normal – I am out of shape. I walked a slow 5K (3.1 miles) mid-May and I was able to do so comfortably, without any shortness of breathe or long recovery period. I understand more than ever the importance of movement and blood flow, and I am fortunate enough to have a standing/sitting desk at work so I move up and down throughout the day even when I can’t get away from my desk to take a walk.

Physically What Hasn’t Changed: Antiphospholipid syndrome is, at this time, a lifelong disease and it requires constant monitoring that I have worked into my regular routine. I get regular blood draws, visit my doctor about every three months and see some other doctor (endocrinologist, OBGYN, dentist, eye doctor, etc.) every month. The doctor appointments feel more normal as I have entered a non-critical state of my care and do not require constant monitoring. I’m still not back to running (or exercising) regularly, but I have my sites set on training for a half marathon next spring (did I just say that?!). I have leg swelling from time to time, especially at the end of the day; my left (DVT) leg is slightly larger than my right leg and my clot has calcified behind my left knee.

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Lifestyle

Don’t sweat the small stuff…because it is really the big stuff!

Three years ago I lost my new job as a 9-1-1 Dispatcher three months after my PE, and I was completely devastated. I had worked for two long years to get the job, during which time I lost my Mom, my biggest supporter, and I was certain starting a new career was the start of a new life for me. I knew Mom would be proud of me, and I was proud of me too, for the first time in a long time. While I tried my hardest, I just could not learn a new job (especially an intense and stressful one) while also recovering from a PE. I had setback after setback in my recovery, including pleurisy and extreme anxiety, which greatly impaired my decision-making and rationing skills. The medications I was on greatly impacted my ability to sleep, concentrate and remember things. In the end, it just didn’t work out. And, I sank into the worst depression I have ever encountered in my life. I could not see a way out, there was none.

What Has Changed in My Lifestyle: I now have a full-time job back in the non-profit field doing work I succeed at. I never thought that would happen again. It took me 16 months to find full-time employment and the experience of being unemployed and kicked down at every turn was really damaging. Financial instability was the worst. I am working through the damage done to my self-esteem and self-confidence very slowly. It is hard for me to trust not only myself, but also people I do not already know. I am healing, though. I no longer run half marathons or lift weights or visit the gym. I just can’t get back into running since my PE. I prefer to be outside more and choose to take a walk or sit on the porch rather than go to a movie. Nature is more meaningful to me now, and I appreciate things like the park, sunsets, the ocean and the woods more. I crave being near natural things. I dress up – a lot more. Wearing colorful clothing is important to me.

What Hasn’t Changed in My Lifestyle: My diet hasn’t changed tremendously. While total elimination has not worked for me, I try to limit the amount of grains, dairy and sugar I eat. I prefer to eat as close to paleo as I can, but do not follow it exclusively. I still eat regular amounts of vitamin k rich vegetables, I eat cranberries and I drink alcohol in moderation.

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Psychologically and Emotionally

Just because it’s hardly talked about, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The psychological trauma of DVT and PE is real. 

The psychological and emotional impact of a DVT and PE and recovery from these events is the one thing I am not fully prepared to talk about. I am still working through this aspect of recovery, and it still has a strong influence over my life. Talking about it helps. Connecting with others helps. And, because of those things, I will do my best to convey my struggles and progress with you.

What Has Changed Psychologically and Emotionally: Where to begin? It seems like everything has changed for me on this front. I believe that because I am still processing what happened to me, I suffer from a high level of anxiety and fear on a regular basis. I am very quick to get angry and very quick to shut down in the face of personal adversity. My hypervigilance about suffering from another clot has decreased in regards to myself, but I am convinced that everyone around me who has a leg pain or trouble breathing has a DVT or PE, and I recommend they all go to the ER. There is no “could be” for me, it “is” a blood clot. I’ve identified some pretty specific triggers that either make me angry, confrontational or sad and they include, “That’s a bummer,” “This thing/time/place/etc. is different,” and “It’s not that bad.” Because it’s not a bummer (it’s so much more than that), this is no different and it really is that bad in my experience, at least. I have discovered that I need support in being a source of hope, inspiration and information for so many other survivors, and I have discovered that I need to readily seek out that support. For as much anxiety as I have, some things just do not matter anymore. If you don’t like me, I’m okay with that. I have more consequential things to worry about now. I have developed an irrational fear of heights. I am fully aware I could (and I might) die at any second, but I continue living my life.

What Hasn’t Changed Psychologically and Emotionally: I continue to overcome difficult things in my life and persevere through tough times, but I do not embrace positivity, and I do not believe a positive outlook is the key to healing. I am realistic, honest and straightforward and with that, I move forward, but I am not necessarily a positive person all the time.

Recovery is a process. One with a clearly defined beginning and end named then and now. Then being my life before my PE and now being my life since then. There is no middle ground. Time is crucial and matters greatly to me. There is no time to waste. Recovery is difficult, painful, lonely and confusing, but there is hope. Hope that we do not remain the same and as we heal, no matter how little, we progress through the process of time.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

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