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.
Yet, 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
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>>
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,