Posted on July 24th, 2012 by Admin
Editor's Note: Leslie R. is a patient/caregiver who submitted the following essay as part of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Patient, Caregiver Scholarship Contest. To vote, simply use the Facebook "Like" or Twitter "Tweet" buttons at the bottom of each post to share or leave a positive comment. The top vote-getters will be finalists.
In April 2008, I was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, at the age of 22. I was just finishing my first year of graduate school, and my world was turned upside-down. Although I had no previous experiences with blogging, as I searched online for information, I quickly discovered a virtual world of patients like me – young women, in the prime of their lives, facing life-altering medical diagnoses.
Through this experience, I created my blog, Getting Closer To Myself (http://gettingclosertomyself.blogspot.com/), which has been my saving grace. It has connected me with others that I would not have met otherwise, who help and inspire me on a daily basis. I am a better patient because of the experiences others have shared with me, and I with them. I am also the organizer of the patient-centered blog carnival, Patients For a Moment (http://patientsforamoment.blogspot.com/), am a health guide on the Rheumatoid Arthritis section of HealthCentral (http://www.healthcentral.com/), and occasionally contribute to Wego Health (http://www.wegohealth.com/).
My experience as a patient, in both the real and virtual worlds, has driven me towards a career in health advocacy. I have experienced firsthand the difficulty of being a chronically ill student at a large institution of higher education, and it is my hope to be able to make the experience better for chronically ill students who come after me. Chronically ill students, who are often the least able to advocate for themselves, are in a precarious position. The system makes it so difficult, that students often give up after being given the run around. But I firmly believe that students, regardless of health situation, should be able to get the education they aspire to. After I receive my PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan next summer, I have applied (and hope) to attend Sarah Lawrence College’s Health Advocacy Master’s program.
I was an attendant and speaker at The Fifth Annual Chronic Illness and Postsecondary Education Symposium at Depaul University in 2009, which was a unique experience that I would like to have again. Attending the Social Media Summit would allow me to make further connections and network with those from both the real and virtual worlds. It would allow me to share my experiences in the hope of helping others. It would also allow me to learn about other social media avenues that I am less familiar with. This conference will also help me in having greater command in the field I hope to pursue, health advocacy, considering that social media is such a big part of our everyday lives.
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