Monday, January 27, 2014

New Member, Katie McCurdy, Attends Hut Trip & Tells All

Katie McCurdy is a new Outdoor Mindset member, who recently attended the NH Meetup hut trip. She enjoyed meeting new people, talking about neurological challenges, and spending time in the outdoors! We appreciate Katie sharing her experiences.

We made our way along a snowy trail in the woods of New Hampshire, a small train of 6 backpack-toting, sled-pulling women (and one man). The area was still recovering from an ice storm, so beneath the inch or so of snow was a thin layer of glare ice, which we navigated and slid along until we reached the ’66 Dartmouth cabin. The log cabin was more like a lodge; what I imagine an old logging camp in Northern Michigan (from where I hail) would have been like. It had a giant main room with a wood stove and fireplace; multiple sleeping lofts piled with those humorous vinyl-coated camp mattresses; gas lanterns and moose paddles hanging throughout. It was rustic and charming. 

My companions were a group of mostly strangers, members of the Outdoor Mindset community in the Hanover, NH area. Outdoor Mindset’s goal is to help patients with neurological conditions spend time in the outdoors, doing activities they love. My old friend Jeanie had invited me to the outing; we’d been co-captains of our college ski team back in the 90’s, and Jeanie’s now in med school at Dartmouth. Her husband, Jake, is a co-founder of Outdoor Mindset. 

Most of the people on the outing were patients with various neurological conditions like MS and epilepsy, and one woman had multiple autoimmune issues (like I do, but hers were different from mine.) I don’t think they knew I was a patient at first, as I was kind of a random and unexpected addition to the trip, so my pointed questions about their symptoms and diseases might have been a little off-putting at first. But as we walked through the woods, first on our way to the cabin and then from the cabin to the top of a small mountain lookout nearby, we spent a lot of time talking and getting to know each other. I found that many of us had symptoms in common - even if our diseases were different. A lot of us talked about neuropathy - tingling and numbness in our extremities. The conversation swung seamlessly between health talk and outdoors talk; from the cost of healthcare to a hiking trip at Kilimanjaro; from treatment options to a climbing trip or a trek through the Indian Himalayas. 
Now these are my kind of people! Maybe just a ‘little tiny bit’ noncompliant patients who don’t always accept the limitations of their diseases. Who push themselves to spend time outdoors and find ways to mitigate the impact their symptoms might have on their abilities. I’ve had the autoimmune disease Myasthenia Gravis for over 20 years, and I’ve recently been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome as well - both neurological autoimmune diseases. But I’ve always been able to maintain an outdoor lifestyle; I was a ski bum in Montana for a few years, and I’ve lived/hiked/skied in VT for about 8 years. I understand what it’s like to push through symptoms to get outdoors and keep up with the activities that make you feel alive.
Later in the evening, a friend of Jeanie and Jake’s came to the cabin and taught an intro class on Pilates. She was hilarious and a great teacher, and we worked on our ‘six packs.’ Jeanie and the dinner crew made a great meal, and we spent time chatting into the night over a shared bottle of wine and some cream cheese brownies. I shared a personal project I’ve been working on that aims to help patients tell better stories about their healthcare when they’re visiting with their doctors, and I got some good feedback and input from the group. 
Overall, I was so pleased to have the chance to refresh my mind and body in the woods with some like-minded patients. I’m excited to have now joined OM officially, and I’m hoping to make it to more events and to help spread the word up here in VT!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Outdoor Mindset teams up with Bones For Bruno in February!

What could be better than treats that help animals and their human friends? 

Outdoor Mindset is excited to team up with Bones for Bruno. Bones for Bruno hand makes gluten free treats sure to delight dogs of all shapes and sizes. Their mission is simple: Love life while helping people, their pets and their community.

Here's the deal. For the entire month of February, buy a bag of Bones for Bruno treats, and Bones for Bruno will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Collarship fund AND Outdoor Mindset! 

  • Collarships provide financial assistance to those in need of paying veterinary bills for their furry friends.
  • Outdoor Mindset unites and empowers people affected by neurological challenges through a common passion for the outdoors.

Dogs love the outdoors, so this is really just a match made in outdoorsy heaven.

Wanna know how you and your pooch can make a difference? It's easy.
During the month of February, buy a delicious bag of doggie treats (or two, or three) here, and enjoy the benefits of helping people, pets, and your community!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Outdoor Mindset Announces Partnership with NMSS CO-WY Chapter

January 2, 2014

Outdoor Mindset announces new partnership for 2014 with National MS Society CO-WY Chapter.

The National MS Society CO-WY Chapter mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. The Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National MS Society has been serving individuals diagnosed with MS and their families for over 75 combined years. They are committed to providing education, programs and services that empower you to live a healthy productive life. To learn more, visit their website.

Outdoor Mindset unites and empowers people affected by neurological challenges through a common passion for the outdoors. OM enhances members' quality of life through Meetup Groups and the Connect Program. Meetup Groups strengthen connections and empower members to get outside with scheduled group activities in local cities around the country. The Connect Program allows members to search other members and connect 1 to 1 with another member who has experience with a similar diagnosis and shares a common passion for the outdoors. These relationships inspire hope, instill passion for maintaining outdoor lives and enable our members to receive support from someone uniquely familiar with their experience. You may sign up for Outdoor Mindset's free membership community on their website. In addition to gaining access to empowering programs, members also have access to online-based tools, member perks, and exclusive giveaways. 

Outdoor Mindset looks forward to partnering with the National MS Society CO-WY Chapter in many exciting ways in 2014. Look for an Outdoor Mindset presence at future Walk MS events. Outdoor Mindset plans to set up informational booths for walk participants. Also OM will encourage local Meetup Groups to get outside and attend Walk MS events. To view upcoming dates and to register for Walk MS events, head to the website. Boulder OMbassador, Kat Drake, has set up a team called "Mountain Strong" for the Boulder Walk on May 17th. If you would like to join the team and participate with the Boulder Meetup Group, please check the OM calendar and/or contact Kat for details: 970-231-7980.

This partnership is a win-win for both organizations. With complimentary missions to empower people to live a healthy and productive lives, the National MS Society CO-WY Chapter and Outdoor Mindset look forward to working together and raising awareness on behalf of each other.

Meet Eric Cobb - living life to the fullest in Orange County, CA

OM Member, Eric Cobb, shares his story for the first time. His positive outlook on life and resilience in dealing with his diagnosis is truly inspirational. From racing BMX in Arizona to embracing long Colorado winters to coming face to face with a 10 ft seal in California, Eric is a living example of how to live life to the fullest no matter your circumstances.

My story with epilepsy begins when I was at school in the seventh grade.  I was reading a book in class, and went into a grand mal seizure while I was reading.  I was not born with it, or experienced it at a very young age, so I was completely lost.  I had my second seizure a year later, and that was when I went on medications, and began testing to see what was happening with me.  It took about a year and a multitude of tests to come to the conclusion that I am an epileptic.
I had moved to Colorado from Arizona a few months before I had my first seizure, and it goes without saying I was not a winter sports fan.  I grew up racing BMX, and riding jet skis due to the decent to incredibly hot weather that permitted me to do so.  I would spend a lot of time in my dad’s garage building old cars, and star gazing in the evenings after a good game of hide and seek with neighborhood kids after Christmas dinner.  I spent all of my time outside doing anything I wanted…
Let’s fast forward to my move to the mountains, and my complications.  I didn’t know how to feel after the seizure, or the cold place I had moved to where my bike sat in storage, and no local race track to ride on, and an oversized ice rink for a lake.  I became angry at times, sad at others due to both the illness and the place I was, that I shut down.  However when summer came around and I could see that there was more to the world than dirt and pavement, I began my love affair with Colorado, and how everything else on my shoulders no longer mattered.
There were giants made of solid rock for me to climb, raging angry rivers made from the melting snow  atop the giant peeks that spread like veins across the land.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before coming from a hot flat desert.  I put my winter time video games away (due to my distaste for snow), and took full advantage of the playground that lay before me.  Though all of the summer activities were magnificent, I still had hatred for the long cold winter that followed me all the way through high school.
I had later made friends that were really into snowboarding, and would taunt me a lot because I would always stay inside and sulk about the cold, and that because of my diagnosis I couldn’t go party at the bar because I couldn’t drink, and the flashing lights that I would feel alone.  Eventually I had enough, and I finally saw the playground that Colorado transformed into during the winter that I began to go snowboarding.  I was scared of falling off the lift, or hitting a tree, but I grew confident, and knew in myself that I didn’t want to be alone and hat nothing would stand in my way.  I felt complete…
I joined Outdoor Mindset in the summer of 2011 as a mentor excited about the opportunity to work with people going through the same struggles as I had.  I went several years without incident, but nothing lasts forever.  My medications were causing me to have liver failure, and I had to make a change, which caused me to have to spend a lot of time on myself.  After about a year I had a seizure on my way to work in December of 2011, and crashed my car through a small cinderblock wall, and wooden fence.  I picked myself up, and pulled the car into the garage to start the rebuild on it right away.  Again I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.
Now my seizure patterns were not even close to being as bad as most with maybe an episode every three years, due to my own faults not paying attention to my medication intake.  In December 2011, I had three seizures, one including the car accident, and it totally blindsided me.  I again was confused not knowing entirely what was happening; my new medication had negative effects on my moods, and would cause me to be very angry at times.  All of this confusion and anger mixed together caused me to draw the shades again.
It took about a month to get me on the right medication, and things began to look up.  No more wild mood swings, and I got back onto the path that I had been on for so many years.  I moved to California in October of 2012 and have been working with Outdoor Mindset to get things going in Orange County where I currently reside.  I had a seizure in early 2013, and continued with my positive outlook, and feel that I never even missed a step.  I try to get to the beach as often as I can to boogie board, and surf.  It has been awesome; I had a ten foot seal swim up to me one day!  I was scared for sure, but what an experience!  We just got done with a hike to the Hollywood sign in L.A. a few weeks ago.
I am thankful for all of the people in my life that pushed me (even the friends that taunted me) to experience life to the fullest, and not let anything get in my way, and that includes myself, and the way I handled things.  I am thankful to Outdoor Mindset for the mission to help us live for the best.  Even through my worst a few years ago, I remembered the motto and the commitments I made to the organization. 

Without them I would still be playing video games…

Thank you,

Eric Cobb