Sunday, May 12, 2013

MS and Memory Loss: There's an App for That!

Last month a friend of mine sent me a link to a posting on Facebook. She knows I enjoy blogging and this post was a call for freelance writers to apply for a job with contributing to their all-new MS News Beat section.

I was under contract with Novartis at the time, as a Gilenya Guide for their Gilenya Go Program,  representing them as a spokesperson. I emailed them to ask if this writing opportunity would conflict with the speaking job. In the corporate world, decisions like this move at a break-neck speed  reminiscent of continental drift. Reminds me of the snail that got mugged by a turtle. When the cops got there and questioned the snail about the chain of events, his response was, "I don't know. It all happened so fast!"

In the meantime, there was a deadline for the job application, so I proceeded with that before I had my answer from Legal.

Who would have ever expected me to actually land the job? Certainly not I. I excitedly took the offer before Legal at Novartis ever had an answer. The awkward moment came when the powers that be handed down their decision. There was concern that, with my name on the byline writing about the subject of MS, maybe my views might be misconstrued as their views.

I can fully appreciate that and respect their objective to always be transparent. I felt bad for the person who had to break the news to me, but (as is always the case with the Guide Network that handles the Gilenya Guides) she was eloquent, compassionate, and very professional. I love them all over there and while this bridge to patient speaking is ablaze and burning behind me, there may be collaborations on other projects in the future. We parted ways with a virtual hug.

That's not to say that I didn't try running the idea of using a pen name by them, but only halfheartedly as I already knew the answer to that. Like my mother always says, "It doesn't hurt to ask".

Moving forward, decision made, I ventured into this all new world of writing something both meaningful and relevant about multiple sclerosis.

My very first article sprung from one of the "pitches" I was asked to do during the interview process.

Turns out writing news is... different. It cannot be accomplished in one pass as my lazy style of free-form blogging often (okay, always) appears. There are people who have to read, critique, and edit what I produce. That task goes to Heather, who has taken me under her wing teaching me all the stuff I always wanted to know about professional writing, but was too afraid to ask. The idea has occurred to me that I should see if she's game to take on the pastime hobby of doing the same to my blog.

My debut article is now in a glass case, behind velvet ropes, guarded 24/7 by armed guards in its published position over at

For Multiple Sclerosis Sufferers: Smartphones as Memory Aids

My first draft, while well written, was also done in a style more befitting a "Lifestyles" column, so out came the red pen and Heather went to work helping me craft it into a News Story. The very first thing she did was strike the entire center section of the article where I had originally compiled a list of useful apps to be used as memory tools. Since this was never published, it is mine to do with as I like.

I'm not one to see perfectly good words go to waste, so I'm presenting the list below in order that someone reading along might find the apps I've linked to useful.

Article Scraps & Leftovers...

Right out of the package, your phone is equipped with basic functions which can be used as memory tools. Did you know most cell phones have an alarm? Check your clock settings for an option to set an alarm for those short-term tasks, like remembering to leave home for an appointment.

Use your cellphone’s camera to photograph things you want to remember. For example, take a photo of your medicine bottle to have the label handy.

Use your smartphone’s “Contacts” list for more than storing just phone numbers. Contacts can accommodate email addresses, notes, mailing addresses, websites and more.
Beyond the basics

What if the alarm, camera and contacts aren't enough to handle all the memory boosting you need? Check out these apps, organized by memory goal, which are all free unless a price is indicated. 

The examples below come from Google Play, but thousands more can also be found on  iTunes, or the Amazon Appstore.

What was I thinking? Apps to organize your thoughts and plans.

Out of Milk Shopping List, a shopping, pantry and to-do list manager that also shows local grocery store coupons.
Evernote, a robust note organizing app that can even search text in images. If you want a quick reminder, but don’t want to take all those sticky notes with you, photograph them.
Tape-a-Talk Voice Recorder quickly records memos to yourself without typing.

What was I going to do? Apps to remind you of your routines.

Med Minder - Pill Reminder ($1.99)
Pageonce - Money & Bills money tracking / bill due reminder.
Car Maintenance Reminder Lite car maintenance reminder.

Where did I put that? Apps to help you find things.

We all lose our keys from time to time, but why search for things your phone will find for you?
MyCar Locator Free - Press the “park” button in the parking lot before you walk away from your car, and a moving pointer will lead you back to car.
Where's My Droid Phone Locator - makes a shrill ring and activates the camera flash to help you find it.
Maps - Google - type or say your destination and Maps will give you directions - either on a map or turn by turn directions. Both with or without voice guidance.

Desktop Memory Tools

For those who don’t have a smartphone but do have a computer, try using these tools as memory aids.
Google Calendar - appointment reminders by email, popup (for your PC) and text message.
Pinterest - Not just for pinning those crafts! Use pinterest as a visual bookmark organizer for important things you’ve found online. Researching MS symptoms? If there’s a photo on the page, it’s “pin-able”.
Pocket (formerly Read It Later) is a bookmarking add-on for your web browser that lets you organize things you want to save for later.
Free Alarm Clock - Desktop alarm clock with customizable settings.

Special Thanks

I would be remiss if I failed to give thanks where due. In the process of compiling my resume, (something I have not done in a very long time as I have been self-employed for all but the first few years of my adult life) I called on some of the big-hitters I've met during the past two years. They all foolishly agreed to risk their own professional careers by vouching for me if need be. I have no idea if Healthline actually reached out to them.

Craig Lipset
Head of Clinical Innovation
Worldwide Research & Development, Pfizer

Gerald Matczak
Community Manager, Lilly Clinical Open Innovation
Eli Lilly and Company

Jill Ozovek
Senior Program Director, ExLPharma

All of these people are amazing examples of humanity and I am honored to have crossed paths with each of them.

So, that's that. My life starts a new chapter. Had I invested as much time and effort into my next assignment as I have in creating this blog post, I'd be done already. Instead, I'll end this here so I can spend at least part of my Mother's Day researching the topic of my next piece...

The Effects of Smoking on Disease Progression in Multiple Sclerosis

(or at least that's the working title for now.)

Please be sure to "Recommend" the article on when you have read it. I need all the link love I can get.

1 comment:

  1. Wow I did not know there were so many apps for the memory...good job


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.