Archive for category: Health

Living with Scleroderma

26 Nov
November 26, 2015

I really appreciate this video from Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame) explaining Scleroderma and his family’s experience with it. It is an often times unrecognized and misunderstood disease. My son Noah was most likely born with localized scleroderma; we noticed symptoms we couldn’t explain by the time he was two years old, but it was another two years of constant doctors appointments with different specialist after specialist until someone finally figured it out – and that was only because they did a biopsy on part of the affected area of his face. Building awareness and understanding is important!

Bob is the new host of Biggest Loser

09 Sep
September 9, 2015

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In an interesting changeup, Alison Sweeney is no longer on Biggest Loser and Bob Harper will take up the Hosting mantle for season 17! Dolvett and Jennifer will return as the trainers for the show. It’s weird in a way, the show is so far removed from when I was on it – different production company, different location, different trainers – Bob is the only real constant over the seventeen seasons, in addition to the behind the scenes medical and nutritional crew (who don’t really get much screen time).

I’m curious to see how he does in the role. Caroline Rhea is still my favorite host for the show, but Bob could really run with it. Part of me is wondering if it’s a behind the scenes budget cutting move – the fewer celebrities on screen, the lower the bill, and Bob has a fan base they just can’t afford to lose. Either way, without him having a specific team to be championing it’s an opportunity for him to really impact the whole cast and be a voice for the show in a way that he hasn’t had before now.

Victimization in the Name of Protection

22 Aug
August 22, 2015

This video came out a couple weeks ago and has been tearing up the social media sites. Tens of millions of views, it is a bona fide viral hit. People are raving about how it is a must see, it is so good, etc.

I disagree.

It does make a good point, that kids are more likely to make unsafe decisions than we realize. That’s a reality I have been confronted with over and over as a youth worker; parents have no problem believing that adolescents will make unsafe decisions online, with friends, regarding drugs or alcohol, with strangers – the list goes on. What consistently catches parents off guard is that THEIR kids are the ones who will make unsafe decisions. As a nation, we’ve been educating minors about these kinds of dangers for decades, and the reality is that because of greater care we take in protecting children has resulted in those kinds of crime rates going down over the last few decades (while fear has gone up thanks to the introduction of 24 hour news media). Part of me feels like the usefulness of this video is more as a wake-up call for parents, not the kids living in their houses.

But baiting teens to come out and meet someone, only to be screamed at by their parents and posted online for everyone to see? Simulating a kidnapping, having people in masks grabbing and restraining a young girl, then yelling at her about what could have happened if they really had been bad guys? It feels more like an attempt to generate YouTube revenue and score views online than actual concern for the child. And then posting the video for all their friends and peers to see? It’s wrong. It’s a good message, but victimizing young kids to generate YouTube ad revenue is not the way to achieve it.

The Latest on Noah

16 Jul
July 16, 2015

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It’s been a while since I have posted an update on Noah and his battle with Localized Scleroderma. You can read some of the past updates here. The short recap is that he originally began showing symptoms of Scleroderma attacking the skin on his face around two years old, but doctors were unable to discover the diagnosis until he was four years old. He is nine years old now, has had numerous surgical procedures, powerful medications, regular blood work, multiple biopsies, and more. He is a TOUGH kid who has gone through a lot!

This past week we had his latest appointment with his primary doctor. It was good news. Essentially, Localized Scleroderma tends to attack a region of the body for around eight years. He will have it for life – there is no cure, but it’s attacks, or flare-ups, will be unpredictable and sporadic. The one we have been fighting has been on his face, and the goal of the medications was simply to halt the progress and hold it at bay until it had run its course, which the doctor is hopeful is this year. It appears to have stopped its activity; perhaps because the medicine is doing really well, perhaps because the attack is wrapping up. Either way, around Christmas the goal is to begin easing him off the medication with the hope that it will continue to be inactive! This is GOOD news.

It doesn’t mean it’s over, however. Noah will continue to have regular doctor’s appointments – both to monitor where it has been active to make sure it is truly done attacking his face, as well as to monitor potential flare-ups elsewhere on his body, at which point another eight year struggle of medications, blood work, biopsies would begin again. When he is older, as well, he will be able to have plastic surgery to undo the scarring Scleroderma has left on his face.

Ultimately, though, this is exciting. When we were told so many years ago that this was going to be an eight year battle most likely, that felt so far off in the future. Pinning him down for his first round of blood work was a nightmare and I remember thinking with horror that this was going to be our lives every few weeks for endless years. Noah quickly learned to handle the challenges, often times doing far better than kids much older than him at the hospital. He is resilient! And like us, he is excited at the thought that we are only months away from perhaps ending the medication and blood work!

We Consistently Put Abusers Before Victims

08 Jul
July 8, 2015

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Watching the Cosby abuse saga play out in the media and national conversation over recent months has triggered a lot of frustrated emotions for me. People ask why the women didn’t come forward sooner (many had and been silenced!), that they were doing it for personal gain (can anyone actually point to how this has benefited ANY of them?), that he’s innocent until proven guilty (convenient, since statutes of limitations have long expired), etc., etc., etc. Victims stepped forward, as we say they should, and received condemnation. Over and over. They were victimized a second time by our tendency to protect abusers, not victims. I have to wonder, which assault was worse?

And then it hit the news this week that Bill Cosby admitted under oath to obtaining drugs to use in sexually assaulting women. Exactly how dozens of women have publicly claimed he assaulted them. And people are still wondering if he will admit to the accusations now that these 2005 admissions have come to light.

Why does he need to admit to anything? How is there still any uncertainty? How many victims have to claim assault before they will be believed?

Yet, this is the scenario that plays out over and over, from institutions to churches to missions organizations to families and more. I have friends who have the literal, physical scars on their bodies from missionaries who abused them when they were children, and the response from the organization was that their word was not enough, there needed to be others claiming similar abuse before they could take action against actively serving abusers in their organization. I have seen families refuse to believe their children when they cry out for help against the abuse received from a sibling, parent, relative, or close friend. This pattern is too much the norm.

Can you imagine the horror of not only being physically abused, sexually assaulted, raped – and then when you reach out for help to the adults and authorities in your life not being believed? Can you imagine the powerlessness in that moment? The complete terror that the abuser not only will get away with it, but could return and do so again since no one believes you?

So why in the world are we still mystified at victim’s reluctance to reach out for help? Why do we question the amount of time it takes for the few of them who actually do speak out to work up the courage to step out? When this is the way they see other victims treated in their towns, their churches, their organizations, their nation?

Should my weight bother me?

16 Apr
April 16, 2015

My wife wrote an article for MOPs International! Click through to read it … and click the ‘like’ button at the bottom of the Facebook block in this post to add to her total likes!

(Click the ‘like’ button right above this … not the one at the bottom of my blog post – that doesn’t count for her!

Biggest Loser casting tips (season 16)

22 May
May 22, 2014

Biggest Loser is well into casting for season 16!  The latest information will be posted on the Biggest Loser casting website.  Basically, this post is a collection of tips I’ve written based on my experience making the cast of season three, as well as some links to casting advice I don’t think you should miss:

  • NBC has posted casting information and the application here.  They have all the casting news and information on a special blog just for Biggest Loser casting, which you can find here.
  • Pete Thomas, the season 2 $100,000 winner has some of the best casting call advice out there, which you can find at his website, Lose It Fast, Lose It Forever.
  • Holland, a casting director for Biggest Loser sent me a bunch of great advice on how to be casted, you can find it here.  She updated them October, 2009.
  • I’ve been posting these casting tips for the last few seasons and they always seem to end up with thousands of comments; just about every season has contestants that were hanging out on here, reading and giving each other thoughts and advice.  You can find the most recent one here.
  • If you’re dealing with disappointment about not being cast, then check out my post on Biggest Loser casting disappointment.

One of the questions I hear a lot is about money … how do contestants afford to be away from home and work for months at a time? I don’t know what it is now, but when I was a contestant there was a $500 a week stipend for cast members on the ranch. When you received the check you could cash it and spend it, send it home, save it, whatever. All airplane tickets, hotel accommodations, etc., for the contestants and potential cast members are taken care of by NBC, and during the casting process it self there was a $50 per diem to cover food costs.

Another question is timing; typically a season lasts for about 8-9 months. About four of this is spent in filming; if you last all the way until the final three or four, you could be away from home for as much as four months or so. Once the ranch filming wraps and the last few contestants are sent home, however, there is still another four or five months that all the contestants have to continue losing weight until the finale. In addition, potential cast members are flown out to California a couple weeks before filming begins for the final round of casting, medical checkups, psychological evals, etc. NBC brings out more people than what they need and the cast is not finalized until filming literally begins. People have been cut at the last minute and replacements flown in with hardly any time to spare. Nothing is in stone until it’s on camera!

When will you hear from Biggest Loser about your video? There is no way of knowing. I heard back a few weeks after I sent it in, but even after that it’s a big waiting game. If you get a phone number or email from a casting direction, definitely drop them a line/call every couple weeks to find out if you’re still in the running or what’s going on. Schedules and plans change almost every day, so it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you don’t hear back within a month I would think your video didn’t make the cut. That doesn’t mean you can’t send in another or visit a casting call – it’s just up to you!

Finally, here’s my video application tips! This is by no means a recipe for success; it’s based on my video application and the conversations I had with casting directors out in LA in between things. I was pretty curious about the whole process so I was pumping them for info even after filming began. I’m such a nerd!

  • They’ve usually decided if they’re interested in you within the first 30-60 seconds of your video, so front load it with your best stuff. Make it interesting! Start off with something funny or exciting!
  • Keep in mind, if you’re going to be cast, your video is going to be watched hundreds of times by producers, executives, casting directors, etc. If it bores you or your friends the second or third time watching it … put some more time into it!
  • Special effects? Don’t bother! We’ve all got video editing software with all sorts of bells and whistles on our home computers, but fancy transitions are not going to sell you to people who do video editing for a living. In fact, it can distract from who you are. I’m a video editing nerd and I didn’t use any special effects other than putting my name and contact info on as a subtitle at the beginning.
  • Don’t bother talking about why you need to lose weight. When I first started filming my audition video I started describing all of my health reasons for losing weight – but when I was watching it back, I realized … they don’t need to hear it! One look at me was all they needed to know I needed to lose weight! Show them why you need to lose it; I said I needed to lose weight for my kids, and then I followed it with a minute or two of the best footage I could find of me with wrestling with my three boys. We probably filmed half an hour of that insanity and I grabbed the cutest, loudest, and funniest few moments for the audition video. Your physical need to lose weight is not nearly as interesting as who or what your losing the weight for.
  • Live loud! Reality TV is over the top, dramatic, and filled with loud personalities. They need to see that on your video! I wanted them to know that even though I was morbidly obese I was up to the challenge of the crazy competitions and workouts – so I threw on a bunch of clips from my different youth group activities; me getting slimed, snowtubing, playing paintball, screaming at events, being on stage, running around … you get the idea. Other contestants did things appropriate to their lives; Tim from Oregon had himself spinning out on his Harley, Tim from Delaware recruited his elementary school class to do things with him, Heather Hanson filmed herself running around in a sports bra all day doing her household chores and errands. The less talking and more action you can have, the better (in my opinion)!
  • If you have footage or photos of yourself thin, include those at some point on the video. If you can show them what your after will be, then do it!

Remember, enjoy the conversation here and know that I will never compromise your anonymity – not to NBC, 3Ball, Casting Directors or anyone. You can post anonymously, or you can leave your names and contact information … just remember that NBC likes to be the one announcing their cast for the show, so if you start identifying yourself publicly as a finalist, you’ll probably find yourself eliminated from the casting process. Be aware that casting directors do check in at my blog to see what people are saying, get a feel for what questions are going on out there, and sometimes to give us updates. Good luck to everyone … and let me know if you make the show! I get a kick out of hearing about the different contestants that have hung out on my blog before making the show! ;)

Biggest Loser season 15 casting calls announced!

17 Apr
April 17, 2013

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Check out the above graphic to see when and where the open casting calls for the next season of Biggest Loser are being held! Exact times and locations will be updated soon at the casting website, www.thebiggestlosercasting.com. What this means, since filming usually begins 4-6 months before the season premiere, is that we’re probably looking at another January launch to the show. Casting will happen over the next few months, be finalized in the summer, and begin filming late summer for a January premiere. Good luck! For more advice on trying out for the show, check out my casting tips blog post.

So who’s going? And to which city? I’d love to hear how it goes!

Noah and Scleroderma

29 Mar
March 29, 2013

Noah's selfieIt’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on Noah and his battle with Scleroderma. You can find my previous posts/updates here. It’s starting to feel like we go through spells of very little to report … and then get slammed with waves of challenges. At the moment, it feels like a bit of a wave.

We’re currently easing Noah down to a much smaller dose of steroids. This is good as the side effects are frustrating for Noah. He gets teased for being chubby by other kids even though it’s really just a reaction from his boy to the steroids. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the steroids have been the only truly effective response to the Scleroderma.

At the same time, we’re increasing his dosage of Cellcept. The hope is that this will work in holding back the progression of the disease, but it will take time to find out.

Last Friday we spent the day at the hospital getting an MRI for Noah. Because of his age, this meant he had to be knocked out for the duration, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience for him – but he’s a trooper! The picture to the right is him playing with my phone and taking selfies after he woke up! Originally, the purpose of the MRI was to get a closer look at what’s happening under the skin at his face and brain, mostly as a precaution to see just how deep the disease is impacting him below the skin, but also to see if there is any connection at all with headaches he’s been complaining of the last few months. But then …

In either a demonstration of great timing … or just the pattern of things surging at the same time, the week of the MRI Noah had an appointment with the dentist where they discovered the tissue in his gums had deteriorated along the path of the Scleroderma to the point of causing one tooth to recede dangerously, as well as impact a couple other teeth as well. No matter what he’s going to have to have oral surgery at some point in the next month or so to correct it. The timing of the MRI was really good because they were able to really take a closer look at that region of his face to see if it’s a coincidence that he has something going on there (highly doubtful), or if it’s the Scleroderma, and if so, examine just how deep the impact is.

On top of everything else, Noah has to start meeting with the plastic surgeon annually so he can track Noah’s growth and the development of his face. As he grows, the scarring around his nose and eyes will look more and more pronounced. By starting the tracking now, it will give the plastic surgeon more to work with once Noah is old enough (probably around 16) .

Pray for Noah! The next couple months will probably be difficult with him; the oral surgery will be a painful experience for him to recover from, and the increased doctor’s visits are not on his list of favorite things to do!

Lose weight with Dr. Huizenga of the Biggest Loser!

28 Mar
March 28, 2013

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The man actually behind all the success at the Biggest Loser is Dr. Huizenga. He’s the one who designed the workout programs, who tracks the contestants, developed the diet, and more. So much of what we see on the show is done for entertainment, but when the cameras aren’t rolling, it’s Dr. H and his team that really make it all happen. You can read a lot of how he does that (and the behind the scenes story of season three, my season, from his perspective) in his book, ‘Where did all the fat go?’ I might be biased since I’m in the book, but I think it’s great.

He recently opened The Clinic by Dr. H, a fantastic new weight loss program where you can spend time with him, his team, and former contestants in California learning how to lose the weight right. I had a three day boot camp with him before heading home and losing 176 lbs on my own; I can’t imagine the impact of two weeks with him and his team! Even better? He has a scholarship program to help everyone be able to take advantage of his program! Check it out:

Great news from The Clinic by Dr. H!!!

We will begin offering Scholarships to 4 lucky individuals (alternating between men and women) for every two week session here at The Clinic! The Scholarships will help to greatly reduce the cost of attending The Clinic! These are once in a lifetime opportunities for the lucky individuals selected.

Here’s what you need in order to be considered for a Scholarship:

1. Write an essay of no more than 500 words (essays over 500 words will not be considered) and tell us why you have a medical necessity / financial hardship and need access to our Scholarship and what attending The Clinic by Dr. H would mean to you.

2. Please send your essay in an email to smorley@theclinicbydrh.com.

3. You must have a valid PPO or Point of Service insurance to be eligible.

Individuals will be selected on an ongoing basis and will share all aspects of their journey, including their room, and help support each other while they’re at The Clinic.

We look forward to helping you change your life!