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Meet Julie Blackburn!

Julie Blackburn - Spoonie Day

Meet Julie Blackburn, creator of Spoonie Day app! What's a spoonie day? Well, if you've ever heard of the spoon theory, then you know what a spoonie day is all about. 

As I understand it, each of us has a set amount of spoons to work with each day. Each activity represents a spoon. When you use that spoon, you can not get it back until the next day. So we need to be able to manage our spoons so that we don't run out before the end of the day. This is especially useful if you have a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis.

So let's get to know Julie by reading her interview below!

Julie Blackburn ~ Interview

1: Hi Julie, thanks so much for agreeing to share your time with us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers who may not be familiar with you, and use this opportunity to tell us where we can find you on the internet and what sites you'd like them to know about.

Thank you! I am Julie Blackburn, I am co-owner of Blackburn Labs a boutique software development company.  I was diagnosed with PPMS at 39 - right after the birth of my second child. I can be reached two places - www.spoonieday.com and www.blackburnlabs.com (Links will open in a new window).

Question 2: I heard about spoons or the spoon theory years ago and always wondered how it actually worked. You have been able to develop an app that helps MSers, or rather Spoonies, use this theory to navigate their lives. Can you explain how you developed the idea into a usable app?

When I was diagnosed with PPMS - I was devastated. I was looking for a way to get used to my “new normal” so I did things like surf for Facebook groups, look for memes on Pinterest, and of course seek out simple apps around chronic illness. I was very interested in the spoon theory, as it helped me explain my situation to family and friends. However, there were no apps around this concept. So, I decided to build one myself!

Spoonie Day Infographic

Question 3: What’s in the future for Spoonie Day? Will you be developing more apps of this type?

Being that Spoonie Day is completely free, we do not have a budget for new features to come out regularly. However, on occasion we are able to squeeze out something new. The app is growing with over 12,000 users! It gives me a lot of joy to know that with my little app, I have given that many people a moment of relief that an app for them actually existed because of me.

When you’ve been diagnosed with something like this, it’s natural to ask “why me?” Well, I’m a data scientist married to a software architect, with a company that makes apps. Maybe that I’ve been able to put a little something like Spoonie out into the universe and give people a little hope is the answer to that. 

As for other applications like Spoonie Day, I don’t think we have anything in the pipeline similar to it right now. Blackburn Labs as a company tends to work on a lot of healthcare applications that involve medication titration and RPM software. Spoonie is a different kind of app.

Question 4: What other interests do you have besides making and developing apps? What is a typical day like for you when you're doing well?

Right now, I’m still working full-time as a data scientist and managing my software development company. I’m also a mom to 2 incredible boys, 7 and 5 years old. For fun I love playing Dungeons & Dragons with my husband and friends because I’m a super nerd! Also, I am a voracious reader, last year I read 80 books. I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy, but I also enjoy books on historical fiction.

Question 5: You were diagnosed with PPMS after the birth of your child. How long have you been diagnosed and how has MS affected you as a mom? Do you remember having symptoms before you were diagnosed?

I’ve had my diagnosis for five years now. I was definitely having symptoms before I was diagnosed - no one suspected MS until, quite frankly, I figured it out myself. I ended up strategically going through several Drs eliminating all the possibilities before I finally was able to get a referral to an MS guru who knew the issue immediately.

With my type of MS, it has made it more challenging to be a mother, as my balance isn’t as strong as I would like it to be. (There were times where I was afraid to carry my child up the stairs, when I felt incapable of chasing them both at a park alone.) I try to tell myself that every mother has challenges and hang-ups, and I just have to do the best I can.

Question 6: Many parents wonder how much or how little to share about multiple sclerosis with their children especially when they are young. Have you been able to share your diagnosis with your child/children? If not, do you plan to?

This is a great question - and since I’ve had it since they were both so small, they’ve grown up watching me have PPMS, walking with a cane, and falling down. I’ve never really had an elevated conversation with them about it, as it’s just a part of life for them. My children have a sense of not to rush into me as they could actually knock me over - they also know not to do horseplay things such as wrap themselves around my legs too. Someday, I’m sure we will have a conversation about why I can’t walk as well as other people, it hasn’t been the time yet.

Question 7: What do you do for fun? What hobbies or interests do you turn to when you are having a “difficult” MS day?

I try to push my boundaries as far as I can without actually harming myself. (The risk of falling is a real thing with PPMS). I always make sure I have something to read. I’d like to have both an e-book and audiobook available. 

With two small boys, there is always something I can do to stay busy! I do a lot of storytelling, baking, science experiments, and endless Lego projects. My smallest child has just gotten into Minecraft, and this is always something that we can talk about and it is fun to watch him play and be creative.

Question 8: As someone who continues to work and live with a chronic illness, what challenges have you run into on a day to day basis? Do you think there will come a time when you will have to stop working?

So long as I have my mental faculties, I should be able to keep working. Data science is a sedentary job and I am sitting in front of a computer all day! At Blackburn Labs we allow remote work, and not having to go into a large office building with complicated parking and a lot of walking inside has been helpful to me. It does help that I am my own boss and the company itself allows very flexible hours for all employees, including me. This allows me time to get to the litany of appointments you have when you are living with a chronic illness.

I think it really helps that I genuinely love what I do, and I am very proud of my company. The revenue is huge, but the rewards are great. We are very selective about the projects we take in the applications we build. There are so many inspiring stories - we put together an application for The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, Onward We Learn (leads first generation collage students on a path to higher education), Mass211 United Way, and so many more. These are people and projects that I find truly inspiring. 

Question 9: As a community of people, most Spoonies know that things like stress and isolation can impact their health in a negative way. Have you ever experienced anything like this, and if so, how do you deal with it?

This is so true - and I’d like to speak to the point on isolation. It is so important for people to be able to have some sense of community and friendship with others and that could be very hard when you were dealing with a chronic illness, particularly one that can threaten mobility, and have bouts of fatigue strike at any time. One of the communities I found right here in Rhode Island is the MS Dream Center. They have virtual programs including book club, chair Zumba, chair yoga, and a lot more. 

I’m also a big fan of having regular game nights with friends, and I myself play Dungeons & Dragons with friends every two weeks. This is a huge commitment when you are middle-aged and have small children still! However, I think it is critical for my mental health and well-being! It has been scientifically proven that people who have friendships live longer and healthier lives.

Question 10: We thank you so much, Julie, for your willingness to share with us about yourself. We will leave this last question open for you to share anything else you'd like with our readers and future visitors.

When I look at my life now, living with PPMS, in comparison to 10 years earlier, it is easy to tell myself that I am very “off script” in that I didn’t think things would be this way. When I said “in sickness and in health” during my wedding vows, I never dreamed it would be me who was the sick one. So young, and so early. Feeling like a burden can still leave me feeling pretty gutted. I lost a lot of friends because my life was so different from how they used to know me - and it’s not their fault, I’m not the same Julie. 

What I can say is at the end of the day, I’m proud of the life I’m living. For everyone out there with MS or a chronic illness, your journey is going to be one of healing whether you like it or not - so we might as well enjoy it. 

Thank you

Thank you so much, Julie, for taking the time out of your day to share a little about yourself and for being so candid with your answers. I've enjoyed reading your interview and I'm sure our visitors will find it helpful as well.

If you would like to leave a comment or for Julie Blackburn, use the form below. I'm sure she would also love to hear from you!

Join me in wishing Julie and her family the best.

And friends and visitors, be sure to check out Julie Blackburn's app, Spoonie Day, in your app store. Let us know if it helps you manage your daily spoons!

Julie Blackburn's Spoonie Day app!

Spoonie Day Infographic

"Spoonie Day is the first energy tracking app made just for “Spoonies” – a system modeled for users with chronic illness.


  • Journaling / Logging
  • Social Sharing
  • Mood Tracking
  • Insights Engine
  • Resource Management
  • Calculator
  • Calendar
  • Education & Infographics
  • Data Visualization
  • Animation

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