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Laura F, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed7

 

Hi. I am now 52 yrs old.

I’ve been gaining weight for about 3 1/2 yrs since having my thyroid removed due to a 25 yr old nodule that was calcified. My thyroid levels have always been good, before and after removal. There were A typical cells in the nodule, that’s why they advised removing the thyroid.

As I gain weight and have lumps of inflammation now over all of my body, all I have been told is to eat less and exercise more. Even though I have told my drs that I barely eat at all.

I have been through the cardiologist, rheumatologist, ent, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, 2 gen practice drs and finally now an endocrinologist.

I still have the same symptoms; weight gain, headaches, abdominal distention, inflammation in ribs, feeling of breathlessness, buffalo hump, heart palpitations, acne, worsened vision, poor memory, insect bites take weeks to heal, teeth have moved leaving large gap, no armpit hair but facial hair instead, etc…

I have been waiting to see this endo for so long and she switches my levothyroxine (generic synthroid) to name brand synthroid plus gave me a paper to have many labs done. Day 4 of the synthroid, I woke up with hives. I took benadryl and it helped. Day 5 again hives but also feet swelled very bad. So I went back to the generic and those issues are gone.

Now i have to wait 2 months to have labs done and see endo again. I’m so upset and depressed. I feel like just doing the labs now and get a copy so that atleast I might have an answer. Waiting is frustrating. I keep telling these Dr’s that I’m not looking for something to be wrong with me, there is something wrong with me.

Whether it is adrenal/ pituitary or something else entirely, I don’t know. I feel like I am begging them to find out. All of my appointments with the specialists have been, come back in 2 months. WTH. This is very frustrating. I just want an answer. I will update if I ever get one. Best to all of you.

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Doc Karen, Pituitary and BLA Bio

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Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

 

 

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

 

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

MizBellaTru, Undiagnosed bio

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golden-oldie

A Golden Oldie from August 12, 2007

I’m a 48-year old female who has had an awful lot of illness over the past 12 years and starting to wonder if there could be some connection to all of it even though my doctors don’t think there is. They just think I’m one of those unlucky souls who just is sick alot and doesn’t have very good genes.

Here’s what I can tell you about me health-wise:

In 96 I had to have my colon removed due to Ulcerative Colitis. This resulted in 3 surgeries.

In 97 I developed Iritis (inflammation of the eye) and one of the docs said that because I no longer have a colon and have an auto-immune disorder that now my whacked out immune systems has started attacking my eyes. I’m in remission currently but this will be something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Things were fairly quiet for a few years with the exception of having Iritis flare-ups and don’t remember anything else going on until 2000 when I broke my left ankle (badly) and now have a steel plate with 11 bolts holding my ankle together. (This happened in 2000 and I still have problems with that ankle).

In 2001 I was diagnosed with Diabetes. This had run in my family (my great-grandmother had been diabetic and I had been borderline diabetic as a child). I started out taking oral medications but after a couple of years this wasn’t enough and it resulted in me being on insulin now for the past 3 years. (Sugars still aren’t under control).

Also in 2001 I had some kind of seizure. Was taken to the hospital and after a lot of blood tests they thought it might be due to a calcium deficiency and recommended I go see an Endo. However, when I wen to see an endo he didn’t think my calcium was deficient enough to cause what had happened and recommended I go see a neurologist. The neurologist thought it was some kind of seizure too and ran some preliminary tests on me but he wouldn’t return any calls for me to find out what other tests should be run. I gave up on him and still never had an answer about what had caused this very weird episode. (What had happened was that I had been at work and all of a sudden my jaw started to tighten up and my head cocked to the side and I started making all these weird grimaces. My mouth became locked up so could barely get any words out. I couldn’t turn my head – it was as if it was locked in place. This is what led the ER (after running blood tests) to determine that they thought my reaction was due to low calcium. To get my rigidity to loosen up, they gave me several shots (can’t remember now what it was) but it finally had allowed my body to loosen up enough that I could finally leave the hospital. This event lasted several hours and moved in to my arms where they became so rigid that it felt like someone was turning my arms inside out. I was completely exhausted after that had happened.

As time went on I would have periodic episodes of what was thought to be a seizure and I just started to learn to live with it. Sometimes only my face was affected and sometimes my whole body would become very rigid and after several hours these episodes would pass but I was always left feeling completely worn out.

Throughout all this time my Diabetes has been almost impossible to get it under control. My insulin doses would be increased but I never could get my sugars to stabilize.

In the spring of 2006 I developed some type of wound on the top of my left foot. It spread and ulcerated and I went to several types of doctors and a couple of them thought it might have been a spider bite of some kind and due to the diabetes it wasn’t healing. I was put on various types of strong antibiotics but nothing was helping. I finally was referred to an infectious disease expert and he said I had some type of serious strain of staph infection and he finally was able to get me on an antibiotic that started to help me heal. I’m now left with some horrible scarring on my left foot but at least I didn’t lose my foot which is what I thought might happen.

In August of 2006 I developed Bells Palsey on the left side of my face. I went to a neurologist (different one from the one I had gone to for my “seizure”). He was the one who diagnosed me with Bells. In the process of seeing him I had one of those episodes in his office and he watched me very closely as it evolved and told me that he thought I had a form of “Dystonia” which is a movement disorder. After a couple of months my Bells resolved although I do have some permanent nerve damage in my face which affects how I smile but it seems to only be really noticeable to me.

In late fall of 2006 I noticed my right ear was hurting quite a bit and was draining. I went to this ear doc and she determined I had a ruptured eardrum with a huge hole that might require surgery. She also determined (after some tests) that I had an infection in the mastoid and said it was imperative that I not let any water get in my ear so that the ear could dry out enough and the infection to clear up before I have surgery. She said it could take a couple months before my ear might be dry enough and told me to come back in a couple of months. During that first visit she also did a hearing test on both ears to establish a baseline. I came back to see her in Jan 2007. When she looked at my ear she said it looked like the eardrum was starting to show some signs it was trying to heal itself (because originally she thought the hole was too big for it to ever heal on its own). She told me to give it some more time and come back again in a couple of months. I came back to see her in April 2007 and the hole was still showing some progress in trying to repair itself so she said she didn’t want to operate if my body could heal the hole. In June of 2007 my left ear started producing a very high pitched ringing sound. I’m not talking a little ringing sound but a sound loud enough it kept me up at night. I had noticed my hearing had diminshed quite a bit in that left ear. I then developed some dizziness and a sense of fullness in my left ear and noticed that when the barometric pressure changed my head felt like it was going to explode. When I went back again to the ear doc she surmised that she thought I now had developed Menieres. She put me on a diuretic and a steroid as this is supposed to help with Menieres but it didn’t seem to do a thing for me. The ear doc ran another hearing test and found that my hearing in my left ear had diminished since it was first baselined last December.

So, a little over a week ago my right ear (the one with the perforated eardrum) started hurting quite a bit and the ear started draining. Again I went back to the ear doc and she determined I had a sinus infection and an ear infection so she put me on an oral antibiotic and antibiotic ear-drops. It’s been a full 7 or 8 days on this antibiotic treatment and my hearing in my right ear has diminshed considerably to where I can hardly hear a persons’ voice on the phone. I’m to stay on this present course of antibiotics for another week. In the past I’ve always responded to antibiotics but it doesn’t seem to be helping this time. My right ear has been draining for a whole week and it’s never done that before.

Also I want to point out that I gained a lot of weight over the last 15 years and I’m now about 120 lbs overweight. I gained 12 of those pounds in just less than 2 weeks recently and my eating hasn’t changed. This is what made me start looking on the internet about rapid weight gain when I came across Cushings and started wondering if I could have this.

At this time I’m waiting on some results from a urine test to see if I’m starting to have a problem with my kidneys because I’m dealing with a lot of edema lately. I don’t know if all the problems I’m having such as the poor wound healing, edema, diabetes, developing high blood pressure are all separate things or more related to my Diabetes.

So at this time I can’t claim that I’m a “cushie” because that’s not been identified yet but I’m thinking that I should get tested for it.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me right now.

Thank you for reading this very long bio.

MizBellaTru

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29 Years ~ Giving Thanks

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29-anniversary

Today is the 29th anniversary of my pituitary surgery at NIH.

As one can imagine, it hasn’t been all happiness and light.  Most of my journey has been documented here and on the message boards – and elsewhere around the web.

My Cushing’s has been in remission for most of these 29 years.  Due to scarring from my pituitary surgery, I developed adrenal insufficiency.

I took growth hormone for a while.

When I got kidney cancer, I had to stop the GH, even though no doctor would admit to any connection between the two.  Even though I’m now 10 years NED (no evidence of disease) from cancer, I still can’t go back on the GH.

During that surgery, doctors removed my left kidney, my adrenal gland, and some lymph nodes.  Thankfully, the cancer was contained – but my adrenal insufficiency is even more severe than it was.

In the last year, I’ve developed ongoing knee issues.  Because of my Cortef use to keep the AI at bay, my endocrinologist doesn’t want me to get a cortisone injection in my knee.

My mom has moved in with us, bring some challenges…

But, this is a post about Giving Thanks.  The series will be continued on another blog unless I give thanks about something else Cushing’s related🙂

I am so thankful that in 1987 the NIH existed and that my endo knew enough to send me there.

I am thankful for Dr. Ed Oldfield, my pituitary neurosurgeon at NIH.

I’m thankful for Dr. Harvey Cushing and all the work he did.  Otherwise, I might be the fat lady in Ringling Brothers now.

To be continued in the following days at http://www.maryo.co/

Melissa, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

From August 12, 2007

I am 32 yrs old. I started having sxs after my 3rd daughter. I started to have face numbness and weight gain after my hysterectomy in 2004. I have had depression since the birth of my daughter in 2003. I had face swelling on and off.

I had started a diet (Chicken, fish, turkey burger, veggies and rice) February 2007. High in protein and low in sodium. I had gained about 30-40 pds since my daughter but then again it was 3rd child. I had lost 24 pds, but was not loosing in my face, upper body and still looked 4 months pregnant after loosing weight. Within weeks I had hypertension, hair all over my face, swelling redness of face, headaches, etc. Ended up in the ER still with no diagnosis and everything related to stress.

I work at a OB/GYN as a medical assistant so I knew something was wrong. One of the doctors I work with kept saying I had Cushing’s Disease but I kept putting her off. I had read about it in school but wasn’t hearing it. I finally did a 24hr urine and to my surprise it was over 1100.

My life had changed since I was dx with this. I did the 5 day suppression twice, (lab messed up the first one). Did 2 MRI’s.

Finally in July 2007 they finally found it!!! I had surgery done July 18th. Still currently on medical leave. Surgery went so well no bruising on my “moon face”. Levels did not drop as expected next morning but ok. 2 days postoperative they did drop in 1/2. Yah!! I’m cured. Have felt pretty good, just tired. Two weeks did 24hr urine, blood work cortisol, and ACTH. Still producing all three. Repeated 1 week later less dexamethasone even. Guess what still producing all 3 but now increasing.

Doctor’s suggest I go off of the steroids now (no point of being on them) and we are going to do more testing. Possible ectopic has been suggested. The surgeon does not want to do radiation or removal due to my age.

I am ready to get on with my life now, and I am confused. I would love to hear from someone with any advise or just to have someone talk to who is going through this.

 

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Marcia (Marcia K), Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Hello everyone! I have been diagnosed with PCOS for 15 years. I am 48 years old and have many of the cushing’s symptoms and have had them most of my life. I am on appropriate medicines for PCOS due to research I have done on blogs like this one.

I am here to learn more about Cushing’s as I believe I have this and my appointment with an endo is 6 weeks away and I want to go to this visit with much needed knowledge.

 

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Kim H, Ectopic Bio

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golden-oldie

 

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s in 1986. I had all the symptoms. Weight gain, purple stretch marks, severe acne, hair all over the face, balding on the head, muscle weakness, depression, no periods, moon face, etc.

I had all the blood, urine tests. Scans, x-rays and even petrosal sinus sampling. These were inconclusive as to the source. The MRI of the pituitary showed swelling and near to the optic nerve, so the next step was pituitary surgery which was done in August 1986.

However the cortisol levels were still high. I still had Cushing’s. I was then given the choice of long term drug treatment while the source was located or to have an adrenalectomy. I was told that if I became pregnant on the drugs the pregnancy would not be able to continue because the effect of the drugs on a feotus wasn’t known. I felt that at the age of 24 I wanted my health back and the chance to have children if I was lucky enough. So in the October 1986 I had bilateral adrenalectomy through the back.

My Cushing’s was to all intents and purposes cured. Nearly 16 years later the ectopic source has never been found despite many more tests. It is still there because it still produces ACTH. The good side is now that I tan really easily which is amazing considering the British weather. I take hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone. I have never felt that I truly got my health back but am glad to still be here. I went on to have two lovely children, now aged 14 and 12. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis last year after years of back pain which is now being treated. I also had some problems last year and was diagnosed with angina and my steroids had to be increased due to a total lack of energy.

Up till now I have just about managed to hold down a full time job as a merchandiser for Hallmark Cards but have now taken the decision to go part-time which I am able to do with Hallmark. I have been married twice and am again a single parent. The men in my life could not cope with my health problems, so I figure I am better off with being on my own to bring up my kids. I think that’s about all. I would just like to say a huge thank-you to St. Bartolomews Hospital in London for all they have done for me over the years. Without their care and support I probably wouldn’t be here. p.s. I still suffer from depression but the old prozac sure helps.

Update: May, 2007

It is now 2007 and in 2006 they found my ectopic source in my appendix. It looked on the scan like it was in the central blood vessel but when they operated my appendix had flipped itself up and the tumour was sitting on the tip of it. After they tested it it was found to be a carcinoid tumour. Thankfully it was all taken away and the outcome was ok.

For the first time in over 20 years I can honestly say that i am much beter. for 20 years i felt ill and now i feel great. Obviously i still have bad days as I have no adrenal glands. But i will always be greatful for the immense help and support that i have received from professor Grossman and St. Bartholomews hospital in London.

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