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Robyn N (Robyn), Adrenal Bio

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A Golden Oldie

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Hi!  My name is Robyn and I am a 48 year old wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, 1st grade teacher and a recovering Cushing’s patient.

My story is so very similiar to the others on this site but because they helped me so tremendously, I felt that I needed to add my own.  Until I was 40 I was extremely healthy and extremeley thin (92-100lbs. on a 5ft. frame)  My menstrual cycle had been like clockwork.  I had normal periods every 26 days.  I had had no problem getting pregnant and was the proud mother of a daughter and a son.  I had never had PMS or pain with my periods.

This all changed around 40.  My periods started becoming very irregular, I had severe cramps, crazy PMS (my husband said it was like Linda Blair with her head spinning around), and heavy bleeding.  I was diagnosed with fibroid tumors.  Dealt with that with hormones but by the time I was 45 I had Premature Ovarian Failure and the pain had become incredible and the bleeding was almost to the hemorraging point.

I had a hysterectomy in July of 2007 (I was 45).  One month later in August of 2007) I was getting out of my bathtub, slipped and fell and broke my acetabulum (hip socket).  I spent 14 weeks non-weight bearing in bed and walking to the bathroom with a walker and in horrible pain until it was decided that I would have to have a total hip replacement.  It was another 9 months before I recovered from that.  By that time my weight had steadily increased.  I thought it was due menopause that I had gone through as a result of the hysterectomy and not being able to walk much less exercise in the last year and a half.

In December of 2008 I decided to have a tummy tuck and a breast reduction because of the weight gain.  In January of 2009, when I went for my post op appointment with my plastic surgeon, I was told that breast cancer had been found in the tissue removed in the reduction.

In March of 2009, I had a mastectomy.  At that time, the plastic surgeon started my reconstruction by putting in a tissue expander.  I had poor healing and all the incisions opened so I had the expander removed.  Since then my weight has increased dramatically.  I got the moon face, the red chest and neck, the buffalo hump and stomach that looks like you are 9 months pregnant.

During this time my primary care physician just left her practice with no forwarding address.  I waited for several months to see if she would resurface in another practice and when she didn’t I had my oncologist recommend another internist.  I saw her in Feb. 2010.  She asked me what my biggest complaint would be and I told her it would be my weight gain in my stomach and how my face and neck looked.

My mother has Multinodular adrenal hyperplasia and I told my doctor that my mother thought I had Cushings.  She told me she thought my mother was right.  She did blood tests and called me to tell me that my cortisol levels were sky high and that she was referring me to an endocrinologist.  She also had me do a 24 hour urine test and a 1mg. dexamethasone suppression test.  Both were indicative of Cushings.  The first time I saw Dr. Rolbands he looked at me and said I was a classic Cushings case and sent me for a CT scan.  I had the scan and I had a tumor in my left adrenal gland.  I went swiftly down hill with symptoms.  The leg pain and fatigue became overwhelming.

By the time I had my surgery, I could hardly walk across the room and my blood pressure was 168/110 taking 2 blood pressure medications.  I had my left adrenal gland taken out on June 29th, 2010.  I am now recovering.  Dr. Rolband is very pleased with my progress in 2 weeks.  My blood pressure was 90/70 and took me off one medication.  I have lost 6.1 lbs. and the pain in my legs had gone away.  All very positive.  I started weaning from the prednisone and that has not been pleasant.  I went from 10 mg. to 7.5 yesterday and I had diarrhea, nausea, body aches and pains.  I’m better than I was before the surgery but I’m ready to feel “normal” again.

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Dr. Dori, Pituitary Bio

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The author, Dori Middleman, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Merion, PA. She has a musician/conductor husband and two children. She was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor causing Cushing’s Disease in November of 2001.  This Golden Oldie was last updated 06/19/2008.

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December 28, 2002

Dr. Dori Middleman

HOW TO HAVE FUN WITH A BRAIN TUMOR

A Pituitary Party with a pituitary-shaped cake, complete with tumor of a different-colored icing, a pituitary hunt for the kids, a raffle to benefit the Wellness Community (a cancer support group), and a contest for the most creative object to be inserted inside my head in place of the removed pituitary tumor were ways in which I distracted myself from the terror of brain surgery. I hired a story-teller, who wrote pituitary stories. I bought the game, “Cranium”, to give as prizes for the winner of the replacement-object contest, and my caterer created pituitary-theme foods: pituitary pasta, cerebral cucumbers, and had a cauliflower simulating a brain decorating the table along with a scarecrow who displayed the sign, “If I only had a brain…”

My pituitary party invitation read:

As you may or may not know, I have been diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma, a small brain tumor, and am having surgery on April 3rd. I have decided that one thing you can do for me is help me have fun with my brain tumor. Traditionally, brain tumors have been viewed as undesirable, somewhat dreaded, and even potentially life-threatening. They’ve gotten a bum rap, in my opinion. I think they give life a purpose (survival with a few brains intact) and give their bearers something to talk about, but better yet, laugh about.

Dan Gottlieb, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, in his April Fool’s column on the importance of not taking oneself too seriously, gave me and my party a notable mention, resulting in all of Philadelphia knowing about my surgery and many expressions of support and concern.
Indeed, contemplating death and disease is not the way I most enjoy spending my time, although I did a fair amount of that too. But throughout my illness and recovery, I have attempted to make the most of the cards I have been dealt.

Other health-promoting strategies I have used included:

regular mass e-mailings to my close friends to keep them apprised of how I was doing so they could best offer support;
contacting everyone I could think of for recommendations and information on doctors
finding and conversing with fellow patients on-line in the chatroom for people with my illness, Cushing’s Disease
using hypnosis, yoga, exercise, acupuncture, massage, Gestalt, and energy-work as adjuncts to my medical treatment
re-entering and using psychotherapy to support me emotionally through the process of illness and the stresses of medical treatment (In Gestalt therapy, I spoke to my tumor and my pituitary and came to understand their function in my life: I had a hypomanic pituitary mimicking my own sometimes hyper-functioning mode of living.)
joking with people as much as possible about brain tumors to facilitate comfort of myself and people providing my care from hospital registration personnel to my brain surgeon
carrying with me at all times the small objects people offered to me as brain-tissue replacement
wearing a donut-like pendant covered by a symbol of a healer as a reminder of my brain with a hole in the middle healing

Unfortunately, my surgery was unsuccessful, and I faced a decision between a second surgery or radiation treatment. I did not find this funny. In fact, I was pretty demoralized and said so in an email to friends and colleagues, again inviting humor. One of my colleagues placed a request to the entire international mailing list of my Gestalt therapy colleagues on my behalf, saying she had “an ill friend in need of humor”. In came jokes from around the world – about fifty pages of them – which I read to my driver enroute to my gamma knife radiation treatment in another state. We laughed our way there and back!

Life is what it is. We get what we get. And we might as well enjoy it!

The author, Dori Middleman, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Merion, PA. She has a musician/conductor husband and two children. She was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor causing Cushing’s Disease in November of 2001.

Listen Interview on a Philadelphia-area public radio talkshow, Voices in the Family, about Cushing’s Disease and how to make meaning out of illness and adversity.
Read Dr. Dori Middleman’s article HOW TO HAVE FUN WITH A BRAIN TUMOR.
Read Dr. Dori Middleman’s article PSYCHIATRIC ISSUES WITH CUSHING’S DISEASE.
Read “DrDori”, Dr. Dori Middleman’s First Guest Chat, April 14, 2004.


DrDori answered questions in an online Voice Chat, June 12, 2008, 7:30PM eastern. Archives aree available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

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Amy (spunkybluecat), Pituitary Bio

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A Golden Oldie from July 11, 2011

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Hello, my name is Amy.

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s last November and had surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma in March.

It took me FOREVER (over 3 y) to get a diagnosis. None of my doctor’s would really listen. I was SO frustrated but kept on pushing because I KNEW something wasn’t right. Pre- surgery I had excess hair (facial+), weight gain (abdominal), stertch marks, fatigue, very irregular menstrual cycle…..Now that I’ve had the tumor removed I still have problems.

I’m hoping that some of you will help me to answer those questions/problems. My facial hair has slowed down, I’ve lost over 65 pounds in 3 months, I’m going through menpause now (I’m 36yo), my hair is starting to fall out, I have NO energy/fatigued all the time, some days I wake up OK and others I wake up vomiting or very unsteady like I’m going to pass out if I’m on my feet for too long. I am very depressed.

My life has fallen apart. My marriage is over, I have had to move in with my mother, I am unemployed, and I can’t do the fun things that I should be able to do with my 8yo daughter. I have no friends and my family is not supportive at all. They say I just need to get off my *ss. I’m tired of people blaming depression, laziness, etc. I want my life back.

I need help and don’t know where to turn. I hope that I can learn what I need to do solve these problems and meet some people who can send some sunshine my way.

MariaLaura, PCOS Bio

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Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated December 8, 2008.

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Dear friends, I’ve made every possible test in these months, and I don’t have cushing.

I’m only an obese woman with PCOS, high blood pressure, insuline-resistence (thanks to this, even if I’m making the diet, I don’t succeed to lose many Kilos and moreover I can’t take the medicine for the insuline-resistence because my transaminases are still high) without diabetes (my glycemy after three months of diet is in a normal range). Now ‘m not happy…

In the end, I wanna wish you a wonderful Christmas day and a new year full of victories.

Kristine (Kristine), Adrenal Bio

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18 months ago I underwent an adrenalectomy (L) for a benign mass. My cortisol levels were slightly elevated, all tests suggested sub clinical cushings.

Before the surgery I felt great, no symptoms other than easy bruising, bleeding gums and mild hypertention. In fact, the reason I went to an endocrinologist was because I thought i had a hypothyroid issue and my fasting blood glucose was always around 110. The adrenal mass was an incidentaloma during a scan of my pancreas/abdomen.

During the surgery I suffered a positioning injury  to my shoulder, arm, and hand. Permanent nerve damage and horribly painful to this day. My initial post op replacement dose of cortisone was 10mg twice a day even though the surgeon and my endo were quite aware of my injuries. I felt like I was dying. Short of breath, chest pain, no sleep ever to this day.

Finally after 6 months a doctor at the hospital were I worked as an RN took over and directed me to pain management and ordered MRIs. Torn muscles, bursitis, tendonitis carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve entrapement etc….Since then i have had to change endos because mine has become rude and my appointments brief. I make 0.5 cortisol, nothing.

I am still on disability and will be terminated permenently in September. Every morning I lie there writhing in pain, short of breath, crying. I am so lethargic once I force myself up I bump into things. Some days I can’t get up at all. All pain management wants to do is inject steroids. I have had 3 nreve blocks and a spinal stimulator trial which did more harm than good. I KNOW I am in steroid withdrawl but what do I do now?

It’s been 18 months and I can’t find an endo who will pay any attention to me…………….I  also believe I still have a thyroid problem. My levels are ‘borderline’ just like my cortisol was but the symptoms are all there and very obvious. Plus my cholesterol ,untreated, is 295. I don’t eat junk at all. never did.

My meds are Hyzaar, lipitor, neurontin, calcium, prozac,and 10mg of cortisone a day. I ditched the vitamin d3 because they only check my D-25 not 1-25 D and I am afraid of having dysregulated Vit D metabolisn which increases inflammation…..

I don’t know what to do. Help 😦

Kristine

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Liberty, Undiagnosed Bio

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Liberty is not yet diagnosed, but possibly has a co-secreting tumor that is secreting prolactin and cortisol. She was told she might have a small tumor on her pituitary gland.  Her bio was last updated 6/17/2008

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My first symptom was that I was still lactating after a year of not nursing. I had looked on the computer to see if that was normal. I found a sight that said it was so I didn’t give it much more thought.

Then in July 2003 I was 5 days late having my peroid which has always been normal. Every month since then I have either been late or skipped it all together. I also started getting really bad acne and gaining weight.

The worst symptom is what I thought was PMS. It starts two weeks or so before my period and lasts about two to two and a half weeks. It is so bad I can hardly function. I can’t keep my house clean, I can’t bring myself to cook dinner, I lose my patience with my kids very easily. Then it goes away and just about the time I get back into the swing of things, it starts all over again.

So, I went to the doctor about 3 weeks ago and she said she would put me on birth control to regulate my periods. But first she wanted to run some blood work. So she did the blood work and two weeeks later I was told that my prolactin was high and that I might have a small tumor on my pituitary gland.

Then I was scheduled with a endocrinologist in February. I am going nuts waiting for this appt. I have been on the computer alot. I happened across a website for a pituitary unit in Oregon. I emailed the Dr. and he emailed me his # and told me to call. So, I did. I told him my symptoms and he asked me a few questions. He said he thinks I have a co-secreting tumor that is secreting prolactin and cortisol.

So, I just have to wait now.

Kirsty (kirstymnz), Ectopic Adrenal Bio

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Another Golden Oldie, Kirsty’s bio was last updated 08/18/2009.

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I don’t really remember when it first started. It was probably about a year ago when I think about it.

I found myself becoming easily tired all the time. I went from being a social butterfly and life of the party to an ‘old nana’ who stayed home all the time and went to bed early. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it; I just put it down to working hard and not sleeping well. I often had disturbed sleeps because I regularly (3 or 4 times a night) got up during the night to go to the bathroom and once I was awake, it sometimes took up to 2 hours to get back to sleep.

As the year progressed, I rapidly began to gain weight. Putting it down to ‘eating to many chocolate biscuits’ and not enough exercise, I began going to the gym 4-5 times per week and basically eating ‘rabbit food’.

The obsessive cleaning habit probably began around the same time as the weight gain; it got to the point where I couldn’t possibly think about doing anything else until I had cleaned every nook and cranny.

Throughout all of this, I was having very sporadic periods, which were very painful. I never imagined they could possibly be linked. I decided to visit my GP, who sent me off for numerous tests including an ultrasound, which resulted in a diagnosis of polycystic ovaries.

My GP referred me to an endocrinologist who then requested more tests, including a 24 hour urine collection (something I became very accustomed to during the course of my illness, eventually having to do them weekly). I heard nothing as a result of the tests, so I assumed all was fine.

As the months passed, my weight continued to raise, as it did, my self esteem fell. I also began to notice bright red stretch marks appearing on my stomach.

I reached the stage where my self esteem was so low that I decided to return to my GP. The first thing she said to me when I walked into her practice was “your face looks very cushingoid.” Having no idea what she meant, I sat down as she looked through my file. As she came across my test results that had been requested by the endocrinologist, her face dropped. The level of cortisol (stress hormone) in my urine was over 2000mg (the average person needs around 30mg per day). She instantly picked up the phone in a desperate bid to contact the endocrinologist, but was unable to get hold of him. Having left a number of messages, she told me she would be in touch once she had heard back, and so I left. I wasn’t really too concerned as at this stage, I had no idea just how important cortisol really was.

The next day at work, a phone call came through for me. It was the endocrinologist. He said I desperately needed to come in to see him. I left work straight away. When I arrived, he advised me I had Cushing’s syndrome. He spent the next few minutes telling me what this was, although it all went in one ear and out the other once he told me that it is 99% of the time caused by a pituitary tumor; all I could think of once he said tumor was ‘cancer’.

The following Monday, I was admitted to hospital for 10 days of tests (including 4 hourly blood tests)during which time my food obsession began (this obsession progressed to be the worst of them and became all I could think about). These tests concluded that I did indeed have Cushing’s.

The months that followed proved to be the hardest that I have ever faced. MRI scans, CT scans, numerous X rays. The hardest of all these was what they call a petrusal vein sampling (this is where they insert a catheter into the groin through the femoral vein which goes up to the base of the brain to look at the pituitary, they do this while awake – I could actually feel them moving around in my head.)

This test concluded that my Cushing’s was being caused by a tumor somewhere other than the pituitary (this only happens in 1% of cases, and there is about a 1 in 10 million chance of getting it). The question now was “where is the tumor?” I happened to be at one of my regular appointments at the same time as the Endocrinologist was to attend a meeting with the head of CT.

lungsTogether they looked at a CT scan I had previously had of my lungs, on which they spotted a small nodule which they believed could be the cause. Numerous more tests were to follow, including one where radioactive liquid (which I had to wait for over a month for to arrive from Australia) was injected into a vein in my arm, with the purpose of highlighting any tumors on a CT scan.

After such a long wait, this test proved a waste of time as it showed nothing (it turns out it only works 50% of the time anyway). Around the same time, I started having severe anxiety attacks, brought on by several major stresses. I decided the only way to ease the anxiety was to remove all the stresses possible; I did this by moving home to my parents.

The next week, another CT scan was required to see if the nodule had grown, it hadn’t. Feeling completely stumped, the endocrinologist decided to take a risk and remove the part of my lung that the nodule was on. Because it was so small, the surgeon required a hook wire to be placed in it in order to see where it was. This procedure was incredibly painful and one of the worst things during the whole illness that I’ve faced.

Disappointingly, this surgery was a failure, leaving me in the high dependency unit for 6 days and in immense pain.

The next step which was seen as a definite cure was to remove the adrenal glands (this really was a last resort, as once these are removed; hydrocortisone replacement is required for life in order to stay alive).

After this surgery, I spent another 6 days in the hospital, during which time, I experienced mood swings, dizziness, nausea and much more while my body adjusted to lower cortisol levels. I was sent home on morphine as I was still in so much pain from the surgery, however when I went in for a checkup 5 days after being discharged, the endocrinologist couldn’t believe I was still on it. In total I had been on it for 6 weeks, resulting in severe withdrawals when I stopped taking it (why anyone would voluntarily take drugs I will never know after going through this).

I am now 5 weeks down the track. I am not going back to normal as quickly as I had expected, physically; I am constantly tired and am still in pain from the lung operation which was 2 months ago, I’m told this could last up to year.

However, on a positive note, I have lost around 5 of the 15 kgs gained during the illness. I am also mostly back to normal mentally.

My Cushing’s disease is cured now, however I am now labeled as being a sufferer of Addison’s disease (where there are no adrenals, or the adrenals don’t work).

There is a long road ahead still, including reconstructive surgery of my legs, arms and torso, but I sure am glad to be out the other side of the worst of it.

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