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Woman who couldn’t lose weight diagnosed with a hidden adrenal tumor

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  • Naomi Benton, 34, baffled doctors for more than a decade
  • She continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2008
  • Tests finally revealed an orange-sized tumour on her adrenal gland
  • After having it removed she now only weighs 14st, but has 4st of excess skin

By ANNA HODGEKISS

A woman who weighed 32 stone has told how her excessive weight was due to a hidden tumour.

Naomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone at age 20 to more than 32 stone.

Naomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgeryNaomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery

The mother-of-two failed to drop any weight after her bypass surgery in 2008 and medical staff assumed her huge frame was due to secret snacking.

But when she was hospitalised after a bad fall the following year and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed the hidden deadly mass.

Further blood tests showed she was suffering from Cushing’s syndrome – a collection of symptoms that develop in the body due to high levels of a hormone called cortisol.

The tumour, which had developed on her adrenal gland located on top of the kidneys, had grown to the size of an orange and Ms Benton underwent an eight-hour emergency operation.

Ms Benton, who now weighs 14 stone, needs plastic surgery to remove four stone of excess skin.

She said: ‘I was always fit and healthy but when I hit 20 I started to dramatically put on weight.

The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone (pictured) at age 20 to over 32 stone
The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone (pictured) at age 20 to over 32 stone

When she was hospitalised after a bad fall and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed a tumour on her adrenal gland. She is pictured in hospital after having the tumour removedWhen she was hospitalised after a bad fall and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed a tumour on her adrenal gland. She is pictured in hospital after having the tumour removed

‘Just after my first pregnancy I managed to put on over five stone despite not changing my diet and just couldn’t drop the weight.

‘I went to the doctors numerous times about the dramatic gain but no-one believed that my weight wasn’t just down to a very unhealthy diet.

‘It was so frustrating, no-one was listening to me when I told them I wasn’t stuffing my face.

‘I was sent to see a dietitian who helped monitor my 800-calorie-a-day diet. Every day I was weak and tired, but still hadn’t lost any weight.

Naomi Benton
Naomi Benton

Ms Benton lost weight quickly after her tumour was removed and now weighs 14 stone. She needs plastic surgery to remove four stone of excess skin (left). She is pictured (right) before her weight loss

‘Even my friends and family were convinced I was eating in secret and complete strangers would tell me I needed to go on a diet.

‘Finally I signed up for a gastric bypass but after the op still didn’t lose anywhere near the kind of weight that was expected.

‘The breakthrough came after I was laid up in hospital for eight months after breaking both arms and legs in a nasty fall.

‘A junior doctor stopped by and asked if he could take run some new tests which finally showed what was wrong.

Ms Benton said: 'Now I'm just glad the tumour was discovered, as I'd hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer'Ms Benton said: ‘Now I’m just glad the tumour was discovered, as I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer’

‘The tests revealed I had Cushing’s syndrome and a large tumour on my right side.’

Just weeks after having emergency surgery, the weight began to fall off her.

Ms Benton said: ‘Now I’m just glad it was discovered, as I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer.’

She has now shrunk down to a dress size 16 and but hopes to reach a size 12 and weigh 10 stone.

She added: ‘I’m a work in progress and I’m taking it in baby steps. I can’t wait to look and feel like my old self again.’

WHAT IS CUSHING’S SYNDROME?

Cushing’s syndrome is a collection of symptoms that develop due to very high levels of a hormone called cortisol.

The symptoms include weight gain, thinning skin, stretch marks and decreased interested in sex.

The condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions.

It can also develop as a result of a tumour inside one of the body’s glands.

The main treatment is to stop taking the medication that is causing it or to remove the tumour.

If these options are not available, medication can be used to counter the effects of high cortisol levels.

If left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

It affects about one in 50,000 people.

Source: NHS Choices

From: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2510680/32st-woman-lose-weight-diagnosed-hidden-TUMOUR.html

Amanda, Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

I have been battling sickness for about a year and half now. It started with my gaining weight pretty rapidly (about 20 lbs. in a month-month and a half). I’ve never been super strict about my eating or exercising but I don’t eat a lot of junk food – don’t buy any chips, soda, cookies, etc.) I also do remain pretty active in the work that I do as an elementary teacher. I’ve never had a problem with my weight before and this particular summer I was teaching 3 sections of dance so I was getting plenty of exercise.  I told my family practioner about the weight gain and he told me that metabolism slows down as you age. Ok. I was 26 when he said this and my metabolism must have went down to 0 for me to gaine so fast! I decided to just be more concious of what I ate and did.

As the months went by, I went on a business trip to Boston. During this trip I was inrcedibly fatigued and felt awful. I thought perhaps I was coming down with something and was put on antibiotics that did nothing to help. In August of 2010 I began to have debilitating headaches. I could not get the headache to go away with any over the counter pain reliever and ended up going to a doctor who diagnosed me with migraines. I tried a few migraine medicines with no luck and had a CT scan that showed nothing abnormal. I was then referred to a neurologist.

I mentioned the weight gain to the neuroogist who thought it was odd that I would gain weight so rapidly, but he pretty much dismissed it as a symptom and said I was getting headaches from overuse of medication. I knew that could not be right, but thought I’d try just taking nothing for a while to see if it helped. It did not. The same neurologist then recommended physical therapy, which helped ease the pain but did not take away the headaches. His final thought was that I was depressed and put me on depression medication.

During this time I was working as a teacher and missing work quite often. I felt awful every day. I continued to gain weight, feel fatigued and weak, have mood swings and began developing stretch marks and acne. I always had wonderful skin and it seemed no matter what cleanser I used, I couldn’t control the breakouts.

I saw another neurologist that was recommended by a parent at my school. She scheduled me for an MRI and a lumbar puncture. My pressure came back a little high during the lumbar puncture and the MRI was fine so she diagnosed me with Pseudo Tumer Cerebri. I took medication for this condition, but ended up with no relief.

I ended up spending a week in the hospital because I couldn’t stand the pain in my head and I was so emotional over the whole experience of not having any answers. They pumped me full of pain medication and migraine drugs. At the end of the week when I still had no answers, I ended up going to see a neurologist that was a headache specialist.

The headache specialist diagnosed me with meningitis. No tests but I got a diagnosis based on my story. She put me on steriods. I began to feel better for a few days. I returned to work and thought I had finally found my answer. Then everything came to a screeching halt and I began to feel awful again. The headache specialist was still convinced it was meningitis and said I was just more susceptible to migraines from the meningitis. I again went through a whole gamot of migraine medications to no avail.

I ended up leaving my job and moving close to my family so I could have support and people to help care for me. I returned to my family doctor who decided to do some blood tests. After running the blood tests, my doctor said that my cortisol level was high and I might have cushings which would explain all my symptoms. I had never heard of Cushings so I began researching it. Once I read the symptoms and others’ stories of how they felt and what they went through I was so sure that here FINALLY was my answer. The doctor did a low dose dexamethasone test which came back with normal levels and it was decided I did not have Cushings.

I was devestated. Not that I wanted to have this illness, I just wanted an answer and thought for sure this was it! I even asked my doctor to retest me which she would not do.

I went to see another doctor. I began going through migraine medications again, acupunture, chiropractor, etc. to find some relief. I finally brought the idea of Cushings to this doctor. She ran some blood tests again. Everything came back with normal levels except my potassium was low. Even though my blood didn’t show it, I’m still convinced I have Cushings and my doctor agreed to send me to an endocrinologist.

I have an appointment on Monday with Dr. Findling in Menomenee Falls. I found him on this site as one of the ‘helpful doctors’. I’m hoping that he can finally diagnose me and I can get on the road to recovery.

I miss my life. I’ve lost friends due to this illness. My marriage is suffering. I cannot work. I basically have no life at all because I rarely feel well enough to do anything and no one understands. Not to mention the psychological toll being sick with no answers has on a person as well as watching my body change so much and not being able to do anything to control it! I want an answer and I want to finally know what I can do to help myself get better.

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Jamie, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s in 2003 .  I was 34 years old, a single Mom of an 8 year old daughter and a Ceritified Nurse-Midwife.  I had a pituitary microadenoma and it was removed via TSA nov, 2003.  I had remission until 2006.

I knew I was getting sick again but my labs were inconclusive for many months.  I had reduced my work hours and still too fatigued to work safely.

In August of 2006 I went to my primary care doctor and told her I was also having a great deal of trouble with my memory such as remembering medications that I gave all the time and even remembering how to look them up.  I stopped working that day.

I had 1/2 pituitary removed in November 2006 with no remisssion.  I researched options and got other opinions NIH, and Mass General and everyone agreed on radiation…the BIG dose ond day kind.  Remission achieved a few months later.

I am still in remission currently, but not who I used to be.  Still requiring naps a couple of times a day and to bed early .  I have a lot of trouble concentrating, so I can’t drive more than 30 minutes or as my friend says, “my inner canine comes out” and I start staring out the window…kind of forgetting i’m driving.  It’s funny but not really.  what a wild ride this has been.

It is easy to feel like the only one with this disease, I’m glad you all are here to make it a friendlier place.

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Teri, Adrenal Bio

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golden-oldie

My name is Teri and I was dignosed with cushings about a year ago though I believe I have had it a long time.

I went to the emergency room for a kidney stone and the did a c-scan and found a large mass on my right adrenal gland and later found out there is another one on my left. I had my adrenal gland removed the first of November.

I am also about to have my thyroid removed due to several nodules and a large goiter! Cortisol levels are still high!!!

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Miriam, Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

Hi. I am M and I have had healthy problems for as long as I can remember.

It started when I was 10 with severe anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Luckily, I don’t remember most of the details, but I remember being under the care of a child psychiatrist and a psychologist. I was on a cocktail of medications for about a year. As some point, my mother read a bunch about the dangers of these medications and somehow weaned me off of them. I remained under the care of my psychologist for a year or two after that.

I think we hoped at that point that things would go back to normal, or something like that, but sadly, we were very wrong. A couple of months (possibly a year) later, I was diagnosed with diabetes, shortly before my 12th birthday. This was 12 years ago, when type two diabetes wasn’t often (if at all) diagnosed in kids that age. It took the doctors a while to determine if I was type two or type one, but they eventually settled on type two. In reality, it barely made a difference, as I was on insulin and oral medication- in essence being treated for both types.

Again, I wish I could say that this was the end of my health problems, but it wasn’t. For starters, my insulin resistance was (and still is) so bad that I am on enormous doses of insulin just to maintain a non-dangerous blood sugar level. I have  been plagued by nasty skin (bacterial, yeast and abcess) infections since high school requiring hospitalization from time to time, and anti-biotics terribly frequently.

I was diagnosed with PCOS at some point, having all of the typical symptoms: facial har (I actually bought myself a hot wax pot to avoid the cost and nuisance of going to get it all removed every week or two!). My period has never been regular. I have gone as many as six months without it, but it can be more frequent also. Obviously, I am quite heavy and have struggled with weight my entire life. Dieting is a horrible situation, as it takes extreme effort for me just to maintain my weight.

About two years ago I had terrible gallstones attacks, finally having my gallbladder removed after a week in the hospital with a gallbladder infection. I also have problems with nausea and heartburn which can be very severe at times. About 10 months ago I was diagnosed with an ulcer.

At some point my endocrinologist (whom I see for the diabetes) asked about my family history at length, and then concluded that it simply didn’t all add up. I do have a family histoty of obesity and type two diabetes on both sides of my family, but nobody has ever had a problem before 45-50, other than gestational diabetes. My siblings are on the heavy side, but not obese like I am. I don’t eat differently than they do, I don’t live differently than they do. He ordered a 24 hour urine test, assuring me that he is sure it is nothing but he wants to be thorough. I pressed him for details and he admitted he is testing my cortisol levels as he suspects they may be high and causing some of my problems.

I left the doctor’s office and (against my better judgement!) googled cortisol levels. I stumbled upon cushings disease and lists of symptoms and it all just clicked. I started crying, half in fear but also half in relief. As scary as cushing sounds, I promise it can’t be worse than everything I have endured. The idea that we might be able to treat the root cause of all of my health problems sounded dreamy and amazing.

Then I got back the results of the 24 hour urine test, and it was on the high side, but still within the normal range. The doctor is completely unconcerned, but something in the back of my head can’t let this go so easily (especially reading here and on other sites about the inacuracy of that test in diagnosing cushings).

I am facing this alone, am not a good advocate for myself, and am overwhelmed already, so I let it go. But now I have a new symptom, and when googling it (again, bad idea) I came across cushings again. And now I just can’t let it go. A couple of months ago I started experiencing severe pain deep in my legs (it feels like it’s the bone) when I walk. At first, I ignored it and started to cut down my walking. Eventually it got so bad that a walk down the block brought me to tears from pain. I finally went to my GP, who sent me for an MRI of my lower back. It turns out that I have a herniated disc in my back, but the doctor explained that he doesn’t think that actually explains the matching pain in both legs, as it is only on my right side.

He checked my vitamin D level, and said it was so low it is undectable. He sent me to an orthopedist, but I am still waiting to see that doctor. I am at my wits end right now. I am not yet 24 years old, and my body is in shambles. I can’t walk a block without pain, and when I push myself to walk and stand on my feet the pain gets so bad that I have to spend a couple of days in bed recovering. My friends talk about doing all kinds of things like going on hikes or visiting the statue of liberty, and I make excuses because I know there’s no way I could physically do something like that.

Right now I am so torn. On the one hand, I have a family history of obesity and diabetes, and have been clinicly diagnosed with that. On the other hand, I read through the list of symptoms thinking “check, check, check…” I am quite large around the middle, but have super skinny wrists, ankles, fingers, etc. I don’t want to be diagnosed with cushings (or any other scary disease) but I can’t stop thinking that nobody’s luck is as bad as mine!

What do you think? Does it sound like I have cushings? If so, how should I proceed? Remeber, I am completely alone in this, I have limited resources and money, and I am timid and terrible at standing up for myself. I hope that someone here can help, because I have never felt so alone and desperate in my life.

Thank you in advance,

M

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Robin, Adrenal Bio

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golden-oldie

Hello my name is Robin  new to this site.

Had surgery for cushing disease for adrenal tumor 10 years ago. Lost the right kidney due to a blood clot 6 months after my surgery.  Was doing really well then 5 years later got Thyriod cancer so they removed my thyroid.

i am doing really well but i have alot of days where i have real bad muscle weakness,tiredness and just drain alot of times.At these times the doctor has checked my blood work and says everything is normal.but i think not.

Have considered maybe taking some kind of herbs for the adrenal gland.but a little scared to try that . But i am interested in finding out.

Thank you

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In Memory: Christopher “Migs” Migliore

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A small, somber crowd of family members and Temple Terrace police officers gathered on Saturday, October 05, 2013, at Riverside Park in Temple Terrace, Fla. Marking seven months since Temple Terrace Police Detective Christopher “Migs” Migliore succumbed to a life-debilitating illness –Cushing’s Syndrome– family, friends, and police colleagues congregated to commemorate Detective Migliore’s life.

“Migs”, as he was widely known, now has three bricks cobbled into the groundwork at the Angel of Hope statue in the park, his name beveled into each. The Angel of Hope concept is based on honoring sons and daughters who have perished, with commemorations from surviving parents and loved ones.

A uniformed contingent of police officers –Migs’ colleagues from the Temple Terrace Police Department– stood in honor of their fallen comrade.

Temple Terrace Deputy Police Chief Bernie Seeley was in attendance and one of many to place a rose upon the outstretched hands of the Angel of Hope statue.

A semi-circular phalanx of Temple Terrace police officers stood attentively listening to the eulogy-based speeches orated by surviving parents and friends.

As the patronage stood amidst other family members whose loved ones have passed, each understood the silence, the pain, the loss of precious life…and the aura of carrying on the memory of those lost too soon.

At age 31, Migs fought gallantly his battle with Cushing’s Syndrome. Diagnosed in late 2012, Migs endured a surgical operation in February 2013 to excise both his adrenal glands. The objective was to combat the effects of Cushing’s Syndrome.

During the operation, complications arose, extending his hospital stay; Migs was discharged from Tampa General Hospital a few weeks later and returned to his parents’ home first.

Days later, Migs returned to his home in Hillsborough County where he passed away.

Remembered not only for his perpetual, bold and radiant smile, but more finitely for his humanitarian traits. Quiet and reserved in nature, Migs lived life in service to others in his own special way, extending grace and humility to those with whom he interacted. Non-judgmental. Serene and calm, just like Riverside Park.

As a police detective, building his cases was an iconoclastic component of his investigative prowess. The elusive clues and tiny details he knew existed gnawed at him…until he pieced all the parts together and effected arrests.

Migs’ parents, Mari and Louie, in remembrance of their wonderful son’s life, decided to have bricks specially made. Each of three bricks has “Christopher Migliore” and an endearing message etched within.

Migs’ parents, Mari and Louie Migliore, endeavored to maintain their son’s legacy not only as a stellar cop but also as a loving son and fine human being. In his honor, the Migliore’s had bricks designed and etched with the words “Cop Angel” in each. “He is watching over and protecting us from Heaven now, as a Cop Angel,” said Mari Migliore of her son.

“He was the greatest son” intimated Migs’ father, Louie Migliore.

Migs’ sister, Michelle Tovar, said “Even though he was five years younger than me he always protected me.”

Some of the bricks were petitioned by his other family members. Now, the triad of bricks is eternally fitted into the grounds at the Angel of Hope statue and place of remembrance.

After speeches were orated to the crowd, and as each congregant placed a rose at the feet or in the outstretched hands of the Angel of Hope statue, it became official: Another memory created by Migs was born…and his legacy eternally carries on.

The Angel of Hope is an enclave in Riverside Park which was opened in 2009. With the property donated by the City of Temple Terrace, a new place for family, residents, and visitors was created. A contemporary playground sits in the center of the park, providing an acute angle for all parents/guardians to observe the children.

The Hillsborough River laps up against the southern part of the park, and a huge swing set overlooks the waterway and its abundance of wildlife. Hence, Riverside Park was coined appropriately as the park’s namesake.

Before Riverside Park was even a thought or blueprinted on paper it was a solitary tract of land, thickly-bearded with brush, with a makeshift dirt road leading to/from a cul-de-sac. Before its groundbreaking and upon that cul-de-sac often sat Detective Migliore, when he was a street cop working duty on midnight shift.

It was upon these grounds that Migliore sat in a fully-marked Temple Terrace police cruiser as he wrote his police reports.

The irony is not small: No one could have predicted that those same natural grounds would some day be developed into a picturesque riverfront city park, with a cobbling of bricks attesting to Detective Christopher “Migs” Migliore as a “Cop Angel” among the Angel of Hope memorial site.

Melissa F, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

Melissa F was interviewed on BlogTalk Radio November 3, 2010. She has had pituitary surgery. Archives are available on BlogTalk Radio and on iTunes podcasts.

From the Clutches of Cushing’s

A journey through Hell… with a happy ending
by Melissa Fine

The most insidious aspect of Cushing’s Disease is, while it is attacking you physically, it is destroying your self-esteem, your peace of mind, your very spirit. That more doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, drug, alcohol and weight-loss counselors (and the list goes on) don’t know how to recognize something that, in retrospect, seems so blatantly obvious is appalling—and not only tragic, it is, in my opinion, criminal. I often wonder how many Cushing’s victims we lose to suicide because they were not able to get a diagnosis before they lost the will to live… simply because no one thought to look for the definitive answer in their blood, urine or saliva. I am certain that Cushing’s isn’t nearly as rare as the doctors believe it is. What is rare is their ability to recognize it.

This is my story…

First, you need to know that I was always a pretty happy girl (though PMS- related mood swings have always plagued me). I come from a very close family, always had a lot of support, had a group of true friends I could count on, and was always very driven to accomplish my goals. I moved to Las Vegas from Southern California in 1994, right after graduating from UCLA, to move in with the guy who would become my 1st husband (Rat Bastard!). My goal in life was to be a writer, and within a month, I landed a job with a magazine publishing company and was getting paid to do what I love. You should also know I was always way too skinny. No matter what I ate (and I was a picky eater, but what I did like, I ate as much as I wanted of it), I was lucky to keep my weight above 100 pounds. I was happy if I could maintain 105 pounds, so I didn’t look so gaunt…

In 1995, I started noticing something wasn’t right with me. I had every reason to be thrilled with my life, but I was constantly blue. Down. Not tragically depressed—that would come later—but I just never seemed to feel happy. I also found myself complaining of body aches and fatigue all the time. And I kept noticing big, unexplained bruises on my arms, buttocks, and thighs.

In July 1995, I was covering the opening of a new casino/spa in Mesquite, NV. I came out of some exotic acupressure chakra-cleansing massage with one thought: I WANT BEEF! Now, the mere smell of steak would always nauseate me, but I was starving and steak was the only thing on my mind. I ate a 16 oz. New York Strip plus a ½-pound of crab for dinner. Woke up the next morning STARVING and ordered another steak to go with my eggs, hash browns, toast and pancakes, and devoured it all.

That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Over the next five or so years, I went to many doctors with seemingly vague, unrelated symptoms. I was always famished, so by this time, I was 145 pounds. The depression was also heavier, but at the same time, I felt a constant sense of anticipatory anxiety, like something was about to happen. In less than 10 minutes, a psychiatrist labeled me with “bi-polar 2” and I was thrown on mega- doses of serious anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. I caught every cold, was always bone-tired, constantly in pain, and was finding it more and more difficult to focus on anything. I went on and off various anti-depressants, none of which seemed to work for any length of time. The consensus among the many medical minds was that I needed to diet and exercise.

2000 brought a lot of change—and not the good kind. I found yet another new “family” doctor. This guy, though, actually tried. He noticed, after running a blood panel and looking at my many bruises, that my red blood cells were “abnormal” looking and that my white blood count was up. Up enough that, just to be safe, he wanted me to see a specialist. He told me not to be worried that “oncology” was on the specialist’s wall… he was just really good with blood.

By late August, I was in the oncologist’s office. After looking at more lab results, he promptly scheduled me for a bone-marrow test—which, in his opinion, was just a formality. He told Rat Bastard and me that I definitely had leukemia. My soon-to-be ex-husband asked him flat out: “Is there any chance that this could be something other than leukemia.” The good doctor said, “No. She has leukemia. We just need to find out which kind.”

Bone marrow tests take six weeks to come back. Six days before (and about two weeks from my 30th birthday) the results that would tell me which kind of leukemia I definitely had came back, Rat Bastard decided he “didn’t feel the same way about me anymore” and walked out.

Imagine my surprise when the good oncologist didn’t find the “Philadelphia” chromosome he was expecting to see. Still, he stuck to his guns and was really, really sure I had leukemia. He then took a job at MD Anderson in Houston, TX, but insisted I see his other good oncologist every six weeks or so to keep looking and monitoring my white blood count and my screwy red blood cells. After many months passed and my condition worsened with no explanation, the second good oncologist told me, “You are a ticking time bomb.”

Not helpful.

So, my wonderful boss (who was also a good friend, and, as it turned out, was the guy I was supposed to marry!), paid to send my mom and me to MD Anderson to speak again with the first good oncologist, who was now heading up a leukemia department of his very own. Time for bone-marrow tap Number Two, because he was positive that pesky Philadelphia chromosome was there somewhere.

It wasn’t.

I was back to square one. Only now body parts were starting to break. I fractured my foot by stepping out of bed the wrong way. I tore my meniscus— an injury I was told is usually found in professional tennis players—by doing a single jumping jack in a futile attempt to exercise. A new specialist ran a bone density test that showed I had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. Another specialist discovered I had insignificant, benign tumors on my adrenal glands—something, he told me, I had in common with approximately 25% of the population. But those revelations were the least of my concerns. The depression turned into an all-consuming black hole. For the next three years, not one day went by that I didn’t sob uncontrollably. I couldn’t do my work, because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to edit a simple story. I couldn’t read a book or even sit through a half-hour sit-com. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. Even worse, old friends and even my own cousin—people I hadn’t seen in a few years—didn’t recognize me either. They literally walked by me as though I were a stranger. My physical appearance was that dramatically different. I would wake up at 5 a.m., ravenous, and I would FORCE myself to wait until 6 a.m. before I would allow myself about a third of a box of Cheerios with non-fat milk. It was the only time of the entire day that I would actually feel “full.” It only lasted for about two hours, tops… but for that brief window, I found relief from constant hunger pains.

Alone, I no longer knew my own mind. I hid away in my craft room and started endless scrapbooking projects that I never finished. The pretty paper and nifty hole-punches somehow made me smile a little. Like many, I would imagine, I started to self-medicate. Prescribed painkillers.

Thankfully, mercifully, my family bonds were stronger than ever. My parents even moved to Las Vegas to be near me. And that guy, my boss, Glenn… though he met me in my 20s, when I weighed 100 pounds, married me in my 30s, knowing I was truly sick, not knowing what illness I had, and at my heaviest. I was 188 pounds on my wedding day, and he made me feel like a beautiful princess.

At some point around 2003, I had yet another new family doctor. Overall, his diagnostic skills were, at best, questionable. He knew just enough to send me to other specialists. But he was generous with his prescription pad, so I continued to see him. I do, however, owe this particular doctor a huge debt of gratitude. He was the first to mention the word “endocrinologist.” I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Many lab tests later, the endocrinologist told me I had too much of something called “cortisol.” She became annoyed when I asked her what that meant. She faxed her notes back to my family doctor. I noticed she had scrawled the word “Cushing’s” with a question mark after it. I told my doc I didn’t know what

Cushing’s was. His exact words were: “Well, I do know what it is, and you don’t have it.”

The endo disagreed, I guess. She had me scheduled to have my adrenal glands removed. Somehow, 10 days before my surgery, my many questions and stubborn attempts to understand why I was going under the knife really pissed her off. I received a certified letter informing me that, due to my “abusive and indignant attitude,” I was “fired.”

Meanwhile, my mom started Googling. She read the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease as though it were a page from my diary. It was a perfect fit. Except that, according to what she had learned, the lab results weren’t making sense. They were pointing to my pituitary gland, not my adrenals. I cancelled the date with the surgeon and headed back to the family doc’s office. He was quite pleased with himself, claiming he knew it was Cushing’s all along. (He still takes great pride in that epiphany. Why let the facts stand in the way of a good story, right?)

Family doc told me it was great news that my pituitary gland was the culprit: All I would need is a highly focused beam of radiation and some salt pills, and I’d be as good as new. He filled my prescription and sent me to another endocrinologist.

This guy was clever. He actually sent me for an MRI. Unfortunately, the MRI showed nothing. He was, however, in agreement with the previous, previous, previous doctor who told me the adrenal tumors were nothing to worry about. I trusted him, because he dropped the name of a renowned neurosurgeon at USC in Pasadena: Dr. Martin Weiss. I did some research. Dr. Weiss was the real deal—a graduate of Dartmouth and Cornell and a professor of neurological surgery. Finally… an honest-to-goodness expert.

Husband and I packed our bags and were off to Pasadena for a venous sampling. Who knew there was such a test? I found myself in the bizarre position of praying with all my might that I had a brain tumor.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Dr. Weiss confirmed that the MRIs did not show the tumor, but he did point to a microscopic something-or-other at the base of my pituitary gland that was tilted ever-so-slightly. He explained that he had, at best, a 50–50 chance of finding the tumor and removing it. He also told me that salt pills weren’t going to do the trick.

In December 2004, Dr. Weiss successfully removed the tumor from my pituitary gland.

This is the part of the story where I’d like to say I dramatically awoke with remarkable bravery and perfect hair to a room filled with calla lilies. Instead, my eyes opened to four or five post-op nurses, I was hooked via a tangle of cords to various machines, my mouth was so dry my tongue was stuck to my palate, and I was frantic to find a toilet. Bedpans just don’t work for me and my bladder was going to explode. After much arguing and cursing, the nurses decided unhooking me was safer than allowing my blood pressure to go any higher. They rolled over a porta-potty, I went forever, and no sooner did they re-hook me than I had to go again.

Learned a new term: diabetes insipidus.

The morning after being released from the hospital (prescription for diabetes insipidus filled and at arm’s length), I remember that, for the first time in nearly a decade, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I was full.

I’d love to end it with that perfect tagline, but…

Back in Vegas, the brilliant endocrinologist put me on the whopping dose of 20 mgs of hydrocortisone a day. Anxious to “jump start” my adrenals, he quickly lowered the dose to 10 mgs.

After more than a year of seeing a cardiologist for my racing heart; a (mis) diagnosis of panic attacks because it felt like I had an SUV parked on my chest; repeated bouts of nausea and dizzy spells; low blood pressure; increased joint and muscle pain; more depression; and a complete neurological work-up for symptoms too similar to MS for comfort; my incredibly insightful endocrinologist told me to stop coming to his office, go home, and praise God because I was “cured.” In what can only be called a surreal segue, he then added that I should also praise God for my inability to get pregnant, because children are so selfish and self-centered that they only degrade your quality of life. Not surprisingly, he retired from medicine shortly thereafter.

It was at this point that I found the Cushing’s Help and Support boards and verified that I was not, in fact, insane.

One doctor’s name was repeatedly touted: Dr. William Ludlam. He sounded like the savior of all endocrine-challenged souls. I was astounded when he, personally, actually took my call. After listening patiently to my story, he informed me that I was not yet his patient, and therefore, he could not and would not offer me any medical advice or instruction over the telephone. He then told me a story of a hypothetical situation in which certain familiar-sounding symptoms would, to a trained hypothetical specialist, be immediately recognized as the brink of full-blown adrenal failure. I took the hypothetical hint, did some quick online research—and (following only my own hunch, rather than immediately seeing a local doctor as I should have done) took a significantly higher dose of Cortef. Within an hour, I felt human—a feeling I hadn’t known in more than 10 years.

Dr. Ludlam made room in his schedule and, the following week, off we went, at last down the road to recovery.

I celebrated my 40th birthday last month. As 2011 rapidly approaches, I can finally say that my adrenal glands are now functioning on their own. I have not had the need for Cortef in more than a year. I have battled the addiction to pain killers and am emerging as the victor. My size 4 jeans once again fit, and while I still fight depression, it is no longer my primary state of mind. Slowly, I’m regaining energy and enthusiasm. My thoughts are clear, my will is strong, my creativity is restored.

I live.

—–#—–

If you or a loved one is suffering with Cushing’s or Addison’s or you believe you might be, and you need to talk, please feel free to contact me with any questions or simply for an understanding ear. I can be reached at mfine@casinocenter.com (please put “Cushing’s” or “Addison’s” in the subject line) or follow me on Twitter @SinCityTweeter. My thanks and ever-lasting gratitude to MaryO, www.cushings-help.com , and all the fellow Cushies who helped me along the way.

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Liz D, Adrenal Bio

2 Comments

golden-oldie

 

Hi my name is Liz and I underwent a laparoscopic adrenalectomy 5/9/12 to remove my 3cm tumor that was releasing high doses of cortisol causing cushings syndrome for what I believe has been about 3-5 years now.

I was diagnosed with PCOS about 5 years ago so everytime I went to a Dr. complaining of my symptoms they blamed it on the PCOS and stress and sent me home.  I knew there was something else wrong, the symptoms didn’t add up, my face would get SO red it was embarassing, I would sweat through my clothes 2-3 times a day, my face became puffy, I would gain weight despite healthy eating and working out like crazy, I was anxious, depressed, I never slept, it didn’t add up.

Luckily I am a physician assistant and remembered learning about cushings briefly in school.  I read that most tumors were in the pituitary gland so a year ago I convinced my Dr to let me get an MRI of my brain to look for this ‘tumor’ that I was sure was there.  Well the MRI came back negative and I was ironically disappointed!  I was so sure I had cushings but maybe I was just crazy?  The symptoms continued to get worse and I just knew that I had cushings even though everyone told me I didnt because I was still petite and didnt ‘fit the picture’.

I had a colleague write a script for me to check my cortisol level and it was a whopping 56.  I immediately called my endocrinologist and got more testing done that week.  My ACTH level came back undetectable and I got an MRI of my adrenal gland done and suprise! There was my tumor.  I am getting married in August and I am so happy that I got this miserable tumor out now so I can restart my life as a normal person.  No one understands unless they have cushings the severity of the disease and how much it can change and effect your life.

I hope that people become more aware of the disease so it is no longer misdiagnosed and brushed off like mine was for so long.  I am so frustrated with my Doctors and with myself for being so ignorant, I feel like I wasted a good portion of the best years of my life suffering with this tumor and I hope people read this and realize there is hope!  Just 10 days out of surgery I feel like a whole new/better person.  I am on oral hydrocortisone now until my pituitary and other adrenal gland wake back up and start producing cortisol on their own but even with the steroids I feel great, a lot of my symptoms have started to resolve since I am at a lower dose of steroids and I can’t wait to start tapering down and be completely off of them hopefully by my wedding.

I am so happy that I was proactive and never gave up looking for my tumor and I cant wait to restart my life 🙂

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Trish, Steroid-Induced Bio

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golden-oldie

Hello, my name is Trish.

My wife Lynn (we are lesbian civil unioned partners in NJ) has been diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome (for the 2nd time in 4 years).  I love her very much and would do anything to help her, but I don’t understand her condition fully.

She got Cushing’s Syndrome from abundant steroid injections due to a severe back injury and it has rendered her “comatose”.   She has no energy, she sleeps all the time, and I miss her and am lonely when she is in this state, which is all the time.

Please help me to understand this better as I love her and want to help/comfort her and make her realize that I am there for the long haul, however long that is!!

Thanks.

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