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In Memory: Millie Niss ~ November 29, 2009

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Millie is the first Cushing’s patient that I know of to have died from complications from Swine Flu.  She was only 36 – how sad.

Millie Niss (1973-2009)

We were saddened this past week to learn of the passing of Millie Niss, the Buffalo-area-based poet, writer, digital artist and web-based installation designer, who died Nov. 29 of complications of Bechet’s Disease, which she had battled for nearly two decades, and the H1N1 virus, which she had contracted four weeks earlier.

She was just 36 years old.

There are only a few people one ever meets in life for whom the description “savant” might apply, but Millie was one of them. An award-winning, Columbia University-trained mathematician, she published papers and original proofs in professional journals while still an undergraduate, but saw her very promising academic career foreshortened by the early onset of a rare vascular autoimmune disorder — later diagnosed as Behcet’s Disease — that would eventually take her life.

With an indomitable intelligence and a fiercely competitive spirit, she approached her progressively worsening condition with courage, wit and a highly focused agenda of things she wanted to  accomplish.  Over the past decade and a half of her life, she turned to writing, digital art forms and a variety of web-based media forms to express the full gamut of ideas and emotions that still roiled inside her. Much of her work can be found at Sporkworld.org — the web site she created in 2000 — and her Sporkworld microblog — since 2002, a collaboration with her mother, the poet and author Martha Deed.

While her health prevented her from extensive travel, or even attending many events in the city in recent years, she remained a vital presence at many literary events in the Northtowns, including at the Screening Room in Amherst, Just Buffalo’s Literary Cafe at the Center for Inquiry, and Carnegie Art Center in North Tonawanda, where she lived.

Her last project and public event was at the University at Buffalo’s & Now Conference on Post-Modern literature and digital experimentation in mid-October, where she was among the writers and web artists chosen to present their new work at Hallwalls Cinema by a juried panel. Traveling with an oxygen tank and in a wheelchair, she was able to deliver her complete program, which was well-received by her peers.

Shortly after the conference, Millie developed a confirmed case of the H1N1 virus. She spent 29 days in the ICU of Millard Suburban Hospital before dying of complications of the flu, compounded by Behcet’s Disease and Cushings Disease.

Like many of the poets we’ve published in The Buffalo News with some regularity over the years, I knew Millie better from her work than from the handful of occasions we met at readings or other literary events over the years, but I can unequivocally say that her work had rhetorical propulsiveness: it was urgent, driven, sometimes whimsical, sometimes indignant, but it always seemed to jump up off the page at you.  Our conversations were always cordial, but I sensed that she wasn’t a woman who suffered fools gladly.

She bristled with the kind intellectual energy that you typically find in polymaths, and if that intelligence occasionally expressed itself with more than a hint of impatience, you got the sense that deep down she knew that her time to leave her mark on this world was limited. Her work was edgy, provocative, probing, ironical and never boring.

Some of her strongest work was too personal in tone for us to use in what is essentially the public literary space of a newspaper poetry forum, but I admired it nonetheless. We published at least four of Millie’s poems over the years on The Buffalo News Poetry Page, but much of her recent work was designed specifically for the web.

The fact that she achieved as much as she did during her brief lifetime lived under such difficult physical constraints is a testament to her boundless spirit, and a reason we can all celebrate her life.

–R.D. Pohl

From http://blogs.buffalonews.com/artsbeat/2009/12/millie-niss-19732009.html

In Memory: Hermina Dala ~ November 29, 2002

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Hermina had Cushing’s Disease. She passed away November 29, 2002.

In Memory of Stacy Ollenberger ~ November 4, 2015

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stacy-o-memory

 

Stacy’s sister posted on Facebook:
This is my beautiful sister Stacy she was diagnosed with cushings disease in 2005 at the age of 19 she had two pituitary surgeries radiation and finally an adrenalectomy we watched her suffer struggle and fight this disease for ten years there were countless Dr visits and pills she had to take daily until she passed away in her home on November 4 2015 at the age of 30 we miss her so much she has left a hole in our hearts but we will continue to bring awareness to this horrible disease hoping we can save someone’s life…

…Thank you so much for sharing this I think she struggled with the stigma of the disease she was doing so much better but she passed suddenly of adrenal crisis we were shocked we truly believed that she had this beat I know this group was so special to her she even added me to it I think to help me understand what she was going through you are all incredible amazing people to have the strength to battle through this everyday.

From Stacy’s blog:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ambers Paper

My friend Amber is currently in school (taking Journalism I believe). She started reading my blog and had to write a paper for one of her classes, she asked me if it would be okay for her to write one about Cushing’s Disease and use my blog and/or me for information. I agreed. Amber found out quickly how hard it is to find useful information about Cushing’s Disease in Humans. Alot of sites are geared towards dogs and horses. She agree with the rest of us that it is retarded that there isn’t more information so that people could at least become more informed about this disease. Anyways this is a copy of what she submitted:

Living with Cushing’s disease
By, Amber Yake

When Stacy Ollenberger was 19 years old she began gaining weight at a rapid pace regardless of her healthy lifestyle, when she went to the doctor she was called a liar and told she was just getting fat.

“I saw six doctors before I was diagnosed,” Ollenberger said. “Doctors told me it was just weight gain and I had to change my diet and exercise.”

After seeing five doctors in two different cities, she finally saw a doctor who realized something was wrong with her. He suspected she had Cushing’s disease and referred her to a specialist in Edmonton.

“Finally I saw another doctor and he knew something was wrong. He didn’t know what so he did a bunch of tests and found out that I had extremely high cortisol levels,” Ollenberger said. “He had seen Cushing’s once before and suspected that is what I had but wasn’t a specialist so he referred me to Edmonton.”

According to Ollenberger, an excessive secretion of ACTH, which is produced by a pituitary tumour, causes Cushing’s disease. The ACTH then triggers your adrenal glands to produce excess amounts of cortisol. Symptoms include upper body obesity, round full face, increased fat around the neck, and thinning of arms and legs among other things.

Ollenberger showed all of these symptoms, however; since Cushing’s disease is so rare, none of the doctors she saw thought that is what she had.

“The specialists in Edmonton did not want to see me because they said Cushing’s disease is rare and they said that there was no way I had it,” she said. “They had all my blood work and stuff, my cortisol was more than 6 times higher than that of a “normal” person, and they told us that the tests were wrong and needed to be redone.”

Ollenberger was finally seen by specialists in Edmonton, AB and has since had two brain surgeries in attempts to remove the tumour on her pituitary gland increase. She feels angry at the medical system for not diagnosing her symptoms sooner.

“If I were diagnosed sooner the symptoms of my disease probably would not have gotten so bad and I probably would not have had to go through everything that I have had to—two surgeries, radiation and now I have to get my adrenal glands removed,” she said.

“I mean my family doctor made me feel like I was just a fat slob who didn’t eat right or exercise. He had been my doctor for years, and for me to gain so much weight so fast he should have known something was medically wrong.”

The doctors were unable to completely remove Ollenberger’s tumour. It’s not shrinking or growing. It is not an option to remove more of the tumour so her next option is to get her adrenal glands removed.

According to Ollenberger, this will make her body not be able to produce any more cortisol. Because you need cortisol to survive, after her surgery she will have to start medication to replace the cortisol that her body needs to survive.

“I will be on medication for the rest of my life,” she said.

Ollenberger is also working with her cousin to create a Cushing’s Awareness day in Canada. She wants to educate people so no one has to experience the things she has.

“It only takes one person to educate many and that is what I would like to do, bring awareness to this disease so others do not have to go through what I had to” she said.

 
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MaryO: Adapted From 40 Days of Thankfulness

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From 40 Days of Thankfulness

 

I am thankful, believe it or not, that I had Cushing’s. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to have it now, although diagnoses and surgeries seem “easier” now.

 

Having Cushing’s taught me a lot, including how to stick up for myself, how to read medical books to learn more about my disease, how to do web design, how to navigate NIH. It taught me patience, how to make phone calls. It brought me a lot of new friends.

 

I am also thankful that people are becoming more empowered and participating in their own diagnoses, testing and treatment. Things have changed a lot since my surgery in 1987!

 

 

When I had my Cushing’s over 30 years ago, I never thought that I would meet another Cushing’s patient in real life or online. Back then, I’d never even been aware that there was anything like an “online”. I’m so glad that people struggling with Cushing’s today don’t have to suffer anymore thinking that they’re the only one who deals with this.

 

Because of my work on the websites – and, believe me it is a ton of work! – I have had the honor of meeting hundreds of other Cushies personally at local meetings, conferences, at NIH (the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD where I had my final diagnosis and surgery). It occurred to me once that this is probably more Cushies than most endocrinologists will ever see in their entire career. I’ve also talked to countless others on the phone. Amazing for a “rare” disease!

 

I don’t know what pushed me in 1983 when I first noticed I was sick, how I got the confidence and self-empowerment to challenge these doctors and their non-diagnoses over the years. I’m thankful that I didn’t suffer any longer than I did and I’m glad that I have a role in helping others to find the medical help that they need.

 

MaryO, 33rd Pituitary Surgery Anniversary

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Today is the 33rd 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 32 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.

Last year I went back on it (Omnitrope this time) in late June of last year.  Hooray!  I still don’t know if it’s going to work but I have high hopes.  I am posting some of how that’s going here.

During nephrectomy, 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 couple years, I’ve developed ongoing knee issues.  Because of my cortisol use to keep the AI at bay, my endocrinologist doesn’t want me to get a cortisone injection in my knee.  September 12, 2018 I did get that knee injection (Kenalog)  and it’s been one of the best things I ever did.  I didn’t look forward to telling my endo!  I have had a couple more injections.

I also developed an allergy to blackberries in October and had to take Prednisone – and I had to tell my endo that, too!

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

But, this is a post about Giving Thanks.  The series will be continued on this 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.  Unfortunately, Dr. Oldfield died.

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 here at http://www.maryo.co/

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