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MaryO: Giving Thanks for 30 Years

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Today is the 30th 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 30 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 when I got to 10 years NED (no evidence of disease) from cancer, I couldn’t go back on the GH.

However, this year I went back on it (Omnitrope this time) in late June.  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 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 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.

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 a couple months ago.

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/

 

Cathy T, Pituitary Bio

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Hi! My name is Cathy Tia. I’m 27 yrs old and was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease 6 yrs ago while doing my first year of an education degree. I had worked in the fitness industry at that stage for 5 years and was fit and healthy but as soon as I started to fall asleep at the wheel driving into varity. I thought something was wrong symptoms persisted and weight gain fatigue, sweats, acne no periods. The list goes on, started to get out of control.

I went to a endo and she did some tests on my bloods and was shocked that my cortisol levels were in the thousands then we did some 24hr urine tests and they were as high as 3000. After nothing showed up on the MRI scan we did the petrosal sampling and it showed the source from coming from my pituitary gland so I then went to hospital for them to have a look at my pituitary gland they saw no visible tumour and that was that I then was put on a course of drugs as I kept going into adrenal failure where my cortisol levels were as low as minus 10 so no wonder I was in agony and feeling like I was going mentally insane. My weight dropped to 48kgs at the time of low cortisol, then my body changed again weighing in at 70’ish kgs.

I started to get heart palpitations and was exercising so much I nearly dropped dead but nothing I did seemed to help the weigh loss. My cortisol was tested again and again it was high, I went on a block regime to mimic what it would be like to have no adrenals before the trauma of the surgery well as I expected they didn’t bring down the cortisol in fact it increased. I went off all drugs as they made me feel so sick and I couldn’t even hold a job because of no energy etc.

Now 2 yrs later it is back with a vengeance and again there was talk of removing my adrenal glands but I refuse as the pills didn’t work so why would the surgery again? I said I would try the drugs. I have been on them 4 months and my levels which are meant to decrease have gone from 284 this week to 1225. My endo is at her wits end I’m going back to the hospital on Wed but I feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel as I feel we have exhausted all my options.

I’m newly married only 9 months ago I have the most supportive wonderful husband but feel bad for him as we can’t conceive and do normal things young married couple do as I’m always tired and hate going anywhere because of my appearance. If anyone has any answers out there or just words of support I would love to hear from you.

cheers, Cathy ‘mad’ Tia ( at least I feel mad)!!!!!!!!!!

Update Monday June 30, 2003:

Hi. Well, I have had more tests and yes they confirm that my Cushing’s disease is pituitary based, I had an MRI scan last night so we will wait and see if there is any visible change from the one I had done 4 years ago, then from there surgery.

I am gaining more weight and my skin is full of acne even though I’m on an antibiotic and the pill to help it, My periods have stopped even though I’m on the pill and the hair on my face and body is really embarrassing. I have totally lost confidence in myself and any situation I feel is stressful even paying the bills is an effort.

My diet is still very strict only protein and I try and walk and do weights everyday but I feel I’m losing the battle. I hate the waiting for results I just want them to hurry up so I know what my options are start them and get on with life!!!!!!

Frustrated Cathy ‘mad’ Tia (at least I feel mad).

Update Wednesday July 9, 2003:

As you all know I went for an MRI scan last Monday and the Monday just gone I recieved the news I had a 7mm tumour on the left side of my pituitary gland which means removal of that left side, I’m relieved after 6 years of cyclical Cushing’s there is something to show for it at the same time I’m terrified not only about the surgery but all the after effects the drugs the quality of life after this terrible disease!!!!!,

My husband and I are have amazing faith and support from family and friends but it is still such a roller coaster ride we are only 27 years old and have been married for 10 months we don’t know if we will ever have children which is so important for us. We don’t know where life will take us but we do and have accepted this is for a reason god works in mysterious ways so please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we do for all you fellow Cushing’s patients out there what ever the stage of disease you are at, never ever give up be strong.

cheers, Cathy Tia from little old New Zealand.

Update August 3, 2003:

Hi everyone well it is now the 3rd of August 2003 and I am going to the hospital on Tuesday here in little old New Zealand, to have a meeting with the brain surgeon to go through the procedure. They have found a pit tumor on the left side of my gland and need to remove the whole side. Wow, pretty scary but at least I’ll feel better after 6 yrs of not such great health.

I’m excited about my future and hopefully my husband and I can start our lifes together with children in the future, I’ll write on Tuesday night to tell of my surgery date, if I get one.

Keep the faith, everyone. There is always hope we are the strong ones what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! Feel free to email me on cathyscurves@hotmail.com.

Update August 22, 2003:

Hi everyone well I haven’t written in a while as you know the hospital systems are slow at getting things moving. As you know a tumour was found on the last MRI but now they think there is more to it so Monday 24th August, tomorrow, I’m going for another CT scan then surgery although I don’t have a date for surgery. I’m hoping it will be in the next month because I want to be out of hospital to share my 1st year wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband my angel here on earth at home not in hospital. I’ll keep you all updated this week for the next chapter.

Hang in there everyone. Remember, if we all stick together and send love through our thoughts we will beat this thing!!! please email me anyone if you want to talk I know I’m down here in little old New Zealand but don’t hesitate.

Update September 15, 2003:

Hi everyone it’s Cathy here agin from little old New Zeland, I finally have a surgery date it is on the 15th of October one month away it’s been a long wait but now I know the date I can plan my life!!!! I should be fighting fit for xmas day that was my goal so My husband and I can plan a holiday a family and get back into full time work. I’m so excited.

Hang in there everyone and please send your prayers and happy vibes my way on the 15th
cheers Cathy ‘mad’ Tia

Update October 10, 2003:

Hi everyone. Well, only 4 more sleeps to go until my 2nd pit surgery. Let’s hope they get the bugger this time. I’ll update you all as soon as I can focus on the computer screen
cheers Cathy

Update October 27, 2003:

Hi everyone! Well, it’s 2 weeks tomorrow post op. I’ve been home 1 week and recovering well, things went to plan as you all know the discomfort only last 3-4 days and my cortisol is dropping which is so positive. We will know for sure in a month. I’m hoping it comes down and stays down so we know I’ve been cured. I’ve already lost 2kg’s and the high colour in my face has gone down my joints are not as sore and my acne is clearing up. I can’t believe in 2 weeks. I’m already looking better. I ask you all to keep praying and sending happy healthy thoughts and vibes my way as you all know this is just the beginning as it is such a reecurrent disease. I really want to avoid having my adrenals out which they will do asap if my cortisol doesn’t stay down. They say this is the only way for sure to cure Cushing’s disease.

But I send hugs and kisses to you all and anyone whos going to have pitaitary surgery either for the 1st time or 2nd don’t worry just relax and go with it rest and recover as much as possible then get your life back please feel free to write to me my email is in this bio.
cheers Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update November 26, 2003:

Hi all, well it is 6 weeks today since my second pituitary surgery, I developed diabetes insipidous but that has gone now hooray no more peeing every 2 minutes, ha, ha.

Well the last 2 blood cortisols were high again so I’m really bummed out the first 3 weeks after surgery it seemed to be on the way down and I lost 5 kg’s I was elated, but now the symptoms have returned the tiredness puffiness etc and I’m not even on any replacements I haven’t had a period so it looks like the adrenals will have to be removed bummer!, I have just completed a 24hr urine collection so the results should be in early next week everything hinges on this result if it is high they are taking me straight back in for the double adrenalectomy if anyone has any suggestions or has had the same experience please email me I feel depressed again just as I thought I had my life back on track.
kind regards Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update December 4, 2003:

Hi everyone me again, well unfortunatley my cortisol is high again after 6 weeks post op so I am booked in to see another surgeon next Wednesday to talk through the procedure of a bilateraladrenelectomy (what a mouthfull), could anyone who has had this done please email me as I’m terrified and want to know what to expect in regards to recovery time, sickness, etc

keep your chins up

talk to you when I have more gossip
Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update January 29, 2004:

Hi all well happy new year to you all. I have a CT scan date on Feb 16th of my adrenal glands then surgery will follow hopefully soon after that I’m scared and would love to hear from others who have had their adrenals out because I’ve heard some horror stories, please email me.

I have had an interview with a local magazine that goes out to the nation telling my story and journey with Cushings disease it was fun my husband and I have had photos etc I will post it when it comes out next week I just want others to be more knowledglable and perhaps people may come forward and talk to me if they suspect they may have it.

I would love to set up a support group in New Zealand because there is no one I can talk to here.

Well I’ll talk to you all soon and please email me if you have any words of encourgement.
God bless Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update February 3, 2004:

Hi all! Well, I have more exciting news from the magazine article that has only been out two days. I have been asked to go on a morning talk show televised across New Zealand to talk about the disease and my story and have already recieved emails from others in NZ that have been cured. It is so positive it makes me want to get on and move forward to help others when I’m finally cured hooray! I’ll update soon when I’ve been on TV.

God is good god bless you all Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update March 30, 2004:

Hi guys. Well I finally have a date for my adrenal surgery. 2 failed pit surgeries so here is their last ditch attempt to cure me hooray!

It is scheduled for the 15th of April 2 weeks time so I’ll get back to you as soon  as I’m up to it, please pray for me as this is the final time hopefully then I’ll be rid of this nasty disease.  I would love you guys to email me whoever has had the adrenals removed to tell me the good and bad things during recovery so I’m prepared.
cheers everyone and hang in there.

hugs cathy ‘mad’ tia

Update April 29, 2004:

Hi everyone. I’m back it’s 2 weeks today since my surgery the removal of both adrenal glands. I feel I’ve been to hell and back over the last 7 years but I’ve come out on top I’m sore and bruised but feeling the best mentally and emotionally the best in almost a decade. I’m on a normal dose of hydrocortisone which understand the average person produces and have already seen marked changes in my appearance like redness had gone, night sweats aches nausea are all gone in only 2 weeks so I’m looking forward to getting my body back.

Thank you all for your support and I will keep you updated as to my situation. You all must hang in there and fight fight fight! Your day will come in those dark days of despair never give up tommorow is always better and you don’t want to let this disease win you can do it.

Update July 3, 2004:

Hi everyone well it’s been ages since I wrote I have had both adrenals out and finally I feel normal most of the Cushing’s symptoms have gone and the old Cathy is slowly emerging it is nearly 3 months since surgery and I have lost 9kgs and am looking not so tired and puffy hooray when people ask how I’ve lost the weight I say I’m on a cortisol diet which they laugh and don’t understand but I know you all do.

Well if any of you are scared to have this surgery don’t be they do it all keyhole so it’s neat and tide and it has changed my life I feel like a near normal 28 yr old who can restart her life my husband and I are so happy we have been given a 2 year gap to try for a family before radiation to the pit gland to avoid Nelson’s Syndrome so it’s not over yet but I believe it will be all worth it soon.

Well take care all hold your heads up high and be strong.

Update September 26, 2004:

Hi it’s Cathy Tia here again, well my husband and i have just celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary cushing free hooray!! IT IS A BLESSING TO HAVE MY HEALTH BACK. It has been five months since my adrenal surgery and have had one adrenal crisis due to an underlying viris which was a bit scary i was in hospital for 5 days being pumped full of hydrocortisone ironic really after 8 yrs of having too much oh well, i’m back and working full 3 different jobs and loving life. All of you out theree still waiting to be cured please hang in there it is so worth it you will never take life for granted again.

God bless to you all and please never give up.

Update January 31, 2005:

hi all well a little update to my story. It has now been 9 months since i have my adrenal glands removed i have lost 27kg’s and people are starting to recognise me again all of the symptoms are gone i now have addisions disease as my adrenals can shut down the meds i take are cortisone and hydrocortisone to help with balancing my hormones out. I have had one adrenal crisis but recovered well. Peter my husband and i are on the fertility track now i am on fertility drugs to hopefully bring us a little bundle of joy this yr i also have PSCO so having a baby is a challenge but i know God will bless us when the time is right. I am working again like a normal person and can get through the day without a sleep.

Life is great. To all of you in the beginning, midst or end recovery phase of this terrible disease please always have hope and determination, remember you are what you believe so keep positive.

God Bless Cathy ‘mad’ Tia

Update January 31, 2006:

Hi all well it’s beena yr since I wrote. Alot has happened for my husband and I. Last time I wrote we were embarking on a huge rollercoaster ride with IVF fertility treatment and guess what we have had two cycles and the second one worked like a dream. We were given 15% chance of ever getting pregnant with the trteatment so we are proof that doctors only know so much with much gusto determination prayer and support from family and friends we did it we are now 3 and a half months pregnant due August 10th 2006. We feel so blessed and want to let you all know this can happen for you keep the faith and search inside yoiurself about what your life is worth this disease is only a label not who you are, seek and you will find the answers even if it has taken yrs it’s taken me 10yrs of being sick surgeries lost hope and regained faith. God has a plan for all of us and now I’m going to be a mum i can hardly believe the blessings.

I have had 2 trips to the emergency ward with adrenal crisis being pregnant does put stress on the body so now i have altered my drtugs i feel great i have only had 2 weeks of morning sickness and noew i have full energy back and only get tired like anyone at the end of a day. I ahd emergency surgery last week for an abcess caused by mastitis even though i haven’ breast feed they tink because my immunity is lowered by having no adreanl glands it wa so serious.

In my mind I know i always have to be careful but my advice to eveyone is live each day like it is your last be knind and never stop loveing or giving because it will come back in ten folds as it has for me.

God Bless and kind regards to all my fellow cushies, families and supporters.

Hugs cathy tia

Update October 25, 2006:

Hi cathy Tia here from New Zealand last time i was trying to concieve through IVF and we did it we have had a beautiful baby girl Grace Ruby weighing 6 pounds 13 ozes 3 weeks early all is grand with all of us healthy and loving being a family. Keep the faith and hope if you believe with your heart your dreams will come true.

cathy tia

Update February 22, 2007:

hi 22/2/07 cathy here agin

i now have another new 5mm tumour on the right side of pit gland due to having nelsons sydrome after nearly 3 yrs ago having boyth adrenals removed

any suggestions on what to do? they want to give me radation. has anyone had this?

cheers cathy

Update May 3, 2007:

hi all well my daughter is now 9 months old , I mde the decision to havea breast re3euction last week and am so thrilled with the results the 12 yrs of cuhsings and three yrs of addsions (removal of glands due to recureent cushings) ravished my body i feel young again and sexy hooray for my husband!!!

I had a very scary time this week though due to the stress of the surgery on my body my addisions played up big time and i ended up in Er twice having cortisol shots and saline to give me balance, i’m still very tannedyellow and can’t seem to get on top of the balance but feel better than last week.

Has anyody experience addisions after cuahings?, i’d love to hear from you and ask how you mmagae your balances of medications and water balance.

until next time,

Hugs feloow cushies/addisions

Cathy Tia

Update September 17, 2009:

hi all well its been a while my daughter is now 3 and i have a beautiful miracle son called Elijah who is now 6 months old , i ahve had a great run since having my adrenals removed and had the breast reduction i’,m even breast feeding a real miracle and testament that if you have hope you can achieve anything. i ahve had many talks to churches and articles written to educate people in New Zealand and hope to give them hope whatever their circumstances.

unfortunatly i may ahve developed nelsons syndrome so am having an MRI in 2 weeks to see what the pituatary tumour is doing if it has grown i’ll have radiation to shrink it.

hope this finds you all well.

God Bess Cathy Tia

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Janice B, Pituitary Bio

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Cushing’s with a pituitary tumor. Had surgery on April 2013.

Surgeon nicked the pituitary gland giving me adrenal insufficiency. Sept 2016 went into adrenal crises while on holiday in Germany. I believe I was given too much prednisone as I have cushing’s again from too much prednisone.

I am working with my Endocrinologist plus an MD with a MSc who is an expert in nutritonal biochemistry.

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Nancy (chance), Steroid-Induced Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted April 18, 2008

I have Iatrogenic Cushings—I also have adrenal insuffiency —One doctor told me to just say I have Addison’s—I have many symptoms of Addison’s but I don’t have the salt issues. I have much empathy for the 52 year old man.

I am 60 and have been on cortico-steroids since 1979—everyday. It has beaten up my body alot-oh–I have steroid dependent asthma–I have essentially been in statis asthmaticus and/or on steroids for 30 years.

My allergist told me I have the twitchiest lungs he has ever seen. I am sharing this because anyone else on steroids for their asthma must have very twitchy lungs too.

I know I am lucky because I have never been on a respirator–Hospitalized yes.

I would like to hear from other folks with steroid dependent asthma or other Cushing’s folks.

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Sam in the News

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Sam is Jackie’s daughter.  There is more info about their family’s Cushing’s experiences here: https://cushingsbios.com/2013/06/23/jackie-samsmom-adrenal-bio/

Sam and her mom also participated in a Cushing’s Help interview which you can read here: http://www.cushie.info/index.php/cushing-s/about-us/interviews/207-sam-and-her-mom-jackie-february-2-2005

And one to listen to on BlogTalkRadio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/05/15/interview-with-jackie-samsmon-jordan

This article was posted by long-time message board member Samsmom about her daughter Sam.

AIM senior Samantha Edgar doesn’t let health issues hold her down

superkidedgar

SNOHOMISH — Samantha Edgar, 17, has faced limitations with serious health issues, including Addison’s disease and osteoporosis. But the AIM High School senior is overcoming them in amazing ways.

Question: Your school administrator says you come to school every day with a smile despite some serious health challenges.

Answer: I’ve had adrenal deficiency since I was 4 years old because my adrenal glands were infected with a lot of tumors. The guy who diagnosed me (Dr. Constantine Stratakis) I’m actually doing an internship with this summer at the National Institutes of Health. It’s pretty nerve-wracking. It will be fun.

Q: Wow. How did you end up with that?

A: (My mom and I) were talking about asking for an internship, and joking that he’d probably just say apply, like he normally does. … I asked “if I can maybe shadow you this summer and, um, hang out?” He was like, “Of course.” All the interns just stared at me. (Most of them are in medical degree programs) who’ve applied five times.

Q: What do you hope to get from it?

A: I’m hoping to understand my own thing a little bit more afterward, and then have opportunities after that stem from it. It’ll be interesting at least.

Q: Your mom is planning to rent an apartment and live out there with you.

A: I’m still her baby. … If anything, though, it’s the best place to have an issue.

Q: Your last life-threatening experience was when you were 10. You had the flu and were unable to keep down your medications, which you need to take three times a day. What other issues are you susceptible to?

A: If I am to break a bone or something I could go into what’s called adrenal crisis. (The body) goes into shock.

Q: And yet …

A: I do mounted archery, which is horseback archery. My mom is pretty much nervous every time I go down the course because I’m probably going around 30 (mph) and shooting an arrow at a target or five.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.heraldnet.com/news/aim-senior-samantha-edgar-doesnt-let-health-issues-hold-her-down/

samhorse

 

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!

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/

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