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Joslyn (Joslyn), Adrenal Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted Monday, June 8, 2009

 

I’m 25 years old and was diagnosed last week with cushings syndrome.

I’m one of the lucky 1% and I do mean lucky since it’s curable, to have a a tumor on my adrenal. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear “you have a tumor”

I have surgery schgeduled for 7/6. I’m quite scared but excited.

She was interviewed in the Cushings Help Voice Chat / Podcast series after her surgery.
Listen to Joslyn’s interview.

 

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TONIGHT! Interview with Fabiana

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interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 88 other past interviews to listen to!

~~~

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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Interview With Pat – Golden Oldie

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golden-oldie

 

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 – 01:04AM

My show, “Interview with Pat Gurnick” on “CushingsHelp” is airing 06/23/2011 on BlogTalkRadio.

Next Interview, Thursday June 23 at 9:00 PM eastern with Pat Gurnick:

The Call-In number for questions or comments is (646) 200-0162.

Listen to Pat’s interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2011/06/24/pat-gurnick-pituitary-patient

Join Pat on THURSDAY JUNE 23 AT 9PM EASTERN

My name is Pat Gurnick. I had a Pituitary Tumor (Cushing’s Disease) removed  (Macro 1.4 size) by Dr. Kelly at UCLA.

This has been a long journey for me. In 1990 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Fibromyalgia, and Environmental Illness/Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I was a Needs Assessment and Referral Counselor at Charter Hospital. I than went to work for Brotman Hospital as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor, with their day treatment program for Chronic Mentally Ill Substance Abusers, but by 1992 I was so ill I went on disability. I could not read or write for over a year, so sick. I started a support group, WEBSITE  and phone hotline in 1993, to give myself a reason to live. I had such cognition difficulties and fatigue, to name a few symptoms, that I don’t honestly know how I achieved this!

In 1994 I thought I was in remission, little more functional and decreased Fibromyalgia pain; yet, I also went through premature menopause at that time, age 35 (I am 45 now), which I now found out was the cause and beginning of a Pituitary Tumor/Cushing’s Disease! I was single and I had no children. My doctor figured this is when the tumor developed/high cortisol, to compensate for my crashed adrenals (HPA Dysfunction common to CFIDS Patients).

I tried so hard to lose the weight all those years, and the past few years people were always asking me when I was “due” for my stomach was so distended. In addition, I was anxious and depressed, experienced nausea most of the time, facial hair, moon face, hump/fat pads ,and many of the other Cushing’s effects. The Rheumatologist just attributed this all to getting older and osteoporosis (which I had a severe case by this time due to Cushing’s – little did I know!).

No one picked up on the Tumor situation until last October, 2003. I had other health problems, especially mold injury (from water damage in my home) and had to leave with basically the clothes on my back in August. My life was upside down. I was stressed and went to see a chiropractor to ease my tight neck. I knew something was wrong when the x-rays showed fat pads not bone as my old Rheumatologist had claimed.

By October 2003 a New doctor (been to so many through these years trying so many things to get well) wanted me to have an MRI done when I showed him my x-rays and told him of my concerns. I was not willing to give up and attribute it to old age! He stated he thought I had Cushing’s disease and wanted to test me. The tumor was clearly seen on the scans, and Cushing’s Disease confirmed. I had gained 40 pounds by this time, and looked totally different, as you can imagine.

After I was diagnosed, I went to many healers, tried holistic things, which didn’t heal me, but got me in good shape for surgery a year later. Thank God it was a slow growing tumor, because it was close to my eyes and sinuses, and waiting any longer would have been detrimental to my health. I had surgery performed December 17, 2003, at UCLA with Dr. Kelly. He has been very kind and patient with me while I tried alternative treatment, knowing surgery would be eminent.

As for my hospital experience, 2x’s I had adrenal insufficiency and was terrified. I had no idea what to expect, fainting on the floor, staff all around me when I woke up, going in and out of consciousness, frightened I would go to sleep and never wake up, wanting to throw up all the time, could not walk, dependent on oxygen mask (trouble breathing) and I.V., using a bed pan, and had a longer stay than anticipated. Plus, hurting from stitches on my stomach, and was told was used for fat during surgery; had cerebral brain fluid leakage and titanium mesh was placed in my head. Little did I know that was only the beginning. I did not understand the post-op situation (cortisol withdrawal symptoms, medication side effects, emergency bracelet, light headedness, to name a few).

So, I have been looking for answers and finally found you all! I am not alone! It is ONE DAY AT A TIME now, and I am looking forward to better days ahead.

Update: April 15, 2004

I am a wreck since surgery, going from depression to anxiety, hormones bouncing off the walls. hot flashes, cognition problems, incontinence (cortisol weakens muscles including the bladder), and sometimes crippled to the point I cant even stand to brush my teeth. I am struggling with continual weakness, edema, painful/swollen hands and body. Now, ailments are popping up as the high cortisol decreases in my body. I have a fatty liver and gallbladder disease (cortisol can do this), Rheumatoid Arthritis (Cortisol can do this break down the muscles and joints), heart irregularities, high cholesterol, to name a few. Cortisol can cause so much damage, and I feel like I am left in pieces all over the floor, running from doctor to doctor to patch me up. Having little energy but dragging myself all over town to find some relief; hoping for a solution.

I have only lost 5 pounds but my mustache is gone, which is good news. Plus, my osteoporosis has gotten better and is now osteopenia status; in such a short amount of time. Taking out that tumor saved my life!

Update: December, 2004

It has been a year since my pituitary surgery. I have lost almost 40 pounds. I think more clearly and feel more confident. Look like a real woman again! Sure, I still have my mood swings, cortisol still low (but off cortef now), have phsycial pain (decreased 60% due to Lexapro antidepressant), fatigue (limits me on some days), and need to monitor my stress level or my immune system goes down quick and I get sick. My body is not the same. I am way more sensitive. But, I changed my lifestyle to fit my needs. I moved from Los Angeles to Boulder, Colorado, for the slower pace and beautiful mountains. My adrenals are not strong, and I have to be careful to take it easy or I have symptoms of adrenal burnout. However, I am so glad to be alive, mentally functioning, and taking walks again in nature!

Dr. Kelly at UCLA was fantastic, and I will always be grateful for his excellent expertise in ridding me of the tumor. I have a new chance in life. I do look over my shoulder, ever reminded that it can come back, having tests every 6 months for years to come. But, I have learned from this experience that really life is to be lived one day at a time anyhow. Appreciate each day as it comes, living in the moment, making the best of the time I have.

I look at life and love differently now. I left a stuck relationship, moved to a place that will bring me more peace and joy, empowered myself, being my best friend, having more fun and laughter in my life. I plan on continuing with my goals, which were stopped by the tumor, doing what matters to me instead of being co-dependent. I am important. I deserve the best. I have been given a 2nd chance and I will take it for all it is worth!

Update: September 16, 2007

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of my experience with Cushing’s Disease. I remind myself that I don’t have the tumor anymore, than I look out at the sunshine lighting up day and take in a breath of fresh air, so grateful to be alive.

Yes, I catch myself from wandering back to the Cushing’s memories: when I felt like a Cherub, blown up and uncomfortable in my own skin, emotional, feeling like my blood was racing in my veins, breaking my toes, pimples like a teenager, and the dark mustache I knew everyone could see! I still look for those returning signs, relieved that they have not come back. I was told by my surgeon, Dr. Kelly, that the tumor would not return. When fear grabs me, during infrequent times of fatigue and a rush of anxiety, I reassure myself that these are only aftereffects not the tumor returning. I have my cortisol levels tested every year to confirm this fact, and my levels are normal. However, I went through ‘Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome’ from all the medical trauma I endured! It took 8 years for the doctors to finally diagnosis this disorder! You can imagine all the ailments they told me I had or that it was all in my head. I was running around to doctors begging for answers but feeling so discouraged, hopeless, and helpless. I tried many medications hoping for a solution, but none came. I did many holistic treatments, to no avail. Little did I know that I suffered from Cushing’s Disease/Pituitary Tumor!

One day I walked into a Rhumatologist’s office, Dr. David Hallegua, seeking help for my Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the doctor exclaimed I also had Cushing’s Disease because of the obvious physical signs I exhibited. This is all a memory today. The once obvious ‘fat’ humps on my shoulders and neck are gone. I dropped most of the weight, my face structure is visible again, my hair healthy as is my skin, my moods finally balanced from the ‘bipolar’ roller coaster of emotions I previously tried to control – time healed this (I am not on any antidepressants), and my hormones are balanced without hormone replacement therapy. I know how lucky I am, believe me, I am thankful!

Yes, I have realized this illness has also given me an amazing gift, one of appreciation for every bird in the sky, every flower that bloomed, every whiff of baked bread, everyday I could walk by the Boulder Creek with vigor, and how I gradually was able to retain information to the point that I could multi-task again! Each little thing has been a blessing. I have much gratitude for being alive, remembering the days when I had Cushing’s but didn’t know it and negotiated with God dark agreements…looking back I am glad that I didn’t follow through. What lesson’s has this teacher left me with? I live in the moment now, present, not running to the past or the future, just appreciating today. Ah, I have today to live! I have come back into my body, proud of my curves, my soft skin, my long hair, my searching eyes, feeling the calm peacefulness that rests in my heart, and the relaxation in my body. It feels good to experience positive sensations, wanting to walk again around the block, to go shopping for clothes, taking a swim in the heat of the summer, all dressed up going to a dinner party with friends, taking meditation classes at the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center. I have a social life again! For so many years I hid in my house, heavy, unhappy, and discouraged. I didn’t know I had an illness, and all I thought was, “who would want me like this?”. Yet, there was a sliver of hope, for I never stopped trying to figure out what was wrong, desperate to find a solution, knowing all along that I was NOT just fat and growing older, at the age of 35! My body was betraying me, that was clear. The lesson, to not give up, to have faith. My warrior came out in me. I became a stronger woman through all of this, and moved through the challenges that were dropped in front of me, bomb by bomb. I came through the surgery with flying colors, hard but I did it! Winning round one! Round two, dropping pound after pound of fat. Round three, learning how to walk and breathe easy again. Round four, winning the grand prize, learning how to relax, and to be happy that I am alive.

I was able to provide counseling services again , and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 pat@caringcounselor.com

There is life after Cushing’s Disease!

Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
Psychotherapist
www.caringcounselor.com

Glad to be alive!!! September 2007

Pat’s photos:

The only picture I have after Cushing’s,
a number of years ago,
gained 25 more pounds since then.
[Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me and my sister at Thanksgiving – right before surgery. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me at home, right after surgery, with my kitten sleeping on my stomach. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me with my Cat JACK 4 months after surgery.
You can see my face has gotten thinner, but my body is still Cushy. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

April 2006 [Photographer: Pat’s family]


Glad to be alive!!! September 2007 [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Update January 25, 2016

In 2010,  I had a near death experience from dehydration and ended up in the ER with Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. See the video I created at that time:

 

I notified NADF (National Adrenal Diseases Foundation) that Cushing’s patients suffer and need to be recognized through their organization with this serious life threatening condition: Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. As a result, the Medical Director,
Dr. Margulies, MD, developed a brochure on Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency:
Stress dosing and recognizing Adrenal Crisis symptoms is most important. Today, I have a better understanding and can recognize the symptoms of dehydration, and I am more prepared to double my hydrocortisone medication under an emergency situation (often for me it is the flu) or stress.
Hear my CushingsHelp Radio Interview 2011:
After my surgery in 2003, I was able to provide counseling services again, and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, Skype, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 or pat@caringcounselor.com
There is life after Cushing’s Disease!
Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Psychotherapist
Matrix Energetics Practitioner
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
www.caringcounselor.com

 

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In Memory: Kate Myers ~ 2014

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kate-fbkate

Kate (Fairley on the Cushing’s Help message boards)  was only 46 when she died on June 23, 2014.  Her board signature read:

After 2 failed pit surgeries and a CSF leak repair,
BLA on Sept. 11, 2008 w/Dr. Fraker at UPenn
Gamma knife radiation at UPenn Oct. 2009
Now disabled and homebound. No pit, no adrenals and radiation damage to my hypothalamus.
My cure is God’s will, and I still have hope and faith!

During her too-short life, she provided help and support to other Cushies.

Her National Geographic video in 2007

Her BlogTalkRadio Interview in 2008: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/07/17/interview-with-kate-fairley

Articles to help others:

Kate’s Family Letter
Kate’s Packing Suggestions For Surgery
Kate’s Pituitary Surgery Observations

Kate’s bio from 2008:

Hi y’all! I will try to make this short, but there is a lot to say.

I stumbled across this board after a google search last night. Yesterday, I finally saw a real endocrinologist. I am 39 years old. I weigh 362. I was diagnosed by a reproductive endocrinologist with PCOS at age 30, but all of my symptoms started at age 22.

At age 22, I was an avid runner, healthy at 140-145 pounds and 5’7″. I got a knee injury and stopped running right around the time that my periods just….stopped. And by stopped, I mean completely disappeared after mostly regular periods since age 12. I was tested by the student health clinic at UGA, and referred to an obgyn for lap exploration for endometriosis, which was ruled out. I remember that they ran some bloodwork and ultimately came back with this frustrating response: We don’t know what it is, but it’s probably stress-related because your cortisol is elevated.

Soon thereafter, I gained 80 pounds in about 6 months, and another 30 the next six months. Suddenly, in one year, I was 110 pounds heavier than my original weight of 140. I recall my mom and sister talking about how fast I was gaining weight. At the time, I blamed myself: I wasn’t eating right, I’d had to stop running due to the knee injury and my metabolism must have been “used” to the running; I was going through some family problems, so it must be that I’m eating for emotional reasons related to depression. You name the self-blame category, and I tried them all on for size.

Whatever the reason, I stopped avoiding mirrors and cameras. The person looking back at me was a stranger, and acquaintances had stopped recognizing me. A bank refused to cash my security deposit refund check from my landlord when I graduated because I no longer looked like my student ID or my driver’s license. I was pulled over for speeding while driving my dad’s Mercedes graduation weekend, and the cop who pulled me over almost arrested me for presenting a false ID. These are some really painful memories, and I wonder if anyone here can relate to the pain of losing your physical identity to the point that you are a stranger to yourself and others?

Speaking of size, from age 24 to 26 I remained around 250, had very irregular periods occuring only a few times a year (some induced), developed cystic acne in weird places, like my chest, shoulders, buttocks (yikes!), found dark, angry purple stretch marks across my abdomen (some of which I thought were so severe that my insides were going to come out through them) which I blamed on the weight gain, the appearance of a pronounced buffalo hump (which actually started at age 22 at the beginning of the weight gain), dark black hairs on my fair Scottish chin (and I’m talking I now have to shave twice daily), a slight darkening of the skin around my neck and a heavy darkening of the skin in my groin area, tiny skin tags on my neck. I was feeling truly lovely by graduation from law school and my wedding to my wonderful DH.

At age 26, I ballooned again, this time up to 280-300, where I stayed until age 32, when I went up to 326. The pretty girl who used to get cat calls when she ran was no more. She had been buried under a mountain of masculined flesh. I still had a pretty, albeit very round, face, though. And I consoled myself that I still have lovely long blonde hair — that is, until it started falling out, breaking off, feeling like straw.

At age 30, I read about PCOS on the internet and referred myself to a reproductive endocrinologist, who confirmed insulin resistance after a glucose tolerance test. I do not know what else he tested for — I believe my testosterone was high. He prescribed Metformin, but after not having great success on it after 5-6 months, I quit taking it, and seeing him. Dumb move.

Two years later, at age 32, I weighed 326. In desperation, I went on Phentermine for 3 months and lost 80 pounds the wrong way, basically starving. I was back down to 240-250, where I remained from age 33-35. After the weight loss, I got my period a few times, and started thinking about trying to have a baby. Many ultrasounds per month over a few months revealed that I just wasn’t ovulating. I decided to put off starting the family when the doctor started talking about IVF, etc. It just seemed risky to me — my body, after all, felt SICK all the time, and I couldn’t imagine carrying a baby and it winding up to be healthy.

At age 35, I ballooned again, this time significantly — from 240 to 320 in the space of 6 months. Another 45 pounds added by age 37, so that’s 125 pounds in two year. I’ve remained between 345-365 for the last two years, depending on how closely I was following my nutritionist’s recommended 1600 calorie per day diet….which was not all the time.

Which takes me to last year. I went for a physical because I wasn’t feeling well, kept getting sick, had a lot of fatigue, weird sweating where my hair would get totally drenched for no reason. At this point, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypothyroism (which has now been modified to Hashimoto’s thyroidis), high cholesterol (although this was present at age 30 when I got the PCOS diagnosis). I went back to my repro-endo, and resolved to make myself stay on Metformin this time. All last year was a series of monthly blood work and attempts to lose weight with an eye toward trying to get pregnant this year. By the end of the year, I was successful in taking off only 20 pounds, and my repro-endo (always with an eye toward fertility and not health), really pushed me to give up on losing weight at that moment and to start taking Clomid. Or else, he said. The words that broke my heart: this may be your last chance.

So, skip forward to January 2006. My ovaries are blown out and they are clear — no blockages. I get cleared to start fertility treatments. My husband undergoes his own embarrassing tests. I think we have an agenda here, but my mind was chewing on serious concerns that I was simply too unhealthy to be considering trying this. That, and I felt it would be a futile effort.

By the way, more than a year on the Metformin with no real changes to anything. Why doesn’t my body respond to it like other people with PCOS?

Then late March, I started experiencing extreme fatigue. And I’m not talking about the kind where you need to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon to gear up for the week ahead (which I’d always considered a nice indulgence, but not a necessity). I’m talking debilitating, life-altering fatigue. It didn’t start out right away to be debilitating — or maybe I just made the usual excuses as I always do relating to my health: I’m still getting over that flu/cold from last month. I just got a promotion at work (though I note a greatly reduced stress and caseload now that I am a managing attorney. My weight is causing it. Whatever.

I let it go on for a full two months before I started to really worry, or admit to myself that my quality life had taken a serious downward turn. You see, despite my weight and my scary appearance, I have always been the “director” type. By that I mean that last year, I worked with two other women to direct 100 volunteers to start a summer camp for inner city kids, and I had enough energy to run this ambitious new project and to film, produce and edit a 30 minute documentary on it by the end of the summer.

In contrast, I had to take a backseat this year. I basically sat in a chair and answered the questions of volunteers, made a few phone calls here and there, and was simply a “presence” in case something major went wrong. Such a major change from the year before, where I was running the whole show 14 hours a day and loving it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. (Is anyone still reading this? I must be narcissitic to think so….yet, I wonder if anyone else has gone through a similar progression….)

Back to May. After two months of this fatigue, I change to a new primary care physician and get a whole workup: blood, urine, thyroid ultrasound, cardiac stress test, liver ultrasound when my enzymes, which had been slightly elevated, were found to have doubled since January. Appointments with a gastroenterologist, and FINALLY….a REAL endocrinologist. Ruled out any serious liver problems (and my levels, surprisingly, dropped back to the slightly elevated level in a space of 3 weeks and no treatment).

Yesterday, I heard a word I’d only heard spoken once before in my life: Cushings. Way back when I was 22 and had started gaining weight so rapidly, I had a boyfriend who worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital. He spent the better part of a non-eventful week of nights pouring over medical books in the library. He excitedly showed me the pages he’d photocopied, which had sketches of a woman with a very rounded face (like mine), striae on her stomach (like mine), abdomenal obesity (like mine) and a pronounced buffalo hump. Although my former boyfriend was just a college student working his way through his music degree by earing some money moonlighting as a hospital security guard, he was the first one to note all of these tell-tale signs.

When I got my diagnosis of PCOS, I remember discounting his amateur diagnosis, and I never thought of it again.

Until yesterday, when my new endo asked me if anyone had ever tested my cortisol or if I’d ever done a 24 hour urine test. I said no, and he started writing out the referral form along with like 15-20 different blood tests. And although we’d started our appointment with him telling me he agreed with my repro-endo’s encouragement to go ahead and try to get pregnant if I can, by the end of the visit, he was telling me not everyone is meant to be a parent, there is always adoption, etc. The only thing that happened during the appointment was that I gave him my basic history of weight gain, described the fatigue, and let him examine my striae, buffalo hump and legs (which were hidden under a long straight skirt). The question about the urine screen and corisol came after this physical exam, during which he was taking lots of notes.

Then the word, which was not spoken directly to me but to his nurse practioner as I was making my two-week appointment in the reception area outside the examining room: “She looks classic Cushings. I’ll be interested to get those results.”

Cushings. Cushings. No– that’s not me. I’m not that weird-shaped, hairy, mannish-looking, round-faced, hump-backed creature my boyfriend had shown me a picture of 16 years earlier. I have PCOS, right? It’s just my fault. I don’t eat right. If I’d just eat better, I wouldn’t be 2.5 times my weight in college. Right?

I quickly came home and did an internet search. Within an hour, I was sitting in front of the computer, reading some bios here and BAWLING, just crying some body-wracking sobs as I looked at the pictures of the people on this board. Here, here (!!!!) is an entire community who has the same, wrenchingly painful picture-proven physical progression that I went through. The same symptoms and signs. Words of encouragement — of….hope. I didn’t feel scared to read about the possibility of a pituitary tumor — last year, I had a brain MRI of the optic nerve because of sudden vision irregularities, headaches and shooting eye pain. The MRI showed nothing, but then again, the image was not that great because I had to go into the lower-resolution open MRI due to my size.

I have no idea whether I have Cushing’s Syndrome or not, but these are my first steps in my journey of finding out. After living my entire adult life with an array of progressive, untreatable, brushed-off symptoms (and years of self-blame for depression, obesity, becoming so unattractive), there was a major “click” as I read this site, and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe, what I have has a name, I’m not crazy/fat/ugly/lazy, the PCOS diagnosis, which has gotten me nowhere is incorrect, and I might have something TREATABLE.

So, without going so far as to say I hope for a diagnosis, I am hopeful for some definitive answers. If my urine tests are inconclusive (and my doctor only ordered one and no serum cortisol tests), I am going to fly out to L.A. and see Dr. Friedman for a full work up.

And, I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for posting your stories, which have encouraged me to advocate for myself in a manner and direction, which this time, may be fruitful.

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

p.s. I will post some pictures this week after I scan some of the “after” one….I try to avoid the camera at all costs. I’m sure you understand just what I’m talking about, and for that, I am truly grateful.

 

My Journey | Living with Cushing’s Disease

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It’s hard to say when my exact “journey” began with what we now know is Cushing’s Disease.  Both my Mom and my doctor believe I’ve had this for years, when I started having period problems, migraines and unexplained weight gain in high school.

I can safely say that I started really noticing/documenting this last round of health issues in the spring of 2007.  I can remember my first doctor’s visit regarding the onset of this in spring 2006, but the majority of my health issues really began a year later.  I’d always suffered from migraines, but only around my menstrual periods.  I took birth control to help with that, and it also helped regulate my periods for the majority of my adolescent and young adult life.

In Spring 2007, however, I started experiencing cluster migraines that were debilitating, blinding and just absolutely horrible.  I don’t usually have a primary care physician because I’m, for the most part, a really healthy girl.  But I started seeing a doctor to pinpoint the cause of the migraine headaches.  I had a CT scan which came back negative for any problems.  I tried different abortive medications to treat the migraines when I had them (Imitrex) and also preventive medications (Topamax) but nothing helped.  I’m not a big fan of popping pills and insisted that I find the cause of the migraines, rather than just masking them with an expensive, non-generic daily pill.  I cut back on caffeine, avoided certain trigger foods, changed the lighting in my house and in my office, had my eyes checked and even experimented with different birth control options, since estrogen can be a huge trigger for migraines in women.  Those lifestyle changes helped a little, but I was still having them.

Read more at My Journey | Living with Cushing’s Disease.

interview

Rachel will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, June 3 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 84 other past interviews to listen to!

Michelle B (Mshelle), Cyclic Cushing’s Bio

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Hello all, I’m Michelle mother of 3 beautiful children, I work part-time, 33yrs young, non-smoker, non-drinker, overall health is good for the most part…..Where do I even begin.

I just recently received the diagnosis of cyclic Cushing’s. I’m not really sure how long I have actually had Cushing’s because I have had a diagnosis of PCOS since I was 17 yrs. old ( I’m now the ripe young age of 33). However looking back through labs with my endocrinologist who I see every 6 months, my ACTH levels have been elevated for a bit over 1 yr. It was not until recently January of 2015- things were going terribly wrong.

Starting in January I started to feel genuinely unwell, on a regular basis. I cant really explain all my symptoms there were so many different sensations and feelings that were seemingly different daily. However the red flag was I was having blood pressure spikes from really high, to very low back to back. I never had any blood pressure issues so this was a concern that led me to see a cardiologist. Upon tons of testing the cardio MD felt that something was telling my otherwise very healthy heart to do this and I should see a endocrinologist. (thank goodness for him) I contacted my endo and let him know…. the testing began.

I did every test: the midnightcortisol saliva test, dex suppression, 24 hr urine test, CRH stimulation testing. And I did them more than once. Each time it was a different response either, inconclusive, normal high, or high. I was then referred to the head of the Cleveland clinics pituitary department Dr. Kennedy. He said he is having a hard time believing when he looks at me that its Cushing’s. However all my labs say it is. I will say I do fit the mold of PCOS to a tee- which symptoms of that do coincide with Cushing’s but he still said we have to be sure its Cushing’s. To add to the mix I did have a normal MRI as well.

Dr. Kennedy started me on a 2 week midnight cortisol saliva test- Upon completion we noted levels of cortisol all over the place, some Normal, normal on high range, high, and really high. He confirmed with all the other tests this is Cushing’s. Now we are trying to figure out what is next…. and where is this damn little tumor at. he feels that it is most likely in the pituitary from my test results, but we still are not ruling out else where. He is thinking that the next step would be exploratory neurosurgery or the IPSS. I’m not sure what to think of all this, except I want to hope for the best like everyone- and just be cured!!

On a side note during all of this I also had episodes of severe pain in my chest and nausea. I went to see a GI who did an upper endo scope. They found I had eosinpphilic esophagitis. I also have never had any GI problems until now; and they came on suddenly. Im also having pain in my pancreas area- not sure if any of the two are related at all to Cushing’s. But once again I was fine until recently with all these issues at once it seems.

wish me luck on further testing, treatment, and ultimately a CURE!!

interview

Michelle was our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The archived interview is available now through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio. There are currently 83 other past interviews for your listening pleasure!

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Stephanie (Steph), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi. My name Steph, and this has been a long journey for me so far, and I see a long road ahead. Hopefully their will be a rainbow once all these clouds have melted away.

I just turned 33 years old (this month) and have been dealing with symptoms of Cushing’s since I was a pre-teen without even knowing it. I was diagnosed (or possibly mis-diagnosed) with PCOS when I was about 11. That’s when the irregular (to almost non-existent) menstrual cycles, hirutism (chin, upper lip, upper and lower thighs, fingers, toes, basically everywhere) and weight problems began. I was immediately put on birth control to regulate my periods, which only made my life a living nightmare. They forced on a fake (non-ovulating) period and made my moods a disaster. I went on to be on birth control until from the age of 11 until about 3 years ago when I just couldn’t take it anymore, and took myself off. I’ve been using herbal supplements for menstrual regulalation since then, and feel MUCH better.

Over the years I’ve always felt like there was something “more than PCOS” wrong with me. From the extreme inability to lose weight normally, and the ease to gain it, to the weak legs, vitamen d insuffeciency, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, extreme irritability, now non-existent cycle, shortness of breath (just from walking up 1 flight of stairs), slow healing, hoarse voice, high testosterone, male pattern baldness, blurry vision, EXTREME brain fog etc….. It has been very, very, very tough and emotional over the years. It has taken a toll on my personality, emotions, and those around me….

The way that I found out about cushing’s is rather unique. I was on a popular PCOS message board site called “soul cysters”, and I have always been EXTREMELY self conscience of my round puffy face, and was wondering if it could be a side effect of PCOS. So I searched Puffy face on the message board to see if others on the board had experienced it, and sure enough Cushing’s came up, and a suprising number of women either had both (cushing’s and PCOS) or had been mis-diagnosed, which apparently is very common with cushing’s. it was like a gigantic light bulb went off in my head when I started googling cushings symptoms. All these things that I have been experiencing almost my entire life started coming together. I’m really not crazy!! Everything is possibly related. Im almost 100% sure that this is it!!! I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, as I see that cushing’s is curable in most cases, but it is also scary, and diagnosing it seems like hell!!

I have began my -already slow- journey to diagnosis. And, the the Dr.’s don’t seem to be all that well informed. However, I am DETERMINED. I am excited at the thought of possibly being able to get my life back through surgery or meds. I went to a well respected Endo in my area, and she is gonna test all of my hormones, including my cortisol level. Though she didn’t seem to be too informed on Cushing’s when I brought it up, along with my “dead ringer” symptoms. I’m going to a pulmonologist on the 29th as suggested by my GP (who also thinks I have cushings, but admits he’s not well informed enough or equipped to diagnose). I’m also going to an OBGYN soon (tried going to one today, and had to walk out because it was such a bad experience). But I am determined to get 2nd, 3rd, and however many opinions are needed until I am satisfied.

Also, on a side note, possibly having cushing’s, along with having PCOS, has made me look at the doctors and the medical profession as a whole in a different light. I feel like if you find a genuinely good doctor who listens, cares, takes you seriously, and is willing to test you without question, and work with you, your levels, and your symptoms, you are blessed!! I have had so many doctors try to push meds down my throat (for their own pockets/greed obviously) when it wasn’t needed or necessary without hesitation or question. And, then when I tell them that the medicine is affecting me adversely, they just tell me to keep taking it! It’s sad and ridiculous. I’ve had to learn to do my own research, know my own body well, and trust my own judgement…..

I will be praying for myself and everyone on this message board who has had to deal with this horrific symptoms over the years.

Updates coming…..

interview

Stephanie was our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, April 29 at 6:00 PM eastern.

The archived interview is available now through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 82 other past interviews to listen to!

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In Memory: Kate Myers

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Kate (Fairley on the Cushing’s Help message boards)  was only 46 when she died on June 23, 2014.  Her board signature read:

After 2 failed pit surgeries and a CSF leak repair,
BLA on Sept. 11, 2008 w/Dr. Fraker at UPenn
Gamma knife radiation at UPenn Oct. 2009
Now disabled and homebound. No pit, no adrenals and radiation damage to my hypothalamus.
My cure is God’s will, and I still have hope and faith!

During her too-short life, she provided help and support to other Cushies.

Her National Geographic video in 2007

Her BlogTalkRadio Interview in 2008: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/07/17/interview-with-kate-fairley

Articles to help others:

Kate’s Family Letter
Kate’s Packing Suggestions For Surgery
Kate’s Pituitary Surgery Observations

Kate’s bio from 2008:

Hi y’all! I will try to make this short, but there is a lot to say.

I stumbled across this board after a google search last night. Yesterday, I finally saw a real endocrinologist. I am 39 years old. I weigh 362. I was diagnosed by a reproductive endocrinologist with PCOS at age 30, but all of my symptoms started at age 22.

At age 22, I was an avid runner, healthy at 140-145 pounds and 5’7″. I got a knee injury and stopped running right around the time that my periods just….stopped. And by stopped, I mean completely disappeared after mostly regular periods since age 12. I was tested by the student health clinic at UGA, and referred to an obgyn for lap exploration for endometriosis, which was ruled out. I remember that they ran some bloodwork and ultimately came back with this frustrating response: We don’t know what it is, but it’s probably stress-related because your cortisol is elevated.

Soon thereafter, I gained 80 pounds in about 6 months, and another 30 the next six months. Suddenly, in one year, I was 110 pounds heavier than my original weight of 140. I recall my mom and sister talking about how fast I was gaining weight. At the time, I blamed myself: I wasn’t eating right, I’d had to stop running due to the knee injury and my metabolism must have been “used” to the running; I was going through some family problems, so it must be that I’m eating for emotional reasons related to depression. You name the self-blame category, and I tried them all on for size.

Whatever the reason, I stopped avoiding mirrors and cameras. The person looking back at me was a stranger, and acquaintances had stopped recognizing me. A bank refused to cash my security deposit refund check from my landlord when I graduated because I no longer looked like my student ID or my driver’s license. I was pulled over for speeding while driving my dad’s Mercedes graduation weekend, and the cop who pulled me over almost arrested me for presenting a false ID. These are some really painful memories, and I wonder if anyone here can relate to the pain of losing your physical identity to the point that you are a stranger to yourself and others?

Speaking of size, from age 24 to 26 I remained around 250, had very irregular periods occuring only a few times a year (some induced), developed cystic acne in weird places, like my chest, shoulders, buttocks (yikes!), found dark, angry purple stretch marks across my abdomen (some of which I thought were so severe that my insides were going to come out through them) which I blamed on the weight gain, the appearance of a pronounced buffalo hump (which actually started at age 22 at the beginning of the weight gain), dark black hairs on my fair Scottish chin (and I’m talking I now have to shave twice daily), a slight darkening of the skin around my neck and a heavy darkening of the skin in my groin area, tiny skin tags on my neck. I was feeling truly lovely by graduation from law school and my wedding to my wonderful DH.

At age 26, I ballooned again, this time up to 280-300, where I stayed until age 32, when I went up to 326. The pretty girl who used to get cat calls when she ran was no more. She had been buried under a mountain of masculined flesh. I still had a pretty, albeit very round, face, though. And I consoled myself that I still have lovely long blonde hair — that is, until it started falling out, breaking off, feeling like straw.

At age 30, I read about PCOS on the internet and referred myself to a reproductive endocrinologist, who confirmed insulin resistance after a glucose tolerance test. I do not know what else he tested for — I believe my testosterone was high. He prescribed Metformin, but after not having great success on it after 5-6 months, I quit taking it, and seeing him. Dumb move.

Two years later, at age 32, I weighed 326. In desperation, I went on Phentermine for 3 months and lost 80 pounds the wrong way, basically starving. I was back down to 240-250, where I remained from age 33-35. After the weight loss, I got my period a few times, and started thinking about trying to have a baby. Many ultrasounds per month over a few months revealed that I just wasn’t ovulating. I decided to put off starting the family when the doctor started talking about IVF, etc. It just seemed risky to me — my body, after all, felt SICK all the time, and I couldn’t imagine carrying a baby and it winding up to be healthy.

At age 35, I ballooned again, this time significantly — from 240 to 320 in the space of 6 months. Another 45 pounds added by age 37, so that’s 125 pounds in two year. I’ve remained between 345-365 for the last two years, depending on how closely I was following my nutritionist’s recommended 1600 calorie per day diet….which was not all the time.

Which takes me to last year. I went for a physical because I wasn’t feeling well, kept getting sick, had a lot of fatigue, weird sweating where my hair would get totally drenched for no reason. At this point, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypothyroism (which has now been modified to Hashimoto’s thyroidis), high cholesterol (although this was present at age 30 when I got the PCOS diagnosis). I went back to my repro-endo, and resolved to make myself stay on Metformin this time. All last year was a series of monthly blood work and attempts to lose weight with an eye toward trying to get pregnant this year. By the end of the year, I was successful in taking off only 20 pounds, and my repro-endo (always with an eye toward fertility and not health), really pushed me to give up on losing weight at that moment and to start taking Clomid. Or else, he said. The words that broke my heart: this may be your last chance.

So, skip forward to January 2006. My ovaries are blown out and they are clear — no blockages. I get cleared to start fertility treatments. My husband undergoes his own embarrassing tests. I think we have an agenda here, but my mind was chewing on serious concerns that I was simply too unhealthy to be considering trying this. That, and I felt it would be a futile effort.

By the way, more than a year on the Metformin with no real changes to anything. Why doesn’t my body respond to it like other people with PCOS?

Then late March, I started experiencing extreme fatigue. And I’m not talking about the kind where you need to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon to gear up for the week ahead (which I’d always considered a nice indulgence, but not a necessity). I’m talking debilitating, life-altering fatigue. It didn’t start out right away to be debilitating — or maybe I just made the usual excuses as I always do relating to my health: I’m still getting over that flu/cold from last month. I just got a promotion at work (though I note a greatly reduced stress and caseload now that I am a managing attorney. My weight is causing it. Whatever.

I let it go on for a full two months before I started to really worry, or admit to myself that my quality life had taken a serious downward turn. You see, despite my weight and my scary appearance, I have always been the “director” type. By that I mean that last year, I worked with two other women to direct 100 volunteers to start a summer camp for inner city kids, and I had enough energy to run this ambitious new project and to film, produce and edit a 30 minute documentary on it by the end of the summer.

In contrast, I had to take a backseat this year. I basically sat in a chair and answered the questions of volunteers, made a few phone calls here and there, and was simply a “presence” in case something major went wrong. Such a major change from the year before, where I was running the whole show 14 hours a day and loving it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. (Is anyone still reading this? I must be narcissitic to think so….yet, I wonder if anyone else has gone through a similar progression….)

Back to May. After two months of this fatigue, I change to a new primary care physician and get a whole workup: blood, urine, thyroid ultrasound, cardiac stress test, liver ultrasound when my enzymes, which had been slightly elevated, were found to have doubled since January. Appointments with a gastroenterologist, and FINALLY….a REAL endocrinologist. Ruled out any serious liver problems (and my levels, surprisingly, dropped back to the slightly elevated level in a space of 3 weeks and no treatment).

Yesterday, I heard a word I’d only heard spoken once before in my life: Cushings. Way back when I was 22 and had started gaining weight so rapidly, I had a boyfriend who worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital. He spent the better part of a non-eventful week of nights pouring over medical books in the library. He excitedly showed me the pages he’d photocopied, which had sketches of a woman with a very rounded face (like mine), striae on her stomach (like mine), abdomenal obesity (like mine) and a pronounced buffalo hump. Although my former boyfriend was just a college student working his way through his music degree by earing some money moonlighting as a hospital security guard, he was the first one to note all of these tell-tale signs.

When I got my diagnosis of PCOS, I remember discounting his amateur diagnosis, and I never thought of it again.

Until yesterday, when my new endo asked me if anyone had ever tested my cortisol or if I’d ever done a 24 hour urine test. I said no, and he started writing out the referral form along with like 15-20 different blood tests. And although we’d started our appointment with him telling me he agreed with my repro-endo’s encouragement to go ahead and try to get pregnant if I can, by the end of the visit, he was telling me not everyone is meant to be a parent, there is always adoption, etc. The only thing that happened during the appointment was that I gave him my basic history of weight gain, described the fatigue, and let him examine my striae, buffalo hump and legs (which were hidden under a long straight skirt). The question about the urine screen and corisol came after this physical exam, during which he was taking lots of notes.

Then the word, which was not spoken directly to me but to his nurse practioner as I was making my two-week appointment in the reception area outside the examining room: “She looks classic Cushings. I’ll be interested to get those results.”

Cushings. Cushings. No– that’s not me. I’m not that weird-shaped, hairy, mannish-looking, round-faced, hump-backed creature my boyfriend had shown me a picture of 16 years earlier. I have PCOS, right? It’s just my fault. I don’t eat right. If I’d just eat better, I wouldn’t be 2.5 times my weight in college. Right?

I quickly came home and did an internet search. Within an hour, I was sitting in front of the computer, reading some bios here and BAWLING, just crying some body-wracking sobs as I looked at the pictures of the people on this board. Here, here (!!!!) is an entire community who has the same, wrenchingly painful picture-proven physical progression that I went through. The same symptoms and signs. Words of encouragement — of….hope. I didn’t feel scared to read about the possibility of a pituitary tumor — last year, I had a brain MRI of the optic nerve because of sudden vision irregularities, headaches and shooting eye pain. The MRI showed nothing, but then again, the image was not that great because I had to go into the lower-resolution open MRI due to my size.

I have no idea whether I have Cushing’s Syndrome or not, but these are my first steps in my journey of finding out. After living my entire adult life with an array of progressive, untreatable, brushed-off symptoms (and years of self-blame for depression, obesity, becoming so unattractive), there was a major “click” as I read this site, and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe, what I have has a name, I’m not crazy/fat/ugly/lazy, the PCOS diagnosis, which has gotten me nowhere is incorrect, and I might have something TREATABLE.

So, without going so far as to say I hope for a diagnosis, I am hopeful for some definitive answers. If my urine tests are inconclusive (and my doctor only ordered one and no serum cortisol tests), I am going to fly out to L.A. and see Dr. Friedman for a full work up.

And, I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for posting your stories, which have encouraged me to advocate for myself in a manner and direction, which this time, may be fruitful.

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

p.s. I will post some pictures this week after I scan some of the “after” one….I try to avoid the camera at all costs. I’m sure you understand just what I’m talking about, and for that, I am truly grateful.

 

Interview with Stacy ~ June 11, 2014

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Stacy writes in her bio

MacKenna is my daughter.  I am in desperate need of assistance regarding her weight.

She is 6 years old and weighs about 95 pounds.  At four, she was normal to underweight.

First clue – she gained 10 pounds in three months.  Of course doctor’s wanted a food log …. however, as her parent, I knew something was wrong.

So much to say, I NEED to help my baby and am hoping someone on this board can point me to a good pedi endo (I am currently on my second).  I have pictures to show the progression of her changes.  Her growth pattern is abnormal as she does not gain height while she gains weight and vice versa.

I believe it is cyclical cushings.  And if it isn’t, I still need help as this is going to kill her – her little frame cannot hold much more.

 

McKenna’s mom will be interviewed June 11 at 6:00 pm eastern in BlogTalkRadio.  Archives will be available later in the Cushing’s Podcast.

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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