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In Memory: Erica Michelle “GaGa” Meno ~ March 6, 2015

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Erica was a fellow Cushing’s Disease survivor. She had been through pituitary surgery, radiation, and a BLA in an effort to receive her cure.

I didn’t know her myself, and I don’t know if she was a member of the Cushing’s Help boards but it’s so depressing to know that we have lost another so young from the damage done by this horrible disease.

Erica’s official obituary: http://thomasjustinmemorial.com/tribute/details/575/Erica_Meno/obituary.html#content-start

Erica Michelle Meno returned to her heavenly home on March 6, 2015. Nicknamed, “GaGa,” she was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was 38 years old. She graduated from Sycamore High School, Northern Kentucky University and Eastern Kentucky University. Erica had a zest for life and just loved being with her family. She loved sports of all kind and loved to cook. She was an avid reader and volunteered much of her time and many years at The Ronald Mc Donald House.

In addition to her family she had a great love for her pets especially her lively dog, Chesney. She is preceded in death by her grandparents Anthony and Mary C. Meno and Joseph and Katherine Terzo and Aunt, Karen Meno and Uncle, Bruce Ficke.

She is survived by her parents Michael and Mary Meno, devoted brother Ryan Meno and sister-in-law Melanie, loving niece and nephew, Leah and AJ Meno, her aunts and uncles: Frank and Terri Terzo, John Terzo, Judy (Terzo) and Chris Tocatlian, Victoria Ficke and Teri Zingale, cousins: Joseph and Kristen Terzo, John and Lesli Terzo , Amanda (Terzo) and Mike Stewart, Dominique and Natalie Tocatlian, Kati (Terzo) and Chris Mottershead, Dana (Terzo) and Omar Qureshy, Joe Granato, Kelly Ficke, Alex and Melanie Ficke, Vincent, Sam, and Remy Zingale. Erica was deeply loved and will be missed and remembered by many friends and family. Visitation will be 9am until time of Mass of Christian Burial at 10am on Friday, March 13th at The Community of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 8815 E. Kemper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45249.In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations may be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Erica’s memory.https://www.rmhcincinnati.org/help/donate/donate-online or you may also donate by check, made payable to RMHC – Greater Cincinnati, and mailed to Ronald McDonald House Charities, 350 Erkenbrecher Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229. Thomas-Justin Memorial serving the family. – See more at: http://thomasjustinmemorial.com/tribute/details/575/Erica_Meno/obituary.html#content-start

~~~~~~

Some of the comments from other Cushies:

My condolences to Erica’s friends and family and to our Cushie community.I too am afflicted with Cushings and a part of me dies every time I lose another fellow Cushie!The world just got a little bit dimmer without her beautiful soul!May she rest in peace and may her memory live on.She was a wonderful person.

~~

Dear Meno family, My name is Melanie and I’m a survivor of Cushing’s Disease. Your daughter and I corresponded a few times on a message board dedicated to this disease. Please accept my heartfelt condolences at the loss of your beautiful daughter. Every time a member of our Cushing’s Family leaves this earth it sends a wave of sadness throughout the world-wide members who live with this disease daily. The tribute you’ve written about Erica is lovely and indicates what a beloved daughter of God she is and how special she is to you and your family. I believe our lives continue on in the next life and believe Erica is now free from pain and sorrow. May God grant you peace and comfort in the days ahead. With love,

~~

My prayers go out to all who knew and loved Erica. Having had surgery for Cushing’s Disease and dealing with it’s consequences myself, I am inspired by her strength and determination to keep pushing forward for her cure. My heart aches that she was taken so early, and I pray she can now rest from her struggles and is at peace.

~~

I wanted to express my sincere condolences to Erica’s family and friends at this difficult time, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Sadly I never got a chance to meet Erica in person, we met though Bobbi Phillips on FB. We both have Cushing’s disease or as Erica called us Cushies and there aren’t many people that understand, it was a comfort to have someone that does. I will miss hearing from her, she will hold a special place in my heart. God Bless Erica!

~~

 

In Memory: Liz Raftery, March 2012

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A Golden Oldie

We sadly learned that Liz died in March 2012 at the age of 45. She was an active member of the Cushing’s Help Message Boards.  She had a photo gallery there.  The photo below is from that gallery.

Liz in 2002The image at left is from 2002.

Liz wrote in her bio:

Hello, I’m from Hampton, just outside London. Same old story – at least 6 years of various illnesses, including four operations for various crap (kidney stones, gallbladder removal, and 2 cysts on my coccyx)

I then went from being very skinny (even after childbirth) to very fat in about a year (from 7.5 stones to 13 stones). You could roll me down our local hill! I wear maternity clothes as my tum is so disproportionate to my legs & arms (size 26 vs size 12!). My face, chest, neck and back look like someone’s put padding in, and my nice red glow brings all sort of compliments about how healthy i look, grr! I’ll post some photos later.

So far, a left adrenal tumor has turned up, but I have abnormally high ACTH (60) with a highish cortisol of about 600. This apparently implies a pituitary source – but the pituitary MRI was clear. I’m waiting on a second one with gadolinium this time, but here in London MRIs take AGES. The wait at our local hospital is currently 10 months.

In the meantime, I’m frustrated and feeling lousy and v tired. I have to work full time (luckily I’m an accountant, not something overly physical) as I’m a single mum to a lovely 8 year old girl who does not deserve all this. The guilt eats me up, but she is thankfully not the outward bound type!

Walking is a struggle as my legs seem to suddenly buckle on me, and sitting up without support at say the hairdressers or a restaurant is really difficult. So my (thinning) hair’s a mess and I don’t eat out much! I veer about – someone at work told my boss I couldn’t walk in a straight line! Highly amusing as I haven’t touched a drop in ages!

Other symptoms that have developed more recently include interimittently high blood sugar, intermittently high blood pressure, have to shave every day, horrid night and day sweats, red marks up my arms, but none on my body, intermittently rotten swollen ankles and feet, recurrently horrid kidney stones, and of course, an attractive buffalo hump (moo). And the final insult – can’t get into any of my shoes any more so shuffle about at work in my oversize carpet slippers. Very popular amongst my grey accountant colleagues.

As so many of the symptoms are intermittent, the endo says he is convinced it is cushing’s, but cylical, due to (again) interimittent high blood cortisol and ACTH, and non suppression on three low dose dex tests. Then the first 24 hr ufc came back normal which was very frustrating. I’m not particularly religious but i pray he won’t give up on me as it is a long journey compared to the diagnosis of other equally horrid diseases.

Feel quite isolated from my mates and lovely mum, although they are trying hard to be supportive – I’m surprised my mood swings haven’t frightened them all off lately. It’s so difficult to explain how rough it feels to take part in normal activities, especially when every symptom is something most people consider they have in everyday life to some degree. As well as the physical exhaustion/pain/weakness, my body image distresses me enormously. Recurrent kidney stones are pretty painful too (but not as bad as childbirth as a lot of men claim!).

Hope to be there soon. Great to read all your stories and know that so many of you know how it all feels – and have felt it for umpteen years too.

All the best.
Liz

Update April 21, 2005.

Following dex/CRH test, which even included a dexamethasone assay to make sure the levels were adequate (took forever to come back from the lab), my endo confirmed cushings. The bad news is I need the IPSS which will be in May. My ACTHs are between 80-100 so it is most likely a pituitary cause despite my adrenals showing a small adenoma – a red herring!

It’s a very odd feeling after waiting so long, knowing something was very wrong, but not knowing what, and thinking i would go on for ever in misery. So to all you guys out there feeling like this, and i know you’re out there(!), don’t give up!!

Wish me luck …

Posts in Liz’s memory:

Terry: Oh no, that is terribly sad.

Jenny: Oh no, what happened, did he say? 😦

Beth: omg, I felt sick reading this. I knew of her, but never got to know her. I’m so sorry. 😦

Regina: How tragic! :/

Liz: This is just so sad !! And yet he reaches out to us in his time of sadness, please forward to him my deepest sympathies

Nancy: Oh no!!” This makes my physically ill! I’m fighting tears.PLEASE get details so we can try to learn about what happened and prevent any other Cushie from loosing their life..  Hugs and prayers to Liz’s family!

MaryO: He didn’t say – I just responded to his email and we’ll see if he has any more to say.  I hate when Cushies die 😦

Sandra: Omg liz was my friend! We used to chat on the phone when I was seriously ill too! Omg I cannot belkieve it! Mary cud u pm his email add pls xxx

Liz: Me too Mary me too, just brings everything to a scary place for all of us !!

Trisha: I am so sorry to hear this. I remember Liz from the boards.

Sandra: Have just spoken to ciara lizs daughter who said it was a massive heart attack in the end! Her funeral is on thursday! God bless u my friend xxxxx

Lisa: God bless her family..so sad 😦

Kim: So sad

Jennyfer: Oh no no more cushies down please send my love

Judy: So sad. Does anyone know how old she was, I had never figured that out.

Mary: Oh no! I loved our Lizzy girl and have been thinking of her recently. I hadn’t heard from her in awhile. So very sad. Please pass along my deepest condolences.

Linda: No! Not Liz! No no no

MaryO: She was 45. On the C-H boards, her name was Lizr007

Shauna: News like this breaks my heart over and over again. Mary, please let him know that her Cushie family mourns her loss deeply.

Linda: Please do tell Liz’s brother how much she was loved. I can’t believe she is gone….

Judy: Thanks, Mary. I sometimes haven’t converted who they were on the boards to their real life name. I know who she was. That is so young.

Adrienne: so sorry, so sad!!!

Linda: Please let Liz’s brother know that I adored her. She was one of the first people I met on the Cushings boards many years ago, and she was one of my “rocks”. She was such a supportive, loving person with a great sense of humor. I am heartbroken that she is gone.

Stephanie: How tragic!! Thoughts and Prayers for her family and friends.

Lisa: Poor Liz. My heart breaks for her family. I remember her struggles Mary: You have my permission to send my condolences.

Grace: This is such sad news! Prayers and hugs for Liz’s family. How sad that we lose even one of us to the complications of this disease.

Sandra:  RIP liz u were such a wonderful person and a dear friend! I’m sure suziQ was waiting for u along with all our other cushies that have past over! God bless u huni I will miss u! Xx

Joanne: Im so sorry to hear another precious life taken by this illness, prayers for her and her family..

Anne : Oh not Liz!! She was an awesome person! She had such a great spirit. How horribly awful.

Janelle: So sad.. Please let us know what the complications were.. 😦

Alicia: So sad. We are losing way too many people to this disease. Praying for her family.

Robin: Oh, this breaks my heart. Please tell Liz’s brother we will miss her terribly.

Heather: I’m so sorry. I loved Liz. Her spirit and sense of humor were amazing. I was actually thinking about her the other day as well. Please feel free to convey my condolences to her family.

Melissa: As soon as I saw her name — Liz Rafferty — I started to cry. Liz was part of our group there on the Cushing’s- Help message boards. She posted over 2000 times. When you posted her screen name, I could see her avatar in my mind. I am so sad to hear that she is not with us, her family or friends. I am so upset as I wonder why this has to happened to her, to us, to our community. Please send my condolences along to Liz’ brother, and make sure they know that she was caring and supportive of many as well as loved by many. I will miss her.

And Mary, please be sure to tell him she was part of our group, too. I bet he would want to make a donation to you and Cushing’s-Help if he knew how extensively she participated in our group.

Hugging all of you a little tighter today.

— Melissa, TX

Beth: Another person with my disease has passed. I didn’t know her personally, but the hurt is still there.. As is the fear. RIP Liz R.

Chanelle: Omg!! Ugh my head hurts :((

Sandra: Beth she was a dear friend and such a sweet sweet girl! Even at her worst she was cheerful and lovely ! She has left behind her daughter and her mum god bless em x

Christina: 😦 so sad to hear this, RIP to her.

Mary: I loved Liz. She was so funny and upbeat and helpful. RIP old friend.

Linda: Rest in peace, Liz. You were very loved and and I’m thankful to have met you on my Cushings journey.

Susan: Thanks for posting this, MaryO. My sympathies to Liz’s family for their loss. As a member of this community, we will miss you.

missaf: My heart goes out to her family. I’m glad she started to feel better for a little while and got to smile more in life. Damn Cushing’s.

Sherry: Not another Cushie:( I am so sad to hear this news, Liz was well known on the boards and she will be greatly missed. I just hate this. My deepest sympathies go out to her family.

Elizabeth: Deepest sympathy & many prayers. This is so heartbreaking.

Dawn: I did not know her, but her passing has affected me. I am sorry that the world has lost her and I’m sad that it was a result of this horrible disease. It always hits close to the heart. My condolences to her family and friends.

Ami: I am completely heartbroken. She was a dear. Please include my condolences to her brother. I too would very much like to hear what the cause of death was.

Kristin: I’m so upset about this, all I can say is I’m sorry for her family. Leaving a 16 yo without her mommy is so terrible. Somehow the medical community needs to realize how many of our group are not making it needlessly… Prayers for her family. Very nice of her brother to let us know.

Melanie: OMG! I feel ill. I loved Liz dearly, she helped me keep my sanity when I first arrived on the biards and gave me such great support – we had some great laughs together and spoke on the phone for hours at a time. I cannot believe another one of us has gone. This damn disease is so bloody unfair.

Just read it was a heart attack (Thanks Sandra).  – heartbreaking.

Gumdrop: So sad to hear this. I pray her family is comforted.

Sandra: If I find any more info out I will post

Mary: She and I had SIADH in common and the continuing electrolyte issues afterwards, too. I think when I was hospitalized with it, she was the only other person on the boards who’d experienced it at that time.

Bernadette: I didn’t know her, but am so saddened by her much-too-early death. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, and with all the rest of you who knew her.

Ami: I know she and I exchanged posts on the boards. I wish I remembered more about her…

Shelley: I’m sorry to hear about her passing. She and her family and loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mary: oh no! devastating news. so sorry and saddened to hear. 😦

Amy: I am so broken hearted. 😦 Liz was one of the very first people to make friends with me on the cushings website. So sweet and funny, what a wonderful person she was. I have just cried and cried ever since learning of her passing. She really struggled to get her BLA for a long time. May God rest her soul. She truly was “one of a kind”

Dacia: Please send my love, my thoughts and prayers to all…

AuntSha: Condolences to her family…. My prayers and thoughts are with them. She certainly has been taken too young and much too soon :-(!!!

Diane: My beautiful, funny, smart dear friend Liz. You carried me through my journey and held my hand through some of the worst times I can remember. You were my rock, you were my shoulder. Words cannot express how I feel right now. I am heartbroken. I am so sad. The heavens are blessed with another beautiful soul. Love to you my dear friend xx

The last time we saw each other was when you had your adrenal operation. I was so thrilled to finally see you in the flesh after spending months posting to each other here and emailing and chatting on the phone. I met Liz at Cromwell Hospital in London where she was recovering from her adrenal operation. I bought her a massive bunch of stocks that filled her hospital room with a glorious heady scent and I bought along a few things to pamper her with. We spent the afternoon chatting non-stop and I remember giving her Mum a big hug. Those memories will stay with me and that is how I remember Liz. A happy smile and a big heart.

Rest in peace lovely lady….

Your Cushy friend, always,

Diane

x

Ellen: My deepest condolences to her family. This is such a stark reminder of how cruel this disease is.

Monica:  Oh Liz. I’ll miss her, she was such a good person and gave support to us all even while fighting her own battle.

Melly: So tragic! May God welcome Liz and bless her family with peace and strength during this horrible time. Such a reminder that each day I breathe is a gift.

love,

melly

3v3:  I am new here so I am not familiar with Liz, but I am so sorry to read this. Condolences to her friends and family. I was trying to find her bio info/old posts and it seemed like she was cured or at least recovering? 😦

Judy:  Mine too. It’s just so sad. I pray for the family.

Beth: Such a tragic loss.. I wish her family and friends strength and peace. 😦

Sandra: Have spoken to aLex woore who was also a cushie friend wiv liz and apparantly she had a bla smtime ago but they cudnt get her sodium n potassium levels right so whether that had anything to do with it I dnt knw but have left my no wiv ciara and her nan so if they call I will let u all knw! X

Karen: Please send my condolences also, such sad news . This disease is awful, we are losing so many amazing people to it. Many prayers,

Monica: Thinking of Liz tonight. I pray for comfort for her family, especially her 16 year old daughter. Far too many friends lost to this disease over the years.

Stanley : I’m sorry to hear that.

Melissa: This makes me cry all over again.

Mary, could you offer our services in helping to decipher what could have led to Liz’s death? For example, we could guide the family on getting copies of her hospital, doctor, surgical, and lab records.

Susan: I am just devastated by this news. Liz was so kind and caring. So tragic to lose someone so young.

Rissa: This is so sad. Praying for Liz and her family tonight.

Ikho: This news makes me so sad. My condolences to her family.

Lorrie: I am so sorry. My prayers go out to her family. 45 years old….such a young woman. God Bless them.

Amy: I’m still just in shock. Thinking back I can remember that sweet pic she had of her cat playing with something. I never could figure out what that cat was doing though. LOL This is just surreal to me . . . 😦

Jenny: Please pass on my condolences, her family will be in my prayers. Just so unbelievably sad. 😥

Jo: cant believe it.  very sad, god bless our dear friend Liz.taken far too soon.

Jenny: The Cushings community has lost yet another dear member. Liz was only 45, please pray for her family and friends. 😦

Lisa: One of our fellow “cushies” (Cushings patient) sadly passed away.  Liz was a wonderful 45 yr old mother of a 16 yr old and a friend to us that got so many through this. She was an inspiration and someone that kept her chin up and a smile on her face and ours on our message board. She will be missed.

Mary R:  We’ve lost another Cushing’s Warrior from complications of this rotten disease. Her name is Liz and leaves behind a 16 yr old daughter. This is the 3rd Cushie in 8 months!!! It doesn’t have to be this way! Just because it’s rare, doesn’t mean that the Dr.s should doubt us and our biochemical/imaging evidence. Please say a prayer for Liz’s daughter and family.

PLEASE promise me that if this disease takes me from my family at a young age, that you will bring Cushing’s awareness & education to others on my behalf.

Jen: I remember Liz well and I am so sorry to hear that she has passed. My condolences to her family.

Diane: It’s been a day since I found out and I am still numb with shock. There are moments in your life when things happen that change your whole outlook on things. Cushings was that something for me. However with all the difficulties of coping with such a terrible disease I managed to find many special friendships and was given support by such a special group of ladies that I will treasure in my heart forever. Liz was one of those special people. We had a giggle, we had a moan about the whole NHS process and testing, we shared some of our most painful moments going through this disease. I will miss you so much Liz. Shine a bright light in heaven lovely lady xxx Mary – you certainly have my permission xx Thank you for creating a place where I had an opportunity to meet someone like Liz xx

Amy: I was so very fond of Liz and my heart is still broken in two. 😦

Diane:  I’ve just been reading some of Liz’s old posts on the site…more tears are flowing but with a big smile on my face. I forgot just how much of a laugh we had despite the fact we were going through hell…I particularly like the fact that alot of people didn’t understand Liz and my British sense of humour. It just reminded that some great bonds were forged during hours of such need and loneliness, stress and depression, and a fight to get heard and a struggle to get diagnosed.

Jo: do you remember when her endo put her in the priory, & she met Ronnie Wood ? Liz Thought she looked better than he did.I cant count how many times K didn’t get his dinner because we were too busy on the phone.Still cant believe it.

Sally: I am so sad to read this. Liz, myself and a few others had said we needed to get together in Bermuda (half way) when we were all finally healthy to celebrate our 40th birthdays. I don’t know if any of us managed to hit that milestone healthy, I know I didn’t and I know Liz didn’t. I’m heartbroken, it’s so very sad.

betseebee: Such devastating news! Liz’s bio was one of the first I read when I joined the boards. I also distinctly remember her kitty avatar and that I could relate to things in her bio, like being grateful that my daughter was also not an outward bound type, which made it a little easier to be at home so much. My most heartfelt condolences to her beautiful daughter, Ciara, as well as the rest of her family.

Liz, may you rest in peace, and dance among the angels.

Sherry: My deepest sympaties go out to her family. This disease is awful, Liz was a wonderful person, she and I joined around the same time, I am very sad to hear of this disease taking another precoius life. RIP Liz.

Diane:  That is so funny Jo, I did not know that. I think Liz would have had no problem looking better than Ronnie!! Have you seen his program on SkyArts right now?!! Sally – I am 40 in June and this has just brought home to me how precious life is and. Not sure I’ll get to Bermuda, maybe Bognor…!! xx

Sandra: Sally I remember that convo ! I was one of them then, and yes I made my 40 th prob the healthiest I’m ever going to b now despite battling fibro still! And diane I knw what u mean about the british sense of humour! So not only did we laugh about the joke we cracked up with the fall out of being misunderstood (in a goodway) of course! Lol …..I thought about her sooo much yesterday and poor ciara bless her! Just stil can’t beleve it x

Jean: Im soo sorry to hear abt this ;( Really shows how this disease is serious n deadly, if not treated properly or from complications from surgery…my condolences to her family n all who knew her.

Dave: Liz, we never got to share that coffee. You were so helpful to me in researching my various problems and I know that there are many many friends who don’t come here any more but we will all miss you. Sincere sympathies to all your loved ones.

Sheila: A tragic loss at such a young age. Sad to know that death happens with Cushing’s when we are in the year of 2012.  Hopefully more doctors will take an interest in this little known disease of Cushing’s Syndrome.

Tanya: 😦 OMG rest in peace Liz. I’ve heard “I wish cancer would get cancer and die.” Well ‘I wish cushing’s would get cushing’s and die.’

In Memory of Judy Kennedy – December 15, 2019

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Judy died on December 15, 2019, after battling lung cancer, Atrial fibrillation, and total body weakness.  She was a great warrior for her children.

 

 

From 2008: Siblings Deal With Rare Cushing’s Diagnoses

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

COLBY — As a junior in high school, Justin Kennedy began getting sick and missing school on a regular basis.

He was fatigued, unable to sleep at night and gaining weight rapidly. He also was unable to focus on his school work and began experiencing memory loss.

After several doctor’s appointments, Justin was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare disorder caused by excessive cortisol levels resulting from a tumor on the pituitary gland.

At the time of Justin’s diagnosis, his younger sister, Jessica, also was showing symptoms of the endocrine disorder. Her diagnosis came at the same time.

“I think they both have had symptoms since they were little,” said their mother, Judy Kennedy.

Other symptoms include a round facial shape, flushed cheeks, excessive hair growth, skin discoloration and depression, Judy Kennedy said.

Weight fluctuation is uncontrollable. Weight is gained at a high rate, despite diet, exercise and other efforts, Jessica Kennedy said.

“The weight has a mind of its own,” she said.

The diagnosis, following many doctor’s appointments and tests, came last November. Today, Justin, 19, keeps busy with a job at McDonald’s, and Jessica, 15, is a freshman in high school taking online classes.

One of the most bothersome symptoms of the disease is the toll it takes on the sleeping schedule. Her children often are unable to sleep until early morning, Judy Kennedy said.

“When there was a chance for her to do online high school, it was such a relief,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about what time she starts her school work.”

Appetite fluctuation is another side effect. The two go through phases where they have healthy appetites, then hardly eat at all, she said.

That’s because the disease puts their bodies through various cycles, which can last for less than a day or for months at a time, Judy Kennedy said.

It’s predicted that about 15 people in a million are diagnosed with the disorder, which can make it difficult to find support and get answers, she said.

The family, however, discovered an online support group and has enjoyed the opportunity to communicate with other families in similar situations.

“I honestly do not know where our family would be if I wouldn’t have found that support group,” Judy Kennedy said. “Even though it’s still awful, it’s better to know that other people have the same symptoms.

“There are people on the streets who have this and have no idea,” she said. “And their doctors don’t either.”

Both teenagers also are preparing for surgery. In mid-May, the family will travel to Houston, where the siblings will have the tumors removed from their pituitary glands. This is expected to resolve the hormonal imbalances, Judy Kennedy said.

“I’m looking forward to that day,” she said.

This Topic on the Message Boards


JESS AND JUDY ARE MEMBERS OF THE CUSHING’S HELP AND SUPPORT MESSAGE BOARDS.

Jess and Judy answered questions in an online Voice Chat January 17, 2008. Archives are available.

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In Memory: Millie Niss ~ November 29, 2009

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

Millie Niss (1973-2009)

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

She was just 36 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–R.D. Pohl

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

In Memory: Hermina Dala ~ November 29, 2002

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

In Memory of Stacy Ollenberger ~ November 4, 2015

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stacy-o-memory

 

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

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

From Stacy’s blog:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ambers Paper

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

Living with Cushing’s disease
By, Amber Yake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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In Memory: Barbara “Cookie” Rothenberg ~ Oct 11, 2003

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Saturday, Oct 11, 2003

The One and Only Cookie, photo taken by Erin
Columbus CUSH meeting, Saturday, October 26, 2002

From the posts on the message boards:

My heartfelt prayers and sympathy goes out to Cookie’s family, I never really had gotten to know Cookie Like many of you, but during a few chats, I saw how she helped many, answering questions, ect… and always willing to help out. My heart is sad to hear of her passing.


What I learned from Cookie was that she loved people and wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from Cushing’s. She touched many hearts, I know she touched mine….


Cookie was an inspiration to many of us. She gave her all for Cushing’s awareness, and I will always remember that the last time I saw her, she was singing…
Shalom, my friend.


Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.


I was lucky to have gotten to meet Cookie. She is such a fun person and she could always cheer you up.


Cookie, gees, what can you say. She was dynamic, committed, determined, exasperating, poetic, driven, electric, comedic, funny, supportive, strong, loving, loved, and not to repeat, but a driving force in creating CUSH and helping those who needed it. She was wonderful with fundraising. She was involved in so many activies that were for the benefit of others. She has dealt with many challenges in her life and continued to passed the point that many could not.

She will be sorely missed by all who knew and knew of her.


She was just an incredible, delightful person. I really think this world is a little dimmer today without her light from within. I know a lot of us are missing her already. I remember talking to her about the upcoming conference and her enthuisiasm was contagious. I’m just so very, very sorry to hear she’s passed. I hope her next life is one without pain, where she can sing and write poems to her heart’s content. Cooke will be sorely missed.


My family and I met Cookie at the UVA Cushings Conference Fall 2002. She was so helpful and caring. She told my father, sister, and I her “Cushings Story.” She was so, well, there is no better word to describe her, “bubbly.” She was so happy to be there, teaching, learning, and helping with CUSH. She left an impression on my family and I. She had such a great personality. She was one of the very first “Cushies” I met…and she made me re-think my attitude about being sick. She was going through so much, yet she had such a wonderful attitude towards it all. She was amazing!


Cookie touched a lot of lives. I remember back on the “old board”–before any of us had met any of the others in real life–I would get these perky, cheerful and witty emails from Cookie. She had a signature that was some kind of rhyme including “Lookie, lookie,…Cookie.” Her little dollop of cheer in my “inbox” always made me smile.

It is terrible to lose her. She has left such a legacy, though, that she will go on touching lives for many years to come.


I think this fits Cookie perfectly:

Some People …
Some people come into our lives and quickly go
Some people move our souls to dance
They awaken us to new understanding
With the passing whisper of their wisdom
Some people make the sky more beautiful
To gaze upon
They stay in our lives for a while
Leave footprints in our hearts …
And we are never the same

— Anonymous

~~~

Cookie shared this poem  to show how she felt…

It was an awful state that I was in
Hair was growing on my chin
My moods were swinging from low to high
All I did was cry “let me die!”

The hair kept growing down my neck, chest and bod
Would some dr not think this was a little odd
Sometimes I was up day after day
Then I’d want to sleep all the time to chase my troubles away

Rather I’d eat nothing, something, or very little at all
It seemed getting fatter and fatter was my call
I had every symptom of menopause
Too young they said, it’s in your head, there is no cause

I sing so when I said “I have another octave that is below”
They said pack your bags, to the loony bin you go
My periods were off the dr’s. were lazy
After running tests they said I was crazy

Nine years passed, symptoms got worse and I got fatter
My arms and legs were thin, please help me, what’s the matter
I was beginning to think maybe they are right
Maybe I am just a wee bit up tight

But my husband would say find another dr. it has to be
You are not the girl who married me.
Our children were afraid to them I was so mean
I’d see myself doing and yelling and to myself I would scream
“What is wrong with you! stop it” as if I was in a bad dream

Then I went to a dermatologist for a rash I had
He took a look and and asked “What else to you is bad”
I poured out my heart, I cried and I said
I can’t take any more, I wish I was dead

He asked who I had seen and I gave him the list
And I could see on his face, he really was pissed
He got me to the Cleveland Clinic and the best dr. there
Who listened to me, and checked out the arms, legs and hair

The mood swings, personality changes, the ups and the downs
Voice lower and periods, and face and body so round
One thing he did was run the same tests
Over and over as the results were not the best

Nothing was the same result and so he knew
Surgery was what they had to do
Something is very wrong in my body he said
Let us take a look now or you will be dead

We think you have Cushing’s Syndrome or Nelson’s Syndrome, too
But we will do our best to help you
Let us open you up and we will explore
Then we will know rather we do less or more

As it turned out the x-rays did not know
What they would see and how much would have to go
My female organs had tumors, fibroids and all
They called this syndrome Stein-Leventhal

A complete hysterectomy is what was done
How I had children not one of them knew, not one
Upon seeing that problem to the adrenals they flew
And things were so bad they removed two

The adrenals, 13 times their normal size and had twisted so
On the x-ray they looked fine, but they both had to go
After that they knew and to me they said
There is a pituitary tumor in your head

But until it grows there is nothing we will do
And 15 years later is when it grew
By then CAT scans and MRI’s were everywhere
So even I could see the tumor there

And no more cutting open the persons head
Up the nose they went instead
Well here we go again, lucky me
The tumor was wrapped around an artery

We can’t take it all out but we will do our best and try
If we sever the artery, you will die
5 years later I was back and then
They took the tumor out again

I opted for radiation to kill my friend in my head
I got tired of the Cleveland Clinic saving me a bed
I had other surgeries and emotional problems but day by day
I was going back to the female way

You see I was very slowly turning into a male but how
Will I be come a women now
The next 8 years were very bad
Almost worse than the first 9 years had

I lost some weight, most of the hair went away
With Nelson’s Syndrome some of the Cushing would stay
I woke up one day and the sun was shining
I was no longer bitching, no longer crying

I was almost me except for the pounds
And the thin arms and legs and the body so round
I was accepting me my life was changing
All I needed was a little more rearranging

I was out in public, I was acting and singing again
Working, volunteering, how did this happen, when!
I still get little bouts of depression but then
I know why, I’m not scared, I feel them coming and when

So hang in there and I promise you
You’ll be doing the things you used to do
Maybe a little slower, maybe not as long
Things will brighten up, I know I am not wrong

Keep on looking the right doctor is there
I know what you are going through, I really do care
I am here for anyone to help with what I can do
We all are rooting and praying for you.

 

1955 and 1962 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

1980-81, 3 years old, 2000 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

2000 and 1998 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

 

From the message boards thread about Cookie:

When Sue left a message on my answering machine this afternoon (October 11, 2003), I knew that something was terribly wrong. It never occurred to me that it could Cookie, our Cookie. Always so positive, cheery, full of life. Even though she was as sick as she was, again, I really thought that she’d pull through, one more time. How could she not? She’d survived pituitary surgeries way back, adrenal surgery, Nelson’s, Cushing’s, more than any one person should have to endure.

Throughout her too-short life, she’s been far too sick, yet she’s carried it all off with grace and enthusiasm.

First diagnosed with PCOS, Cookie had an hysterectomy years ago. During the hysterectomy, they realized that her adrenal glands were greatly enlarged. Cookie had Cushing’s disease and in 1974, Cookie had her adrenal glands removed, in 1989 she had her first pituitary surgery and in 1994 her pituitary was removed completely. Then radiation. Since these are the major glands that run the body, she has been on major hormone replacement for a long, long time, pills and daily injections. Because she had both adrenals and pituitary gland removed, she was also saddled with Nelson’s syndrome…and more medications. Because of her Cushing’s experiences, she helped to found the international CUSH organization to promote awareness of Cushing’s disease/syndrome and served as it’s treasurer and fundraiser.

In November, 2002 she had surgery for E.Coli in her sinuses, of all places (she told the doctor that she wasn’t snorting hamburg!) and in December she had a pacemaker put in.

In Feb, 2003 Cookie suffered a Code Blue. Her heart stopped and she stopped breathing. There were 15 people working on her to bring her back. She couldn’t feel her feet, then her hands were cold, then every little thing imaginable was happening with her. Then cardiac care, a heart attack. Cookie went on permanent dialysis. Her hands suffered permanent damage, Raynaud’s Disease. Her fingers turned purple and she had to wear white gloves all the time. She was bleeding internally again and her platelets were down.

I talked to Cookie after this last assault on her body and she was as cheery as ever. She wasn’t really ready to go home, but she walked 60 feet at the nursing home in several tries and if she could walk a total of 60 feet then her insurance would pay any longer. Her dialysis times were terrible. Tu, Th and Sa 8-11 PM. But her main complaint was that she couldn’t go out of state to be at the birth of a new grandchild.

Then the recent surgery to install a dialysis shunt, infections, complications…

How much can one woman take? No wonder she was tired of it all 😦

No matter how sick she was, she was always ready with a joke, a little song. On the recorder where people leave messages for the toll-free number, Cookie left a message May 17, 2002. I’ve always left it in the answering machine, so I could get a lift by hearing Cookie sing one of her inimitable parodies. If you’d like to listen, you can hear Cookie singing and laughing, one more time [file is missing – I’ll try to find it again].

I just cannot believe this. I truly thought of Cookie as a wonder woman who could do it all, and she could pull through this, too.

I guess she got tired of dealing with illness after illness, medications, surgeries, injections, dialysis, everything. I know I get tired just thinking about dealing with any one of these. Cookie put up a very valiant front through everything. She did more to get the word out than almost anyone I know.

Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

Many thanks to Erin for this last look…


We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.

In Memory of Lenise Petersen ~ October 2, 2002

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in-memory

Lenise’s Original Bio

Lenise, 22 years old, single mother.

After the birth of my daughter I was breast feeding. I stopped, but did not stop producing milk. My doctor told me it was normal. So, I ignored it, and the anxiety, weight gain.

Then I went and saw a different doctor. He ran an MRI and found a pituitary tumor. That was in June. He sent me to my Endo. She diagnosed me with Cushing’s and sent me to a Neurosurgeon.

I’m now waiting to have surgery. I am tired all the time (I have a two year old). I’ve gotten so fat I can hardly move. My face is red all the time, acne too. I can’t sleep at night, and have a hard time staying awake during the day. I’m getting so tired of being tired it’s not even funny.

It’s almost been a year now, since I’ve known, and I really want something done. I want to feel normal again. I want to have the energy to play with my daughter. I feel bad for her. It takes all of my energy just to take care of her all day. I’ve had some depression with this, mainly because of the way I look. I used to look good. Not now. I have major issues with anxiety, I shake all the time. It’s like my nerves are shot to you know where. But, I’m so ready to have this surgery and hopefully get on with my life. I feel like my life is at a stand still waiting for this surgery. So, wish me luck. God Bless.

Lenise

Note: Lenise passed away Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002 at 23 years old, just after her surgery.

Official obituary.

In Memory: Alice Baker, October 3, 2002

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in-memory

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Alice died of lung cancer and Cushing’s.

Judy wrote: “Monday I called to see how Alice Baker was doing and found out she had passed away Thursday. I had a long talk with Alice’s husband. He wanted me to tell everyone how much your cards and the flowers meant to Alice. He said “How wonderful, the flowers arrived from California, and Alice enjoyed them so much. She also enjoyed each card. ”

“Alice was a true fighter, she was more concerned about Cushing’s than she was the cancer. She was 69 years old.

“Mr. Baker asked me where he could send a thank you and I gave him CUSH address, as he also said their daughters wanted to thank everyone.

“Listen, these are sad times but really it is far better to know we are able to help someone. It is so much better for the person in need to be surrounded by love and prayers. I know she felt that. MaryO thanks again for sending those flowers and everyone for praying for Alice. I know she is looking down on us and pushing us on to do what we can to get the word out.”

Official obituary

In Memory of Bettye Jean Douglas ~ September 28, 2016

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Born:  March 30, 1938

Passed:  September 28, 2016

Bettye Jean Douglas, age 78 of Smyrna, Tennessee, died Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at her home. She was a native of Hickman County, Tennessee, and was preceded in death by her first husband Carl Jenkins, and parents James McKinley and Susie Louise Lampley Wright, and siblings, Marie Wright, Pat Nichols, Nellie Tidwell, and Jessie Wright. Mrs. Douglas was a member of Rural Hill Church of Christ and had worked at Ingram Books.

She is survived by her husband, of 23 years, Wendell Douglas; children, Christopher Jenkins and wife Gina of Murfreesboro, Charmaine Herron and husband Steve of Mt. Juliet; step-children; Danna Douglas of Whites Creek, Wendy Morales of Whites Creek, and Kellye Douglas of Whites Creek; grandchildren, Isabella, Matt, Ben, Chip, Gino, Kendell, Jonathon, Michael; great- grandchildren, Steven, Bently, Austin, Gavin, Taylor, Gracie; brother, Billy Ray Wright of Kentucky.

Bettye’s funeral service was held at 10:00AM Saturday, October 1st, 2016 at Woodfin Chapel, Smyrna, Tennessee. Brother Gary Hale officiated. A graveside service followed at 2:00PM Saturday at Five Points Church of Christ Cemetery in Bon Aqua, Tennessee.

Born March 30, 1938, Bettye was tall and thin all of her life, and as beautiful on the inside as on the outside.  Bettye was a beautiful Christian woman.  She loved to laugh and loved a good joke.  She was all about her family and loved family gatherings.  She also loved to travel.  Her favorite vacation destination was Hawaii.

Bettye had two best friends, other than her beloved husband. Gina, her daughter-in-law, and Charmaine Herron, her daughter.  Her daughter Charmaine joked that they were a mix between Charlie’s Angels and The Three Stooges.  No matter what they were like, they had a lot of fun together.

More than anything or anyone, Bettye loved her Lord Jesus Christ.  Bettye passed away due to complications of Cushing’s disease.  Once she was finally diagnosed, a decision was made against surgery and Bettye was put on the cortisol-lowering medication Korlym.  Though she had initially gained weight from Cushing’s disease, as many patients do, she rapidly lost weight and was admitted into hospice care soon after.

Most cannot find the words to describe what Bettye went through during her last months on Earth.   To those left behind, the pain is almost unbearable, but those that loved Bettye find comfort in the knowledge that her health nightmare is over and that Jesus has her now and forevermore.

Credit to Woodfin Chapel and Charmaine Herron

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