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MaryO ~ Growth Hormone Update

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I’ve been dealing with Cushing’s since 1983.  The after effects of pituitary surgery since 1987, kidney cancer since 2006.  It’s time I felt better, already!

From 1999 to today,  not-so-quick recap from my bio:

1999 ~ Many people are now finding that they need HgH after pituitary surgery, so an Insulin Tolerance Test was performed. My endocrinologist painted a very rosey picture of how wonderful I’d feel on Growth Hormone. It sounded like a miracle drug to me!

I was only asked to fast before the ITT and to bring someone with me to take me home. There is no way I could have driven home. I got very cold during the test and they let me have a blanket. Also, though, lying still on that table for so long, my back hurt later. I’d definitely take – or ask for – a pillow for my back next time. They gave me a rolled up blanket for under my knees, too.

I don’t remember much about the test at all. I remember lying very still on the table. The phlebotomist took blood first, then tried to insert the IV (it took a few tries, of course). Then the endo himself put the insulin in through the IV and took the blood out of that. I remember the nurse kept asking me stupid questions – I’m sure to see how I was doing on the consciousness level. I’d imagine I sounded like a raving lunatic, although I believed that I was giving rational answers at the time.

Then everything just got black…I have no idea for how long, and the next thing I knew I was becoming aware of my surroundings again and the doctor was mumbling something. They gave me some juice and had me sit up very slowly, then sit on the edge of the table for a while. When I thought I could get up, they gave me some glucose tablets “for the road” and called my friend in. I was still kind of woozy, but they let her take me out, very wobbly, kind of drunk feeling.

My friend took me to a close-by restaurant – I was famished – but I still had trouble with walking and felt kind of dazed for a while. When I got home, I fell asleep on the sofa for the rest of the day.

But the most amazing thing happened. Saturday and Sunday I felt better than I had for 20 years. I had all this energy and I was flying high! It was so wonderful and I hoped that that was from the HgH they gave me to wake me up.

2001 ~ I had the ITT this morning. I don’t get any results until a week from Thursday, but I do know that I didn’t recover from the insulin injection as quickly as I did last time. The endo made a graph for my husband of me today and a “normal” person, although I can’t imagine what normal person would do this awful test! A normal person’s blood sugar would drop very quickly then rise again at about a right angle on the graph.

I dropped a little more slowly, then stayed very low for a long time, then slowly started to rise. On the graph, mine never recovered as much as the normal person, but I’m sure that I did, eventually.

The test this time wasn’t as difficult as I remember it being, which is good. Last time around, I felt very sweaty, heart pounding. I don’t remember any of that this time around. I do know that I “lost” about an hour, though. The phlebotomist took the first blood at 9:15, then the endo injected the insulin and took blood every 15 minutes after that. I counted (or remembered) only 4 of the blood draws, but it was 11:30 when they told me that my sugar wasn’t coming up enough yet and I’d have to stay another 30 minutes. It actually ended up being another hour.

Kim, the phlebotomist, asked me if I got a headache when they “crashed me” and I have no recollection of any of that.

Like last time, I was very, very cold, even with the blanket and my left arm – where the heplock was – fell asleep. Other than that – and my back hurting from lying on one of those tables all that time this wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

So, I waited for 10 days…

September 2004 ~ My new doctor was wonderful. Understanding, knowledgeable. He never once said that I was “too fat” or “depressed” or that all this was my own fault. I feel so validated, finally.

He looked through my records, especially at my 2 previous Insulin Tolerance Tests. From those, he determined that my growth hormone has been low since at least August 2001 and I’ve been adrenal insufficient since at least Fall, 1999 – possibly as much as 10 years! I was amazed to hear all this, and astounded that my former endo not only didn’t tell me any of this, he did nothing. He had known both of these things – they were in the past records that I took with me. Perhaps that was why he had been so reluctant to share copies of those records. He had given me Cortef in the fall of 1999 to take just in case I had “stress” and that was it.

The new endo took a lot of blood (no urine!) for cortisol and thyroid stuff. I’m going back on Sept. 28, 2004 for arginine, cortrosyn and IGF testing.

He has said that I will end up on daily cortisone – a “sprinkling” – and some form of GH, based on the testing the 28th.

October 2004 ~ I had cortrosyn and arginine-GHRH stimulation test at Johns Hopkins. They confirmed what the doctor learned from reading my 4 year old records – that I’m both adrenal-deficient and growth hormone-deficient. I started on my “sprinkle” (5 mg twice a day) of Cortef now and my new doctor has started the paperwork for GH so maybe I’m on my way…

November 2004 ~ Although I have this wonderful doctor, a specialist in growth hormone deficiency at Johns Hopkins, my insurance company saw fit to over-ride his opinions and his test results based on my past pharmaceutical history! Hello??? How could I have a history of taking GH when I’ve never taken it before?

Of course, I found out late on a Friday afternoon. By then it was too late to call my case worker at the drug company, so we’ll see on Monday what to do about an appeal. My local insurance person is also working on an appeal, but the whole thing sounds like just another long ordeal of finding paperwork, calling people, FedExing stuff, too much work when I just wanted to start feeling better by Thanksgiving. I guess that’s not going to happen, at least by the 2004 one.

As it turns out the insurance company rejected the brand of hGH that was prescribed for me. They gave me the ok for a growth hormone was just FDA-approved for adults on 11/4/04. The day this medication was approved for adults was the day after my insurance said that’s what is preferred for me. In the past, this form of hGH was only approved for children with height issues. Am I going to be a ginuea pig again? The new GH company has assigned a rep for me, has submitted info to the pharmacy, waiting for insurance approval, again.

December 2004 ~ I finally started the Growth Hormone last night – it’s like a rebirth for me. I look forward to having my life back in a few months!

January 2005 ~After a lot of phone calls and paperwork, the insurance company finally came through at the very last minute, just as I needed my second month’s supply. Of course, the pharmacy wouldn’t send it unless they were paid for the first month. They had verbal approval from the insurance, but the actual claim was denied. Talk about a cliff hanger!

Later January 2005 ~I’ve been on the growth hormone for 7 weeks now, and see no change in my tiredness and fatigue. A couple weeks ago, I thought there was a bit of improvement. I even exercised a little again, but that was short lived.

I feel like my stomach is getting bigger, and Tom says my face is looking more Cushie again. Maybe from the cortisone I’ve been taking since October. I can’t wait until my next endo appointment in March to increase my GH. I want to feel better already!

March 2005 ~ My IGF-1 was “normal” so I can’t increase the GH.

September 2005 ~ I don’t see any benefit with the growth hormone.

January 2006 ~A new year, a new insurance battle. Once again, they don’t want to pay so I have to go through the whole approval process again. This involves phone calls to Norditropin (the company that makes the GH), my endo, iCore Specialty Pharmacy (the people who prepare and ship the meds) and my insurance company. This is turning into a full-time job!

April 14, 2006 ~I just went to see my endo again on Thursday to see how things are. Although I know how they are – I’m still tired, gaining a little weight, getting some red spots (petechiae) on my midsection. He also noted that I have a “little” buffalo hump again.

My endo appointment is over. Turns out that the argenine test that was done 2 years ago was done incorrectly. The directions were written unclearly and the test run incorrectly, not just for me but for everyone who had this test done there for a couple years. My endo discovered this when he was writing up a research paper and went to the lab to check on something.

So, I’m off GH again for 2 weeks, then I’m supposed to be retested. The “good news” is that the argenine test is only 90 minutes now instead of 3 hours.

April 27, 2006 ~ Wow, what a nightmare my argenine retest started! I went back for that. Although the test was shorter, I got back to my hotel and just slept and slept. I was so glad that I hadn’t decided to go home after the test.

The next day I felt fine and drove back home, no problem. I picked up my husband for a biopsy and took him to an outpatient surgical center. While I was there waiting for the biopsy to be completed, I started noticing blood in my urine and major abdominal cramps. I left messages for several of my doctors on what I should do. I finally decided to see my PCP after I got my husband home.

When Tom was done with his testing, his doctor took one look at me and asked if I wanted an ambulance. I said no, that I thought I could make it to the emergency room ok – Tom couldn’t drive because of the anesthetic they had given him. I barely made it to the ER and left the car with Tom to park. Tom’s doctor followed us to the ER and became my new doctor.

They took me in pretty fast since I was in so much pain, and had the blood in my urine. They thought it was a kidney stone. After a CT scan, my new doctor said that, yes, I had a kidney stone but it wasn’t the worst of my problems, that I had kidney cancer. Wow, what a surprise that was! I was admitted to that hospital, had more CT scans, MRIs, bone scans, they looked everywhere.

My open radical nephrectomy was May 9, 2006, in another hospital from the one where the initial diagnosis was made. My surgeon felt that he needed a specialist from that hospital because he believed preop that my tumor had invaded into the vena cava because of its appearance on the various scans. Luckily, that was not the case.

My entire left kidney and the encapsulated cancer (10 pounds worth!) were removed, along with my left adrenal gland and some lymph nodes. Although the cancer (renal cell carcinoma AKA RCC) was very close to hemorrhaging, the surgeon believes he got it all. He said I was so lucky. If the surgery had been delayed any longer, the outcome would have been much different. I will be repeating the CT scans every 3 months, just to be sure that there is no cancer hiding anywhere. As it turns out, I can never say I’m cured, just NED (no evidence of disease). This thing can recur at any time, anywhere in my body.

I credit the argenine re-test with somehow aggravating my kidneys and revealing this cancer. Before the test, I had no clue that there was any problem. The argenine test showed that my IGF is still low but due to the kidney cancer I cannot take my growth hormone for another 5 years – so the test was useless anyway, except to hasten this newest diagnosis.

August 19, 2006 ~ I’ve been even more tired than usual now that I’m off GH.  But I also had cancer.

October 2006 ~ I went to see my Johns Hopkins endo again last week. He doesn’t “think” that my cancer was caused by the growth hormone although it may well have encouraged the tumor to grow faster than it would have.

I was so stupid way back in 1987 when I thought that all my troubles would be over when my pituitary surgery was over.

2016/2017 ~ So.  My 10 year kidney cancer anniversary passed, then 11.

May 4, 2017 ~ My endo at Hopkins and I talked about maybe trying growth hormone again.  We tested my levels locally and – surprise – everything is low, again.

So, we started the insurance routine again.  My insurance rejected the growth hormone I took last time around.  I just love how someone, a non-doctor who doesn’t know me, can reject my person endocrinologist’s recommendation.  My endo who specializes in Growth Hormone, who runs clinical trials for Johns Hopkins on “Control of growth hormone secretion, genetic causes of growth hormone deficiency, consequences of growth hormone deficiency.”

That insurance person has the power over the highly trained physician.  Blows my mind.

But I digress.  My doctor has agreed to prescribe Omnitrope, the insurance-guy’s recommendation.

June 14, 2017 ~ I got a call from my insurance.  They “may” need more information from my doctor…and they need it in 72 hours.

My doctor’s nurse says that they have to refer this to their pharmacy.

June 15, 2017 ~ I got a call from the Omnitrope folks who said they will need approval from my insurance company <sigh> but they will send me a starter prescription of 30 days worth.

June 16, 2017 ~ I got a call from the Specialty Pharmacy.  They’re sending the first month supply on Tuesday.  Estimated co-pay is $535 a month.  I may have to rethink this whole thing 😦   We sure don’t have an extra $6000.00 a year, no matter how much better it might make me feel.

June 19, 2017 ~ The kit arrived with everything but the actual meds and sharps.

June 20, 2017 ~ The meds and sharps arrived along with the receipt.  My insurance paid nearly $600 – and they took my copay out of my credit card for $533.

I still have to wait for the nurse’s visit to use this, even though I’ve used it in the past.

I’ve been doing some serious thinking in the last 24 hours.  Even if I could afford $533 a month for this, should I spend this kind of money on something that may, or may not, help, that may, or may not, give me cancer again.  We could do a couple cruises a year for this much money.  I’ve pretty much decided that I shouldn’t continue, even though I haven’t taken the first dose of this round.

What will happen?

Stay tuned!

 

29 Years ~ Giving Thanks

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29-anniversary

Today is the 29th anniversary of my pituitary surgery at NIH.

As one can imagine, it hasn’t been all happiness and light.  Most of my journey has been documented here and on the message boards – and elsewhere around the web.

My Cushing’s has been in remission for most of these 29 years.  Due to scarring from my pituitary surgery, I developed adrenal insufficiency.

I took growth hormone for a while.

When I got kidney cancer, I had to stop the GH, even though no doctor would admit to any connection between the two.  Even though I’m now 10 years NED (no evidence of disease) from cancer, I still can’t go back on the GH.

During that surgery, doctors removed my left kidney, my adrenal gland, and some lymph nodes.  Thankfully, the cancer was contained – but my adrenal insufficiency is even more severe than it was.

In the last year, I’ve developed ongoing knee issues.  Because of my Cortef use to keep the AI at bay, my endocrinologist doesn’t want me to get a cortisone injection in my knee.

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

But, this is a post about Giving Thanks.  The series will be continued on another blog unless I give thanks about something else Cushing’s related 🙂

I am so thankful that in 1987 the NIH existed and that my endo knew enough to send me there.

I am thankful for Dr. Ed Oldfield, my pituitary neurosurgeon at NIH.

I’m thankful for Dr. Harvey Cushing and all the work he did.  Otherwise, I might be the fat lady in Ringling Brothers now.

To be continued in the following days at http://www.maryo.co/

MaryO – 10 Years Cancer-Free!

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WOOHOO

Amazing! It’s Been 10 Years, Already.

Today is the Tenth Anniversary of my kidney cancer surgery.  These ten years have been bonus years for me.  For my cancer stage, the 5-year survival rate was 81% and I’ve made it twice that long – so far.
What were the odds I’d get kidney cancer? According to my “risk factors”, I “should” have had colon cancer because both parents and an aunt had it twice each.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that I won’t get that, too.

And the risk factors for kidney cancer aka renal cell carcinoma? The majority of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. Risk factors for renal cell carcinoma include:

  • Age. Your risk of renal cell carcinoma increases as you age. Renal cell carcinoma occurs most commonly in people 60 and older.

I was younger than this.

  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop renal cell carcinoma than women are.

I am female

  • Smoking. Smokers have a greater risk of renal cell carcinoma than nonsmokers do. The risk increases the longer you smoke and decreases after you quit.

Not me!

  • Obesity. People who are obese have a higher risk of renal cell carcinoma than do people who are considered average weight.

A Cushing’s gift

  • High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of renal cell carcinoma, but it isn’t clear why. Some research in animals has linked high blood pressure medications to an increased risk of kidney cancer, but studies in people have had conflicting results.

Never had this until the kidney cancer.  It went away immediately post-op but it’s back now.work

  • Chemicals in your workplace. Workers who are exposed to certain chemicals on the job may have a higher risk of renal cell carcinoma. People who work with chemicals such as asbestos, cadmium and trichloroethylene may have an increased risk of kidney cancer.

What?  Me work?  

  • Treatment for kidney failure. People who receive long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure have a greater risk of developing kidney cancer. People who have a kidney transplant and receive immunosuppressant drugs also are more likely to develop kidney cancer.

Nope.  Some sites also list polycystic  kidney disease.  I don’t have that but half my husband’s family does.  Hmmm – wonder if that’s contagious

  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease. People with this inherited disorder are likely to develop several kinds of tumors, including, in some cases, renal cell carcinoma.

I’ve wondered about this but, you know, it’s too “rare”.

  • Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma. Having this inherited condition makes it more likely you’ll develop one or more renal cell carcinomas.

Not that I know of. 

I am so thankful for all my doctors but today I am thankful for Dr. Amir Al-Juburi who saved my life by removing my kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma).
April 28 2006 I picked up my husband for a biopsy and took him to an outpatient surgical center. While I was there waiting for the biopsy to be completed, I started noticing blood in my urine and major abdominal cramps. I left messages for several of my doctors on what I should do. I finally decided to see my PCP after I got my husband home.
When Tom was done with his testing, his doctor took one look at me and asked if I wanted an ambulance. I said no, that I thought I could make it to the emergency room ok – Tom couldn’t drive because of the anesthesia they had given him. I barely made it to the ER and left the car with Tom to park. Tom’s doctor followed us to the ER and became my new doctor.
When I was diagnosed in the ER with kidney cancer, Tom’s doctor said that he could do the surgery but that he would recommend someone even more experienced, Dr. Amir Al-Juburi.
Dr. Amir Al-Juburi has been so kind to me, almost like a kindly grandfather might be, and he got rid of all 10 pounds of my kidney and cancer.
I owe him, the original doctor, and my Cushing’s doctors, my life.
The following are extracted from posts that were made during my kidney cancer diagnosis and surgery in 2006:
From Alice April 29, 2006
This is Mary’s friend, Alice (Dearest of Power Surge).
I’m not going to go into every detail at this time. I will fill you in on more details as I receive them from Mary and Tom. I’m sure Mary posted on the boards that she recently went back to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to be retested because the tests that had been done the past year were incorrect and she was getting the wrong dose of hGh for the past year. In any event, she was tested again on Thursday and then returned home. The above is just a preface to create a time frame of events. It isn’t the reason I’ve come here to ask for prayers for Mary.
This is: Mary mentioned to me last week that she had noticed some blood in her urine. She was going to get it checked. As it were, when she returned from Johns Hopkins, she drove her husband, Tom, to get his regular biopsy for his history of prostate cancer.
While in the emergency room, Mary started having cramps in her stomach and when she went to the rest room, discovered a great deal more blood in her urine. Fortunately, she was at the hospital with her husband when this occurred. The cramps were becoming more severe. The doctors checked her out and they found a tumor in one of her kidneys – the tumor is actually the size of the kidney.
At this point and time, the doctors are recommending removal of the kidney and one of her adrenal glands. One surgeon recommended immediate removal of the kidney. Mary and Tom wanted to first talk with her other doctors and will decide on what surgeon performs the surgery. She never left the hospital where she simply went to take Tom for his test. Instead, she was admitted. She had a great deal of pain last night, but it was helped with pain killers. I will provide hospital details later.
She’s scheduled for an MRI later this morning or early afternoon.
I don’t want to go into much more detail except to say that whatever the condition of the tumor, the prognosis is pretty good.
I know how much all of you love her (as I do), how much she’s done with this site, how hard she’s worked to provide you with so much wonderful information about Cushing’s — plus what a good friend she’s been to so many of you. I also know that those of you who talk to her may want to call her. She needs time to go through all the preliminaries before being inundated with calls.
I will do my best to keep you apprised of Mary’s situation as I receive information. When she gives me the go ahead for giving out the hospital and is ready to take calls, I’ll pass the information along.
Please take a moment to send prayers for {{{{{MaryO}}}}} (she’s “our” MaryO on Power Surge, too) that everything will turn out all right and she will get through this crisis with flying colors.
Dearest
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice April 30, 2006
* Addendum: 9:30 AM – made some corrections to the 5 something AM post.
What a beautiful show of love and support.
I spoke to Mary last night. She had the MRI as scheduled. She spoke with her own doctor and they decided on a surgeon, but it means going to another hospital. She said she’d probably be coming home for a day before going in for the surgery.
I hesitated to mention in my first post that the doctors said they * think the kidney tumor is malignant due to it’s size – 5 cm. I’m sure many of you surmised that, or why would the emergency room doctors recommend immediate surgery. However, as I said earlier, Mary and Tom wanted to consult with her own doctor first. She was told that if, in fact, it is kidney cancer and is detected and treated early and confined to the kidney, the chances for a full recovery are good.
Considering what she’s going through, Mary sounded good. Lord knows, she’s been through so much already. God willing, this may resolve some of the other health issues she’s been experiencing.
Knowing Mary, when she returns home for a day before checking into the other hospital for surgery, if she’s up to it, she’ll post here herself and provide you with additional details.
For now, I’ve told you just about all I know.
Keep up those prayers!
Alice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice April 30, 2006
11 AM Update:
Mary had a brain scan this morning. She was supposed to have a bone scan today as well, but they’re doing it tomorrow instead, so they told her she could GO HOME TODAY (until she checks into the other hospital for the surgery)! She’s thrilled to be going home and I’m sure she’ll be here posting to all of you herself. You know Mary can’t stay away from computers very long. I’d venture a guess that if they looked inside, her arteries and veins would look more like computer cables (ducking).
We love Mary – so keep on praying that everything goes well, that the tests all yield good results and that she’ll be getting better ‘n better until she’s finished with this whole ordeal
(please, God!)
Reminds me of the phrase . . .
Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Til the good is better
And the better, BEST!
Alice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice April 30, 2006
Update – 2:15 PM:
Spoke with Mary. She’s home. She’s resting. The brain scan, chest/lung x-ray, abdominal scan all came out clean. The only test remaining that I know of is the bone scan, but it’s excellent that the above tests yielded good results.
She’s going back to the hospital for the bone scan tomorrow and, hopefully, scheduled for surgery ASAP.
Her attitude is very good. She sounds very good and I know, with God watching over her, and everyone showing so much love and caring, she’ll pull through this with flying colors.
It’s easier for me in conveying information to you to do so with an upbeat attitude. I try to avoid thinking of these things as tragedies or things that make me sick. Of course, I’m saddened and sorry that Mary is going through this — and has gone through so much, but such is life. You all certainly know that very well. Nobody hands us a guarantee that life is going to be without problems. And, yes, as the Morton’s salt container says, It never rains, it pours. But my M.O. is to try to keep as positive as possible, especially when in the throes of life’s unanticipated crises.
I believe the expression, “Attitude” is half the battle won.
Mary’s attitude is excellent and I know in my heart she’s going to come through this just fine.
Alice
P.S. An expression I remember my mother using, “The things we fear never happen. It’s the things we never think about that do!”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice May 2, 2006
There wasn’t much to add yesterday. Mary was scheduled for a bone scan, but first had to have the radioactive tracer substance injection (I presume it was injected — she wasn’t sure herself). She was scheduled to have that around 10:30-11 AM, ET, and then had to return five hours later for the bone scan.
I didn’t speak with her last night, but she text messaged me around 6:30 that she was finally home and that the surgery had been scheduled for a week from today, Tuesday, May 9th at 9:30 AM.
I’ll post the hospital information as the time draws near.
That’s about it for now. She’s still sounding pretty good and wants to get the surgery done already!
Let’s keep those prayers going!
Alice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Me May 2, 2006
First off, I’d like to thank you all for your good wishes, support and prayers. I could do the Sally Field thing and say “…and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” but I won’t 🙂
I plan to print everything out and take it with me to the hospital as a cheery-upper.
Alice has been such a wonderful friend through all this, calling, checking up on me, keeping all of you updated on things as they are known right now. Her support and love has been such a wonderful blessing in my life, especially now.
As it is, I’m currently feeling “normal” whatever that is. If I didn’t know I had a problem, I would think that I was just fine.
I am fortunate that I found this out before the tumor could grow any larger. I am fortunate that I was close to the ER, not driving home from Baltimore, or in Baltimore, Oklahoma or on the cruise.
I know that the tumor has been growing for quite a while – it’s very large. I saw the MRI images and even I can tell that it’s not normal. As far as I know now, all the other scans have been fine. I had an abdomen CT, chest CT, brain MRI, chest/abdomen MRI and a full body bone scan.
When I was in the ER Friday, they assumed that it was a kidney stone and did the first abdomenal CT scan looking to see where that was. They came back with the news that yes, I had a kidney stone but that it was the least of my worries at them moment. So, I was admitted to the hospital and had all the other scans except the bone scan. Knowing what I know now, it would have been better and easier for me to have had the bone scan as an inpatient. As soon as I checked out and was out of the system, it was harder to get an “emergency” (not scheduled weeks in advance) bone scan. Oh, well.
My surgery will be next Tuesday, May 9, at 9:30AM at Fairfax Hospital (http://www.inova.org/inovapublic.srt/ifh/index.jsp ). I’m expected to stay there for 3-5 days post op and they don’t anticipate any pesky complications like chemo or radiation at this time.
For now, I’m keeping my normal schedule, avoiding reading horror stories online, eating, sleeping – even napping! – as usual. Sometimes I even forget that I have this little medical appointment next week.
For a non-phone person I’ve talked with so many people these last few days, it’s mind-boggling.
I’m happy to report that all is not lost on the (Cushie) cruise. Someone will replace me – and there will be another cruise later in the year. YEA! My main “concern” on that now is that I’ll lose weight (finally!) post-op and my cruisewear will no longer fit. Yeah, right.
In thinking back, I think it’s a good thing that my arginine test was messed up in Sept of 05. If it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have redone it on Thursday. I believe that having that stuff in my body was what made my kidneys rebel and act up on Friday. So, without the lab screw-up I might not have known anything for a long time.
So, it’s all good
Thanks to everyone who has called and posted such wonderful things. I cannot begin to imagine what my email looks like…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice May 9, 2006, 09:10 AM
I’ve been in constant contact with Mary. Spoke to her at 7 this morning. She, Tom and their son, Michael, were on the way to the hospital. Mary sounded very good as she has all week. She’s going in with an excellent attitude.
She’s probably being prepped right now. The surgery is set for for 9:30 (ET). They anticipate the surgery will last 3 1/2 – 4 hours.
Now, all we can do is pray and wait. Tom will call me after the surgery is over. As soon as I hear something, I’ll make it a point to come back and post what I know.
Your support, love and prayers have been remarkable. Thank you on behalf of Mary. Please keep on praying until it’s over.
God? You listening? You’ve got someone very special to watch over this morning. We’re counting on you!
Alice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice May 9, 2006, 12:33 PM
Mary’s husband, Tom, called me at 12:15
He said it’s going to be another 3 hours – around 3:15 PM – before they’re done. Surgery didn’t start as scheduled at 9:30, but more like 11:30. There wasn’t that much he could tell me except that the doctors said, so far everything is going as expected and Tom said, “so far, so good.”
I hesitate to draw any conclusions from that statement because I’m not 100% sure of what the doctors expected, so it’s a matter of waiting until it’s over.
I’ll keep you posted. Keep praying, please!
Alice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice May 9, 2006, 2:00PM
Tom called at 1:15, but we had a bad connection. We finally connected.
The operation is over. Mary was being sewn up. Tom said according to the doctor, “the tumor and the kidney were removed.” The doctor is calling the operation a “complete success.”
I asked if they saw any signs of cancer anywhere else because Mary had told me originally that they’d said they might remove the gallbladder, too, but they didn’t remove the gallbladder – which is a good sign.
It appears as though everything was concentrated in the kidney.
Thank God. It’s over!
Alice
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice May 9 2006, 07:39 PM
Someone said: “… I told her that I would wait until she was home and feeling much better before I talked to her again and she agreed that she wasn’t sure she would be up to taking phone calls. Again, thank you so much for keeping us updated… this way we can know how Mary is doing without her having to take so many calls…”
That’s exactly how Tom and I feel. Tom suggests people not call the hospital. I wouldn’t even call his cell phone all day. I waited for him to contact me. I know he’s also exhausted. I figured he’d call when he was up to it. He called about 15 minutes ago.
It’s important that Mary get all the rest she can while recovering. Yes, everything turned out well, but she still had major surgery, is on morphine and needs her sleep. It’s important that we all allow her this time to rest.
It just so happened she was awake when he called and he turned on his cell phone’s speakerphone so Mary and I could talk for a minute. I was so happy to hear her voice. She sounded tired, her mouth was dry, but she sounded good.
Because this is a public message board, I prefer not to post details of the room she’s in. If anyone wants this information for the purpose of sending something to Mary, please E.mail me from the address you registered with on the board, and please include your user name. Thanks.
Another thing is that Mary has allergies, so for those wishing to send something to her, Tom and I (and Mary, as we discussed before she went into the hospital) agree she’s better off without flowers.
Finally, Tom said the doctor was very pleased with how her surgery went – that her body was quite robust, that there was very little bleeding, so no transfusion was needed, and he was generally very pleased with the surgery.
It’s been a very stressful day. I love Mary like a sister. We’ve been good friends for 11 years. I cried so after he initially called and said everything went well. I know all of you love and care about Mary, too.
All I’ve thought all day is, thank you, God, for watching over MaryO. I know all of you have thought the same thing.
That’s about it for now — she even cracked a personal joke when we said goodbye — she’ll be back to her old self again before too long.
Alice
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From Alice May 13 2006, 08:10 PM
Saturday Update on Mary:
When she’s back on her computer, I know Mary will be thrilled to read all your thoughtful, beautiful and caring messages.
She’s doing well. The worst part is the incision which is quite large because the doctors originally anticipated the possibility of having to remove the adrenal gland above the kidney that was removed and the gall bladder as well. However, as I posted earlier, once they got in there, everything was found to be clean so they just took out the tumor and the kidney (as if that’s not enough). So, when she gets up to go to the bathroom, the incision is quite painful. I imagine an incision of that size will take a while to heal. Other than that she says she feels good!!
Additionally, the doctor was awaiting the results of the lymph node biopsy (just to be sure) and he told her yesterday, “everything looks clean.”
She was originally scheduled to go home tomorrow, Sunday, but . . . she went home TODAY!
Spoke to her after she arrived home (sorry I didn’t post earlier, but also have my Web site to deal with).
She sounded great and was glad to be home especially since a new person checked into her room yesterday and Mary wasn’t able to sleep all night.
That’s all for now – and all very good news, thank God!
Alice
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From Me: June 17, 2006 post-op:
Thank you all for your prayers, good wishes, cards, phone calls, gifts, general “cheery-uppers”. They all really helped me on my road to recovery.
I do have a ton of thank you cards to send out to lots of people – I’m very slow at that. Under normal circumstances my handwriting is terrible. Now, post-op kidney cancer, I can no longer take my arthritis meds or any NSAIDs and my writing will probably be even worse 😦
I am very nearly better, not much pain anymore, a nasty big scar and my energy levels aren’t so great. Of course, they were awful before. I can no longer take the GH even though I’m deficient. In 5 years (if I survive!) I can take the GH again, supposedly.
I’ve had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking over the last 6 weeks. I know I was extraordinarily lucky to have my tumor discovered before it was too late. The lab reports and my surgeon reported that it would only have been a week or so before the tumor had hemorrhaged and caused major problems. Thank goodness the argenine retest for GH had caused me to bleed – at least I think that’s what set it off. If I hadn’t had all the blood and pain for one day only, I’d have had no clue that I had this cancer and who knows what would have happened in that next week.
I will be getting CT scans every 3 months for awhile to be sure that there is no cancer hiding out.
During my time of thinking, I have also been thinking about making changes to the boards based on what I have heard was going on here. I am not yet sure how these changes will manifest themselves but I do know that bashing others will not be tolerated. More on this later, in another area.
Again, thank you for all your support!
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From Me July 6, 2006
Since I recently had surgery for kidney cancer, I’ve been looking around for another board to read and talk about this with other survivors (hopefully!) I haven’t found anyplace I’d like to visit or feel comfortable with yet, so I decided to make a new area here.
I know – or I think I know – that no one else here has had kidney cancer, although I know at least 1 other person has had a kidney removed and several others have reported kidney stones and other possible kidney diseases.
I’m sure that my recovery will be much the same as for any other major abdominal surgery, although I’d like it to be faster.
Before my surgery, I didn’t have time really to consider that I had cancer, and what it meant for my life. There was no going from doctor to doctor, running a different test each week, suspecting that maybe… Just boom, there it is. Cancer.
Now that I’m about 8 weeks post-op, I’m thinking more and more about this and how it might affect my future. I know that there are going to be lots of scans, every 3 months, just to be sure that there wasn’t a cell hiding out.
I know I have to be careful with meds – no NSAIDs so my arthritis is worse. No GH – it’s contraindicated for 5 years…assuming I’m cancer free then.
I’m supposed to be eating less protein, more fruits/veggies, drinking more water.
And I’m supposed to avoid playing football and other things that might damage my remaining kidney.
Normally, I know how very lucky I am. I just reread the path reports and know that the tumor was already hemorrhaging around the borders and the cysts contained hemorrhagic fluid. Things could be much worse.
Sometimes, at night when I can’t sleep, I wonder why I was lucky like this. What haven’t I done with my life that I should. Seems to me that I’ve accomplished what I should already.
And, in the night, I worry about the cancer returning, taking my other kidney or worse.
At this time, there’s no standard chemo unless it’s metastasized, although there are some promising clinical trials and radiation doesn’t seem to work for this kind of cancer, so if it returns it’s more surgery.
I suppose I could/should have put all this in my blog, but I put it out here in case anyone else should need this in the future. I hope not!
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From me Aug 19 2006, 01:25 AM
Thanks so much for asking!
Unfortunately, I haven’t read the boards much lately – I’m spending most of my online time deleting/banning the InstaChat intruders.
I have been working on the websites, though, and that’s always fun! I’ve even added a new one to the roster and it has some cool stuff on it. New features to be announced in the upcoming newsletter.
I’ve been even more tired than usual now that I’m off GH. I can’t take my arthritis meds, or anything like Excedrin (no NSAIDs) so my joints are nearly always bothering me and I have to wait out any headaches. I’m also just getting over a UTI.
I just had my 3 month post-op CT scans and I hope they come out ok. At first I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to have chemo or radiation come to find out that neither has been discovered yet which works well with kidney cancer. Apparently, it can resurface any time for the rest of my life. I’m hoping that some of the chemo clinical trials show some good results so I can get this thing before it metastasizes somewhere.
I’m having trouble sleeping (1:20 AM here, now) although I’m always tired. My mind plays all kinds of tricks in the night. Those InstaChat people don’t help, either! When I wake up just a little, instead of falling back asleep, I’ll go check to see what they’ve done.
Whine, whine!
On the plus side – I survived the kidney cancer surgery, and it’s almost vacation time!
Even vacation will be bittersweet, though. 2 years ago, Sue went with us on vacation. She had a great time and she had asked if she could go with us again this year. Of course, we had said yes…
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From me May 8 2008, 11:07 PM
I am feeling very maudlin, a bit down and depressed. It’s very nearly the anniversary of my kidney cancer surgery. I posted this in my blog a few days ago:

I’ve been feeling weird for about a week now. Last Friday, I went through the whole “Sending Prayers” topic (MKO’Note: this thread) that my good friend Alice started for me.After I read that, I started reliving all the kidney cancer events…again. I know I shouldn’t do this. My counselor says that this is a very stressful thing to do and it’s not good for me, for anyone. But I do it anyway, especially the pituitary and cancer surgery anniversaries. I wish I did this with good stuff, could relive that instead of the scary and painful.
After I finished rereading all that, I went back to my post in the cancer section: I guess I’ve talked about this more than I think! I just wish there was someone I could get answers and support from. I have never met anyone in real life who has shared my particular brand of cancer, haven’t talked to anyone on the phone or emailed anyone.
I even asked at my local cancer support center about support for me – they have all kinds of meetings, mainly for breast and prostate cancer, but other kinds, too. But they said that there weren’t enough kidney cancer people to have a meeting. The one and only book that the library there has on kidney cancer was given to me by the author to donate there.
Lucky me – two rare diseases that no one gets. According to statistics I should be a black man who smokes and works in the iron and steel industry or is exposed to certain chemical and substances, such as asbestos (a mineral fiber that can be used in construction materials for insulation and as fire-retardant) and cadmium (a rare, soft, bluish-white chemical element used in batteries and plastic industry), also increase the risk for renal cell carcinoma. I should have polycystic kidneys and not drink the copious coffee.
So…where did it come from? A mutation of my parents’ and aunt’s colon cancer or do I still have that looming on my horizon?
And the Cushing’s came from nowhere, too. I know that no one knows these answers but I think of them a lot, especially at night.
Although I’m not afraid of death and would like it to be as peaceful and pain-free as possible, I still dream at night that I’m dying or have died. These dreams have been going on since before the cancer and I can’t seem to shake them although I’m taking them more in stride now and can go right back to sleep.
And from last year’s post on this topic, these still concern me:
What if the lung nodules that “aren’t growing” turn out to be something on the next scan? Is the stomach distress I’m currently feeling a cause to ask for my next colonoscopy a bit earlier?
Is the pain on the other side the other kidney causing trouble? Or something new with an ovary?
What if, what if…?
Seems like in my addled brain any new symptom could be cancer, not the simple stomach bug or pulled muscle.
Had they told me in 2006 that I only had a year or two to live, I’d have thought it far too short a time. I guess how long a year is depends on the frame of mind!
I hate going for scans because they could show something but I get nervous when there are no scans because there could be something else! Seems like my mind is setting me up for a lose-lose situation.
I’m sure as I get closer to Friday that other thoughts will come to me. I am so grateful that I’ve had these two “bonus years”. I feel like there is so much still to do with the Cushing’s sites and I will never get them done in my lifetime but I plan to keep trucking along!

And from Wonderful Words of Life…
I’m acquiring the title of an old hymn for this next post.
After I was finished with the long Cushing’s diagnostic process, surgery and several post-op visits to NIH, I was asked to give the scripture reading at my church. The man who did the sermon that week was the survivor of a horrific accident where he and his family were hit by a van while waiting at an airport.
i thought I had written down the verse carefully. I practiced and practiced, I don’t like speaking in front of a crowd but I said I would. When I got to church, the verse was different. Maybe I wrote it down wrong, maybe someone changed it. Whatever.
This verse has come to have so much meaning in my life. When I saw at a book called A Musician’s Book of Psalms each day had a different psalm. On my birthday, there was “my” psalm so I had to buy this book!
Psalm 116 (New International Version)
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, save me!”
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed; therefore I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
11 And in my dismay I said,
“All men are liars.”
12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.

I carry a print out of this everywhere I go because I find it very soothing. “when I was in great need, he saved me.” This print out is in a plastic page saver. On the other side there is an article I found after my kidney cancer. I first read this in Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul and is posted several places online.
The Best Day Of My Life
by Gregory M Lousignont
Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!
Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.
I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.
Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.
Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for her and how much she means to me.
Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me.
I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine.
And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures.
As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

When I’m feeling down, depressed or low, reading my 2 special pages can help me more than anything else.

In Memory of 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

Remembering Sue Koziol (SuziQ)

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When I opened up my phone this morning, I saw the reminder that this is the anniversary of Sue’s passing. She was such a good friend to so many here and so many Cushies worldwide.  It’s been another year. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Sue.

When I see a catalog with flamingo items, I’m reminded of Sue.

We took the picture below during a trip to Barbados in 2004.  At the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.

sue-flamingos

 

 

We got matching hats.  Since she died, I’ve never worn mine again but it is next to my front door, ready to go…

 

Sue2004

 

Sue loved Barbados.  I’ve renamed the back patio “Sue’s Garden”.  I often “check-in” there on FourSquare and I’m thinking that other folks in the area wonder who in the heck Sue is and why she has a garden in Barbados.  LOL

sues-garden2 sues-garden

 

At Sue’s last Cushie Weekend in Rockford, IL – 2006

rockford

 

We planned to go back to Barbados in August 2006 but Sue couldn’t hold on that long. 😦

When she was sick for the last time, I got her her very own SuperSue bear with her name embroidered on the back of the cape.  She loved it but it wasn’t enough…

 

SuperSue

 

I’m sure that many of the new folks here never got to meet her, but you would go well to go back and read some of her old posts. She was always so encouraging to all of us.

RIP, Sue.  We miss you!

From http://www.cushings-help.com/memoriam_koziol.htm

Sue Ann Koziol (SuziQ)

Sue Ann Koziol (SuziQ)

Sue was born in Michigan on August 08, 1946 and passed away on March 12, 2006 at the age of 59.

She was a very special friend to Cushies world-wide. We will remember her always.

There was an online memorial for Sue during the Cushing’s Awareness Day Medical Forum in Oklahoma, April 5-8, 2006. For more information, please visit this topic on the message boards

To light a candle or read/post a tribute for Sue, please go here: http://suziq.memory-of.com

To read more about Sue’s journey, please click here: http://cushings.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=14655

 

maryobeachbuddies

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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Syndi, Pituitary Bio

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A Golden Oldie

My partial bio…Hi everyone.  Dr. Ludlam in Seattle, WA is 99.999% certain I have Cushing’s Disease, probably Cyclic but I believe I used to be all the time.  I do have a tumor on my pituitary but before Dr. L can say 100% Cushing’s Disease, he needs one more test (?) before he sends me to the surgeon.  He’s concerned there may be another tumor elsewhere and needs to make certain.  Something my family does not accept.  They view all this “testing” as a money making scam.  But with my thought process being so poorly, I can’t explain myself.

One daughter went with me last visit with Dr. L and understands the severity of this but noone wants to believe her either.  Last time I saw my Dr. was 3 years ago.  Why?  My husband has always been the sole breadwinner, I was a full time mother of 4, working some here and there and even finished college.  Yea me.  BUT, for years now, I’ve not been able to think well, have difficulty getting around, have more bad days than good.  My life is just about exisitng.

But my husband has terminal Cancer, a Heart condition but working again these days but don’t how long that’ll be.  When he couldn’t work, we lived off and spent all our savings, sold belongings, etc and during all this, we lost our Medical Ins AND our Life Ins.  The Lifs Ins has been heart breaking!  All we’ve put into it for over 30 years.  Such a loss!!!

So, life for us has been really bad for years in soooo many ways.  Can we say stress?  No one can imagine all we’ve been through.  It’s honestly been more than all Soap Operas together.  So much, that I’ve cut myself off from all friends, due to not having anything positive to share.  How sad?!?  I’ve always been a huge social person, on the  go and having something constantly going on with tons of people around.  NOT anymore.  I call noone!  Ok, my Mama.  So, the Ins loss and money issues has been my reasoning for not seeing my Dr.

But my goal this year is to so what I can to take care of me!  I finally got Med Ins but it’s not great, but better than nothing.  I’ll be having a heart cath (I think it’s) next week, so problems have just gotten worse than better.  As you know, with this disease, it’s always something.  grrr  Anyway, I’ll come back here (when I remember) and rewrite or simplify.  There is way too much to share at this moment.

Mary O, thank you so much for taking the time to love other’s enough to have this site!  My biggest issue right now is to find the very Drs in the US.  It may be Dr. Ludlam but with my husband’s thoughts, I need to hear from others about him and other’s.  Love life and live it the best you can, even if it’s sitting in a chair.

Syndi of Alabama

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