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Laura, In The Media

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After years, mystery ills diagnosed

April 3, 2005
By JANET MARSHALL

On the day her life changed for the better, Laura Zastrow was exhausted. So much so that she almost didn’t go to the Quantico commissary, as she’d planned.

For years, Zastrow had felt run down without knowing why. One doctor chalked it up to depression. But that afternoon at Quantico, a stranger offered another diagnosis: Cushing’s disease.

Rare and often misdiagnosed, Cushing’s causes fatigue, weight gain, hair growth, mood swings, high blood pressure and other ills, all familiar to Zastrow.

The stranger, Jayne Kerns, recognized her own puffy face and hairy arms in Zastrow.

“I said, ‘I feel like I’m looking in the mirror,'” Kerns said.

Kerns encouraged Zastrow to check out a Cushing’s Web site, which Zastrow did. Every symptom listed matched her condition. Her doctor ran some tests, and the results confirmed Zastrow had Cushing’s, a hormonal disorder often brought on by a tumor.

The chance meeting in September 2003 transformed Zastrow’s life. In the months since, she’s had surgery to remove a large tumor on her pituitary gland and rediscovered her old, healthier self.

“My energy is coming back,” said Zastrow, of Locust Grove. “I’ve lost a lot of weight. I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m in a fog anymore.”

Kerns, of Spotsylvania County, has made it a mission to raise as much awareness as possible of Cushing’s since being diagnosed with the disease in 2000. She’s written President Bush asking him to declare a National Cushing’s Awareness Day in April.

Her meeting with Zastrow was first described in a Free Lance-Star profile of Kerns in 2004. At the time, nobody yet knew just how life-altering that meeting would be.

It emboldened Kerns to keep reaching out to people she thinks have the disease. And it gave Zastrow hope for a healthier, more energetic future.

“I was at the point where I was deteriorating so fast that if Jayne wouldn’t have approached me, I honestly don’t know what would have happened,” Zastrow said recently. “Obviously, I didn’t know anything about [Cushing’s], and neither did my doctors.”

For those with the disease, April 8 is the unofficial day to recognize it and the man–Dr. Harvey Cushing–who first put a name to it.

People with Cushing’s suffer from excessive levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. The condition can be caused by long-term use of certain drugs, such as prednisone for asthma.

Often, Cushing’s stems from an overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands. The pituitary gland sometimes over-stimulates the adrenals, triggering the problem. Tumors on the adrenal or pituitary often are at the root of the problem, and treatment can involve removing the glands.

Kerns’ diagnosis followed months of maddening efforts to pinpoint why her body deteriorated, and never recovered, after childbirth.

She said she was misdiagnosed many times, and that one doctor, frustrated by her recurrent problems, told her he no longer had time to listen to her and referred her to another physician.

Kerns ultimately had her adrenal glands removed.

Each year, 10 to 15 people out of every million are thought to be affected by Cushing’s, making it highly uncommon.

“Doctors think that Cushing’s is too rare for people to have it,” Kerns said. “And I truly believe that it is not as rare as people think.”

Another local woman, Jennifer Belokon of Fredericksburg, has Cushing’s. She was serving in the Army in Iraq when she began feeling weak and gaining weight, adding 60 pounds in three months.

The Army flew her out of Iraq and sent her to Walter Reed Medical Center. After being diagnosed with Cushing’s, she had her adrenal glands removed.

“Now, I have no adrenaline, no steroids or anything that will help me produce that second wind when doing anything,” Belokon wrote in an e-mail.

Yet she’s resumed exercising and is training to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon in Virginia Beach in September. She ran a 10-mile race a few months ago.

“My time was nothing big,” Belokon wrote. “But I was proud of myself for finishing.”

Getting treated for Cushing’s is life-altering, all three women said. Just finding out what’s wrong is profound because a diagnosis often follows months or years of mysterious and unsettling ailments.

“It changes people’s lives when they figure out what’s going on,” Kerns said. “It’s kind of like discovering that you have diabetes, and then you get insulin. You find something that’s going to make you feel better.”

For more information on the disease and its symptoms, which include purple stretch marks, check out cushings-help.com

To reach JANET MARSHALL: 540/374-5527 jmarshall@freelancestar.com
Copyright 2005 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.


JAYNE KERNS IS A MEMBER OF THE CUSHING’S HELP AND SUPPORT MESSAGE BOARDS.

Jayne answered questions in an online Voice Chat January 31, 2008 at 6:30 PM eastern. Archives are available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

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Jayne, In The Media

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From http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2004/032004/03092004/1287556

Cushing’s didn’t rob woman of her fertility

Jayne Kerns

Photo by Scott Neville / The Free Lance-Star

Jayne Kerns holds her 5-year-old daughter, Catherine, and 2-month-old son, Brian, at their home in Spotsylvania. Kerns, who was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease two years ago, became pregnant despite her illness, which usually makes women infertile.

 

Baby boy is miracle to mother with Cushing’s disease

By MARCIA ARMSTRONG
The Free Lance-Star

DATE PUBLISHED: 3/9/2004

THERE WAS A moment in 1999 when Jayne Kerns just knew that something was wrong with her body.

The Spotsylvania County resident was tired and irritable. Her muscles hurt. Her hair was falling out.

The silvery stretch marks acquired while pregnant with her daughter Catherine turned into angry, purple streaks. Kerns wasn’t losing the pregnancy weight, either. In fact, the pounds were still piling on.

“I was walking every day, eating right, doing the ‘Best Odds’ diet,” said Kerns, 40. “But, it wasn’t helping. I just didn’t feel right.”

One doctor said Kerns’ complaints were not unusual for a postpartum body. When another told her to exercise more and eat less, she kept a diary of the fat, carbohydrate and caloric content of everything she ate and began walking a mile three times a day.

But, a year later, Kerns was even heavier and her health was getting worse.

The slightest bumps caused her skin to bruise. Hair began to grow on her face and arms. Her eyesight was plagued by double vision, tunnel vision and spots. She had trouble concentrating and was beset with short-term memory loss. Her blood pressure skyrocketed to stroke level. Her menses stopped.

The symptoms worsen

Doctors tested for lupus, diabetes and fibromyalgia, but the results were negative. One physician gave up on a diagnosis, telling Kerns he didn’t have time to listen to her roster of complaints. He referred her to a psychiatrist for a prescription for antidepressants. Another told her to see a nutritionist.

By then, Kerns’ muscles hurt so badly it was hard for her to hold Catherine or let her climb onto her lap. She couldn’t get down on the floor to play blocks with her daughter or push her on the swing set. Bedtime became a struggle.

“I’d go upstairs and she’d run downstairs, and there was no way I could grab her and carry her back up,” Kerns said.

Kerns’ appearance took on that of a much older woman, even though she was only in her mid-30s. She had a hump in her back. Her thinning hair was turning gray. People who didn’t know her thought she was Catherine’s grandmother.

Then, in May 2000, a physician’s assistant told Kerns her symptoms matched those of Cushing’s disease, a hormonal disorder caused by the overproduction of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone needed in times of stress.

The diagnosis was a long shot, as the disease is rare, affecting only 10 to 15 people out of 1 million each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But, tests revealed that Kerns’ cortisol levels were 25 times higher than normal.

The physician’s assistant was right. Kerns had Cushing’s.

A tumor on Kerns’ pituitary gland was causing her adrenal glands to produce the overabundance of cortisol, but the mass was so small doctors couldn’t find it.

Kerns had four options.

Doctors could remove her pituitary, taking the obscure tumor with it. Or, they could zap the gland with gamma-knife radiation. The third choice was to put Kerns on medication that would lessen cortisol production. And last, she could have her adrenal glands removed.

With any of the choices, she was unlikely to ever have another baby.

“Usually, people who have Cushing’s are infertile because the disease alters the normal endocrine milieu of the body and interferes with ovulation,” said Dr. Fay Redwine, a perinatologist with Richmond-based Central Virginia Perinatal Associates.

In fact, it is so rare for a woman with Cushing’s disease to get pregnant that Redwine said she expects to see only two or three such cases during her medical career.

Baby surprise

Kerns took the cortisol-suppressing medication until it began to destroy her liver. Then, she had her adrenal glands removed.

Immediately after the surgery, Kerns’ eyesight cleared. Her blood pressure dropped to normal levels. And, three months after the operation, something else changed, too.

Kerns became pregnant.

“That was a surprise, a big surprise,” she said. “I was happy to know that I was still fertile.”

The pregnancy lasted only 10 weeks before ending in miscarriage. But, 15 months later, Kerns was pregnant again.

“The first thing I felt was total elation, then total fear of losing the baby,” she said.

Her anxiety was warranted, Redwine said, because the fetus of a mother with Cushing’s is at much greater risk of intrauterine fetal death and pre-term birth.

But, it was during this pregnancy that Kerns began to feel almost normal again.

Her muscles quit aching. Her moods leveled out.

“My body somehow said, ‘We’re going to have this baby, so we have to be healthy,'” she said.

Kerns’ obstetrician, Dr. William Hamilton, increased the dosage of Kerns’ hydrocortisone pills to cover the stress pregnancy put on her body. Redwine monitored the baby’s growth and movements.

And, on Dec. 15, 2003, Brian Matthew Kerns was born, full-term and healthy.

“He is our miracle baby,” Kerns said.

What’s in the future

Cushing’s has taken a permanent toll on Kerns’ life.

The purple stretch marks will never go away. Weight will always be a problem.

Kerns must have a magnetic resonance imaging scan every six months as doctors keep looking for her pituitary tumor.

Kerns regrets that she was so sick when Catherine was an infant and toddler that she couldn’t devote herself to mothering. And, it’s hard for Kerns to keep from crying when Catherine, now 4, doesn’t recognize her in the pre-surgery pictures in the family photo albums.

Even so, life is still very, very good.

Kerns spends her days cuddling her son and playing with her daughter. She’s getting stronger. She feels much better.

She’s thankful that the only effect the disease had on her relationship with her husband, Robin, was to make it stronger.

“Some men can’t handle it,” Kerns said. “I’ve read stories online about women who are getting a diagnosis and a divorce. But, Robin stood by me through everything: the surgery, doctor’s appointments, all the questions.

“He has kissed my stretch marks and said ‘No matter what happens, you are still a beautiful person.'”

Heal and share

But, for all it’s taken from Kerns, Cushing’s has given her something back: the courage to speak out.

She recently contacted Gov. Mark Warner’s office to enlist his support of a national day for Cushing’s awareness.

And last September, she approached a woman in the grocery store who she thought looked like a mirror image of herself: the same moon face, the same upper-body obesity, the same hairy arms.

“Excuse me,” she said to the woman. “I have to tell you my story.”

“I was a little taken aback,” said Laura Zastrow, who lives in Locust Grove. “I’d never heard of Cushing’s.”

Zastrow, 34, told Kerns she’d been looking for a diagnosis for her weight gain, mood swings and stretch marks for four years.

Kerns referred Zastrow to an Internet Cushing’s support group that features a lengthy list of Cushing’s symptoms.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Zastrow said. “It was like me, all the symptoms, everything.”

Tests showed that Zastrow has a tumor on her pituitary. But, unlike Kerns’ tumor, doctors know exactly where it is. She will have it removed this spring.

Zastrow calls Kerns her guardian angel.

“If she hadn’t said anything,” Zastrow said, “I’d still be wondering what in the world is wrong with me.”

For more information about Cushing’s disease, visit the Web site cushings-help.com.

To reach MARCIA ARMSTRONG: 540/374-5000, ext. 5697 marciaa@freelancestar.com


JAYNE KERNS IS A MEMBER OF THE CUSHING’S HELP AND SUPPORT MESSAGE BOARDS.

Jayne has seen several potential Cushies and spoken to them. Many have contacted their doctors and turned out to have Cushing’s Syndrome. She was also instrumental in setting up the first Cushing’s Awareness Day and continues to provide Cushing’s Awareness tables at local health fairs.

One of the patients Jayne urged to check out Cushing’s is Laura Zastrow. In the article about Laura, all the credit is given to Jayne.

Jayne answered questions in an online Voice Chat January 31, 2008 at 6:30 PM eastern. Archives are available.

Jayne and Robin also hosted a Special Cushing’s Awareness Day live chat April 8, 2008. Archives are available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

 Subscribe to the CushingsHelp podcasts on iTunes

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Danielle G, Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

 

During pregnancy it’s expected for women to gain weight and sometimes struggle to lose it after giving birth.

Danielle Gselmann felt her health dramatically deteriorate five years ago, soon after she found out she was pregnant.

The Gold Coast mother had suddenly gained more than 20kg, found herself losing hair, constantly breaking bones and struggling to sleep.

Making matters worse, the young mother became severely depressed and noticed an unusual-looking ‘hump’ on her back.

Danielle went with her personal trainer husband Dean to get checked out and doctors assured her she was fine, claiming the symptoms were related to her pregnancy.

However, Dean was not convinced of the diagnosis because Danielle continued to eat healthy and work out but was still feeling terrible.

After piecing her symptoms together and doing extensive research, Dean believed Danielle was suffering from Cushing’s disease.

They went to a specialist to confirm Dean’s hunch and their worst fears were realised.

According to the Healthline, Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumour on the pituitary gland in the brain. This tumour then produces an abnormally high level of the hormone cortisol.

It is an extremely rare disease, affecting 10 to 15 people per million each year.

Speaking to Sunshine Coast Daily, Danielle said the disease affected her everyday life and took a dramatic toll on her family, causing her to miss out on watching her son grow.

‘Physically my body broke down…mentally I went numb,’ she said.

‘It affected everything…I missed so many moments because I can’t remember any of it’.

On July 19 Danielle had brain surgery and had the non-cancerous tumour successfully removed.

However, it will take two years for her pituitary gland to function on its own once again, and is warned she may continue to experience the harsh symptoms.

She was prescribed steroids to help manage the dramatic change her body has to cope with low cortisol levels, the publication reported.

The Gselmann’s now hope to raise awareness of the rare disease.

They have also launched a GoFundMe page requesting support for the family to look after Danielle as she recovers.

From https://en.brinkwire.com/news/gold-coast-mother-diagnosed-with-cushings-disease/

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Woman with hump on her neck diagnosed herself with Cushing’s disease

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Jennifer Trujillo, 33, noticed she was mysteriously gaining weight and losing muscle despite training for an athletic event in 2012

A woman who lived with unexplained weight gain and debilitating symptoms is finally getting her life back after diagnosing herself with a rare hormonal condition.

Jennifer Trujillo, 33, noticed she was mysteriously gaining weight and losing muscle despite training for an athletic event in 2012. She consulted doctors, but they were unable to identify the cause.

As time went on, the music consultant and video director,from Santa Fe, New Mexico, noticed that her hair was falling out, her skin bruised to the touch, her face was increasingly round, and her bones were becoming more fragile, with her foot breaking unexpectedly.

Her anxiety increased, and Jennifer, who also suffered from debilitating migraines, consulted her doctors again. Experts told her she might have a thyroid problem, bad genes or the start of osteoporosis.

‘I was training for an athletic event and started noticing that I was gaining weight, not losing it. I was losing muscle, not gaining it,’ Jennifer said, recounting her symptoms. ‘Shortly after that my blood pressure shot up through the roof.

‘My face was taking on a moon shape, very round and chubby. My anxiety was so high. Unbelievable migraines. I’d explain all these things to doctors for years and nobody would listen to me.

‘They said I may have a thyroid problem, or I may be getting osteoporosis, or I just had bad family genes and I would have to struggle to stay a good weight. But none of it made sense. I was even referred to a therapist because they said I was making up too many symptoms to make sense.’

To Jennifer, none of these explanations seemed plausible because she was working out twice a day and eating a vegan diet.

It wasn’t until she noticed a hump growing on the back of her neck, known as buffalo neck, that she googled her symptoms and found they matched those of Cushing’s disease.

Jennifer had always thought the bump was due to her ‘terrible posture’, but she discovered the hump was in fact a symptom of the condition.

‘One night I was looking at it and I was so disgusted so I googled the words “fat on back of neck”, and this thing called buffalo neck came up,’ she said. ‘From there, everything unfolded. I found Cushing’s disease and it was every symptom I had to a T, everything down to my foot breaking out of nowhere.

‘I took this information to my doctor and he was the only one who listened to me. He helped me and the rest is history. He himself was amazed I diagnosed myself with such a rare disease.

‘In my best description I would say Cushing’s slowly attacks different areas of your body. You literally experience pain and symptoms from head to toe, and it felt like each week I was waking up to something new.

‘I was able to maintain a somewhat tolerable weight before this because I became obsessed with working out and eating healthy because all this time I just thought I couldn’t lose weight. My doctors mentioned that if I hadn’t done all of this activity then I would have been in much worse shape. I’d easily be over 200 pounds, may have diabetes, osteoporosis, the list goes on.’

Cushing’s disease develops when the body makes too much cortisol. The condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions, but can also develop as a result of a tumor inside one of the body’s glands.

The main treatment is to stop taking the medication causing it or to remove the tumor. If left untreated, the condition can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It affects about one in 50,000 people.

Jennifer found out she had a tumor on her pituitary gland that caused the body to overproduce cortisol.

Thanks to her active lifestyle, Jennifer’s weight gain, which saw her going from 105 pounds to 145 pounds was not as significant as it could have been.

Jennifer had surgery in August last year to remove the tumor on her pituitary gland and has been rebuilding her life ever since.

For Jennifer, recovery has been more difficult than living with the condition itself. She sometimes struggles to get out of bed as her body adjusts to producing less cortisol, meaning she feels less energetic.

However, her symptoms started to disappear almost instantly after the operation.

‘After surgery my symptoms quickly started to disappear like rapid fire. It was crazy,’ she said. ‘My weight dropped. I stopped bruising. The hump on my neck went down. My bones healed. My hair grew back. My face returned to its normal shape, and the best part, my blood pressure returned to normal.

‘My friends and family are amazed. Every time I see someone new they say I look like a completely different person.

‘Recovery is hard. I’m still going through it. Believe it or not it’s been harder than the actual disease. When your body is used to producing so much cortisol to all the sudden be producing nothing, your body crashes.

‘Some days it’s hard for me to get out of bed and move, I’m tired all the time and have zero energy. I’m only able to walk at the gym maybe two days a week. I’m currently on cortisol replacements so that my body levels out. Every two weeks I reduce my medication because the goal is to be completely off it and have a normal functioning pituitary gland.

‘However, every time I reduce my body crashes all over again, so it’s like a never-ending cycle. But I know that someday it will get better so I’m getting through it.’

Jennifer, who has been charting her progress on Instagram, shared her advice to others who might be suffering from similar conditions.

‘Never give up trying to find an answer and push your doctors to listen to you,’ she said.

‘If I hadn’t discovered this on my own I’d probably still be suffering.’

Read more:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5450135/Woman-diagnoses-rare-hormonal-condition.html

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Addison’s Disease: Periods at 4 years, Menopause at 5

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A five-year-old girl from Australia who started menstruating at the age of four will soon start exhibiting signs of menopause, a result of Addison’s disease.

Emily Dover’s birth was absolutely ‘normal and happy’. By the second week, however, she started growing at an unusual rate. She was the size of a one-year-old by the time she turned 4-months-old. By the time Emily turned 2, she had developed breast buds, body odour and a rash on her skin that was diagnosed as cystic acne.

In addition to Addison’s disease, Emily has been diagnosed with congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Central Precocious Puberty, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing disorder and Anxiety Disorder.

The 5-year-old’s adrenal glands don’t produce enough steroid hormones.

Emily’s mother Tam Dover said her daughter is body conscious and aware that she is different from other children her age, reports Mirror Online. Sadly, the little girl is unable to understand what she is going through.

Constant pain and reduced mobility required Emily to undergo weekly physiotherapy sessions. At present Emily is five years old, and has started menstruating. After she starts a hormone replacement therapy, she will hit menopause, with all the side effects a woman over 50 years of age has to face.

“She hasn’t even had a chance to be a little girl. She’s having to learn how to put panty liners on for menstruating,” Tam tells Mirror Online.

Tam has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the ‘astronomical’ costs of her daughter’s treatments and medical care.

“Each time her growth was measured it was always way above the 99th percentile, and often 99th percentile for a couple of years above her age,” Tam wrote on the GoFundMe page.

From http://www.hindustantimes.com/health/periods-at-4-years-menopause-at-5-the-little-girl-who-never-got-to-be-a-child/story-p2kkpyd31fvsBzP21LDWcO.html

~~~

 

Kate M, Pituitary Bio

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I find it amazing that it’s newsworthy in this day and age for anyone receiving support after a diagnosis.  Of course, a diagnosed person should be getting support as a matter of course.  If she had cancer, everyone would be all over this.

For Kara Murrow, the most rewarding moments as a teacher come when students learn about animals in the classroom. So it’s difficult for the Bonham Elementary fifth-grade science and social studies teacher to be away from school while she prepares for surgery.

“I enjoy it, and I know my kids enjoy the class and enjoy science because of it,” Murrow said. “With the science club I do after school once a week, the kids get upset when it gets canceled because of meetings. Not having it now is upsetting, too.”

Murrow was diagnosed this month with Cushing’s disease, a condition that develops when a tumor on the pituitary gland causes it to secrete too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. Murrow, who moved to West Texas from Arizona three years ago, said she has received support from Midland ISD employees and others in the local community.

Murrow’s mother, Louise Gonzalez, also appreciates Midlanders’ concerns for her daughter.

“People in Midland have been wonderful, considering how new we are to the area,” Gonzalez said. “The school district sent out the GoFundMe page and there’s been an outpouring of support for that. People at my church always ask me.”

Murrow’s family is collecting donations from the website GoFundMe to cover the costs of medical and travel expenses. Murrow and her husband, Kai, recently spent money on hospital stays connected to their 4-year-old son’s food sensitivities.

“They’ve been paying off those bills and doing OK until this came,” Gonzalez said. “Plus, she’s been going to the doctor about this. Because Cushing’s is so rare, doctors don’t recognize it.”

Murrow was diagnosed with the disease after medical professionals discovered a tumor on her pituitary gland. For six years, she experienced symptoms — including weight gain, dizziness and headaches — but said doctors couldn’t determine the cause. Murrow was thankful when she received an answer.

“It was a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis and know that I wasn’t crazy or making things up,” Murrow said. “It’s weird to be excited about a brain tumor. It’s a relief to know what was happening and that I have a solution.”

Murrow traveled this week to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where she’s scheduled to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Though Murrow said recovery lasts several months, she hopes to return to the classroom next school year.

Jaime White, fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Bonham, said both staff and students miss her presence. She said Murrow expresses concern for her students during her time away.

“She’s worried about how kids will do on the STAAR [State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness],” White said. “She doesn’t want them to think she abandoned them. The disease has to take center stage.”

At school, White said she noticed her colleague’s dedication toward helping her students understand science.

“She’s hands-on,” White said. “When it comes to science, she’s always making sure the kids are doing some sort of experiment. She wants to make sure the kids grasp it.”

Murrow teaches students about animals through dissections and presentations. Before she became a teacher nine years ago, she coordinated outreach programs at an Arizona zoo.

When she came to MISD, Murrow saw an opportunity to generate enthusiasm about science. She launched an invite-only science club for fifth-graders who show interest in the subject.

“I started it because there wasn’t really anything,” Murrow said. “They have tutorials for reading and math. There’s not a lot kids can do with science after school. They get science in the younger grades, but the focus is on reading and math. Science is something kids really enjoy.”

Though Murrow is disappointed about not being able to facilitate the club, she recognizes the importance of her upcoming surgery. She’s happy her mother, husband and two children will be in Phoenix for support.

“I hope that it will bring about a sense of relief to all the symptoms I’ve been dealing with and provide a chance for myself and my family to continue along with a full life,” Murrow said.

From http://www.mrt.com/news/local/article/Science-teacher-receives-support-after-11026581.php

A Stunning Woman Reveals The Devastating Secret Behind Her Weight Gain

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Vicki Perez first noticed she was gaining weight back in October 2015 – and in less than 12 months she had ballooned from 9st 4lbs to 12st 4lbs.

Her face began to bloat and her feet swelled so large that she couldn’t even wear shoes.

The shocked mum-of-one learnt she had Cushing’s disease, which is caused by high cortisol levels.

But it wasn’t until last January that she found out it was due to a deadly tumour on her pituitary gland.

After two surgeries to have the tumour removed, Vicki has finally began to recover and is sharing her story to raise awareness.

Vicki, who is currently studying to become a dental hygienist in Florida, said: “The gym and fitness has always been my passion.

“I train every day. So I was shocked when I noticed my face was getting puffy and my hands and feet were swelling like water retention.

”They were so swollen I had to wear men’s shoes and my clothes didn’t fit.

“I felt bloated all the time and I didn’t want to leave the house.

“I continued working out at the gym not realising I was causing damage.”

In February 2016, she noticed strange rashes on her hands and body and was rushed to hospital in anaphylactic shock.

Vicki said: “When I saw the rashes I thought it was an allergy but the next day I work up and I couldn’t breathe.”

Despite numerous tests, medics continued to deny there was anything wrong.

The fed-up mum decided to see a Cushing Disease specialist at The University of Alabama.

She said: “I took my MRI and CT scan and they saw the tumour was in my brain.

“My hospital had completely mis-read it.”

After further tests, doctors were able to confirm it was a brain tumour.

She said: “I’m not sure how long I had the tumour. I thought I was going to die.”

After an initial surgery to remove the tumour on the left of her pituitary in June, and a second op to remove a second tumour in July, Vicki’s health began to improve.

She said: “Two days after the first surgery and my feet were normal.

“I was excited, I felt great, I felt amazing but a month later I was back in hospital for the second surgery.

“The recovery was hard, it hurt to move. I had to teach to walk again and how to run again.

“I was angry and I was crying all the time. It messes with your hormones and makes you think you are crazy.”

The road to recovery has been long and after eight months, Vicki still has a way to go.

But now her weight is down to 10st 10lbs and she is able to wear shoes and her normal clothes again.

She said: “It’s a slow process.

“I am not 100% back to normal and any emotional stress can be dangerous for me and cause me to go into shock.

“But I am starting to see improvements and I’m just focusing on my son and school.”

Vicki added: “My son really struggled with seeing me so sick but now I am able to spend time with him, he is so much better and not acting out at school.

“He’s the most important thing, I couldn’t have got through this without him.”

From http://www.dailystar.co.uk/diet-fitness/594013/Gain-weight-bikini-fitness-model-brain-tumour

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