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In Memory of Judy Kennedy – December 15, 2019

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

 

 

From 2008: Siblings Deal With Rare Cushing’s Diagnoses

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Topic on the Message Boards


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

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

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In Memory: Millie Niss ~ November 29, 2009

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

Millie Niss (1973-2009)

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

She was just 36 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–R.D. Pohl

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

MaryO, 33rd Pituitary Surgery Anniversary

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Today is the 33rd 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 32 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.

Last year I went back on it (Omnitrope this time) in late June of last year.  Hooray!  I still don’t know if it’s going to work but I have high hopes.  I am posting some of how that’s going here.

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

In the last couple years, I’ve developed ongoing knee issues.  Because of my cortisol use to keep the AI at bay, my endocrinologist doesn’t want me to get a cortisone injection in my knee.  September 12, 2018 I did get that knee injection (Kenalog)  and it’s been one of the best things I ever did.  I didn’t look forward to telling my endo!  I have had a couple more injections.

I also developed an allergy to blackberries in October and had to take Prednisone – and I had to tell my endo that, too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, Oct 11, 2003

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

From the posts on the message boards:

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


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


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


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

We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


I think this fits Cookie perfectly:

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

— Anonymous

~~~

Cookie shared this poem  to show how she felt…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1955 and 1962 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

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

2000 and 1998 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

 

From the message boards thread about Cookie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks to Erin for this last look…


We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.

Matt (MattHill), Ectopic Cushing’s

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Diagnosis: Stage 2 small cell lung cancer causing high levels of Cortisol, low testosterone and thyroid

Hi, I’m a 46 year old male academic working on US politics qlat University in England. I had 18 months of hospital referrals before my GP realised I had Cushing’s and was diagnosed in March 2020.

I went through a series of investigations and the cause of it was a small cell tumour in my lung. I am currently undergoing chemo and start radiotherapy this week.

I’m a complex case apparently and my biggest problem at the moment is my back pain both acute spasms and muscle ache.

 

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In Memory: Alice Baker, October 3, 2002

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in-memory

Thursday, October 3, 2002

Alice died of lung cancer and Cushing’s.

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

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

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

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

Official obituary

In Memory of Janice ~ Tuesday, September 4, 2001

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in-memory

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Double click to see these ribbons
used in Janice’s memory.

On the message boards, Lorrie wrote: Our dear friend, Janice died this past Tuesday, September 4, 2001. I received an IM from her best friend Janine, tonight. Janine had been reading the boards, as Janice had told her about this site, and she came upon my name and decided to IM me. I am grateful that she did. She said that she knew that Janice would want all of us to know that she didn’t just stop posting.

For all of the newcomers to the board that did not know Janice, she was a very caring individual. She always had something positive to say. Janice was 36 years old, was married and had no children. She had a miscarriage in December and began to have symptoms of Cushing’s during that pregnancy. After the pregnancy, she continued to have symptoms. When discussing this with her doctor, she was told that her symptoms were just related to her D&C. She did not buy this and continued until she received the accurate diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome (adrenal) in March of 2001. Tragically, Janice’s tumor was cancerous, a very rare form of Cushing’s.

Janice then had her tumor and adrenal gland removed by open adrenalectomy, a few months ago. She then began chemotherapy. She was very brave through this even though she experienced severe side effects, including weakness and dizziness. She continued to post on this board at times and even though she was going through so much, she continued with a positive attitude. She even gave me a referral to a doctor a few weeks ago. She was my inspiration. Whenever I thought I had it bad, I thought of what she was dealing with, and I gained more perspective.

Janice was having difficulty with low potassium levels and difficulty breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, a CT scan was done and showed tumor metastasis to the lungs. She then was begun on a more aggressive regimen of chemo. She was discharged and apparently seemed to be doing well.

The potassium then began to drop again, she spiked a temp and she was again admitted to the hospital. She improved and was set to be discharged and then she threw a blood clot into her lungs. She was required to be put on a ventilator. She apparently was at high risk for a heart attack. Her husband did not want her to suffer anymore and did not want her to suffer the pain of a heart attack and so chose for the doctors to discontinue the ventilator on Tuesday. She died shortly thereafter.

Funeral services will be on Tuesday.

Janice was our friend. She was a Cushie sister. I will always remember her. Janine asked me to let her know when we get the Cushing’s ribbons made as she and the rest of Janice’s family would like to wear them in her memory. She said that Janice would want to do anything she could to make others more aware of Cushing’s.


A Poem written in Janice’s Memory:

JANICE’s POEM

When I Am Done
When the leaves settle
Among the earths soil
Then will I find peace
For all my work and toil.

Know not I when it will be
But of its happening, it’s a certainty
For once sick in body
Though healed in time
Can never be wiped clean
Of the illnesses grime.

The stamp of death
Left upon this soul
Will never have reason to fear
It’s pearly gates that have come, for some
But for me only when I am done.

~Adrienne Lilley

Written in Janice’s memory, may she rest in peace always.

One thing about Cushings—I no longer fear death. But I sure do embrace life.

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In Memory of Kate Myers ~ June 23, 2014

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kate-fbkate

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

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

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

Her National Geographic video in 2007

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

Articles to help others:

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

Kate’s bio from 2008:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, I’ll keep you posted.

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

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

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

 

In Memory of Diana Crosley ~ June 18, 2014

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diana2003a

Portland, OR, Cushing’s Conference, October 2003, Day 2, at a “House of Magic” dinner.

diana2003b

Portland, OR, Cushing’s Conference, October 2003, Day 3. It was very windy on the Oregon Coast!

diana2005

Brighton, MI: Cushing’s Weekend, October 2005

diana2007

Columbus, OH Cushing’s meeting, 2007

Diana’s official obituary from Adams Funeral Home:

Diana Lynn Alexander Crosley, age 58, of Sidney, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at 10:10 p.m. at her residence surrounded by her loving family.  She was born September 30, 1955, in Sidney, the daughter of Francis Alexander, and the late Laverne Egbert Alexander.

Diana is survived by her father and step-mother, Francis and Carole Alexander, of Sidney; daughters, Stacie Crosley, of Columbus, Casey Crosley, of Silver Spring, Maryland, Ericka Crosley, of Sidney; one granddaughter, Ella Laws, of Sidney; two sisters, Kathy and Randy Watercutter, of Minster, and Susan Alexander, of Mt. Vernon, Missouri.

Diana was a 1973 graduate of Anna High School. She was a registered nurse for many years. In her spare time she enjoyed meditating and doing yoga. She also enjoyed relaxing at the beach in Florida.

Her family, her children and especially her granddaughter, was the love of her life. She will be deeply missed by all.

The Crosley family would like to express their sincere thanks to Ms. Lisa Blagg and the entire staff of Wilson Hospice for the continued compassionate care of their mother during her extended illness.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 21, 2014, at 3:00 p.m., at the Adams Funeral Home, 1401 Fair Road, Sidney.

Family and friends may call from 12-3 p.m. on Saturday, prior to services at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made to Wilson Memorial Hospice in Diana’s memory.
Envelopes will be available at the funeral home.


Diana’s Cushing’s Help bio:

As with everyone who suffers from this disease, mine is a rather long story.

In retrospect, I believe I became symptomatic sometime around 1994. Particularly, I remember the weight gain and facial hair. I was also somewhat depressed, but at the time I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and had a lot of “on the job stress” in my position as a psychiatric nurse, working for an HMO. In addition, my grandmother was ill, I turned 40 and I attributed most of my problems to “life” In 1995, I accepted a job transfer from Dayton, Oh to Birmingham, Al. My grandmother had died and I needed to get away from the relationship. Unfortunately, the office in B-ham closed after approx 18months and I accepted a position as RN/Medical director at a residential facility for children with autism, seizure disorders and behavioral problems.

Meanwhile, I continued to gain weight, I began to notice some “swelling” on the back of my neck, I bruised very easily and had problems concentrating. I went on the Phen-fen diet and lost approx 40 lbs. Of course, now I’m wondering How did that happen? If the weight gain was Cushing related In June of 1998, I was thrown from a horse and fractured my pelvis in two places. Again unfortunately, the initial x-ray didn’t reveal any breaks, so I continued to work in extreme pain. My physician kept saying I was “just a slow healer”

At this point my blood pressure skyrocketed, the slightest scratch or bump would result in a major hematoma and skin tear. I had a cardiac work-up and was told I had ischemic tissue in my left ventricle and was sent to Houston for a cardiac cath.

Ok this part’s kind of funny, now of course at the time I couldn’t believe it. If anyone’s familiar with Houston, you know how terrible the traffic can be. I arrived for the cath, at 8am I was prancing like a wild animal in my room as I waited for the nurse to bring me my “sedative” At approx 11:00 she came in and began to take my vitals. Almost simultaneously, she was paged, returned to my room to tell me that the cardiologist had broken his tooth while eating a muffin for breakfast and all his procedures for the day were cancelled. I had to reschedule. Thankfully, when I did have the cath, he told my my heart” was beautiful” When I asked about the results that said I had dying tissue he replied “Oh, that must have been a blurp on the film”.

Moving on, even though my heart was fine, I had now regained all of the weight I had lost and was in constant pain. I then moved to Florida to stay with a friend’s mother, who had suffered a stroke. I began working per diem as a Home Health RN. I kept getting worse in all areas. I went to a doctor in Fl. who told me I was depressed and getting older, ergo all my problems. He told me that the buffalo hump was a fatty lipoma and referred me to a surgeon to have it removed. I went to a surgeon for a consult, was scheduled for surgery and my COBRA ran out on my insurance and I couldn’t afford to continue it.

I then went to a plastic surgeon, who confirmed it was a fatty lipoma, of course One of the biggest he had ever seen. He even photographed it to use for teaching seminars. And don’t you know, it grew right back. I spent 1700.00 (on credit) and it came back. At this point, I was having trouble standing, sitting, lying down. I was in constant pain and was having a lot of problems just trying to do my job. I went to another physician who thought I was depressed and maybe had leukemia because my lab work was all screwed up. Here again, the bad news was I was dying but it might take twenty years for the leukemia to kill me. At this point, I was ready to hang it all up.

Then, in Aug of 2001, I had just seen my last patient and was on my way to the office to complete the paperwork when a young man did a U-turn and t-boned me on the driver’s side. This just about put me over the edge, however, again, on the bright side, I went to a chiropractor, whom I had been seeing, and she ordered an MRI of my back. The MRI also, incidentally, revealed massive bilateral, adrenal hyperplasia.

I contacted the Nurse’s Endocrine Society. They sent info on Cushing’s. I could not believe the sketching of the women with Cushing’s it looked just like me. I also fit the symptom profile, almost completely. I was referred to an endocrinologist in Melbourne, FL. He did the 24-hour urines and dex test, confirmed the diagnosis, I was already convinced. He contacted the NIH as I didn’t have health insurance. I had a bilateral adrenalectomy (right side laproscopically and open left side as I began to bleed) Jan 17, 2002. I was discharged on Jan 26th.

I came to Ohio to stay with my daughters while I recovered, never thinking in my wildest imagination that that process would be so lengthy and utterly miserable. I hurt everywhere like I had never hurt before. I developed a serious sinus infection I went back to Florida in Feb. I stayed with friends. I applied for disability, I hoped for a worker’s comp settlement for my back injury. The insurance company who was handling my claim filed Chap 11 and all pay outs were suspended. They did pay for some physical therapy. There contention is that it was the Cushing’s that was my major problem and not related to the accident, however, duh! They’re right, but because I had the Cushing’s the injury I incurred in the accident was more severe than the average person would have sustained.

When I went to the NIH in Jan the chest X-ray revealed multiple healing rib fractures which were most likely a result of the accident. So, I’m still awaiting word on my disability, I was denied, appealed, denied again and am waiting for the hearing. In the meantime, my car was repossessed, I will most likely have to file bankruptcy and am now staying with my oldest daughter in Columbus.

I have lost approx 55lbs, my skin is healed, my buffalo hump and moon face are gone. I am still in quite a bit of pain in my joints, muscles and bones. I don’t have the energy I would like to have and I still have spacey moments. The mental part has been tough. A lot of days I really wanted to be dead. I was on morphine for my pain and I was so sick I would start vomiting and it would go on for 24-36-48 hrs. I finally quit taking the morphine and thank God, that has stopped. I am relying on my family and friends for everything and I’m used to being the giver, not the taker. I guess I’m learning to be humble and I am so much better, it’s just that I’ve just gotten access to the internet, and have been reading the chat board and message board and it seems that I am still a “slow healer”

It has been one year since that surgery and I guess my expectations were that if I kept trying to be patient, get through this year things would be back to a semblance of normalcy. OK I know I’m wordy.

Thanks for the support and I would welcome input from anyone.

Diana

Update January 28, 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the boards and I’ve tried to update my bio on occasion. However, due to my impaired technical abilities (lol) I was unable to figure out how to do so, even though Mary has made it SO easy. Again, lol

Anyway, the first five yrs post BLA were painful and traumatic but also a blessing. In 2005 I started taking yoga classes and that was the beginning of an amazing transformation for me. It led to meditation and an exploration of the spiritual meaning of this illness and of life in general. Of course the transformation wasn’t immediate and it is ongoing but I feel so blessed to be experiencing this life. I’ve learned to be grateful for the gifts of all of my experiences. Without Cushings, I never would have met some of the most caring and amazing people on this earth.

In July of 2008 I returned to Florida. I am now living in a little beach town, bought a bicycle and ride it almost every day. I still have pain, but it’s manageable and I focus on my breath and gratitudes as a way of managing it. I’ve learned the value of positive thoughts and intentions. I’ve learned that we are all more powerful than we may have ever imagined. I’ve met some amazing people here and continue to read and attent seminars and classes on exploring my purpose in this life and the gifts I have to give to the universe.

To all who are just beginning this Cushing’s journey, and for those experiencing the feeling of “no light at the end of the tunnel” -the light is there, just waiting for your arrival.

You can and will get through this, your life is not over.

Again, many thanks to Mary O who has given her gifts to help other souls navigate their way through a painful time

Much love to all
Diana

In Memory of Patti ~ May 2, 2002

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in-memory

Thursday May 2, 2002

From the Message Boards: ” I loved her, she was a great friend. She died of adrenal cortical carcinoma.”

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