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Nicole, Undiagnosed Bio

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My name is Nicole, currently 19 years old. I’m a student at The Juilliard School in New York studying Dance. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to reach out to this community, I have certainly been stalking and researching this disease for months now… I guess I’m ready now to share my own story, especially since I feel more hopeless and alone than ever before.

July 2015— It all started about two years ago. I was only 17 and very much in peak-performance shape. I looked and felt like an athlete training to be a professional ballet dancer. I prided myself for my toned body, which is very very important in the dance world. I think I weighed about 103 lbs at a height of 5’4″.

But that summer I noticed it became increasingly difficult for me to fall sleep at night. I would sometimes stay up until 3 or 4 AM when I knew I had to be up at 6 or 7 AM for a full 8 hour day of dancing. I started to stress eat a lot as well and by the end of summer I blamed myself when I had gained back all the weight I had worked to lose the previous year, plus some. I think I was about 114 lbs by the end of August.

Around this time I also sought out a Naturopathic doctor for the first time at the suggestion from a friend to help me treat an underlying anxiety disorder. I was given supplements, and for a while my health improved considerably. I felt more calm and sane than ever before in my entire life. But that didn’t last long. I continued to steadily gain weight during my senior year, always going on extreme fad diets to try to maintain. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

March 2016– By the time Spring rolled around I was really starting to notice a difference in my appearance. My face had begun to swell and I began to wonder if maybe my weight was out of my control. Maybe there was an explanation for my struggles and failed efforts. So I began researching hypothyroidism, since it runs in my family, and I went to my primary care doctor to ask for the first tests. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a long and defeating marathon.

My doctor initially treated me like I was crazy. Saying that if anything I was still underweight and that I should be concerned about my primary amenorrhea (I had still never had a period). But he did the tests and the results came back suggesting hyperthyroidism. I was confused because all my symptoms suggested otherwise. Nevertheless I was shipped off to an endocrinologist who was of little help to me throughout the summer while I continued to dance and went away for a summer intensive in Chicago.

June 2016– While in Chicago my weight just ballooned even more. I admit I did gain muscle but that was thanks to the rigorous amount of training I was doing at the time. I definitely didn’t look right though. My muscles were buried under a layer of fat, no tone was visible, and my puffy face made me look like a stranger to friends when I returned home. I tried various thyroid replacement hormones at low doses, desperate to get my body back.

August 2016– I had returned to my Naturopath in the hopes she could finally diagnose me with hypothyroidism. She did, and in fact she discovered I have Hashimoto’s, which explained the fluctuating levels. She put me on NaturThroid before saying goodbye as I departed for my Freshman year of college at The Juilliard School.

September 2016– My health improved a short while. I lost some of the puffiness on my face, dropped some weight, but settled around 117 lbs. This only lasted about a month.

October 2016– By October things turned for the worst. I felt only weaker the more I pushed myself each day. My muscles weren’t allowing me to dance at the same capacity as I once had, I was embarrassed by my short comings, especially being surrounded by so many talented individuals. My weight started rapidly increasing now. I regained the puffiness around my face and neck, and my weight went from 117 to 126 in a matter of a month.

I was referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist who thought I had PCOS and put me on metformin. To her credit, I did fit the profile. I complained of rapid weight gain, I had slightly elevated testosterone, and I had a few small cysts on my ovaries. But there were also things that didn’t fit the bill. Like my apparent lack of Estrogen, which is usually elevated in PCOS. And that I had never had a period before. I also showed no signs of pre-diabetes.

January 2017– After winter break I really could no longer put a stop to my weight gain. No matter what, it just went up. I tried cutting carbs, sugar, and calories to below 1,200 a day, all while dancing 6-8 hours a day and my weight only went up.
Metformin didn’t work. Repro. Endo. put me on estrogen and progesterone for a while, but I stopped seeing her eventually because she didn’t listen to me and ignored my qualms about weight.

I also grew very very depressed around this time and began to wonder if this was the end of my dance career. I was starting to look like a joke in classes. I mourned my body. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

May 2017– After months of research I began to wonder if I might have Cushing’s disease. I had the stretch marks on my butt and thighs, the filling in of fat around the collar bone, neck and jawline. Rapid weight gain, fatigue, depression, angry outbursts, and flushed cheeks. I do not have central obesity, but my weight has always tended to go to my butt and thighs. Though for the first time ever I begin to form a muffin top and fat on my arms. Cellulite appeared everywhere when I stretched my skin even a little bit, very odd to see cellulite on your knees! I had swollen legs too.
I now weighed 135+ lbs.

June 2017– When I got home for summer break my mom and I saw Neuro Endocrinologist Dr. Kevin Yuen at Swedish Pituitary Center. He listens to me, the first doctor to really listen! And he began testing.
Four 24/hr urine, 4 midnight salivary cortisol, 1 dexamethasone suppression test, 1 dex-CRH test, 1 Pituitary MRI.

July 2017– (current weight = 147 lbs) After a visit with Dr. Yuen and weeks of speculation he concludes there is only a 50/50 chance I have Cushing’s. Test results are as follows:
-2 mildly elevated 24/hr urines
-2 normal 24/hr urines
-3 elevated midnight salivary cortisols
-1 completely normal midnight salivary cortisol
-normal response (suppressed) after low dose dexamethasone
-normal response to Dex-CRH
-normal MRI

I’m disappointed to say the least that there is not more resounding evidence that I have this disease. I feel so certain that I have it. My body and mind are changing so rapidly I just want to cry every day. It’s so bad I don’t think I can return to school in the fall. I may have to take a year off of dance if I don’t get my body back in shape by the fall. And a year off of training could ruin me!!

Dr. Yuen suggests doing a hospital stay at Swedish to conduct further testing, particularly midnight serum cortisol, to see if more positive results might outweigh the normal results. I guess he wonders if I did something to mess up the cortisol response in some of the tests, though I don’t see how I could have! I’ve barely done anything this summer, definitely nothing exciting. I’m home-bound because I feel so depressed.

I don’t go to ballet classes anymore because it’s too painful to see myself in the mirror and try to dance in a fat suit. None of my clothes fit anymore. I just don’t feel like a young attractive woman like I used to. Not to mention my energy is out the window.

I haven’t quite given up yet! I eat a very limited paleo diet that omits grains and sugar (except those naturally occurring). I try to swim at least every other day and keep up with my pilates and stretching. It’s not the same though.

I might give up if after the hospital stay, the tests come back normal and I’m told I do not have Cushing’s, when I don’t see how it could be anything else!

I just want my life back.

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Lisann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 20, 2008

 

Being checked for Cushing’s. Have adenoma, long term hydrocortisone user, Graves Disease, a lot of the symptoms.

Don’t know much about Cushing’s.

Having cortisol,diabetes,lipid,blood test all next week.

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Laura F, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed7

 

Hi. I am now 52 yrs old.

I’ve been gaining weight for about 3 1/2 yrs since having my thyroid removed due to a 25 yr old nodule that was calcified. My thyroid levels have always been good, before and after removal. There were A typical cells in the nodule, that’s why they advised removing the thyroid.

As I gain weight and have lumps of inflammation now over all of my body, all I have been told is to eat less and exercise more. Even though I have told my drs that I barely eat at all.

I have been through the cardiologist, rheumatologist, ent, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, 2 gen practice drs and finally now an endocrinologist.

I still have the same symptoms; weight gain, headaches, abdominal distention, inflammation in ribs, feeling of breathlessness, buffalo hump, heart palpitations, acne, worsened vision, poor memory, insect bites take weeks to heal, teeth have moved leaving large gap, no armpit hair but facial hair instead, etc…

I have been waiting to see this endo for so long and she switches my levothyroxine (generic synthroid) to name brand synthroid plus gave me a paper to have many labs done. Day 4 of the synthroid, I woke up with hives. I took benadryl and it helped. Day 5 again hives but also feet swelled very bad. So I went back to the generic and those issues are gone.

Now i have to wait 2 months to have labs done and see endo again. I’m so upset and depressed. I feel like just doing the labs now and get a copy so that atleast I might have an answer. Waiting is frustrating. I keep telling these Dr’s that I’m not looking for something to be wrong with me, there is something wrong with me.

Whether it is adrenal/ pituitary or something else entirely, I don’t know. I feel like I am begging them to find out. All of my appointments with the specialists have been, come back in 2 months. WTH. This is very frustrating. I just want an answer. I will update if I ever get one. Best to all of you.

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Ryley (Sunshine), Possible Adrenal Bio

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golden-oldie

 

A Golden Oldie originally from Monday, November 17, 2008

I am currently in diagnosis – Finally got fed up and met with an endo. who is wonderful – she let it slip that she thinks that my problems are not only associated with my thyroid (hypo) but that I have an adrenal problem. She set up a myriad of tests which I have subsequently completed (in a record two days) and have done what one should NEVER do – go look up symptoms on line.

I have ALL of the sympoms for a Cushie – from the over emotional bit to the hump – Just Lovely! I just wanted to drop a note as I am feeling very overwhelmed by all of this. I realize that I have not been diagnosed, am only at the testing phase and should just calm down and be rational but it is harder than it appears.

I am alone with this and it is freaking me out. My family is in another state, and, when I talk to them I feel I need to put on a brave face, I always have when major issues occur, don’t know why I do, I just do. I know that if I asked a family member to come to me they would, no questions asked but then I know they would just be watching me like a hawk the whole time for G-d knows what to happen.

All of your posts have been extremely helpful to me and are helping me to bolster my spirits. It is heartening to know that I am not a crazy person and that there are support systems out there for us. I will write again when I get a diagnosis – Hoping for the best!!
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Wendy, Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-gland

 

I was diagnosed in April 2016 with Cushing Disease caused by a pituitarty adenoma. I believe I have struggled with these syptoms for over a decade.

I had a goiter removed from my thyroid in 1997 and have had numours biopsys on other nodules on my thyriod over the years.

Fortunately, I changed doctors and walk into Dr. Levetan office in Chestnut Hill Hopital. The discovery of my high cotisal levels, many tests, MRIs and a cat scan confirmed my diagnonis. She gave me many answers to different symptoms I have been struggling with that seem to be worse by the day.

In May, I met with Dr. Salvatori at John Hopkins and I am scheduled for surgery 8/10/2016.

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Heather (HeatherKY), Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

From Monday, February 2, 2009

Greetings! This is Heather from KY. I finally am sitting down to type out my bio to try to help others should they recognize their own symptoms in my story.

I am 33 years old and I was never someone who was overly sick. I had my occasional bouts with the flu and at least one sinus infection a year, but overall was extremely healthy. I am a former semi-professional dancer and maintained a weight of around 120 lbs. I was blessed with super metabolism and never had to diet, but all that changed around 2002.

In 2002, I developed a case of Bell’s Palsy. It came on over the course of about 5 days affecting the right side of my face. My PCP placed me on a 70 mg daily dose of prednisone to be tapered after 1 week. I felt the effects of the steroid immediately, both good and bad. I was wired every night, up at 2 to 3 o’clock for hours. And the intense hunger about drove me over the edge. Additionally, I experienced a weakness in my jaws and neck that was quite disturbing. Eventually though, after tapering off the prednisone, those symptoms went away and I began to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and lost around 23 pounds, even becoming a lifetime member.

Life went along well for a while, I’d lost weight, had a good job and a great boyfriend. But then things started to change. I underwent a personality change that caused me to be moody and upset and pick fights with my boyfriend for no reason. My arms started going numb and I developed a fierce neck and shoulder pain. Even though I was still following my WW eating habits and going to the gym, the weight started to creep back on.

Along about this point in time the panic attacks began. I would go to bed, sleep for 2 or three hours and then suddenly wake up with a racing heart and feeling like I might die if I didn’t release some pent up energy. I literally would jump out of the bed with this horrific feeling that could best be described as “impending doom”. It was such a miserable feeling that I made an appointment with my PCP who thought it odd that I would have panic attacks in the middle of the night, so he began treating me for asthma.

I began to withdraw socially. I didn’t want to be around other people when I was feeling so poorly. My boyfriend decided to move on to a more sociable person, and I slipped into a deep depression. I felt like I was losing my mind and completely losing control. I finally began to consider that I was truly mentally ill. I researched mental illness and found that I had characteristics, but nothing truly fit the bill. I identified with some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder as I experienced wild swings in mood. But I also realized that my problems were not just psychological. I started to gain even more weight. Working out became extremely uncomfortable because of the crushing fatigue and feeling of not being able to breathe.

Trips to my primary care doc were not giving me the answers I needed. No one was looking at the aggregate of my symptoms, only the individual instances. I emerged from each visit a little more depressed than when I went in. I was given anti-depressants and a variety of herbs and natural combinations to try. Literally nothing helped. A small dose of thyroid alleviated a portion of the fatigue, but I still felt I was not getting to where I needed to be.

Oddly, the thought that kept popping into my head during this time was that I felt as if I was on steroids again. But that did not make sense as I had not taken a dose of steroid in several years.

Ultimately, my grandmother gave me an article about a woman whose story was eerily similar to mine. She was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. I’ve been involved with companion animals and animal rescues for a number of years and was familiar with Cushing’s in dogs…but had no earthly idea that a human could get it! I remember having such a strange mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I was scared for what may lie ahead, but at the same time I was excited and hopeful to be able to put a name to what had caused me to lose so much of the life I knew. An appointment with my primary care doc and superstar nurse practitioner brought excited concurrence from both.

I was referred to an endocrinologist who then literally laughed in my face when I mentioned Cushing’s. He then proceeded to tell me I was taking too much thyroid hormone and lowered my dosage. Yikes!! Never one to blindly accept the established order, I decided to do my very own research and seek a second opinion. And then a third opinion. All were in agreement on one point: I look “cushingoid”. But some of my tests came back with normal and even low(!) results. Hence I was sent on my way with the proverbial pat-on-the-head…and a recommendation for Weight Watchers.

Fast forward several frustrating months, and I entered into an intensive testing phase for a version of Cushing’s called “cyclical” or “episodic” Cushing’s after seeking the help of an expert in the disease. With cyclical Cushing’s, your cortisol levels fluctuate from high to low and then back to high, producing erratic results and further complicating an already complex disease.

My list of symptoms is fairly typical of Cushing’s:
• A 90 lb weight gain, concentrated around my stomach, that does not respond to diet and exercise
• A round, red face (moon face, facial plethora)
• Acne, much of it on not just my face, but also my neck, shoulders and chest
• Muscle weakness, making it difficult to squat or climb stairs
• Cuts and insect bites are slower to heal and my skin easily bruises
• Severe hair loss

In December 2008, after many years of feeling hopeless and alone, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease caused by a pituitary tumor. Transphenoidal pituitary surgery has been scheduled for February 2009.

If you are just starting your journey, please listen to what your body is telling you. If you are unsatisfied with the answers you are receiving from your doctors, take matters into your own hands. Research and learn as much as possible and do not be afraid to fire a doctor that is not helping. And, most importantly, never give up hope. I’m so glad I didn’t.

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Xchicagoan (xchicagoan), Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

From Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hi there!

I’m new to the site, and quite frankly, new to Cushing’s Syndrome itself. Over the years I have been having what seemed to be a lot of unrelated symptoms, which are now escalating in intensity. And like most of you I have been from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what’s going on, with no success. What I find really scary is I’m now seeing uncanny similarities to the mystery illness that took my mother’s life. Out of frustration I’ve turned to the Internet for answers; starting by putting in different combinations of symptoms in hopes I would stumbled on to something conclusive.

It might seem pretty logical now, but I have been in a fog both literally and figuratively, never really looking at the “big picture”, since some of my symptoms were vague and generalized. Edema, hair loss, uncontrollable weight gain, etc., etc., etc.. Put those symptoms in and you get hundreds of different possibilities. And truth be told I had come across Cushing’s before, but I wasn’t convinced that was my problem. However, while surfing last night it occurred to me to include some family health oddities into the mix to see what I could come up with. The first one I started with was Adrenal Hyperplasia, and Bingo! I hit sight after site that described me, my mother, (dead at 61), and my niece (dead at 9), and I knew this was it.

So People of the Boards, where do I go from here? Over the years I have gone to two different Endocrinologists seeking answers, but because I have Hashimoto’s (Thyroid) Disease, both were convinced there was nothing else wrong. I am incredibly tired of wasting my time with doctors who are completely dismissive, and don’t take the time to look any closer than a few symptoms.

I’m turning to you, hopefully for some answers. If anyone knows of a competent doctor in the Huntersville/Charlotte, North Carolina area familiar with Cushing‘s, would you please respond?

Thanks for being here,
Xchicagoan

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