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MaryO ~ Growth Hormone Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, I waited for 10 days…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will happen?

Stay tuned!

 

Jennifer, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, I am a 33 yearl old female who has been living a nightmare for the last 5 years as I have seen my total health delcine before my eyes.

I have gained massive amounts of weight with no medical reason, my monthly cycle has left me, insomnia, severe depression and anxiety for no reason, infertility, allmy obesity is in my stomach and upper back, I have developed sleep apnea from having a thick neck, I have the infamous buffalo hump, hair loss of 50% of my hair, I cannot lose weight no matter what I do, I take these weird week spells where I cannote even get out of bed, hair has literally stopped growing on my legs and other areas of my body, except on my chin and abdomen where I do not want it to grow, my face is round and red and people who see me cannot believe this transformation my body has undertaken and I then have to hear how could have let myself go? If you would just stay on a diet longer than 2 weeks? I am glad that my children are not fat? I could go on and on the emotionally abuse I have had to enudre the last 5-6 years.

I have exercised and exercised to no improvement other than I feel exhausted, I eat a very strict diet, my Mother had to move over here with us because I no longer can care for my children and need her help. I have medical bills back in the states that are like science fiction.

I finally got diagnosed with hypothyroidism and still feel horrible, I have to take Toprol XL for heart palpitations without no explanation from where they are coming from it is so much easier for some physicians to keep just giving you pills instead of trying to figure out what is the root problem.

I now live in a foreign country where it is even harder on me, but I do have an appointment after 10 months with an Endocrinologist here in Doha tomorrow and on November 9th I have an appointment to go see a Cushings Expert in the UAE in Dubai his name is Dr. Taher so I will give an update after theses two visits.

Jennifer
Doha, Qatar

Update December 30, 2007

Hello My name is Jennifer and I am a 33 year old American living in Doha, Qatar (Middle-East), I was finally sent to Dubai and seen an Endocrinologist and he did an MRI and i have two pituitary tumors and he believes that I do have Cushings so he referred me to see Dr. Bill Ludlam, MD in Seatte in January 2008 to get further testing.

I know that there were something worng with me a long time ago but I never knew it was something as stealthy as this disease possibly, I have all the classical symptoms. Also the tesing is so so expensive in the States so I am waiting for the Qatari Governments approval for my medical expenses in Seattle.

I will giva another update soon.

Update May 28, 2008

My current update. I did go see Dr. Ludlam with no avail since my insurance would not pay for him but he did state that I needed further testing so after I left Washington I went to my friends house in Alaska just to have time to think since my husband and I are seperated.

I decided to go back home to West Virginia to be with my family for support and see a Doctor there bringing all my reports and scans to him from the Dr. in the Middle-East and Dr. Ludlmas suggestions.

I seen Dr Yakub and they did tests and all of them came back positive for Cushings my urine, salivory and blood several times came back positive and high for Cushings , also my MRI in January showed that my pituitary tumors are still there.

He is a good doctor and is located in Huntington West Virginia and he not only practices Endocrinology but he is also a Professor of Endocrinology at Marshall University School of Medicine. I will keep all of you updated and thank you so much for your support through this trying time in my life and I pray that all of the Cushies on this board get diagnosed, treated and healed.

Update July 10, 2008

I have finally got my diagnosis and I am heading to the University of Virgnia in Charloettesville on July 23rd! I will update what happens from there. I would also like to say thank you to Christi who has helaped me and talked to me through this difficult time.

Update September 19, 2008

Hello Everyone I am so sorry that it has taken me son long to get back with you I had my Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling done this week at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and it is confirmed I have pituitary dependent Cushings and I am scheduled for surgery the first week of October with Dr. John Jane Jr. They are great at the University of Virginia and I am so thankful for them. I am hoping that someone will take me under their wing while I am getting ready for surgery and give me some advice. I would really appreciate the help.

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TONIGHT! Interview with Fabiana

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interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 88 other past interviews to listen to!

~~~

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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LisaG, Ectopic Cushing’s (Golden Oldie)

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golden-oldie

 

Diagnosed April 1997 with Cushings. They figured it was about 9 years in coming to a head. Started with the weight gain then disc problems (surgery), problems with my teeth breaking, acne, facial hair all the good stuff. Kept changing my hair color as something just wasn’t right but eventually realized it was my skin color darkening.

Took a trip to NYC in Feb of 1987 and swelled up and turned yellow during the trip. Went to the Dr when I got back and they tested me for Hepititas (sp?) and AIDS. Dr asked me if I had been using steroids. Changed Dr’s due to a change in my health insurance.

I talked to her for about 10 minutes about all my symptoms and she said “You have Cushings”. She sent me to an endo at Portland Diabetes Clinic. He got me in to see Dr Cook up at OHSU (Oregon Health Science Univ) and he scheduled the Petrus Sinus Sampling. From that they determined it was an Eptopic tumor.

They started doing Catscans and MRI’s until they found a small lung tumor. I finally had surgery in Sept 1987. The months leading up to that surgery were pretty scary. I ended up being pretty heavily medicated by the psychiatrist I started seeing. I think for me the mental and emotional symptoms were as bad or worse then the physical symptoms.

I’d like to say that’s where this ended but…alas. I started experiencing the same symptoms again and went to the Dr again in April of 2005 and was again diagnosed with Cushings. I am back with Dr Cook and am awaiting the results of the second Petrus Sinus Sampling.

Update October 26, 2006

2nd Sinus Sampling again was negative so again have an Eptopic tumor. After about 4 months gave up looking and decided on a BLA. Since my surgery in Sept 2005 until today Oct 2006 I have lost 60 pounds and my Cushing look is starting to fade. I take my medication without fail and have stayed with my new healthy lifestyle. Still looking for my eptopic tumor, it hasn’t decided to be found yet.

To all those not yet diagnosed or “cured”, Hang in there. If you aren’t happy with your doctor, find a different one. Also, don’t wait for someone else to tell you about your disease. Research!! Hope my next update will be for my tumor removal.

 

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Donna (DD), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed7

I don’t know if I have Cushings…I have a lot of the symptoms.

My endo dr suggested I have Fibromyalgia. My mother has had that for 25 years.

I know something is wrong. I can’t lose weight! The neck fat is driving me CRAZY, this isn’t me…something is wrong! It’s affecting my entire life!

~~~~~~~~

Donna submitted a second bio:

Hello all….I’m a newbie and don’t know if I have Cushings? I’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia & that’s no picnic. However, I did read somewhere that Drs diagnose Fibro when someone could actually have Cushings? Since it is rare & hard to diagnose.

I’ve had only two 24HR urine tests which come out normal. I honestly believe I have cushings..my body has changed very quickly over the last few years. I know something is wrong with me & I believe it goes beyond fibromyalgia. My GP is awesome & he believes me! I’ve been treated for so many things that all relate to Fibro or cushings.

I’m anxious to read the blogs and hoping I might find some more answers.

~~~~~~~~

Hello everyone! I’m a newbie trying to figure out what’s wrong with me? As of now I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I have a lot of pain in my upper body, mostly the shoulder & neck area. I also had pain on the back of my neck that seemed to look like a hump. Then the extra fat in my neck showed up & fat pad in my clavicle area.

My stomach started getting bigger without any change to my diet. I have had MAJOR fatigue…sometimes sleeping 19 to 22 hrs at one time without getting up. One time I slept 36 hrs straight but had been very stressed prior to that.

Stress has been a MAJOR factor in my life for the last 5 years. I’ve had stomach issues during this time & still do. I’ve had upper & lower GI scopes.

I have IBS with constipation which has been a big problem with my bloating. I’ve been to an Endocrinologist & have had blood work & 2-24HR urine cortisol tests & all have been negative.

I honestly think I have cushings! My GP is awesome & he believes something is wrong & knows I have been struggling with my health for years!

I WONT give up!

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Louise (Louise), Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease Bio

4 Comments

steroids

 

I am a 52 year old wife and mom of 4 who has had strange symptoms which will be a year this coming August.

My first symptom that I noticed as something strange was brusing beneath the skin on my left arm and then noticing that the skin easily tore. My doctor ran some bloodwork but still couldn’t figure anything out.

Later my best friend researched my symptoms and suggested I ask my doctor, which I did at my next appointment. Oddly at that next appointment the nurse checked my vitals and everything seemed ok. When the doctor came in I was leaning on my husband’s arm and my systolic # was 92.

From there he referred me to an endocrinologist. We discovered, after many blood test, that my issues were caused due to ACTH issue with my adrenal glands and that was caused due to taking varying amounts (usually 9 mg) of Entocort for around 12 years.

Now that I have been researching some of the symptoms I realize I have had them for at least a year. I have weaned down to 3 mg and want to get off of the Entocort but the doctor says that I will die if I just stop the medicine. I am due to have bloodwork July 13, 2015 and meet the doctor to discuss the results on July 23, 2015.

My FEET are killing me! I have felt SO alone and I am very thankful to find this support group….now I just need to learn how to use the message boards, so please pardon me if I flub.

Any help and advice is appreciated! Can this go away? I am PRAYING that it does!

Thank you in advance! Louise

~~~

update

Updated based on Louise’s comment.

My name is Louise. I am NOT a technogical person and cant seem to figure out how to get the most out of this forum, and I KNOW it is a good one. I desperately need contact with others who understand because they are going through this. Someone please tell me how? I just need some help. My bio says that I am “undiagnosed” but that is not longer true. The end of June I was officially diagnosed with “Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease”. I felt badly for 3 days, one of which was Father’s day and I was NOT going to the ER on that day. The second day I packed up a necessary bag, but still did not go to the ER. The third day I’d had all I could take and asked my husband to take me to the hospital. My stomach and my head hurt and had been hurting. The ER doc told me that my potassium and my sodium levels had bottomed out and that it could cause neurological damage and / or seizures. Scared me. I was admitted to the hospital for 4 days.

My Cushing’s was caused by long-term use of Entocort, or budesonide. No one could make sense of my “crazy bloodwork” because my cortisone level was “non descernable”, yet how was I alive? The second visit with my endocrinologist, just as she walked out the door, it hit me and I asked her if it could be the budesonide. She immediately recognized what was causing my Cushings. No one had picked up on the medicine because it was listed under the generic name and did not have a “cort” in the word of the generic. I have weaned completely off of the Entocort and it was not easy but I was determined. I have been on a maintenance dose of Cortisol beginning at 20 mg per day and I am not down to 15 a day. I want to go to a lower dose but need surgery on my thumb and so I know I will have to go back up to 50 mg for a while as I deal with the surgery. It will be the second surgery on my thumb, a surgery to correct the first surgery. Long story on the thumb, which I will skip….however, I originally messed up by thumb because I could not sleep. I asked my dr about Ambien and he said that would be good. I wanted to be sure it would not cause crazy behavior in any way, but once I took it, within 5 minutes (because I knew after taking the medicine I had to go immediately to bed within 10 minutes. I had a HORRIBLE fall and remember none of it. Once diagnosed with Cushings I realized that not sleeping, like for a day and a half being wide awake, was a result of Cushings.

My GI dr who prescribed the Entocort was kind and professional, truly caring but he didn’t ask me about ANY side effects, saying this drug was “the best” and that it really never had any side effects. I went in with skin on my arms so thin, brusied and bleeding, but he was only interested in the GI issues, even after I TOLD him I had Cushings. I finally had to tell him flat out that the Entocort he prescribed for me beginning 09/26/07 was what CAUSED my Cushings.

I ACHE, my lower back and feet, often my hands. It is hard to feel like an attractive woman when I am shaped like an apple with a moon-shaped face, but I decided I’ll just say heck with that…..there are other worse parts I am dealing with, yet, not being vain, that still matters to me self-esteem wise.

As I weaned from the Entocort my blood pressure went crazy up and down, but mainly high, which was some to begin with. Now it drops down and I feel like a wet rag. I am sleeping a LOT and when I get up during the night or in the morning I feel like I walk like Herman Munster. It is getting to me because it is hard to do things with my kids because I don’t have the energy or the ability to do things with them (the youngest 2 are 17 and 15 and they live at home. We also have a 22 year old and an almost 20 year old who are living on their own working, or on their own in college. I miss some things because I just “fall out, or hit falldown as I call it”. Maybe someone here can understand what I mean when I say I “hit falldown”. Others don’t understand. I have not told people in my community about my condition due to a former friend who is just plain nosey and called other friends to find out why I was in the hospital. I am not ashamed of the Cushing’s, but I don’t want to be gossip fodder either.

I did break down and asked my dr for a handicapped tag so that I don’t have to walk so far. I still have swelling in my legs, but hopefully that is better, but the pain is not. My balance is off and I have to steady myself when I stand up.

My cortizol levels have gone from “non descernable” to 2.4 to 4.3, so at least I am heading in the right direction. It is baby steps but I am thankful that it is going in the right direction, however slowly.

I would appreciate anyone getting in touch with me and have checked the “notify me of new comments via email box”. It is hard because people don’t understand and those I DO tell in confidence, I have a hard time describing it.

I don’t know that I used this forum correctly, but I am trying. Does anyone else have those “fall down” got to lie down NOW, moments where you lie down for hours? Somedays I feel like I get nothing done.

Thankful to have a place to voice my feelings. God bless each one of you. Louise.

 

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Interview With Pat – Golden Oldie

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golden-oldie

 

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 – 01:04AM

My show, “Interview with Pat Gurnick” on “CushingsHelp” is airing 06/23/2011 on BlogTalkRadio.

Next Interview, Thursday June 23 at 9:00 PM eastern with Pat Gurnick:

The Call-In number for questions or comments is (646) 200-0162.

Listen to Pat’s interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2011/06/24/pat-gurnick-pituitary-patient

Join Pat on THURSDAY JUNE 23 AT 9PM EASTERN

My name is Pat Gurnick. I had a Pituitary Tumor (Cushing’s Disease) removed  (Macro 1.4 size) by Dr. Kelly at UCLA.

This has been a long journey for me. In 1990 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Fibromyalgia, and Environmental Illness/Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I was a Needs Assessment and Referral Counselor at Charter Hospital. I than went to work for Brotman Hospital as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor, with their day treatment program for Chronic Mentally Ill Substance Abusers, but by 1992 I was so ill I went on disability. I could not read or write for over a year, so sick. I started a support group, WEBSITE  and phone hotline in 1993, to give myself a reason to live. I had such cognition difficulties and fatigue, to name a few symptoms, that I don’t honestly know how I achieved this!

In 1994 I thought I was in remission, little more functional and decreased Fibromyalgia pain; yet, I also went through premature menopause at that time, age 35 (I am 45 now), which I now found out was the cause and beginning of a Pituitary Tumor/Cushing’s Disease! I was single and I had no children. My doctor figured this is when the tumor developed/high cortisol, to compensate for my crashed adrenals (HPA Dysfunction common to CFIDS Patients).

I tried so hard to lose the weight all those years, and the past few years people were always asking me when I was “due” for my stomach was so distended. In addition, I was anxious and depressed, experienced nausea most of the time, facial hair, moon face, hump/fat pads ,and many of the other Cushing’s effects. The Rheumatologist just attributed this all to getting older and osteoporosis (which I had a severe case by this time due to Cushing’s – little did I know!).

No one picked up on the Tumor situation until last October, 2003. I had other health problems, especially mold injury (from water damage in my home) and had to leave with basically the clothes on my back in August. My life was upside down. I was stressed and went to see a chiropractor to ease my tight neck. I knew something was wrong when the x-rays showed fat pads not bone as my old Rheumatologist had claimed.

By October 2003 a New doctor (been to so many through these years trying so many things to get well) wanted me to have an MRI done when I showed him my x-rays and told him of my concerns. I was not willing to give up and attribute it to old age! He stated he thought I had Cushing’s disease and wanted to test me. The tumor was clearly seen on the scans, and Cushing’s Disease confirmed. I had gained 40 pounds by this time, and looked totally different, as you can imagine.

After I was diagnosed, I went to many healers, tried holistic things, which didn’t heal me, but got me in good shape for surgery a year later. Thank God it was a slow growing tumor, because it was close to my eyes and sinuses, and waiting any longer would have been detrimental to my health. I had surgery performed December 17, 2003, at UCLA with Dr. Kelly. He has been very kind and patient with me while I tried alternative treatment, knowing surgery would be eminent.

As for my hospital experience, 2x’s I had adrenal insufficiency and was terrified. I had no idea what to expect, fainting on the floor, staff all around me when I woke up, going in and out of consciousness, frightened I would go to sleep and never wake up, wanting to throw up all the time, could not walk, dependent on oxygen mask (trouble breathing) and I.V., using a bed pan, and had a longer stay than anticipated. Plus, hurting from stitches on my stomach, and was told was used for fat during surgery; had cerebral brain fluid leakage and titanium mesh was placed in my head. Little did I know that was only the beginning. I did not understand the post-op situation (cortisol withdrawal symptoms, medication side effects, emergency bracelet, light headedness, to name a few).

So, I have been looking for answers and finally found you all! I am not alone! It is ONE DAY AT A TIME now, and I am looking forward to better days ahead.

Update: April 15, 2004

I am a wreck since surgery, going from depression to anxiety, hormones bouncing off the walls. hot flashes, cognition problems, incontinence (cortisol weakens muscles including the bladder), and sometimes crippled to the point I cant even stand to brush my teeth. I am struggling with continual weakness, edema, painful/swollen hands and body. Now, ailments are popping up as the high cortisol decreases in my body. I have a fatty liver and gallbladder disease (cortisol can do this), Rheumatoid Arthritis (Cortisol can do this break down the muscles and joints), heart irregularities, high cholesterol, to name a few. Cortisol can cause so much damage, and I feel like I am left in pieces all over the floor, running from doctor to doctor to patch me up. Having little energy but dragging myself all over town to find some relief; hoping for a solution.

I have only lost 5 pounds but my mustache is gone, which is good news. Plus, my osteoporosis has gotten better and is now osteopenia status; in such a short amount of time. Taking out that tumor saved my life!

Update: December, 2004

It has been a year since my pituitary surgery. I have lost almost 40 pounds. I think more clearly and feel more confident. Look like a real woman again! Sure, I still have my mood swings, cortisol still low (but off cortef now), have phsycial pain (decreased 60% due to Lexapro antidepressant), fatigue (limits me on some days), and need to monitor my stress level or my immune system goes down quick and I get sick. My body is not the same. I am way more sensitive. But, I changed my lifestyle to fit my needs. I moved from Los Angeles to Boulder, Colorado, for the slower pace and beautiful mountains. My adrenals are not strong, and I have to be careful to take it easy or I have symptoms of adrenal burnout. However, I am so glad to be alive, mentally functioning, and taking walks again in nature!

Dr. Kelly at UCLA was fantastic, and I will always be grateful for his excellent expertise in ridding me of the tumor. I have a new chance in life. I do look over my shoulder, ever reminded that it can come back, having tests every 6 months for years to come. But, I have learned from this experience that really life is to be lived one day at a time anyhow. Appreciate each day as it comes, living in the moment, making the best of the time I have.

I look at life and love differently now. I left a stuck relationship, moved to a place that will bring me more peace and joy, empowered myself, being my best friend, having more fun and laughter in my life. I plan on continuing with my goals, which were stopped by the tumor, doing what matters to me instead of being co-dependent. I am important. I deserve the best. I have been given a 2nd chance and I will take it for all it is worth!

Update: September 16, 2007

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of my experience with Cushing’s Disease. I remind myself that I don’t have the tumor anymore, than I look out at the sunshine lighting up day and take in a breath of fresh air, so grateful to be alive.

Yes, I catch myself from wandering back to the Cushing’s memories: when I felt like a Cherub, blown up and uncomfortable in my own skin, emotional, feeling like my blood was racing in my veins, breaking my toes, pimples like a teenager, and the dark mustache I knew everyone could see! I still look for those returning signs, relieved that they have not come back. I was told by my surgeon, Dr. Kelly, that the tumor would not return. When fear grabs me, during infrequent times of fatigue and a rush of anxiety, I reassure myself that these are only aftereffects not the tumor returning. I have my cortisol levels tested every year to confirm this fact, and my levels are normal. However, I went through ‘Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome’ from all the medical trauma I endured! It took 8 years for the doctors to finally diagnosis this disorder! You can imagine all the ailments they told me I had or that it was all in my head. I was running around to doctors begging for answers but feeling so discouraged, hopeless, and helpless. I tried many medications hoping for a solution, but none came. I did many holistic treatments, to no avail. Little did I know that I suffered from Cushing’s Disease/Pituitary Tumor!

One day I walked into a Rhumatologist’s office, Dr. David Hallegua, seeking help for my Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the doctor exclaimed I also had Cushing’s Disease because of the obvious physical signs I exhibited. This is all a memory today. The once obvious ‘fat’ humps on my shoulders and neck are gone. I dropped most of the weight, my face structure is visible again, my hair healthy as is my skin, my moods finally balanced from the ‘bipolar’ roller coaster of emotions I previously tried to control – time healed this (I am not on any antidepressants), and my hormones are balanced without hormone replacement therapy. I know how lucky I am, believe me, I am thankful!

Yes, I have realized this illness has also given me an amazing gift, one of appreciation for every bird in the sky, every flower that bloomed, every whiff of baked bread, everyday I could walk by the Boulder Creek with vigor, and how I gradually was able to retain information to the point that I could multi-task again! Each little thing has been a blessing. I have much gratitude for being alive, remembering the days when I had Cushing’s but didn’t know it and negotiated with God dark agreements…looking back I am glad that I didn’t follow through. What lesson’s has this teacher left me with? I live in the moment now, present, not running to the past or the future, just appreciating today. Ah, I have today to live! I have come back into my body, proud of my curves, my soft skin, my long hair, my searching eyes, feeling the calm peacefulness that rests in my heart, and the relaxation in my body. It feels good to experience positive sensations, wanting to walk again around the block, to go shopping for clothes, taking a swim in the heat of the summer, all dressed up going to a dinner party with friends, taking meditation classes at the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center. I have a social life again! For so many years I hid in my house, heavy, unhappy, and discouraged. I didn’t know I had an illness, and all I thought was, “who would want me like this?”. Yet, there was a sliver of hope, for I never stopped trying to figure out what was wrong, desperate to find a solution, knowing all along that I was NOT just fat and growing older, at the age of 35! My body was betraying me, that was clear. The lesson, to not give up, to have faith. My warrior came out in me. I became a stronger woman through all of this, and moved through the challenges that were dropped in front of me, bomb by bomb. I came through the surgery with flying colors, hard but I did it! Winning round one! Round two, dropping pound after pound of fat. Round three, learning how to walk and breathe easy again. Round four, winning the grand prize, learning how to relax, and to be happy that I am alive.

I was able to provide counseling services again , and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 pat@caringcounselor.com

There is life after Cushing’s Disease!

Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
Psychotherapist
www.caringcounselor.com

Glad to be alive!!! September 2007

Pat’s photos:

The only picture I have after Cushing’s,
a number of years ago,
gained 25 more pounds since then.
[Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me and my sister at Thanksgiving – right before surgery. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me at home, right after surgery, with my kitten sleeping on my stomach. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me with my Cat JACK 4 months after surgery.
You can see my face has gotten thinner, but my body is still Cushy. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

April 2006 [Photographer: Pat’s family]


Glad to be alive!!! September 2007 [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Update January 25, 2016

In 2010,  I had a near death experience from dehydration and ended up in the ER with Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. See the video I created at that time:

 

I notified NADF (National Adrenal Diseases Foundation) that Cushing’s patients suffer and need to be recognized through their organization with this serious life threatening condition: Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. As a result, the Medical Director,
Dr. Margulies, MD, developed a brochure on Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency:
Stress dosing and recognizing Adrenal Crisis symptoms is most important. Today, I have a better understanding and can recognize the symptoms of dehydration, and I am more prepared to double my hydrocortisone medication under an emergency situation (often for me it is the flu) or stress.
Hear my CushingsHelp Radio Interview 2011:
After my surgery in 2003, I was able to provide counseling services again, and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, Skype, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 or pat@caringcounselor.com
There is life after Cushing’s Disease!
Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Psychotherapist
Matrix Energetics Practitioner
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
www.caringcounselor.com

 

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