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In Memory of Kate Myers ~ June 23, 2014

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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: Shianne Lombard-Treman, March 28, 2018

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Shianne was a Cushing’s Survivor who had just published a book, Be Your Own Doctor

After 17 years as a personal trainer, I ran into health problems of my own, eventually having a name put to it…“Cushing’s Syndrome,” a rare adrenal disease. Tumors were growing on my adrenal glands over-producing Cortisol, your stress hormone.

With 24/7 false fight-or-flight stress signals, the body goes haywire, producing horrific side effects such as weight gain around the midsection and back of neck, diabetes and blood sugar deregulation, inflammation, muscle deterioration, frail bones, hair loss, poor immunity, infertility, moonface, buffalo hump, extreme fatigue, brain fog, confusion, severe anxiety/depression and chemical imbalances.

Being constantly diagnosed as “healthy” caused me to be told, when I was finally diagnosed correctly, that I had maybe five years to live. Misdiagnosis can be a killer.… It is now my personal mission and obligation to help those suffering from any chronic illness that steals your joy, and bring awareness to Endocrine Disorders. From my journey through Cushing’s to Addison’s to recovery—from triathlete to barely being able to dress myself and finally to recovering into a stronger person I never knew I was.

 

 

Shianne Lombard Treman took her life on Wednesday, March 28th after a long struggle with depression brought on by the removal of her adrenal glands to the advancement of Cushing’s Syndrome. 

Shianne is survived by; her husband Timothy Treman, fur babies Molly & Charlie of Baltimore, her mother Geraldine Lombard, sister Danielle Huston, Husband John Huston and their 6 children, Caleb, Alaina, Juliana, Jeremy, Ashley, Aaron of Tawney Town, Brother Michael his wife Sue and brother Enzo and partner David of San Francisco and New Orleans. 

Shianne was born on May 3, 1977. She graduated from Towson University with a degree in Kinesiology. She used this degree to become a personal trainer. She loved helping people get healthy and ended up training two of the “Biggest Losers” on the reality TV show. This led to her being on Oprah as well as Dr. Phil to talk about fitness and health. 

She started her own business as a trainer in San Francisco for 5 years. It was in San Francisco that she met her dashing husband, Tim Treman. They were married in Bethany Beach Delaware in May of 2013 and moved to Baltimore in June of 2013 joining the O’Donnell Square neighborhood.

Among her accomplishments are a Black Belt in Taekwondo, multiple marathons, Tri Athlons and her work with charities.
Shianne changed lives. So many people have come forward to say that she changed their life by teaching them healthier ways to live. She inspired so many that when she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition, she went into research mode to find out everything she could so she could keep doing this work of helping others. Again, she brought her knowledge of health into play by writing a book about the experience to help others with this disease. “Be Your Own Doctor” explains her battle to maintain fitness and recovery which had never been previously explored for folks dealing with Cushing’s. She was asked to speak at the Magic Johnson conference on rare diseases and in Congress about Cushings. She was also asked to speak at the National Institute of Health Conference. Unfortunately, that was never to be. Cushing’s took more than just her body, it slowly took her mind and spirit.

She was an extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life… a bright star that burned out too soon.

Viewing will be from 4-7PM Wed April 4th at Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk 7110 Sollers Point Rd 410 – 285 – 2900.
Reception from 7:30- for close family and friends at Sparrows Point Country Club 919 Wise Avenue, Baltimore MD 21222

Her obituary can be read here.

 

Shianne F. Lombard-Treman
May 03, 1977 – March 28, 2018

Gianna, Pituitary Bio

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In March 2020, college student Gianna Schembari, 23, began to battle an illness that she would later learn is an extremely rare disorder of the endocrine system, the body’s complex network of glands and organs which uses hormones to control critical functions such as metabolism, energy level, and the ability to respond to injury, stress, and mood.

“The most noticeable symptoms that happened that early were the significant weight gain, my mood swings,” recalls Ms. Schembari. “I just kind of started getting into a really depressive state. I would get these headaches and I would get heart palpitations. I mean, things just started getting worse very quickly.”

Eventually, an MRI revealed a small benign tumor, called a microadenoma, located on Gianna’s pituitary gland. That’s an indication of Cushing disease, a rare and serious disorder that affects only 10 to 15 people per million. With proper surgical or medical treatments, a person with Cushing can return to a healthier life — as was the case with Ms. Schembari after she met a team of experts in removing pituitary tumors at Miami Neuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health.

(Watch video and hear from patient Gianna Schembari and her surgical team: Neurosurgeon Vitaly Siomin, M.D., Miami Neuroscience Institute, and Francisco Pernas, M.D., an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) affiliated with Baptist Health. Video by Carol Higgins.)

 

Neurosurgeon Vitaly Siomin, M.D., Miami Neuroscience Institute.

“The pituitary gland is one of the most critical parts of the brain and I would picture it as a command center that would produce the critical hormones and send them to the bloodstream,” explains neurosurgeon Vitaly Siomin, M.D. “Cushing’s disease is a condition when one of the hormones, which is called ACTH, is produced in excessive quantities.”

Once in the bloodstream, the ACTH hormone stimulates different organs of the body, and patients “may present clinically with high blood pressure and with some fat deposition in a very abnormal way. Some patients may decompensate and develop diabetes. The immune response is altered. They may develop brittle bones, pimples on the face and other problems.”

Medication to help shrink the tumor presented severe side effects.

“It made me very, very sick,” said Ms. Schembari. “I could not function. I was in bed. We were just like: Okay, maybe we need to go ask somebody else what they think.”

Ms. Schembari and her family then turned to neurosurgeon, Michael McDermott, M.D., chief medical executive at Miami Neuroscience Institute. A multi-specialty team of physicians experienced in the treatment of pituitary tumors was assembled for her case, including neurosurgeon Vitaly Siomin, M.D. and Francisco Pernas, M.D., an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) or otolaryngologist, affiliated with Baptist Hospital and other Baptist Health facilities.

“When I met with the team of all of my different doctors, I just instantly felt like everything was going to be okay,” said Ms. Schembari. “They knew exactly what it was and then they just had their plan as to the treatment.”

Dr. Pernas emphasizes the importance of the team approach at Miami Neuroscience Institute. “Some neurosurgeons will do the surgery on their own,” he said. “The difficulty becomes in the nasal anatomy. We as ENTs are skilled at nasal anatomy, and we’re skilled at nasal endoscopy.”

Dr. Siomin explains how technology has helped advance the removal of pituitary tumors via minimally invasive techniques.

“We could put the scopes through the nostrils and navigate the scopes using what’s called the image guidance technology,” says Dr. Siomin. “It is just like GPS that most people use for driving. We use the same technology for surgery that helps us to go directly to the tumor, open up very minimally and resect the tumor using the endoscopic visualization.

Ms. Schembari recalls her condition before the surgery. “I had high blood pressure, anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting — all that stuff and I was on about five medications.” But now, she is on track to a full recovery. “Since the surgery, I am not on one medication and all of those symptoms are completely resolved,” she says. “It’s been about seven months since the surgery and I feel amazing.”

Says Dr. Siomin of the pituitary tumor: “It’s all gone. And she has normal pituitary gland tissue.”

To say that Ms. Schembari is grateful is a huge understatement: “They are the best doctors on earth. I feel like a whole new person. I basically got my life back and I’m super, super happy.”

From https://baptisthealth.net/baptist-health-news/i-basically-got-my-life-back-how-experts-at-miami-neuroscience-institute-defeated-this-college-students-tumor-and-debilitating-disorder/

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Actress Charly Clive, Pituitary Adenoma

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Best friends Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson thought carefully about what to call the tumour that was growing in Charly’s brain.

The doctors had their own name for the golf-ball-sized growth sitting right behind Charly’s left eye — a pituitary adenoma — but the friends decided they needed something less scary. They flirted with calling it Terry Wogan (‘as in Pitui-Terry Wogan,’ says Ellen), but that didn’t seem quite right.

So Britney Spears fan Charly, then 23, suggested Britney. Bingo! Not only was she ‘iconic and fabulous’, but Britney was also one of life’s survivors. From then on, they were a threesome — Charly, Ellen and Britney the brain tumour — although Ellen is at pains to point out that this Britney was never a friend.

What a thing to have to deal with, so young. The pair, who met at school in rural Oxfordshire, are now actresses. Charly’s biggest role to date has been in the critically acclaimed 2019 Channel 4 series Pure, while Ellen starred in the Agatha Christie mini-series The Pale Horse.

But this week they appeared together in Britney, a BBC comedy based on the story of Charly’s brain tumour. The TV pilot (and yes, they are hoping for a full series) is an expansion of a sell-out stage show they performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016.

The production is admittedly surreal. Viewers are led inside Charly’s brain and the show includes a scene where Charly dons an inflatable sumo-wrestler suit on the day of her diagnosis. Poetic licence? No, it really happened.

‘My dad’s mate had given him a sumo suit as a silly Christmas present and so, on Doomsday, we took photos of me in it.’

The tone was set for how these friends would deal with the biggest challenge of their lives: they would laugh through it, somehow.

As the women, now 28, point out, what was the alternative?

Charly says: ‘It was that thing of laughing at the monster so you are not scared of it. If you cry when do you stop? It was easier to make light of it.’

Their show is not really about a brain tumour. It’s a celebration of friendship. Ellen pretty much moved in with Charly’s family during this time (‘To be in place when I exploded, so she could pick up the debris,’ says Charly).

The pair live together today, finishing each other’s sentences as we speak on Zoom — and at one point both miming Charly’s brain surgery (with gruesome sound effects).

This sort of silliness rooted their friendship, which started at the age of 14 when they wrote their own plays (Finding Emo, anyone?) while at school together in Abingdon. Charly later moved to New York to study dramatic arts, and Ellen studied at Cambridge.

In 2015, Charly came home for a visit, and went to see her GP (played in the drama by Omid Djalili) about her lack of periods and a blind spot in her peripheral vision. An MRI scan showed a mass on her brain. ‘They said it had eroded the bone in my nose and was pressing on the optic nerve, and it was lucky we had caught it,’ she says. ‘The next step would have been discovering it because I’d gone blind.’

Even worse, the tumour was so close to her carotid artery that removal might kill her — and they still had no idea if it was cancerous. Into the breach stepped Ellen. ‘I saw it as my job to make her laugh, which is what I’d always done anyway,’ she says. They both talk of toppling into limbo, ‘almost like a fantasy world’, says Charly. ‘As I was going through the tests, we’d do impressions of the doctors and create our own scenarios.’

The friends talk about sitting up into the night, watching TV. There is a touching moment when Charly admits she was afraid to sleep, and Ellen knew it. ‘It’s hard when you are thinking “What if the tumour grows another inch in the night and I don’t wake up?” ’

Charly was operated on in March 2016, and Ellen remembers the anaesthetist confiding that Charly’s heart had stopped on the operating table.

‘He wasn’t the most tactful person we’ve ever met. He said “Oh my God, guys, she died”.’ Charly makes a jazz hands gesture. ‘And guess who is alive again?’ Even at that darkest moment, there were flashes of humour. Ellen laughs at the memory of the surgeon in his scrubs, with wellies on. ‘They had blood on them. I was transfixed. I wanted to ask “Is that Charly’s . . . brain blood?” ’

In the stage version of the show, the anaesthetist gets two full scenes. ‘He’s the heartthrob of the piece,’ says Charly. ‘A sexy rugger bloke who is crap at talking to people.’

The days that followed the surgery were hideous — and yet they, too, have been mined for comedy. Charly’s face was bandaged, ‘as if I’d had a Beverly Hills facelift’, and she was warned that she could not sneeze. ‘If I did, bits of my brain would come out my nose,’ she says.

Ellen read her extracts from Harry Potter but ‘made them smutty’, which confused the already confused Charly further. ‘I was drug-addled and not myself, and in the most bizarre pain, concentrated in my face’.

‘That week after the surgery was the worst part of all,’ says Ellen, suddenly serious. ‘She was behaving oddly and there was this unacknowledged fear: was this Charly for ever?’ Oh, the relief when the old Charly eventually re-emerged — albeit a more fragile, often tearful version.

It was Ellen who persuaded Charly to take their stage show about her illness public — and it went on to win much critical acclaim. ‘I wanted Charly to see it as something other than just this rubbish chapter that needed to be forgotten about,’ says Ellen.

For her part, Charly credits her best friend as her saviour: ‘I don’t know how I would have got through it all without Ellen.’

The good news is that Britney was not cancerous, although surgery did not obliterate her entirely. ‘She’s still there, but tiny — just a sludge. I’ve been told that she won’t grow though. If I ever do get another brain tumour, it won’t be Britney.’

Off they go again, imagining what is happening now inside Charly’s brain. ‘Britney is still in there, trying on outfits for a comeback tour, but it won’t happen,’ says Charly. Ellen nods. ‘It’s over,’ she says. ‘But she’s just left a pair of shoes behind.’

Britney is available to watch on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer

Adapted from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10264203/I-laughed-brain-tumour-Id-never-stop-crying-Actress-Charly-Clive.html

Téra (HappyGirl), Video Bio

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Téra is a member of the message boards – you can respond to her posts here.

Dear endocrinologist, I need to say something for all the people like myself with endogenous mild episodic Cushings that are dismissed there’s some patients who may not be strong enough to speak up or even advocate for themselves & know what tests to ask for. Some will just give up and accept this as their fate and have a horrible quality of life & die way too soon from the terrible things this illness does to your body. Some may take their own lives (depression, anxiety, self doubt is a very real & serious symptom of this illness). I heard that voice in my head, “if one more doctor dismisses me, I am ending my life! I can’t live like this anymore!” These are very important things to remember.

1. Not every person has all the symptoms especially mild Cushings but we are still just as miserable.

2. Mild episodic Cushings may not show as elevated cortisol on UFC or midnight salivas. We have lots of lows & some highs that are sometimes difficult to determine because it could be just a few hours of high cortisol in a day & the rest normal or low.

3. There are tests like the 17-OHS that can show abnormal cortisol levels & should always be done on the same 24HR UFC urine.

4. Don’t blow off someone by just doing a low dose dex suppress, that test is ONLY TO SHOW LOCATION OF THE TUMOR! If you suppress, then it points to pituitary, if you don’t it points to adrenal.

5. A Buffalo hump means Cushings more often than it means just a normal fat pad due to a persons fat distribution!

6. Put down the mouse & step away from the computer & examine me!

7. Actively Listen to what I am saying to you!

8. Morning cortisol serums are usually useless because mild episodic Cushings patients trend to be in a normal or low during the morning & mildly to moderate high in the late evening to early morning hours.

9. A midnight cortisol serum is very helpful to determine if the patient has Cushings, IF they are showing symptoms of being on a high.

10. Multiple testing is needed to rule out Cushings. Stop dismissing Cushings as a diagnosis with only one round or even four rounds of tests!

11. These patients are looking to you for help in a very scary time, stop giving the exercise, meditation speech! It only is an insult to us. Most Cushings patients actually don’t eat enough calories & restrict trying desperately to loose weight.

12. Mild episodic Cushings patients can loose weight so don’t disregard if they do because it will come back on even with no change to activity levels & caloric intake.

13. It should Not take 3 years or longer to get a diagnosis of Cushing’s!

14. It should NOT take 4 + endocrinologists pushing off to the next & the next to get a Cushings diagnosis!

15. Stop immediately assuming we have PCOS! Test for it before you pigeon hole a patient! And realize you can have both PCOS and Cushing’s.

16. Stop tossing pills at each individual symptom, look at all the symptoms as a whole. When dealing with Cushings, the only true reverse of the symptoms is surgery.


Part 2

In addition to the 16 items above, she added:

17. You can have normal ACTH levels and still have Cushing’s. “Patients with ACTH-secreting tumors will either have a normal or elevated level of ACTH.” – Dr. Findling Dr. Findling is an endocrinologist and Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Findling has been dedicated to the clinical evaluation and care of patients with Cushing’s syndrome for over thirty years. He has over 100 publications and was a co-author of the Endocrine Society guidelines for the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome.

Part 4, September 25, 2021

This is just a quick update. I am not in a good head space. Being denied a much needed surgery because of irresponsible people are not following cdc guidelines, makes me very very very very upset!

Every day a new issue pops up, IIH could make me go blind, my bones could break, my muscles are weak, my mental health is poor, my heart is enlarged, my brain is in atrophy!!!

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Janice B, Pituitary Bio

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I was married 38 years when I became sick in 2011, but the family doctor and my husband wouldn’t believe me. They thought I was lazy, fat and crazy when they shipped me off to a mental ward in a hospital. I knew I was physically sick with Cushing’s Disease, but I couldn’t convince the psychiatrist. I left my husband, got a new doctor and was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease in 2012. I had successful surgery in April 2013 to remove the pituitary tumor. I had Adrenal Insufficiency and was put on 5mg of prednisone as my body would not produce its own cortisol.

On Sept 27th/2016, I went into an Adrenal Crisis in an airport in Germany (I live in Canada) was hospitalized one day in intensive care, two days of regular care then I flew back to Canada and have been struggling ever since with Cushing’s symptoms. I was on two IV’s continuously in Germany for three days. I know one was prednisone and don’t know what the other was. But I do believe those doctors saved my life. However, all my Cushing’s symptoms returned and from October 2nd/2016 to December/2016, I gained 26 pounds while eating very little and should have lost weight.

I found an MD who also practices integrative and complementary medicine. He has a master’s in nutritional biochemistry. He had me do a Live Blood Cell test. My blood cells were all stuck together in a long chain and not free-floating like the way they should be. Based on this, the doctor said I had bad bacteria, fungus, and inflammation. He also said this is indicative of extreme fatigue. He said it was the starch in my body that created this problem. In April 2017, he put me on a low starch diet, and by July my adrenal awakened and was producing its own cortisol. I was no longer Adrenal Insufficient and taken off prednisone.


By Sept/2017 I was able to walk 13 km at the Toronto Zoo, could dance and golf. Most of my Cushing’s symptoms had disappeared. I got my life back.

I ate butternut squash for months, as it was on my list of approved foods, and became sick with Cushing’s symptoms again and got a burning in the vagina. I didn’t realize Butternut squash is starchy. My next blood work showed elevated White Blood Count, , Neutrophils, and Monocytes. All of them indicative of bad bacteria, fungus and inflammation. Click here for the bloodwork report.

There was no source found for the infection. I was put on Microbin and a second level of antibiotics which did nothing. Then, I was put on cipro flax which cleared up the infection. After six months, and strict adherence to my no starch diet, I started to recover from Cushing’s symptoms giving me a better quality of life. I also lost weight.

For three days in a row, I ate homemade tomato sauce. I got a burning in the vagina and my Cushing’s symptoms returned.  ( Click here for the bloodwork report. ). Two internet sites said that tomato is non-starchy, but MedicalHealth.com says tomato is a starch. My friend, who is diabetic said if she is on a low-carb diet, she can’t eat tomatoes. My next bloodwork gave the same results as above. Over five months, while maintaining a no starch diet, my Cushing’s symptoms lessened giving me more energy and I lost weight.

After eating a handful of cashews for 4 days in a row I woke up with a burning in the vagina and my Cushing’s symptoms returned. This has now become my indication that I have eaten something starchy so I figure out what it was. I had bloodwork done the next day. This is the result. ( Click here for the bloodwork report. ). Cashews are starchy. Again the same elevated bloodwork results as above. Antibiotics cleared up the infection. After five or six months on a strict no starch diet, the Cushing’s symptoms lessened. My energy and strength returned and I lost weight.

Looking back at my old bloodwork from 2011 when I was in the psychiatric ward, it showed the same elevated results except that the WBC went up as high as 23 and the hospital mentioned that there was no source found for the infection. Another time, in 2011, I went to the ER, the records showed the same: elevated WBC with no source of infection.

To prevent this from happening again, I found a way to test for starch in foods using iodine. See how under DIET section.

Unfortunately, I had too much white wine, what can I say I’m only human and ate barbecue sauce on 5 May/2019.  Here are my results. I am back to having Cushing’s symptoms. But after six months of being back on the no starch diet, I have recovered from the Cushing’s symptoms.

I ate corn-fed steak and got a burning in the vagina and became sick with Cushing’s symptoms again. Steak is a non-starchy food. But the cow ate corn, which is starchy, and I ate the cow so, I got sick again with Cushing’s symptoms. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the bloodwork done at that time to show white blood count numbers.

This cannot be a coincidence. There is a definite pattern that can’t be ignored. Each time I unwittingly ate starchy food, I would go to the doctor and ask for bloodwork to be done.

I had a cyst on my lower eyelashes surgically removed. This cyst formed because of repeated infections. The cream the surgeon gave me Tobradex has only 2 ingredients: Tobramycin and dexamethasone. I learned Dexamethasone reduces inflammation by stopping cells from releasing chemicals that normally help produce immune and allergic responses. The Dex stops the allergic reaction I’m having from the starch and by doing so lowers my cortisol. OMG! This is why when I stop eating starchy foods for six months, (because it takes that long for the starch to break down and get out of my system) I recreate what the Dex is doing and my Cushing’s symptoms lessen and my cortisol is lower. This is why my cortisol levels became normal seven months after eating the corn-fed beef because I didn’t have any further setbacks from eating starch. I was starting to recover. All my bloodwork confirms starchy foods create inflammation. My cortisol suppresses when given the Dex Suppression Test. For me, I was given one dex pill which did nothing and my cortisol did not suppress. Then the doctor gave me six dex pills and the cortisol did suppress. After this test, I had more energy and didn’t feel like my legs would collapse.

An interesting note is that some endos have Cushies taking ketoconazole, which is used to treat skin infections and is an antifungal, to help lessen the symptoms. But Cushies have found it works for only 2 years then becomes ineffective. So the connection here is that Cushies have infection and fungus, which my bloodwork corroborates. We can lessen our symptoms when we get rid of the source of the infection. Therefore, if I get rid of the starch in my body, will I get rid of my Cushing’s symptoms and the infection?  This is the question I am hoping my fellow warrior Cushies will answer by trying my diet.

Let’s RECLAIM our lives together.

Janice’s website is at https://www.janicebarrett.ca/

Video: Happy Girl tells her Story So Far

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I am not so great at typing since my mind gets so jumbled but I have been at this journey for 2 years.

I did make a detailed youtube video to tell my story so far.

Dear endocrinologist, I need to say something for all the people like myself with endogenous mild episodic Cushings that are dismissed there’s some patients who may not be strong enough to speak up or even advocate for themselves & know what tests to ask for. Some will just give up and accept this as their fate and have a horrible quality of life & die way too soon from the terrible things this illness does to your body. Some may take their own lives (depression, anxiety, self doubt is a very real & serious symptom of this illness). I heard that voice in my head, “if one more doctor dismisses me, I am ending my life! I can’t live like this anymore!”

These are very important things to remember.

1. Not every person has all the symptoms especially mild Cushings but we are still just as miserable.

2. Mild episodic Cushings may not show as elevated cortisol on UFC or midnight salivas. We have lots of lows & some highs that are sometimes difficult to determine because it could be just a few hours of high cortisol in a day & the rest normal or low.

3. There are tests like the 17-OHS that can show abnormal cortisol levels & should always be done on the same 24HR UFC urine.

4. Don’t blow off someone by just doing a low dose dex suppress, that test is ONLY TO SHOW LOCATION OF THE TUMOR! If you suppress, then it points to pituitary, if you don’t it points to adrenal.

5. A Buffalo hump means Cushings more often than it means just a normal fat pad due to a persons fat distribution!

6. Put down the mouse & step away from the computer & examine me!

7. Actively Listen to what I am saying to you!

8. Morning cortisol serums are usually useless because mild episodic Cushings patients trend to be in a normal or low during the morning & mildly to moderate high in the late evening to early morning hours.

9. A midnight cortisol serum is very helpful to determine if the patient has Cushings, IF they are showing symptoms of being on a high.

10. Multiple testing is needed to rule out Cushings. Stop dismissing Cushings as a diagnosis with only one round or even four rounds of tests!

11. These patients are looking to you for help in a very scary time, stop giving the exercise, meditation speech! It only is an insult to us. Most Cushings patients actually don’t eat enough calories & restrict trying desperately to loose weight.

12. Mild episodic Cushings patients can loose weight so don’t disregard if they do because it will come back on even with no change to activity levels & caloric intake.

13. It should Not take 3 years or longer to get a diagnosis of Cushing’s!

14. It should NOT take 4 + endocrinologists pushing off to the next & the next to get a Cushings diagnosis!

15. Stop immediately assuming we have PCOS! Test for it before you pigeon hole a patient! And realize you can have both PCOS and Cushing’s.

16. Stop tossing pills at each individual symptom, look at all the symptoms as a whole. When dealing with Cushings, the only true reverse of the symptoms is surgery.

In Memory: Shianne Lombard-Treman, March 28, 2018

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Shianne was a Cushing’s Survivor who had just published a book, Be Your Own Doctor

After 17 years as a personal trainer, I ran into health problems of my own, eventually having a name put to it…“Cushing’s Syndrome,” a rare adrenal disease. Tumors were growing on my adrenal glands over-producing Cortisol, your stress hormone.

With 24/7 false fight-or-flight stress signals, the body goes haywire, producing horrific side effects such as weight gain around the midsection and back of neck, diabetes and blood sugar deregulation, inflammation, muscle deterioration, frail bones, hair loss, poor immunity, infertility, moonface, buffalo hump, extreme fatigue, brain fog, confusion, severe anxiety/depression and chemical imbalances.

Being constantly diagnosed as “healthy” caused me to be told, when I was finally diagnosed correctly, that I had maybe five years to live. Misdiagnosis can be a killer.… It is now my personal mission and obligation to help those suffering from any chronic illness that steals your joy, and bring awareness to Endocrine Disorders. From my journey through Cushing’s to Addison’s to recovery—from triathlete to barely being able to dress myself and finally to recovering into a stronger person I never knew I was.

 

 

Shianne Lombard Treman took her life on Wednesday, March 28th after a long struggle with depression brought on by the removal of her adrenal glands to the advancement of Cushing’s Syndrome. 

Shianne is survived by; her husband Timothy Treman, fur babies Molly & Charlie of Baltimore, her mother Geraldine Lombard, sister Danielle Huston, Husband John Huston and their 6 children, Caleb, Alaina, Juliana, Jeremy, Ashley, Aaron of Tawney Town, Brother Michael his wife Sue and brother Enzo and partner David of San Francisco and New Orleans. 

Shianne was born on May 3, 1977. She graduated from Towson University with a degree in Kinesiology. She used this degree to become a personal trainer. She loved helping people get healthy and ended up training two of the “Biggest Losers” on the reality TV show. This led to her being on Oprah as well as Dr. Phil to talk about fitness and health. 

She started her own business as a trainer in San Francisco for 5 years. It was in San Francisco that she met her dashing husband, Tim Treman. They were married in Bethany Beach Delaware in May of 2013 and moved to Baltimore in June of 2013 joining the O’Donnell Square neighborhood.

Among her accomplishments are a Black Belt in Taekwondo, multiple marathons, Tri Athlons and her work with charities.
Shianne changed lives. So many people have come forward to say that she changed their life by teaching them healthier ways to live. She inspired so many that when she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition, she went into research mode to find out everything she could so she could keep doing this work of helping others. Again, she brought her knowledge of health into play by writing a book about the experience to help others with this disease. “Be Your Own Doctor” explains her battle to maintain fitness and recovery which had never been previously explored for folks dealing with Cushing’s. She was asked to speak at the Magic Johnson conference on rare diseases and in Congress about Cushings. She was also asked to speak at the National Institute of Health Conference. Unfortunately, that was never to be. Cushing’s took more than just her body, it slowly took her mind and spirit.

She was an extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life… a bright star that burned out too soon.

Viewing will be from 4-7PM Wed April 4th at Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk 7110 Sollers Point Rd 410 – 285 – 2900.
Reception from 7:30- for close family and friends at Sparrows Point Country Club 919 Wise Avenue, Baltimore MD 21222

Her obituary can be read here.

 

Shianne F. Lombard-Treman
May 03, 1977 – March 28, 2018

Archived Interview: With Pat, Pituitary Patient

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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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In Memory: 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.

 

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