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Nicole, Undiagnosed Bio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just want my life back.

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Renee (rmaxwell), Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally posted December 5, 2008

My symptoms began when I was about 21 years old. At the time I worked as a Martial Art instructor so I was very physical and in good shape, weighing about 120lbs. Suddenly, and I do mean SUDDENLY, I gained about 60lbs or so. It was as if my clothes fit one night and then didn’t fit in the morning. The weight is mostly in the middle area. My face shape changed and I developed a second chin almost.

I also started getting some whiskers on my chin and neck. Not a lot, just a few, but it was strange.

I was under great stress at the time because I had lost both of my parents in the same year, to two different medical things. So as you can imagine, it was very difficult for me. I developed extreme fatigue, and anxiety attacks. Friends were sure all my physical and mental symptoms must be from depression over losing my folks. One friend advised I see a psychiatrist, so considering everything it sounded reasonable, and I did.

I was placed on Paxil, which caused me to gain even more weight. Since then I’ve tried so many antidepressants I can’t even begin to name them. I went through many SSRI’s, then SNRI’s, then tricyclic, and most recently as a last resort an MAOI.
But in spite of this, over the years my depression has only gotten worse. I’ve had two suicide attempts and been hospitialized a few times. My depression seems to follow a pattern or cycle, two weeks of barely being able to function, followed by a week of doing a little better, then a day or two of feeling good, then back to two weeks of misery, etc. I am not bipolar or anything like that.

I continued to gain weight, developed stretch marks on my belly and arms, got a lot of dark hair all over my belly, and the few whiskers that appeared on my chin and neck have become like a beard. I developed insulin-resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I can seldom sleep at night. I experience such deep depression and fatigue that I haven’t been able to keep a job or finish collage, I barely function.

For many years I just thought I had really bad depression and continued trying whatever psych meds I was prescribed. I thought all my physical symptoms were my fault for being so depressed and not getting enough excercise, etc. And most of the time, I was on so much medication I didn’t really care, I was so out of it.

Finally I found a great psychiatrist who truly cares about me and wants to see me happy. After having little or no success treating my depression, fatigue, and panic attacks, she did some research and told me not long ago that she felt I must have something biological going on with me that wasn’t any type of clinical depression. She said she had tried hitting all the different receptors in my brain (seretonin, norephinepherine, dopamine, etc..) and I should have responded to something. She suggested I might have Cushing’s Syndrome. I went online to find out about Cushing’s and I was like “Wow I really match a LOT of these things!”

Now I am on quest for getting tested. It’s difficult as I do not have any health insurance. But I am making a little progress and hope I start to get some answers soon.

I either have Cushing’s syndrome, some other endocrine problem, or the most treatment-resistant depression ever.

That’s my story, thanks for reading. I’m open to any comments or advice.

-Renee

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Alex C (Alex C), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi, My name is alex and i honestly have no idea what’s wrong with me.

about 5 years ago i became ill, all of a sudden went from a healthy strong active person, to feeling weak, tired, i gained weight, my hair started thinning, among other symptoms, i was diagnosed with diabetes, my sugars were in the 500’s then one day about 6 months later, my diabetes went away, no change in diet, no change in lifestyle, just up and went away…but it was replaced with excruciating pain, throughout my body mainly in my legs and arms, they said its pribably neuropathy… but i had only been diabetic for 6 months, they tested and found no neuropathy…they said it might be MS, they tested nope not MS….they said it might be fibromyalgia…i don’t have trigger points no not fibromyalgia,,,i started getting infections….gum disease…eye infections… bites and scratches on my legs which used to heal quickly no longer healed and when they did they left scars and marks on my skin….the pain was so unbearable… they tried all the neurological meds, cymbalta, lyrica, etc….. nothing helped…

finally they gave me fentanyl patches and norco and i was able to manage the pain… but still no diagnosis… i saw hemotologists, oncologist, because at one point they thought i had luekemia which i dont… i saw a rheumotologist and nothing…my pain management doctor said i had a bulging disc in my back and wanted to give me steroid injections in my spine…he said that’s whats causing the pain….but the pain was in my legs and arms a bulging disc in my lower spine would cause pain in my legs and lower back only so i disagreed with his assesment…still i got 1 injection and it didnt help… he said oh it could take up to 3 for you to feel relief i refused the injections and he stopped giving me pain meds, he said since i wasn’t cooperating he couldn’t treat me anymore… so i suffered

one day on an emergency room visit i saw a doctor and told him my symptoms… (i would tell any doctor that would listen to try to find something.. i know something is wrong with me) he said have your pcp test your cortisol levels….well my corisol levels were 5 times the normal count.. they did the test twice…and both times they showed 5 times the normal level…now i don’t have the moon face or the buffalo hump but i do have every other symptom of cushings…i went to and endocronologist who right away said… you don’t have cushings…this was over the course of the first 2 years… now 3 years after that and 5 years from the start i’m still suffering the pain i’ve gotten used too for the most part but sometimes it;’s sooo bad i have to go to ER and get morphine and dilauded to help…last week i was in the ER and they gave me 3 shots of IV morphine within two hours and it only lasted about 20 minutes..each time… finally a shot of dilaudid helped and i was able to come home and rest ….. still no difinitive diagnosis other than chronic pain…and my diabetes has come back recently…i no longer see doctors because i have never gotten help from them…i’m lost and don’t know what to do anymore…if it wasn’t for my kids.. i have 3 i don’t think i could go on…invisible illnesses are real and devestating…

 

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Crystal T, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi everyone,

I am undiagnosed currently but been having Cushing’s symptoms now over 3 years.

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Leann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 14, 2008

I’m Leann, a 40-year-old single mom of three from Pittsburgh. My son was recently diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Because of this, it caused me to suspect possible adrenal problems with my oldest daughter (age 19) and myself. I am unsure of my daughters exact lab results (she sees an endo on 12/22), but mine seem to be indicitive that further testing is needed to rule out Cushing’s Syndrome. That’s why I am here (well, that – plus my friend told me to join).

My initial bloodwork shows high blood pressure, high BAD cholesterol, low GOOD cholesterol, and high cortisol levels. I initially went to my PCP due to extreme fatigue! I am soooooooo tired ALL THE TIME! My muscles are always sore and my bones hurt. I am prone to miagraines. I have been clinically depressed, I believe my entire life, but was diagnosed about 20 years ago. The weirdest thing (possibly unrelated) is my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease characterized by loss of peripheral vision and night blindness. My mom read somewhere that loss of peripheral vision is a symptom of Cushing’s, but she can’t find the website.

I also have gained a significant amount of weight in the last few years, all in my mid-section. I look like I am either 7 months pregnant or that I drink a case a beer a day.

My PCP seems to think that I do NOT have Cushing’s because my ACTH levels are fine, but he didn’t do any special ACTH testing, only the basic bloodwork, all drawn at the same time. I argued with the nurse about it and asked that my PCP call me back (on Thursday) but he hasn’t yet.

I am just so tired of feeling like crap all the time. I am hoping to find some answers here. Thanks for reading.

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In Memory: Kalyn Allen, June 28, 2017

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We lost another Cushie sister today. Kalyn Allen’s husband posted this on Facebook:

This afternoon my beautiful wife and mother of my children completed her path in this life so that she may be reborn again into the next. She was surrounded by her children, family, and friends when she transitioned very peacefully. She now is free to be reborn again and continue the cycle of life to hope one day to reach nirvana. While we will morn her passing our attachments to this world of suffering and rebirth are what bring us back over and over. So let us not mourn a loss today but say good luck in the next. For we are full of desire for this world and we will surely meet again.

Yesterday he posted:

Kalyn is in critical condition in the CV-ICU at St. John’s in Tulsa in a medically induced coma due to pulmonary embolisms in her lungs and thrombosis in her legs. She had a procedure last night to install a VC fiter and to remove as many clots as possible in her lungs. They cant use tPA to dissolve the clots without a great risk of bleeds in the previous brain surgery. Today was difficult. Kalyn had a cardiac event and coded for a few minutes this afternoon. They quickly resuscitated her with only 2 sets of chest compressions but at this point we are unsure why it happened. She stabilized very quickly afterwards with good rhythm and pressure. A blood clot may have temporary blocked something. She is still being kept sedated and intubated and they can’t move her yet to to do anymore scans and at this point they would not be able to use contrast due to the stress on her kidneys. At this point we are still just touch and go. Because she is in ICU you can not send flowers and if you would please ask a family member if there is an appropriate time to visit. Instead of flowers we are still in need of funds as the children and I are having to make daily trips into tulsa and back home each night and the cost of meals while we are there so any donations would be helpful. Thank you everyone for your kind words of support.

Kalyn’s story from https://www.youcaring.com/kalynallen-786017:

My name is Kalyn I am 41 years old. I am married and have three children. In Nov ‘16 I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.

My journey began in June ‘16 when I attended a health screening provided by my employer. It was discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high and I was sent to my physician. I was prescribed blood pressure medicine. A couple of weeks later I joined a wellness program to turn around my exercise and eating habits in hopes that it would help me lose weight and lower my blood pressure.

Over the next few months I was seen by my physician numerous times. I was beginning to have strange symptoms. I was easily bruising. Dark purple stretch marks started to appear out of nowhere. I had hair loss on my head but excessive hair growth on my face. My ankles and hands swelled along with a loss of muscle mass in my legs, horrible acne and a shortness of breath. While my physician tried several different medications they were not alleviating my symptoms. At this point I was having trouble getting in and out of my car and the shower. I also started seeing a therapist because the excess hormones in my system were causing uncontrollable mood swings. During this time I was exercising and following the wellness program losing 52 pounds from June until the end of Oct. But there were still issues controlling my blood pressure. It was at this point that my physician referred me to an endocrinologist.

The endocrinologist ordered a multitude of tests to measure my cortisol levels as Cushing’s disease was suspected. To be thorough an MRI was ordered of my brain to see if they could find a tumor on my pituitary gland. This was done at the end of Dec. It was discovered that I had a 3.7 millimeter tumor on my pituitary gland. From there I was referred to a brain surgeon.

My condition continues to deteriorate as I am experiencing extreme fatigue, intense muscle and joint pain while having excruciating headaches almost everyday. Among other agonizing symptoms that complicate the situation.

I now have surgery scheduled for the first week of May ’17 to remove the tumor. I will be in the hospital for 3-7 days and my recovery time will be from 6-8 weeks. I will have to travel hours away to have the surgery and remain there during my stay in the hospital. My parents will be by my side during surgery. But unfortunately my children and husband will not be able to accompany me due to the expense and not being able to leave our farm animals unattended for that long.

During this time away from work I will be on short term disability. My employers short term disability plan only covers 80% of my wages during this time. This will result in my family undergoing a financial hardship as my husband and parents undertake the task of my care during recovery and attempting to cover the missing 20% plus extra expenses such as medicines and doctors appointments.

I am asking for your compassion and support to help my family and I through these trying times. This journey has been a roller coaster of emotions and physical pain for myself and my family. My Mother has been such a rock for me listening to me complain and cry. My Father has also been there for me always willing to talk and making me smile and laugh even if I didn’t feel like it. My Husband has taken over so much responsibility that was mine. And my children are always willing to help me out with the little things. It is frustrating going from being very active and able to do so many things I love to now only being able to go into the office to work several days a week and the rest of the week working from home doing little else because of the pain and the fatigue. I just want to get back to normal.

Update 5/3/17:

Kalyn’s surgery was very successful and the doctors said they where able to see and remove the tumor only taking 40% of her pituitary gland. She is in recovery now and will be in the hospital for the remainder of the week. She would like to thank everyone for their continuing support over the next few months while she recovers.

Update 5/4/17:

We got some bad news today. After removing the tumor along with 40% of Kalyn’s pituitary gland, her cortisol levels are still high, meaning there is still something else causing her cushings. So we are back to square one. Now we wait to see what the surgeons and the endocrinologists came up with. She is still in a lot of pain and exhausted because it is hard to sleep with all the packing in her sinuses. With this news she will probably have to stay in the hospital longer and may have to have another surgery to remove the rest of her pituitary if they can’t find anything else. The Dr’s may order a PET/CT scan to look other places for tumors but that may take up to 48 hours to get access to the machine.

Update 5/8/17:

Kalyn went in for a PET/CT scan this morning at 6:45 to look for any other tumors or cancer that could be causing the Cushing’s disease. Baring the scan finding anything, later this week the surgical team will go back in and remove the remainder of her pituitary gland. This will result in her being required to be on several medications the rest of her life. While removing the pituitary should solve the Cushing’s it opens the door to increased risk of complications and additional heath problems in the future. She will have to stay in the hospital much longer then anticipated and may have a longer recovery time. The children and husband where able go to OKC on Saturday to visited with her in ICU. This was the first time we have been able to see here in a week besides video chats. They spent several hours together and everyone enjoyed the short time with mom. Thank you Bob Eden for driving the family to OKC and for the pizza lunch everyone enjoyed. Kalyn remains optimistic and in high spirits considering the circumstances. She enjoys and appreciates all the kind words and support she has received though this difficult ordeal. The results of the PET/CT scan should come back quickly and we hope to not have to deliver any more bad news. This ordeal has been very stressful for her and the family and we are hoping for a favorable resolution soon. Kalyn and the family thank you for your continuing support and donations.

Update 6/26/17:

Kalyn is in critical condition in the CV-ICU at (hospital ommited) in Tulsa in a medically induced coma due to pulmonary embolisms in her lungs and thrombosis in her legs. She had a procedure last night to install a VC fiter and to remove as many clots as possible in her lungs. They cant use tPA to dissolve the clots without a great risk of bleeds in the previous brain surgery. Today was difficult. Kalyn had a cardiac event and coded for a few minutes this afternoon. They quickly resuscitated her with only 2 sets of chest compressions but at this point we are unsure why it happened. She stabilized very quickly afterwards with good rhythm and pressure. A blood clot may have temporary blocked something. She is still being kept sedated and intubated and they can’t move her yet to to do anymore scans and at this point they would not be able to use contrast due to the stress on her kidneys. At this point we are still just touch and go.Because she is in ICU you can not send flowers and if you would please ask a family member if there is an appropriate time to visit. Instead of flowers we are still in need of funds as the children and husband are having to make daily trips into Tulsa and back home each night and the cost of meals while we are there so any donations would be helpful. Thank you everyone for your kind words of support.

Lisann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 20, 2008

 

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

Don’t know much about Cushing’s.

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

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