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Kate M, Pituitary Bio

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I find it amazing that it’s newsworthy in this day and age for anyone receiving support after a diagnosis.  Of course, a diagnosed person should be getting support as a matter of course.  If she had cancer, everyone would be all over this.

For Kara Murrow, the most rewarding moments as a teacher come when students learn about animals in the classroom. So it’s difficult for the Bonham Elementary fifth-grade science and social studies teacher to be away from school while she prepares for surgery.

“I enjoy it, and I know my kids enjoy the class and enjoy science because of it,” Murrow said. “With the science club I do after school once a week, the kids get upset when it gets canceled because of meetings. Not having it now is upsetting, too.”

Murrow was diagnosed this month with Cushing’s disease, a condition that develops when a tumor on the pituitary gland causes it to secrete too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. Murrow, who moved to West Texas from Arizona three years ago, said she has received support from Midland ISD employees and others in the local community.

Murrow’s mother, Louise Gonzalez, also appreciates Midlanders’ concerns for her daughter.

“People in Midland have been wonderful, considering how new we are to the area,” Gonzalez said. “The school district sent out the GoFundMe page and there’s been an outpouring of support for that. People at my church always ask me.”

Murrow’s family is collecting donations from the website GoFundMe to cover the costs of medical and travel expenses. Murrow and her husband, Kai, recently spent money on hospital stays connected to their 4-year-old son’s food sensitivities.

“They’ve been paying off those bills and doing OK until this came,” Gonzalez said. “Plus, she’s been going to the doctor about this. Because Cushing’s is so rare, doctors don’t recognize it.”

Murrow was diagnosed with the disease after medical professionals discovered a tumor on her pituitary gland. For six years, she experienced symptoms — including weight gain, dizziness and headaches — but said doctors couldn’t determine the cause. Murrow was thankful when she received an answer.

“It was a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis and know that I wasn’t crazy or making things up,” Murrow said. “It’s weird to be excited about a brain tumor. It’s a relief to know what was happening and that I have a solution.”

Murrow traveled this week to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where she’s scheduled to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Though Murrow said recovery lasts several months, she hopes to return to the classroom next school year.

Jaime White, fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Bonham, said both staff and students miss her presence. She said Murrow expresses concern for her students during her time away.

“She’s worried about how kids will do on the STAAR [State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness],” White said. “She doesn’t want them to think she abandoned them. The disease has to take center stage.”

At school, White said she noticed her colleague’s dedication toward helping her students understand science.

“She’s hands-on,” White said. “When it comes to science, she’s always making sure the kids are doing some sort of experiment. She wants to make sure the kids grasp it.”

Murrow teaches students about animals through dissections and presentations. Before she became a teacher nine years ago, she coordinated outreach programs at an Arizona zoo.

When she came to MISD, Murrow saw an opportunity to generate enthusiasm about science. She launched an invite-only science club for fifth-graders who show interest in the subject.

“I started it because there wasn’t really anything,” Murrow said. “They have tutorials for reading and math. There’s not a lot kids can do with science after school. They get science in the younger grades, but the focus is on reading and math. Science is something kids really enjoy.”

Though Murrow is disappointed about not being able to facilitate the club, she recognizes the importance of her upcoming surgery. She’s happy her mother, husband and two children will be in Phoenix for support.

“I hope that it will bring about a sense of relief to all the symptoms I’ve been dealing with and provide a chance for myself and my family to continue along with a full life,” Murrow said.

From http://www.mrt.com/news/local/article/Science-teacher-receives-support-after-11026581.php

Brain tumour survivor draws comfort | Toronto Star

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Erella Ganon has a brain tumour, and she wants everyone to know about it.

The 56-year-old woman has had brain surgery three times, had both of her adrenal glands removed and been through multiple bouts of radiation.

Ganon chronicles her health journey through a series of images in what she calls a “graphic autobiography.”

It’s a habit she got into as teenager. Every day she uses fountain pens to draw a picture of what she’s experiencing.

For the past decade those pictures have illustrated her battle with Cushing’s disease, a rare disorder that makes her pituitary gland release too much ATCH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone), stimulating the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, creating tumours.

Ganon shares her images on an online blog that in turn offers inspiration and comfort to others struggling with illness.

The hand-drawn pictures present an open and often humorous look at life with disease. The images are instantly relatable and depict everything from hair loss to hospital food.

“Everybody who’s touched by catastrophic disease… has a feeling of powerlessness, but the artwork and putting it out there is the opposite of that,” said Ganon.

via Brain tumour survivor draws comfort | Toronto Star.

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Port woman optimistic in fighting her ‘ugly disease’

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Anyone who knows lifelong Port Jervis resident Katie Onofry Sandberg knows that her upbeat personality does not let much get her down. Despite a life-threatening illness that she was diagnosed with as a teen, the cheerful young wife and mother says she loves life and is always aware that there are others who have it much worse. She is grateful for the support of her family, friends and community as she continues a strenuous course of treatment to fight the disease.

A benefit dinner attended by more than 200 was held recently at the Erie Trackside Manor to assist the Sandberg family with mounting expenses and to show support as Sandberg’s treatment continues.

Sandberg has Cushing’s disease, caused by a tumor on her pituitary gland, which releases too much adrenocorticotropic hormone throughout her body.

“I call this the ‘ugly disease’ because it causes major weight gain in your stomach and face, stretch marks, weak muscles, scarring, pigmentation issues, acne, increased facial hair, and loss of hair on your head,” Sandberg said. “The worst is when I have a hard time holding my baby girl, or not having enough energy to play with her. I do push myself, but majorly pay for it in the end. This can affect you emotionally and cause depression and anxiety, but I get a lot my optimism from my dad and have learned to deal with it.”

Sandberg said a biopsy taken during an eight-hour surgery in 1999 failed to find the tumor and caused her symptoms to spiral out of control. Extensive research and persistence on the part of her mother, Sue Onofry, led her to Massachusetts General Hospital. It was there that the disease was diagnosed in June 2001, the same month that then 18-year old Sandberg graduated from Port Jervis High School.

After successful transsphenoidal surgery a few months later, the tumor was removed and Sandberg was placed on steroids for adrenal balance.

“Seven years later, in 2008, I got off the steroids and was considered cured for the time being,” Sandberg said.

Over the next years, Sandberg earned an associate’s degree in business administration from SUNY Orange and CDA certificate from Keystone College, completed schooling in graphic design from the Art Institute online, worked in early childhood education and in public relations, owned Kate’s Cafe in downtown Port Jervis, married, and became a mom.

 

“I truly married my best friend. I had known Joe (Sandberg) since high school, but started dating in 2007 and married in 2009. They say you always marry a man like your father. Well, I definitely did in so many ways. He is so hardworking, supportive, and would do anything at all for his family,” Sandberg said. “Then, although I had been told that there was a high chance I would not be able to get pregnant, our miracle occurred. Ella Grace Sandberg was born on July 25, 2011.”

Over the past year, Sandberg’s symptoms returned. Cortisol tests came back in the 600s — a normal range is 18-50. In February, she underwent a second transsphenoidal surgery, which this time was unsuccessful. She was then placed on medicines to help regulate her cortisol levels. She will complete a six-week proton radiation treatment May 23.

“So far, the medicine treatment has been regulating me, which is great, and the radiation has a 95 percent success rate. The only hard part is that it is not immediate. It can take anywhere from one to ten years to work and kill the tumor cells. The key word with Cushing’s is patience,” Sandberg said. “About six months after treatment is finished, I will start testing to see if there is any improvement and to monitor my other hormone functions due to the effect of radiation on my pituitary gland.”

Having the young mom in Boston for so many weeks of treatment has been tough on the family. She said she greatly appreciates daily contact from her friends and family members, and is grateful that her daughter is being cared for by her husband, parents and in-laws.

“I could never have done this or continue to do this without them,” she said. “I am truly blessed.”

For more information on Cushing’s disease, Katie Onofry Sandberg recommends the Cushing’s Research Foundation  and she would be glad to answer questions herself at Kosandberg@gmail.com. She hopes that by sharing her story, she might bring awareness and possibly help for someone else.

From http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140516/COMM011101/405160302/-1/NEWS

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Laree (Laree), Pituitary Bio

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My Thanksgiving Day was less stressful this year than I thought it might be, because I had my head examined the day before at Johns Hopkins at about 9:30 in the morning.  By 1:30 in the afternoon, my endocrinologist there, a metabolic bone specialist, had emailed me that I was the proud parent of a 0.7mm lesion on the right side of my pituitary gland.  All day Tuesday I had performance anxiety because I feared that after six months of testing every liquid my body could produce for excessive cortisol, I had finally been given the green light to undergo the Holy Grail of tests and have a look-see at the Master Gland.  I feared that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the goods, but I managed to produce, and now I’m being referred to a neurosurgeon.

It’s been a very long process, even though the testing has only been a six month part of it.  In 2001, I broke  my collar bone while playing tennis.  Granted, I fell down, but it’s not like I made a Boris Becker leap for the ball or anything.  Then in 2003, my first stress fracture, followed by another one in 2005.  Then a crushed wrist on another tennis court mishap–my feet got tangled up when I was moving backward, and within a week, I was having my wrist rebuilt with a titanium plate and several screws.  Then there was  the broken tailbone, followed by the upper arm compression fracture suffered while pushing a small car off an ice shelf in Ohio.  And finally the L4 vertebra that I broke loosening the lug nuts on a tire I was changing with my still-healing broken arm.

After each incident, I would ask the doctors what could be causing all these weird bone breaks, and sometimes they would send me off for a dexascan to see if I might have osteoporosis, but the test always said no, and the doctors were always orthopedists of one sort or another.  They would shrug and say that these things happen.  After the upper arm (this past January), and the subsequent dexascan, the ortho told me that the test said I didn’t have osteoporosis, that if I wanted to try to learn more about the bone formation, I should see an endocrinologist, but he didn’t know of one to whom he could refer me.  He did refer me to his colleague to have my osteoarthritic hip replaced.  I’m 53, by the way.  He told me that going to an endocrinologist was likely to yield nothing, and he opined that I was suffering from “Laree Martin syndrome,” if I need for it to have a name.

My gynocologist, who works in the same hospital center as Ortho 1, we now lovingly refer to him as Frick, referred me to an endocrinologist who also practices in the same hospital center.   I got myself hooked up with her, and she very quickly determined that since I had broken not one, but all of the bones that are considered to be typical indicators of osteoporosis, despite multiple dexascans to the contrary, I had osteoporosis.  Shortly thereafter, she discovered excess, but “unimpressive,” levels of cortisol in my system.

Ortho 2, we’ll call him Frack, saw me prior to my hip replacement, and I complained about my back injury the week prior.  He pronounced that I had not broken my vertebra, but he offered to send me for an MRI, if that would make me feel better.  I scheduled the MRI, had it in the evening, called his office in the morning to report that I had gone for the test, as he had asked me to do, and instead of leaving a message, I got put directly through to the doctor.  Turns out that he was wrong, and it is possible to break your L4 vertebra pulling on a lug wrench with a still-healing compressions fracture in your upper arm . . .  if you have osteoporosis.  When I told him that he didn’t have to worry about my bones in general, because I was seeing an endocrinologist for that.  I just needed him to be extra careful not to break anything when implanting the new hip.  I told him that the endo specialist was working me up for Cushing’s, and he told me that I certainly did not have Cushing’s, because I wasn’t 100 pounds overweight and diabetic.

By September, the endo doc concluded that my results were equivocal for Cushing’s, but she encouraged me to go to Johns Hopkins to the metabolic bone specialist, since there wasn’t another good explanation for my osteoporosis, which had by that time been objectively diagnosed with a bone biopsy.  She felt that she had no choice, clinically, but to treat my osteoporosis as post-menopausal in origin, even though my bone breaks began 8 years ahead of my menopausal symptoms.  Off to Johns Hopkins.

The bone specialist took the history, again . . . did some more testing (blood, saliva, urine, again . . . ) and then consulted with the adrenal team, who agreed with her diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease.  Unfortunately for all of you who read these bios, it’s more complicated than just Cushing’s, because I had bilateral pulmonary emboili and a DVT in my leg when one of my stress fractures had me on non-weightbearing restrictions for six weeks.  That little incident was also considered a fluke, until about six years later when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that is also considered to be “rare.”  It is a mouthful to say–antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS).  It’s main risk is hypercoagulability, and its treatment involves lifelong warfarin (brand name Coumadin), which people mostly call a “blood thinner,” although it doesn’t really act that way.

I feel somehow more than lucky to have two fairly uncommon, fairly complicated conditions with fairly scarey treatment options.  I feel like I need a Fairy Goddoctor to be able to properly manage my surgery and treatment, because of the risks associated with drug interactions with the warfarin, the higher risk of clotting that I already have from the APS, which is apparently compounded by Cushing’s, and my understanding that I’m not supposed to be mixing hormones, including steroids, with the warfarin.  Nevertheless, it was good to know so quickly after the MRI that the result was that I flunked that test as well as I had flunked all the others previously.  I thought I was going to have to stress over that for the entire long weekend, but no.  Instead, I pretty much put it out of my mind until tonight, and now you’re getting the Reader’s Digest version of the last 12 years of my medical experience.

The doctors have exhausted my resilience with all of their certainty, which over the years I relied upon to conclude that I was just clumsy and that my weight struggles with those extra 25 pounds that could pack on in a couple of months, especially when I was recuperating from a fracture, without really changing my diet much, were probably associated with my inconsistent sleep and the fact that I will reach for pizza when I am feeling particularly low.  So when I read here and there about the recovery process after surgery and how difficullt and complicated it can be, I have to admit that my first reaction was that I should quit work, take a year off, spend all my money on travel or whatever I would feel like doing, and then just commit suicide and be done with the whole thing.  And that still has a sense of comfort associated with it when I remind myself of what I’m in for for the next maybe couple of years or more in recovery . . . and possible relapse . . .

But I have a 82 year old mother, and I”m her baby, and I witnessed her sorrow when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident about 18 months ago, and I wouldn’t put her through that again.  Instead, it’s my intention to take as much time off work as possible after surgery to let myself gather my emotional resources and get over the angry, bruised feeling that I have from both diagnostic processes that have lasted over a decade.  I appreciate that this space is here for newbies like myself to say out loud what most of my friends and family either can’t or don’t want to hear.  It doesn’t really matter so much that anyone is listening; I just need to say it.

Cheers!

Laree (who actually has Cushing’s disease, not Laree Martin’s syndrome)

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Wendy, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

Hi My name is WENDY from New Zealand …I am 57 yrs young…I am a nurse…..it was once suggested by mail to my GP that I may have episodae cushings…and that it would be intersesting to take 24 urine specs for cortisol levels over a period of time….this was never done..I only became aware of these when I asked for a copy of all my notes as I was moving to Australia…..

My symptoms I believed robbed me of my former self…..

I stopped menstruating at 45yrs old….my weight would fluctuate wildly..sometimes by 10 to 15 pound… at one point wighing in at 100 kgs……and for no apparent reason losing weight as much as 4 -5 kgs……my happy out going approach to life would become sad.lifeless with a blunted facial affect…..heat intolerance…low energy…poor sleep…high blood pressure.

I have had the unusual presentation of  supraclavicle pads…..of no suspicious origin…

I have always managed to work but sadly these changes took their toll on my personal life….I remain optimistic.with the support of loving family and friends…..cushie helper I truly feel that my condition occurs in cycles…….

I await your thoughts….sincerely Wendy

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Mickey D (MickeyD), Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-location

I am now 65 years old. I was first diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome in 1995 after 2 years of weekly doctor office visits stating that “my blood tests came back ok, so it must not be anything serious”.

My blood pressure shot up to stroke levels daily, my hair was falling out, I gained about 8 lbs in 6 months, had the moon face, buffalo hump, etc.,etc..

Every possible test imaginable was done to find the problem except a CT scan. The CT scan I had (after 2 years) revealed that I indeed had a tumor on my adrenal. I went to surgery and had the tumor and adrenal removed.

In fact, if I may interject, I was the “guinea pig” for the Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy performed by the doctor who invented the procedure. I was subjected to hundreds of observations while I was in the hospital for 2 days by student doctors and other Endocrinologists who wanted to see the outcome of the new procedure. Anyway, I went home after the surgery, returned to work in a week and was told I would not have to worry about ever getting this again.

I have had problems of various natures since the surgery. They have not required surgery but have been very emotionally upsetting. I can not seem to lose weight no matter what I try and I have tried it all. I did lose about 50 lbs shortly after surgery but I am still overweight and cannot seem to get it off.

I know my age isn’t helping but I am very physically active even with my age. My middle section is fatty, my breasts are enornous which is not a family trait, and I had had a total hysterectomy in 1994 at the age of 46 and I suffer daily with extreme hot flashes and mood swings.

The hot flashes are affecting my life. I am miserable. I have talked with my doctor about the weight, hot flashes, irritability but he doesn’t think it is caused by the Cushings from before. I DO!!! I have not been to an Endocrinologist since I was diagnosed back in 1995 so I have not had my levels checked. I don’t know what to do. I’m starting to think like I did back in 1995, that this is all in my head and it’s my fault that I cannot get relief for these symptoms I still have. I do not have a OB/GYN because my old one retired.

So, I am hoping that there is someone who has advice for me . I didn’t know this resource was here but I sure am  glad I found you.

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Angela Marie (Angela M), Undiagnosed Bio

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Growing up I’d always been anywhere from underweight to average with a couple chubby phases in my pre-teens and teens. I actually got into modeling work for nearly 10 years and I found myself having to take time off in 2008..At least I thought it would just be little while. Between anxiety, being fairly active and a high metabolism, I never had trouble losing weight until In 2007 out of nowhere, I found myself rapidly gaining a lot of weight. All together I had gained about 60-70 lbs in well under a year without my diet or lifestyle ever changing and I’d always been a light, picky eater. I went from a usual size 5-7 to 15 or S/M to XL/XXL. I got back into yoga, pilates and even bought a Total Gym. Working out and dieting even I wasn’t losing even so much as water wieght. I was notiing a whole host of new symptoms. From purple stretch marks, gaining weight, my fingers, toes and palms of hands constantly bright red. Weight gain/appearing swollen only in my torso and upper body, to even my features changing. Adema, constantly craving and eating ice. My once heart shaped face was now completely round and full starting from the top of my ears. I appeared more swollen than anything.

My first endo diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. He was the first to suggest Cushings and my first 24 UFC was 4 times higher than normal and the next was slightly above normal. The rest after that were in the normal ranges. Eventually hypothyroidism was ruled out after routine tests came back normal without taking the Synthroid and telling my doctor I was. Once I admitted it, he was so angry I proved him wrong that he dismissed me as a patient.

I was sent to another Endo and a specialist he referred me to. The next endocrinologist ended up being the most arrogant, rude person I’ve ever met and the few appointments I had with him ended up being mostly arguments or me breaking down into full blown panic attacks. The specialist I seen and his fellow who are supposed to be the best in my state initially believed I have Cushings once they went over my symptoms, medical history and photos documenting my physical changes. The specialist and my past endocrinologists even had grand round meetings on my case and still blew me off!

In 2008 I started having fluid/discharge from my right breast and after tons of testing to rule out breast cancer I was sent to surgery to remove the ducts. After this traumatic surgery, I still have fluid and from both breasts now that’s been ongoing for 6 years. Even after expalaining my situation and medical issues, I’m just told to lose weight. I went from completely normal sugar levels to borderline diabetic to “full blown” diabetic within a matter of months at the age of 26. I’ve seen numerous dieticians, nutrition and diabetic classes and no one can figure out why I’m not losing weight doing everything right. I was prescribed Metformin and lost a little over 20 lbs, but it was such a high dose it had to be lowered and I stopped losing any more weight.

Since everything started in 2007 it seems I’m adding more and more symptoms almost monthly to my already too long list with no answers as to why or what is causing them. I’ve done more research than some would consider humanly possible and probably more than some doctors I’ve seen! Reading blogs, forums, bio’s, etc. I can’t believe how many of the same symptoms I have as other patients. Mystery Diagnosis anymore is hard to watch relating so much to the stories I break down crying. The only symptoms I seem to be lacking is the constantly high cortisol, pronounced buffalo hump and thinning skin. Other than that I seem to have every single one, even the rarest or some I’ve never even seen associated. I’ve been offered so many possible diagnosis’, but nothing definitive. Everything from metabolic syndrome and PCOS to auto immune, parathyroid and that’s just your body!

I’ve seen or been pushed off on just about every specialist there is. At least my primary doctor admits there is something serious going on, but it’s over his head. Every single one of my other doctors, PA’s, surgeons or specialists believe I have Cushings, but I need an Endocrinologist to agree.

6 years later I still with labs all over the place, a list of literally 30+ symptoms and health problems because of this mystery disease that’s yet to be diagnosed. My Cortisol tests seem to be back and forth, but mostly showing low. My testosterone, ACTH and Insulin Like Growth Factor are all elevated. My vitamin D and iron are extremely low even with prescription strength vitamins. My white cell count is high enough to be sent to a cancer center to rule out different types of cancer. I was dagnosed with fattly liver disease and no answers as to why. Hair growth on my face and body, acne breakouts worse than I ever had in my teens. Chronic reoccuring skin, bacterial and viral infections.Dark pigmentation under my arms. Excessive sweating to the point my hair is soaked or sweat drips from my face in cool weather or shopping. Severe intolerance to heat. Growths or polyps on different organs without any further testing and more abnormal labs and symptoms than I can keep track of. I’m just at that point where I’m not sure if I give up and let it take me out or just keep searching for that one possible doctor who will listen and order the right tests.

All I know is I’ve lost so much of my life being so sick and disabled. Not working, not even modeling work on the side, no college to work with animals and be a veterinary tech, turning 30 and still not being able to get pregnant, going out and having fun like I should or even recognizing myself in the mirror. Loving swimming and summer, but can’t stand looking at myself or being engaged for over 5 years and pushing off a wedding because I don’t want to walk down the isle like this and look at my wedding photos remembering this time in my life.

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