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Kim H, Ectopic Bio

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golden-oldie

 

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s in 1986. I had all the symptoms. Weight gain, purple stretch marks, severe acne, hair all over the face, balding on the head, muscle weakness, depression, no periods, moon face, etc.

I had all the blood, urine tests. Scans, x-rays and even petrosal sinus sampling. These were inconclusive as to the source. The MRI of the pituitary showed swelling and near to the optic nerve, so the next step was pituitary surgery which was done in August 1986.

However the cortisol levels were still high. I still had Cushing’s. I was then given the choice of long term drug treatment while the source was located or to have an adrenalectomy. I was told that if I became pregnant on the drugs the pregnancy would not be able to continue because the effect of the drugs on a feotus wasn’t known. I felt that at the age of 24 I wanted my health back and the chance to have children if I was lucky enough. So in the October 1986 I had bilateral adrenalectomy through the back.

My Cushing’s was to all intents and purposes cured. Nearly 16 years later the ectopic source has never been found despite many more tests. It is still there because it still produces ACTH. The good side is now that I tan really easily which is amazing considering the British weather. I take hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone. I have never felt that I truly got my health back but am glad to still be here. I went on to have two lovely children, now aged 14 and 12. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis last year after years of back pain which is now being treated. I also had some problems last year and was diagnosed with angina and my steroids had to be increased due to a total lack of energy.

Up till now I have just about managed to hold down a full time job as a merchandiser for Hallmark Cards but have now taken the decision to go part-time which I am able to do with Hallmark. I have been married twice and am again a single parent. The men in my life could not cope with my health problems, so I figure I am better off with being on my own to bring up my kids. I think that’s about all. I would just like to say a huge thank-you to St. Bartolomews Hospital in London for all they have done for me over the years. Without their care and support I probably wouldn’t be here. p.s. I still suffer from depression but the old prozac sure helps.

Update: May, 2007

It is now 2007 and in 2006 they found my ectopic source in my appendix. It looked on the scan like it was in the central blood vessel but when they operated my appendix had flipped itself up and the tumour was sitting on the tip of it. After they tested it it was found to be a carcinoid tumour. Thankfully it was all taken away and the outcome was ok.

For the first time in over 20 years I can honestly say that i am much beter. for 20 years i felt ill and now i feel great. Obviously i still have bad days as I have no adrenal glands. But i will always be greatful for the immense help and support that i have received from professor Grossman and St. Bartholomews hospital in London.

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Elizabeth F (ElizabethF), Suspected Cushing’s

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Born with congenital hypothyroid (which was undiagnosed until 45). My thyroid is the size of a lima bean!

Discovered that I was exposed in utero and as a toddler to sky-high amounts of dioxins — i.e., Agent Orange, along with what has now been diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome. Through college, I was very athletic, super-strong (stronger than many men and could squat-jump HUNDREDS of pounds) and was an expert skier. I also played co-ed soccer, despite respiratory wheezing. I just dealt with it.

I have had episodes of suspected Cushings for about 25 years.. It felt like immediate-onset mono. I would have tons of energy all of a sudden, turn into a cleaning monster and get loads done (for example, cleaning out and rearranging my large storage unit) only to crash a week later and barely to get out of bed — coupled with weight gain of 40lbs + each episode.

At the lapses between episodes, I could diet and force myself to exercise, lose weight… but each time it was worse. I would gain 40, lose 35 — so I started losing ground. When given prednisone for bronchitis several times, when pregnant, and when given prednisone for systemic poison ivy, the same symptoms came back… but with much higher severity.

At the same time, I had multiple surgeries for perineal abscess — which was lanced and turned into a rectal-vaginal abscess. This would never heal.. I had 10 fistula flap, pig plug, cauterizations — none of which healed. No one could figure out why I wouldn’t heal. They tested me for HIV, but that was negative — so they had no answers. I seemed almost allergic to myself.

My surgeon talked me into a “temporary” loop ileostomy, promising that with no food going through, the fistula would heal. No dice. The ileostomy broke down, herniated, developed gangrene, and I ended up losing my appendix, some upper and lower intestine, and my caecum (which absorbs bile back into the body), and has resulted in terrible malabsorption problems and chronic diarrhea. Because I wouldn’t heal, the ileostomy was made permanent (my worst nightmare). Five years later I found a doctor to reverse the ileostomy. However, he noticed non-cancerous lesions on my intestine. Biopsies revealed nothing remarkable. I tested negative for celiac, for Crohn’s… just “cranky bowel”. While the takedown/reconnection surgery went well, my surgery site (a straight line from sternum to pelvic bone) would not heal internally and I herniated in 8 places. A piece of mesh was placed to cover the entire site. At the same time my gall bladder was removed because it had reportedly atrophied.

Since that last surgery I have gained 60 pounds, in 30 pound increments. One was immediately after the surgery, the other was over Spring Break. I got a lot done, felt like superwoman…all the while eating LESS than usual and drinking lots more water, but gained 30 pounds in a week, without swollen ankles. I had developed stretch marks in my armpits.

Since this started, my body has changed shape, places it stores, my feet have gone up 3 sizes, and my skin has turned kind of orange. I look like I go to a cheap tanning salon. The small buffalo hump I had 10 years ago has turned into a full-blown travel pillow which goes around the base of my neck. It looks a bit like my head is coming out of a vagina.

Don’t know what else to say. I can tell you what endo’s NOT to go to… But I have yet to find one who even believes cyclic Cushings’ even exists. I am trying not to dwell on the underlying question: Am I going to die of this before I get some real help?

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