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Chelsea, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

 

Hello Cushing’s world! My names is Chelsea. I’m 23, female and waiting for a possible Cushing’s diagnosis. I’m trying to see if anyone has a similar story to mine? I’ve had a hard time finding people in my age bracket with similar symptoms or test results.

Up until I was 21, I was 110 pounds soaking wet. I’m 5’3 and have always been extremely active. I was on the USTA junior tennis circuit for 15 years and then started coaching when I was in college. I also was always on a high protein, low card diet for the majority of my life.

I also went on birth control at age 13 and stayed on it until I was 20. The first 6 months off of birth control, I never had a period but I assumed it was normal after being on the pill for so long so I didn’t worry about it.

Then, about 3 and half years ago, roughly six months after I turned 20, I gained 45 pounds in a matter of 5 months. Completely unexplained when, at the time I was coaching a JV tennis team and in kickboxing class twice a week. Obviously I was utterly shocked and disappointed. I started trying to lose the weight. I cut down from 1500 calories a day to 1200 and amped up my cardio routine.

My period had come back, but I started noticing that it would always come about 8-10 days after I expected it to come. Again, I assumed my body was just getting back into the swing of things after going off the pill.

During all of this, it was time for my yearly physical with my GP. I went to the appointment, had weight and height taken, and was ready to discuss with him the weight problem I got in what seemed like overnight. After walking him through my diet and exercise routine and mentioning my period irregularity, he simply insinuated that I was probable a closet over eater and said “Just eat more celery”.

Still to this day I can not look at celery without my blood boiling. He also said that once I lose the weight, my periods will get normal. Ok. I’m 20 at the time and a little naïve in my thinking that, “he’s the doctor, he must be right”. So I pressed on in my quest to lose the weight. To no avail. Instead, every Wednesday when I stepped on the scale, it showed that I had gained a pound of two.

At this point I’m weighing in at 158. Not grossly overweight but also not a healthy BMI. I also started noticing that my once long, strong jaw line was turning into mush and seriously thought I needed a chin implant. Then I noticed that I was starting to oddly resemble a linebacker. The fat on my back between my shoulders came out of no where. I have worn a scarf almost every day since to hide it. I also noticed that, while the sleeves in my shirts were fitting fine, my pants were not buttoning and I could no longer wear my mid-drift bearing tops without looking at myself and crying.

The depression began to set in. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 due to boughts of depression followed by highly elevated mood, never quite reaching mania. Also, I was anxious 24/7. I never took antidepressants. Only a mild mood stabilizer and still do to this day. It is the only medication I’m on.

Back to age 20, the next thing I noticed was that I could no longer bear going to school, coaching tennis, and working part time. It was everything I could do to just get out of bed. My back ached, my knees ached, and I was not even recognizing myself in the mirror. As my mother puts it, I started looking like I was stung my a thousand bees rather than putting on weight.

It was about this time, age 21 that I had skin problems. So I went to the dermatologist who diagnosed me with mild eczema on my elbows and tops of my hands. But it hurt. I couldn’t and still can’t stand for my hands to come in contact with anything hotter than warm bath water.

It then came time for my annual gyno appointment. Again, I rehashed everything I had been feeling and noticing and again, I was told it was just “life stress” and to “learn to relax and work hard to lose the weight”. So again, I left feeling like it was all in my head. The next few months is when I started noticing that I was not functioning like I used to. The comment I often made to my mom was ” I just feel like I’m on autopilot all day. Everything seems so hazy.” She began thinking I may have a thyroid problem.

SO I made another appointment with my GP and brought her with me. He adamantly insisted it was in my head and would not order blood work. Again, I left feeling like this was all my fault. A few months later, I accepted a job after graduation and moved to Boston. This is when I first noticed the disgusting black mustache that had taken up residence above my upper lip. I began having to shave it every day and decided well this must have something to do with my period problem, that was still coming farther and farther apart every couple of cycles. Again, more weight gain.

Finally, I hired a personal trainer and nutritionist. I met with the trainer twice a week and the nutritionist once a week. I kept up with this regime for about 11 months. I lost a grand total of…… four pounds. I was defeated to say the least.

During those 10 months I noticed that my vision was so blurry. Every day all day, it was slightly fuzzy but there would be instances where it would get so bad, I could no longer read my phone. I had been diagnosed with refractive amblyopia when I was 5 ( a non-wandering lazy eye) but I had never had blurry vision before. I decided to find a GP in Boston and made an appointment.

I yet again, went through my whole list of symptoms that I had been gradually wracking up over the last two years and again, heard “you need to just try harder to get the weight off and then everything will go back to normal”. UGH. I thought by choosing a female doctor this time that I’d hear something at least a little more hopeful. But no.

A few months later, I took a job with a great company and relocated to Houston. It was this time last year and I had completely missed a period. 84 days with no period. I decided to get serious. I starting tracking my cycle and recording my weight. I met with another GP. Again, I heard, you need to lose the weight. I was done. I resolved that this must be how I was going to spend my life. Fat, achy, depressed, most probably infertile, and going through life in a haze. However, I kept tracking my periods just so I’d get an idea of when to expect them.

Then, in October of 2015, I accepted a dream promotion and relocated to Seattle. I had started having hot flashes in Houston but guessed that it had to just be that Texas heat. However, they continued in Seattle. I was still living life with the sense that maybe all people feel like me. Maybe all people have aches and pains and can’t muster up the energy to do tasks as simple and mundane as cleaning the coffee pot.

Then, I went home over Christmas where I experienced the three most awful hot flashes of my life. My whole body started tingling, I felt like I was being held up to a fire. I resolved then and there that when I got back to Seattle, I was making a gyno appointment and I was not going to leave that office until the doctor thoroughly listened to me and blood work was ordered. I had a “don’t take no for an answer attitude”.

Luckily, by God’s grace I presume, I didn’t need that attitude. My new gyno is now my hero. Immediately after I went through the last three years of my symptoms, he sent me for blood work. He was thinking PCOS or a thyroid problem. Maybe both. A week went by and I never heard from him. He had said he’d call in two days. Finally, after I called the office about 5 times, he called and said he was sorry to keep me in suspense but that he had never seen blood work like mine. He was expecting to see either my thyroid levels elevated or my testosterone/androgen elevate. Instead, those were all in normal range. What wasn’t in normal range was my moderately elevated Prolactin level and my “through the roof” DHEA level. He had consulted four other doctors who were all just as puzzled as he was and recommended he refer me to a medical endo.

In the meantime, I had made an appointment with a new GP. I went to that appointment two days after my gyno called with my test results. I didn’t mention that conversation with my new GP. I wanted to see what her opinion was when I presented her with my symptoms and test results. She too thought PCOS with symptoms but when she looked at my blood work said ” I have no idea but something is not right”. SCORE! I couldn’t have been happier.

After years of feeling crazy and lazy and defeated, I had validation that my body was working against me. She didn’t come out and say “I believe you have Cushing’s” but she did say “When you see the endo, please ask him about Cushing’s”. My guess is, she didn’t want to make that kind of diagnosis. I got my referral to endo and called to make the appointment, it’s for next week. And I found out my gyno had written “possible Cushing’s?” on my referral. So now I’m anxiously awaiting my endo consultation. His assistant called yesterday and asked why no one had order a pituitary MRI yet. I told her that these were the first two doctors out of 7 that I have seen in the past two years who ever even believed something was wrong. She decided we should do the consultation and go from there. Weird to say, but I really hope it is a cut and dry endocrine issue. Then I’d have a real answer. So now, I’m at 173 pounds, 5’3, (obese as I have been told by several non Seattle physicians), with stage 1 hypertension and a multitude of symptoms that I hope are all linked together.

If anyone has had a similar experience, please reach out. I know this is different for every patient but any kind of similarity will be welcomed while I anxiously await the endo appointment next week.

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Jordiyn (Jordiyn), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

Hello my name is Jordiyn and i have not been definitively diagnosed with Cushing as of yet. Im not really quite sure where to start so ill start at the beginning.

At the age of 19 i started to notice that I was gaining weight very rapidly for no reason. I was very active and I weighed about 120 and then within about 6 months I gained 60 pounds. Then from there I started to gain more weight every month/year. All in all iv gain over 100 pounds in the last 4 years even though i eat pretty healthy and exercise.

With the excessive weight gain I started to notice these pinkish/purplish stretch marks on my hips, stomach,arms and thighs. Plus I gained a lot of weight in my face and my upper back. And then I started to notice that I was so tired and weak all the time.

I think the worst part has been the back pain and that I always feel like I need a nap even though I have a very hard time sleeping. My moods started to change dramatically. I get irritated very fast and I can just start crying and the most random things, I also have really bad anxiety so much so its crippling. My depression is threw the roof.

Last year in October I even tried to kill myself and then 4 months later I tried again. I do have Bipolar and i’m on medication but it feels like none of the medication are working. My psychiatrist just has no idea what is going on with me but he did tell me he thinks there’s something going on that doesn’t relate to my bipolar.

Then last year in October I stopped having my period and this lasted until june of this year so about 9 months. In those 9 months I gain 25 pounds, I literally thought that I was pregnant but every test was negative. After tons of tests and blood work It later turned out that I have PSOD. While I was at my Gynecologist he told me that I look like someone who has Cushing’s and that i needed to talking to my primary care doctor and talk to her about it.

So as of now im waiting for my doctor to send me to an Endocrinologist. I am very nervous that I have Cushing’s. Last year while I was doing some research about all out my symptoms Cushing’s popped up and so I talked with my old doctor about it and all she did was dismiss it. So after I couldn’t get any doctor to listen to me I gave up. Then a doctor finally says to me you may have it and i feel like it a sign from God telling me that I maybe i do have Cushing’s.

I would love to make some friends and actually have someone to talk to about this. Ill keep everyone updated and I’ll also post some pictures too.

I hope to hear from all of you soon.

Jordiyn

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Jason, Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-medulla

 

Growing up, I was always quiet and withdrawn. I struggled in school with memory issues and was always embarrassed by my excessive sweating. I continued to have issues growing up and then something happened in 2001. I would have fits of rage, massive sweating, psychotic episodes, periods of major highs and periods of massive lows.

In 2003, a psychiatrist labeled me bipolar, schizoaffective, ADD, ADHD, and major drepressive. I took their cocktail of meds to only get worse. I would end up in a mental hospital (5 times).

In approx. 2005, I was done with them and I stopped everything and I just hid behind closed doors so to speak. Also in 2003, I just found records(2015) of bloodwork I had done in 2003 which showed high Hemoglobin and also high Hematocrit levels with high WBC count. Nothing was mentioned to me about this. I keep struggling to get answers.

In July of 2014, I started massive pains in my stomach with rectal bleeding and major flank pain. I went to the doctor and he ordered a CT of my abdomen. The CT showed bilateral Adrenal masses(left was 2.2cm and right was 3cm). He said these were “incidental Adenomas”. I am waiting two more weeks to have my low dose cortisol test performed. When I did the 24h urine to rule out pheochromocytoma , all was fine except plasma metanephrines which was slightly elevated and the doctor said there was a “near zero” chance of me having a Pheo.

I am still having these symptoms: weight gain (20Ibs. since 2014), “moon face starting (2015), thinning, fragile skin that bruises easily, slow healing of cuts, bites and infections, decreased libido, Fatigue, Muscle weakness, Depression, anxiety and irritability, Loss of emotional control, Cognitive difficulties and worsened high blood pressure and pulse.

I now have a new mass in my right armpit. An ultrasound was inconclusive.

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Melissa F, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

Melissa F was interviewed on BlogTalk Radio November 3, 2010. She has had pituitary surgery. Archives are available on BlogTalk Radio and on iTunes podcasts.

From the Clutches of Cushing’s

A journey through Hell… with a happy ending
by Melissa Fine

The most insidious aspect of Cushing’s Disease is, while it is attacking you physically, it is destroying your self-esteem, your peace of mind, your very spirit. That more doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, drug, alcohol and weight-loss counselors (and the list goes on) don’t know how to recognize something that, in retrospect, seems so blatantly obvious is appalling—and not only tragic, it is, in my opinion, criminal. I often wonder how many Cushing’s victims we lose to suicide because they were not able to get a diagnosis before they lost the will to live… simply because no one thought to look for the definitive answer in their blood, urine or saliva. I am certain that Cushing’s isn’t nearly as rare as the doctors believe it is. What is rare is their ability to recognize it.

This is my story…

First, you need to know that I was always a pretty happy girl (though PMS- related mood swings have always plagued me). I come from a very close family, always had a lot of support, had a group of true friends I could count on, and was always very driven to accomplish my goals. I moved to Las Vegas from Southern California in 1994, right after graduating from UCLA, to move in with the guy who would become my 1st husband (Rat Bastard!). My goal in life was to be a writer, and within a month, I landed a job with a magazine publishing company and was getting paid to do what I love. You should also know I was always way too skinny. No matter what I ate (and I was a picky eater, but what I did like, I ate as much as I wanted of it), I was lucky to keep my weight above 100 pounds. I was happy if I could maintain 105 pounds, so I didn’t look so gaunt…

In 1995, I started noticing something wasn’t right with me. I had every reason to be thrilled with my life, but I was constantly blue. Down. Not tragically depressed—that would come later—but I just never seemed to feel happy. I also found myself complaining of body aches and fatigue all the time. And I kept noticing big, unexplained bruises on my arms, buttocks, and thighs.

In July 1995, I was covering the opening of a new casino/spa in Mesquite, NV. I came out of some exotic acupressure chakra-cleansing massage with one thought: I WANT BEEF! Now, the mere smell of steak would always nauseate me, but I was starving and steak was the only thing on my mind. I ate a 16 oz. New York Strip plus a ½-pound of crab for dinner. Woke up the next morning STARVING and ordered another steak to go with my eggs, hash browns, toast and pancakes, and devoured it all.

That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Over the next five or so years, I went to many doctors with seemingly vague, unrelated symptoms. I was always famished, so by this time, I was 145 pounds. The depression was also heavier, but at the same time, I felt a constant sense of anticipatory anxiety, like something was about to happen. In less than 10 minutes, a psychiatrist labeled me with “bi-polar 2” and I was thrown on mega- doses of serious anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. I caught every cold, was always bone-tired, constantly in pain, and was finding it more and more difficult to focus on anything. I went on and off various anti-depressants, none of which seemed to work for any length of time. The consensus among the many medical minds was that I needed to diet and exercise.

2000 brought a lot of change—and not the good kind. I found yet another new “family” doctor. This guy, though, actually tried. He noticed, after running a blood panel and looking at my many bruises, that my red blood cells were “abnormal” looking and that my white blood count was up. Up enough that, just to be safe, he wanted me to see a specialist. He told me not to be worried that “oncology” was on the specialist’s wall… he was just really good with blood.

By late August, I was in the oncologist’s office. After looking at more lab results, he promptly scheduled me for a bone-marrow test—which, in his opinion, was just a formality. He told Rat Bastard and me that I definitely had leukemia. My soon-to-be ex-husband asked him flat out: “Is there any chance that this could be something other than leukemia.” The good doctor said, “No. She has leukemia. We just need to find out which kind.”

Bone marrow tests take six weeks to come back. Six days before (and about two weeks from my 30th birthday) the results that would tell me which kind of leukemia I definitely had came back, Rat Bastard decided he “didn’t feel the same way about me anymore” and walked out.

Imagine my surprise when the good oncologist didn’t find the “Philadelphia” chromosome he was expecting to see. Still, he stuck to his guns and was really, really sure I had leukemia. He then took a job at MD Anderson in Houston, TX, but insisted I see his other good oncologist every six weeks or so to keep looking and monitoring my white blood count and my screwy red blood cells. After many months passed and my condition worsened with no explanation, the second good oncologist told me, “You are a ticking time bomb.”

Not helpful.

So, my wonderful boss (who was also a good friend, and, as it turned out, was the guy I was supposed to marry!), paid to send my mom and me to MD Anderson to speak again with the first good oncologist, who was now heading up a leukemia department of his very own. Time for bone-marrow tap Number Two, because he was positive that pesky Philadelphia chromosome was there somewhere.

It wasn’t.

I was back to square one. Only now body parts were starting to break. I fractured my foot by stepping out of bed the wrong way. I tore my meniscus— an injury I was told is usually found in professional tennis players—by doing a single jumping jack in a futile attempt to exercise. A new specialist ran a bone density test that showed I had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. Another specialist discovered I had insignificant, benign tumors on my adrenal glands—something, he told me, I had in common with approximately 25% of the population. But those revelations were the least of my concerns. The depression turned into an all-consuming black hole. For the next three years, not one day went by that I didn’t sob uncontrollably. I couldn’t do my work, because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to edit a simple story. I couldn’t read a book or even sit through a half-hour sit-com. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. Even worse, old friends and even my own cousin—people I hadn’t seen in a few years—didn’t recognize me either. They literally walked by me as though I were a stranger. My physical appearance was that dramatically different. I would wake up at 5 a.m., ravenous, and I would FORCE myself to wait until 6 a.m. before I would allow myself about a third of a box of Cheerios with non-fat milk. It was the only time of the entire day that I would actually feel “full.” It only lasted for about two hours, tops… but for that brief window, I found relief from constant hunger pains.

Alone, I no longer knew my own mind. I hid away in my craft room and started endless scrapbooking projects that I never finished. The pretty paper and nifty hole-punches somehow made me smile a little. Like many, I would imagine, I started to self-medicate. Prescribed painkillers.

Thankfully, mercifully, my family bonds were stronger than ever. My parents even moved to Las Vegas to be near me. And that guy, my boss, Glenn… though he met me in my 20s, when I weighed 100 pounds, married me in my 30s, knowing I was truly sick, not knowing what illness I had, and at my heaviest. I was 188 pounds on my wedding day, and he made me feel like a beautiful princess.

At some point around 2003, I had yet another new family doctor. Overall, his diagnostic skills were, at best, questionable. He knew just enough to send me to other specialists. But he was generous with his prescription pad, so I continued to see him. I do, however, owe this particular doctor a huge debt of gratitude. He was the first to mention the word “endocrinologist.” I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Many lab tests later, the endocrinologist told me I had too much of something called “cortisol.” She became annoyed when I asked her what that meant. She faxed her notes back to my family doctor. I noticed she had scrawled the word “Cushing’s” with a question mark after it. I told my doc I didn’t know what

Cushing’s was. His exact words were: “Well, I do know what it is, and you don’t have it.”

The endo disagreed, I guess. She had me scheduled to have my adrenal glands removed. Somehow, 10 days before my surgery, my many questions and stubborn attempts to understand why I was going under the knife really pissed her off. I received a certified letter informing me that, due to my “abusive and indignant attitude,” I was “fired.”

Meanwhile, my mom started Googling. She read the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease as though it were a page from my diary. It was a perfect fit. Except that, according to what she had learned, the lab results weren’t making sense. They were pointing to my pituitary gland, not my adrenals. I cancelled the date with the surgeon and headed back to the family doc’s office. He was quite pleased with himself, claiming he knew it was Cushing’s all along. (He still takes great pride in that epiphany. Why let the facts stand in the way of a good story, right?)

Family doc told me it was great news that my pituitary gland was the culprit: All I would need is a highly focused beam of radiation and some salt pills, and I’d be as good as new. He filled my prescription and sent me to another endocrinologist.

This guy was clever. He actually sent me for an MRI. Unfortunately, the MRI showed nothing. He was, however, in agreement with the previous, previous, previous doctor who told me the adrenal tumors were nothing to worry about. I trusted him, because he dropped the name of a renowned neurosurgeon at USC in Pasadena: Dr. Martin Weiss. I did some research. Dr. Weiss was the real deal—a graduate of Dartmouth and Cornell and a professor of neurological surgery. Finally… an honest-to-goodness expert.

Husband and I packed our bags and were off to Pasadena for a venous sampling. Who knew there was such a test? I found myself in the bizarre position of praying with all my might that I had a brain tumor.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Dr. Weiss confirmed that the MRIs did not show the tumor, but he did point to a microscopic something-or-other at the base of my pituitary gland that was tilted ever-so-slightly. He explained that he had, at best, a 50–50 chance of finding the tumor and removing it. He also told me that salt pills weren’t going to do the trick.

In December 2004, Dr. Weiss successfully removed the tumor from my pituitary gland.

This is the part of the story where I’d like to say I dramatically awoke with remarkable bravery and perfect hair to a room filled with calla lilies. Instead, my eyes opened to four or five post-op nurses, I was hooked via a tangle of cords to various machines, my mouth was so dry my tongue was stuck to my palate, and I was frantic to find a toilet. Bedpans just don’t work for me and my bladder was going to explode. After much arguing and cursing, the nurses decided unhooking me was safer than allowing my blood pressure to go any higher. They rolled over a porta-potty, I went forever, and no sooner did they re-hook me than I had to go again.

Learned a new term: diabetes insipidus.

The morning after being released from the hospital (prescription for diabetes insipidus filled and at arm’s length), I remember that, for the first time in nearly a decade, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I was full.

I’d love to end it with that perfect tagline, but…

Back in Vegas, the brilliant endocrinologist put me on the whopping dose of 20 mgs of hydrocortisone a day. Anxious to “jump start” my adrenals, he quickly lowered the dose to 10 mgs.

After more than a year of seeing a cardiologist for my racing heart; a (mis) diagnosis of panic attacks because it felt like I had an SUV parked on my chest; repeated bouts of nausea and dizzy spells; low blood pressure; increased joint and muscle pain; more depression; and a complete neurological work-up for symptoms too similar to MS for comfort; my incredibly insightful endocrinologist told me to stop coming to his office, go home, and praise God because I was “cured.” In what can only be called a surreal segue, he then added that I should also praise God for my inability to get pregnant, because children are so selfish and self-centered that they only degrade your quality of life. Not surprisingly, he retired from medicine shortly thereafter.

It was at this point that I found the Cushing’s Help and Support boards and verified that I was not, in fact, insane.

One doctor’s name was repeatedly touted: Dr. William Ludlam. He sounded like the savior of all endocrine-challenged souls. I was astounded when he, personally, actually took my call. After listening patiently to my story, he informed me that I was not yet his patient, and therefore, he could not and would not offer me any medical advice or instruction over the telephone. He then told me a story of a hypothetical situation in which certain familiar-sounding symptoms would, to a trained hypothetical specialist, be immediately recognized as the brink of full-blown adrenal failure. I took the hypothetical hint, did some quick online research—and (following only my own hunch, rather than immediately seeing a local doctor as I should have done) took a significantly higher dose of Cortef. Within an hour, I felt human—a feeling I hadn’t known in more than 10 years.

Dr. Ludlam made room in his schedule and, the following week, off we went, at last down the road to recovery.

I celebrated my 40th birthday last month. As 2011 rapidly approaches, I can finally say that my adrenal glands are now functioning on their own. I have not had the need for Cortef in more than a year. I have battled the addiction to pain killers and am emerging as the victor. My size 4 jeans once again fit, and while I still fight depression, it is no longer my primary state of mind. Slowly, I’m regaining energy and enthusiasm. My thoughts are clear, my will is strong, my creativity is restored.

I live.

—–#—–

If you or a loved one is suffering with Cushing’s or Addison’s or you believe you might be, and you need to talk, please feel free to contact me with any questions or simply for an understanding ear. I can be reached at mfine@casinocenter.com (please put “Cushing’s” or “Addison’s” in the subject line) or follow me on Twitter @SinCityTweeter. My thanks and ever-lasting gratitude to MaryO, www.cushings-help.com , and all the fellow Cushies who helped me along the way.

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Kim, Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

Hello, everyone. Below is information from my introduction at Cushings-Help.

“So, about me…I’ve had various non-specific symptoms since I was a child and various specific diagnoses as an adult … hypothyroid, fibromyalgia, adult ADD (misdiagnosed and treated as bipolar from 2005-2008), chronic atrophic gastritis and chronic duodenitis (diagnosed via biopsy), colon polyps, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, sinus polyps, insomnia alternating with hypersomnia (sometimes I sleep up to 15 hours a day), plus an REM sleep disorder (REM sleep latency 287 min/378.5 total sleep time, REM sleep 37.5 min with 12 upper airway resistance episodes during that time) … and the list goes on. I have multiple vitamin deficiencies too (C, D, zinc and iron) and other abnormal blood levels (low arginine and dopamine, and high folic acid, glutamine, glycine, norepinephrine and ornithine). The levels that made some people suspect Cushing’s (vs. PCOS) were my DHEA and Testosterone. My highest DHEA was 1342, lowest Free T is 0.2.

From a CT scan of my abdomen in August 2011, I know there’s a “probably benign” lesion on my liver, a cyst on my kidney (plus medullary sponge kidney), a 10 mm cyst on my ovary and an umbilical hernia. My PCP considers all of this normal. Also, I’ve had four fractures as an adult (two in 2008 alone, one that required surgery) partly because of poor balance and coordination (frequent trips and falls, dropping things, etc.). I was through an EEG and 24-hour EKG because I fainted and collapsed on the sidewalk outside of my kids’ school at the end of December 2011. Those tests were normal.

…In terms of my physical appearance, I don’t have stretch marks but the shape of my face changes almost daily. It’s been hard for me to piece together a visual timeline since I hate having my picture taken and therefore, steer clear of camera lenses. (NOTE: I did manage to put a timeline together…You can find it here. http://cushings.invisionzone.com/index.php?app=gallery&album=408) How sad is it that I have very few pics with my kids because the person I see in the mirror is a stranger! I don’t even resemble the person I once was…my weight just continues to creep up regardless of how little I eat or how much I exercise. The fatigue has gotten REALLY bad lately and my tolerance for any physical activity is gone. I have regular shortness of breath and my blood pressure and heart rates are all over the place. Just the thought of doing stairs to throw in a load of laundry is overwhelming. And after showering to get ready to go somewhere, the only place I’m ready to go is back to bed. I also have a small buffalo hump and my neck is very thick. 16″ necklaces that used to fit comfortably won’t even close now.”

January 30, 2012

Today I had an initial appt with an endo who ordered the following tests:

Gave blood today to measure:

UR/CS/CBC/FT4/T3RIA/TSH (have confirmed hypothyroid; TSH has been remaining high even on 125 mcg Synthroid)

GONAD #1

Thyroid Antibodies

Vitamin B12/Folate

IGF-1 (have two kids with GHD being treated, third child is being tested; endo suspects IGF-1 may come back low)

IGF-BP3

ACTH

Cortisol

Cardio CRP

DHEA (history of high DHEA … 554, 717, 1342)

Ferritin

Prolactin

Free Testosterone (history of low Free T)

Vitamin D, 25 (have confirmed Vitamin D deficiency, rechecking levels)

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B6

Vitamin C

Tuesday, January 31 having DEXA scan of spine, hips, and right wrist and ankle (have had multiple fractures on right side…cuboid (foot), anterior process (heel), elbow, wrist).

Thursday, February 3 having nerve conduction study because of peripheral neuropathy in hands and feet

Friday, February 4 meeting with opthamalogist for vision testing (peripheral vision is diminished, causing dizziness, balance issues, resulting in falls)

I’m waiting for endo’s order to have an MRI of the pituitary. Endo reviewing report from the CT scan I had in December 2011 after my fainting episode/collapes on the sidewalk outside my kids’ school. The report says nothing except there were not hemmorages, so anticipate order for MRI will be coming soon.

This seems like a lot of tests, but I think the endo wants to determine where to dig deeper. The nurse practitioner asked a lot of questions that led me to believe she may have been suspecting Cushing’s and/or growth hormone deficiency. And they were interested in a timeline I’d put together demonstrating my eight month experience on Ketoconazole, which allowed me to shed weight and caused an improvement of symptoms. (The weight went back up and symptoms flared off Keto as posted above.)

I guess I’m in a waiting pattern now as the endo pulls together the results of all these tests and decides which tests will be next. The only next test that was discussed was GH stim testing, again leading me to believe the endo may think he’ll uncover that issue, especially since I have two kids who are GHD. (My son also has smallish pituitary and chiari malformation and my daughter has a Rathke’s cleft cyst.) I know a lot of the standard Cushing’s tests are missing from the above list, but this is a starting point. I’ve never had such a full endocrine workup, so at least I’ll have a baseline.

I’ll post more about my journey as my test results start coming in.

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Rashelle, Pituitary Bio

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From 10/11/2010:

My name is Rashelle and here is my success story.

I grew up as a tall, skinny, athletic and active girl. I was one of those girls you envied who could eat what I wanted, when I wanted without having to worry about gaining weight. In fact most my high school life I maintained a steady weight of 118 pounds.

That all changed in the blink of eye during my senior year of high school. At 18 yrs old my once long and skinny face, turned round and moon-like. My stomach, once flat as a board, now looked like the belly of a pregnant woman. I once stood tall but found it difficult to keep my shoulders back with the “buffalo hump” now protruding behind my neck. My nice long legs now were now covered in stretch marks and I started getting unwanted hair in places where hair should not grow on a girl. I stopped getting my period, felt tired all the time and started to get really bad migraines. I suffered insomnia and depression.

I knew there was something wrong but didn’t know what. The worse part was the embarrassment of gaining so much weight, over 50 pounds in a matter of 4 months.  I would run into old classmate and I could tell by the look on their faces what they were thinking. Some would do double takes, not even recognizing me at first glance. Once I ran in to my high school crush, whom I hadn’t seen in years, and he was so confused by my appearance and swollen face that he asked if I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out? I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.

After being testd for all sorts of thing,  my family doctor (whom I’m sure thought I was a hypochondriac by now) referred me to an Endocrinologist in 1999. Finally I would be getting some answers!

Much to my disappointment the specialist found nothing wrong with me except claiming that I had a bad case of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Regretfully this was a wrong diagnosis that caused me to live with Cushing’s disease 4 years longer than I could have. I was prescribed some medication to help with my facial hair on my chin and upper lip. But that was the least of my worries, the hair was hardly noticeable, it was my weight that I was concerned about. From then on I  became an exercising dieting queen. I was going to Curves and working out at the YMCA and I tried every diet imaginable from Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig, Atkins to Body for Life. But no matter what I did nothing seemed to work. I was so frustrated! My last resort was to lay out the money to see Dr Lefebvre, a weight maintenance control specialist. After a few months of treatment, being told to eat 500 calories a day, and losing a minimal amount of weight, I was questioned about how much was I really eating as to inadvertedly accuse me of being a closet eater.

In the year 2000 I went backpacking through Europe for 2 months. Despite the headaches, fatigue and extra weight I had to carry around I was determined to have a good time. The trip was challenging, after 2 months of walking everywhere with a heavy backpack on my back I still had not lost any weight. During this time I was also earning a Degree in Journalism and working lots of hours. Trying to balance school, work and a social life was a difficult because I was exhausted all the time and had zero energy.

Fast Forward to November 2002, age 23; my mom had been with me through this whole rollercoaster ride and was just as frustrated as I was. One night she was searching the internet for what could possibly be wrong with me when she came across this website on Crushing’s Disease. She called me over and we were amazed to find that I had almost every single symptom listed! So the next day I asked my doctor for if I could get a second opinion from a different Endocrinologist.

This time my new specialist said it was unlikely I had Cushing’s yet sent my to get a 24 hr urine test, something the previous Endo had neglected to do. She said it was the “golden test” that would confirm if I did indeed have it. I remember when the test results came in and I got the news. My cortisol level was unequivocally elevated at 1061.3 nmol/day indicating that I most certainly had Cushing’s disease. I was so scared, yet even more so I was relieved that I had finally been diagnosed. The next step was an MRI to determine whether or not I had a tumor on my pituitary gland or on my adrenal gland. As it turned out the tumor lesion was on my pituitary and measured 0.9 x 0.9 x 1.6 cm in height. It was explained to me that pituitary tumors have a 65% cure rate, but there is a lack of cure with pituitary surgery when the tumor is over 1 cm. So my cure rate goes was only 35%. Even so I was anxious to proceed with the surgery despite these statistics.

On Feb 7, 2003 I had the surgery and was discharged from the hospital 5 days later. The road to recovery was a long one but I had high hopes when I notice that my headaches had disappeared and I got my period again for the first time in 4 years. However, I still appeared quite “cushingoid.” Doctors believed that I had been cured but could not tell for sure as it was hard to distinguish scar tissue from the tumor on the MRI. They warned me that results (losing the weight) could take a while so I went on with my life waiting and watching patiently for any changes.

Later that year on October 2003 I was rushed to that hospital for what appeared to be a really horrific migraine. But it was a lot different then any other headache I had ever had. The pain was so intense and almost intolerable I wanted someone to take a gun a shoot me! I spent 36 hours in Emergency being treated for what the emergency doctors diagnosed as “just a bad migraine.” Finally obtaining a CAT scan showed that it wasn’t a migraine after all, my tumor was still there and had hemorrhaged and bled into my optic nerve. I had right sixth nerve palsy with decreased visual acuity in my right eye. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital and could not see properly out of my one eye for over 5 months. Luckily my vision eventually came back 100%. My specialist and surgeon decided that the hemorrhaging had been a blessing in disguise as it could mean that the tumor could be all gone after the episode but it would be too soon to tell.

Then, March 2004 I awoke in the back of the ambulance to be told that I had had a grand mal seizure. Doctors found this to be a mystery since I had no history of seizures or epilepsy. Tests concluded that the crushing’s was still present and I had another MRI which showed residual tumor still extending into the cavernous sinus which is not approachable surgically. The tumor was now only a dangerous 4 mm from my optic nerve.  So the next option was to be referred to a Radiation Oncologist to discuss the option of radiation.

On Oct 20, 2004 I had stereotactic radio surgery. The following week I felt great until the effects of the radiationg suddenly hit me. The radiation took a toll on me and I could not even find the energy to get myself out of bed. It was by far the sickest I have ever been in my whole entire life. Eventually, after being bed ridden for several months I regained my strength and things got back to normal. I still had not lost any weight and showed most of the signs of crushing’s. It is believed that by doing the radiation, it impacted my pituitary function causing it to lose partial functioning. As a result my adrenal glands started to over react to compensate which was not helping my Crushing’s at all.

So, the next step was for surgeons to perform a bilateral adrenalectomy. In June 2006 what was suppose to be a simple, not so risky surgery turned out the opposite. The procedure should have only consisted of 4 very small incisions done laparoscopy. However, during my surgery they discovered that my liver was too large and had to do a complete incision across my whole stomach in order to proceed. Post surgery my blood pressure was so high I was monitored and not let out of the post opt room for 14 hours. On a side note while going through my medical records I discovered that after they had stitched me up a I had to have an X-ray while still under the anesthetia . Apparently the operation room was missing a pair of scissors and they were thought to have been left inside me! Luckily they were found elsewhere.  My recovery was a long and painful but I kept hoping and praying that this would be the cure, especially after my long history of unsuccessful attempts. First the pituitary surgery, the tumor hemorrhaging, the grand mal seizure, radiation, and then the bilateral adrenalectomy. I couldn’t imagine what I was going to do if this did not work as I knew I was running out of options. My fear of never finding a cure led me to seek further answers.

In January 2007 at the age of 26 and a few months post op my parents took me to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. With all my medical records in hand we met with top of the line doctors and discussed my condition and prior attempts to get cure my crushing’s. The doctors said it was unfortunate and just plain bad luck that I had encountered so many problems on my quest for the cure. As far as the specialist was concerned everything that could be done, had been done. Six months after I got my adrenal glands out I finally noticed that I had started losing weight. At this point I had given up on exercise and eating healthy so found it to be a small miracle. Day by day and month by month the pounds started melting away. I was losing weight as fast as I had put it on and the best part was I wasn’t even putting in any effort to do so. Before I knew it I was down to a healthy 130 pounds and back to myself.

At the age of 27, I had been cured of Crushing’s! I  to had overcome this horrible disease that It had overtaken my life and I\could  begin working on getting my life back. By this point I found it difficult to find a job in the journalism field due to the fact that I had a huge gap in my resume. Having graduated so long ago and not having had any experience made it impossible to even get an interview. Looking back at all I had been through I expected to be happy I had been cured but instead I strangely became depressed.

Once an dedicated Christion, I was now mad at God for making me miss out on so much. I felt like by now I should have been married, had kids, owned a home, been established in my career etc. But I wasn’t. I had lost out on so much precious time. I started to hate the job I once loved, sleep a lot, and do things that were out of character for me. I got involved in a relationship with a married man whom I had met on a plane and that didn’t even live in my city. It had been so long that any one of the opposite sex had even paid attention to me that I thrived on the attention. I latched on and became obsessed and needy (totally not me). I just could not find happiness and had delusions of what my life could be like with this secret love affair. On a whim I decided I was going to move to the same city  as him. So  I packed up all my belongings, ordered a moving truck, gave notice to the place I was renting, got a transfer at my job, and found a new place to live.

Three days before I was suppose to leave I overdosed on some pills. I dont remember the incident, not even taking the pills, just the part of having to drink that disquisting tar stuff. I was admitted to the Psych ward and held against my will. I spent 3 weeks as an inpatient and attended therapy sessions daily. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and it was explained to me by my psychiatrist that I had been grieving from a sense of loss. Only the loss was not a person, it was a loss of time. While battling cushings I was always concentrating on getting better that I didnt even have time to focus on my life goals. But now that I was better I had time to realize all the I missed out on. After being released as an inpatient I became a mandatory outpatient. For one month I had to attend daily classes at the hospital. The sessions focused on being in the present and included things like art classes, sailing, yoga and medititation as well as daily therapy sessions. I learned all sort of coping mechanisms so now when I am depressed  instead of sleeping to escape the pain, I draw color, write  or make a collage. In the end what could have ended in tragedy, opened my eyes and helped me a great deal. I still battle with depression and at times fall into a deep black hole but I always manage to pull myself out of it.

I honestly believe that since losing my adrenal glands I have become a different person. My emotions are intensified, I get stressed and sick easily and am quick to anger. It has definitely taken some time to get use to. Istill have to see the doctor regularly to monitor my meds and will be on medication for the rest of my life. I have hypoglycemia and Addison’s disease which so far only affects my skin pigmentation and gives me a year round tan. All of that is nothing compared to what I was dealing with when I had cushing’s. Having the disease strangely somehow has made me a better person. I am not quick to judge a book by its cover and really truly care for people. In fact, after all the time i spent in the hospital I am now back in school to become a nurse.

So remember that what ever you are facing, whether you have been diagnosed or are trying to get diagnosed, never give up. Stay strong, keep praying and believing.

Update 11/4/2013

In fact, after having completed my Degree in journalism I am now going back to school to become a nurse. After my experience I want nothing more than to help people who are sick. Just remember that what ever you’re facing, whether you have been diagnosed or are trying to get diagnosed, never give up. Stay strong, keep praying and believe you will be cured.

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Sherry, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

I am a Veteran who goes to the Veteran Clinic for my healthcare.  I have been going there for a little over a year.  I go to a womens clinic for both my primary care and gyn.

Backing up a bit…Since my youngest son who is turning 18 next month was about 3, I recall the onset of many of the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease.  However, I didn’t realize what was going on. I believe a lot of my symptoms started when I fell down backwards down a flight of stairs breaking my elbow and wrist.  I really haven’t been the same since. I have slowly put on 120 pounds over the years, all of it being in my mid-section.  I have suffered off and on migrane headaches. My arms and legs are thin as rails compaired to my mid body.  My skin has gotten transparent and dry.  I have the thick cushion of fat tissue between my shoulder blades.

Then in 2007 I had a severe hysterectomy due to massive bleeding/clotting and cysts.  I had serious complications which include blood clots in my legs and also a PE.  I have gone down hill from there.  My bones, muscles and joints ache so bad and can barely get up and down.  I can’t hardly stand more then a few minutes at a time. I have fluid retention so bad that my current doctor finally put me on lasix daily. Finally I suffer from depression and anxiety and I hate to go out in public because of my condition.  Though my husband gets frustrated with me he is still very protective of me and helps.

I have had so many doctors imply  that my problems are phycological or due to my obesity and I am simply tired of that.  I am on 17 medications now due to blood pressure, fluid retenstion, thyroid, diabetes, neuropathy, depression and anxiety, cholesterol and to insure against a heart attack.

I am 52 years old and I feel like my life is coming to an end.  I just recently was reassigned to another primary doctor as my old one left the clinic.  I didn’t like her at first, her personality was so different from my last doctor.  But Friday she did a completed physical and gyn exam.  She asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.  I had never heard of this disease.  She started pointing out all the classic signs. She decided she wanted me to have a blood test and was very determined I had it done.  I went home and researched it and indeed I have all but maybe one of the symptoms.

I am a little bit nervous about it and realize its a waiting game as far as tests and more test.  On the other hand I feel like I can finally put a name to what’s been going on and hopefully feel better.  I am glad I found this support group and would enjoy talking to others

UPDATE March 6, 2012: Also, additional systems include excessive hair growth on my face, foggy vision, inability to concentrate, red patchy marks on my arms and I have been told I am slightly bi-polar as well at suffering from anxiety and depression.

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