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Chelsea, Undiagnosed Bio

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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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My Journey | Living with Cushing’s Disease

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It’s hard to say when my exact “journey” began with what we now know is Cushing’s Disease.  Both my Mom and my doctor believe I’ve had this for years, when I started having period problems, migraines and unexplained weight gain in high school.

I can safely say that I started really noticing/documenting this last round of health issues in the spring of 2007.  I can remember my first doctor’s visit regarding the onset of this in spring 2006, but the majority of my health issues really began a year later.  I’d always suffered from migraines, but only around my menstrual periods.  I took birth control to help with that, and it also helped regulate my periods for the majority of my adolescent and young adult life.

In Spring 2007, however, I started experiencing cluster migraines that were debilitating, blinding and just absolutely horrible.  I don’t usually have a primary care physician because I’m, for the most part, a really healthy girl.  But I started seeing a doctor to pinpoint the cause of the migraine headaches.  I had a CT scan which came back negative for any problems.  I tried different abortive medications to treat the migraines when I had them (Imitrex) and also preventive medications (Topamax) but nothing helped.  I’m not a big fan of popping pills and insisted that I find the cause of the migraines, rather than just masking them with an expensive, non-generic daily pill.  I cut back on caffeine, avoided certain trigger foods, changed the lighting in my house and in my office, had my eyes checked and even experimented with different birth control options, since estrogen can be a huge trigger for migraines in women.  Those lifestyle changes helped a little, but I was still having them.

Read more at My Journey | Living with Cushing’s Disease.

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Rachel will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, June 3 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

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Stephanie (Steph), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi. My name Steph, and this has been a long journey for me so far, and I see a long road ahead. Hopefully their will be a rainbow once all these clouds have melted away.

I just turned 33 years old (this month) and have been dealing with symptoms of Cushing’s since I was a pre-teen without even knowing it. I was diagnosed (or possibly mis-diagnosed) with PCOS when I was about 11. That’s when the irregular (to almost non-existent) menstrual cycles, hirutism (chin, upper lip, upper and lower thighs, fingers, toes, basically everywhere) and weight problems began. I was immediately put on birth control to regulate my periods, which only made my life a living nightmare. They forced on a fake (non-ovulating) period and made my moods a disaster. I went on to be on birth control until from the age of 11 until about 3 years ago when I just couldn’t take it anymore, and took myself off. I’ve been using herbal supplements for menstrual regulalation since then, and feel MUCH better.

Over the years I’ve always felt like there was something “more than PCOS” wrong with me. From the extreme inability to lose weight normally, and the ease to gain it, to the weak legs, vitamen d insuffeciency, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, extreme irritability, now non-existent cycle, shortness of breath (just from walking up 1 flight of stairs), slow healing, hoarse voice, high testosterone, male pattern baldness, blurry vision, EXTREME brain fog etc….. It has been very, very, very tough and emotional over the years. It has taken a toll on my personality, emotions, and those around me….

The way that I found out about cushing’s is rather unique. I was on a popular PCOS message board site called “soul cysters”, and I have always been EXTREMELY self conscience of my round puffy face, and was wondering if it could be a side effect of PCOS. So I searched Puffy face on the message board to see if others on the board had experienced it, and sure enough Cushing’s came up, and a suprising number of women either had both (cushing’s and PCOS) or had been mis-diagnosed, which apparently is very common with cushing’s. it was like a gigantic light bulb went off in my head when I started googling cushings symptoms. All these things that I have been experiencing almost my entire life started coming together. I’m really not crazy!! Everything is possibly related. Im almost 100% sure that this is it!!! I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, as I see that cushing’s is curable in most cases, but it is also scary, and diagnosing it seems like hell!!

I have began my -already slow- journey to diagnosis. And, the the Dr.’s don’t seem to be all that well informed. However, I am DETERMINED. I am excited at the thought of possibly being able to get my life back through surgery or meds. I went to a well respected Endo in my area, and she is gonna test all of my hormones, including my cortisol level. Though she didn’t seem to be too informed on Cushing’s when I brought it up, along with my “dead ringer” symptoms. I’m going to a pulmonologist on the 29th as suggested by my GP (who also thinks I have cushings, but admits he’s not well informed enough or equipped to diagnose). I’m also going to an OBGYN soon (tried going to one today, and had to walk out because it was such a bad experience). But I am determined to get 2nd, 3rd, and however many opinions are needed until I am satisfied.

Also, on a side note, possibly having cushing’s, along with having PCOS, has made me look at the doctors and the medical profession as a whole in a different light. I feel like if you find a genuinely good doctor who listens, cares, takes you seriously, and is willing to test you without question, and work with you, your levels, and your symptoms, you are blessed!! I have had so many doctors try to push meds down my throat (for their own pockets/greed obviously) when it wasn’t needed or necessary without hesitation or question. And, then when I tell them that the medicine is affecting me adversely, they just tell me to keep taking it! It’s sad and ridiculous. I’ve had to learn to do my own research, know my own body well, and trust my own judgement…..

I will be praying for myself and everyone on this message board who has had to deal with this horrific symptoms over the years.

Updates coming…..

interview

Stephanie was our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, April 29 at 6:00 PM eastern.

The archived interview is available now through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 82 other past interviews to listen to!

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Britney (PandaBearHobbit), Undiagnosed BIo

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I’m a 25 year old who’s in the middle of being tested for Cushing’s.

I have very high anxiety, hirsutism, fatigue, muscle weakness, can’t lose weight, acne, irregular periods, very high testosterone (163, normal is below 79 for women), always thirsty & pee often, ect.  My doctor referred me to an endocrinologist, and I was diagnosed with PCOS.  My cortisol levels were never tested.  I was put on birth control & metformin and the doctors told me that would help with everything.

After being on these medications for two years and seeing little to no improvement I started to do my own research.  I went to my endocrinologist and brought up the possibility of Cushing’s.  She assured me that it is too rare and I am fine.  I would’ve just taken her word for it, because I figured she knew what she was talking about, but my wonderful husband pushed for us to go ahead and do the tests.  I’m SO glad that he did.  All of the many, many tests have come back abnormal.  I’ve never had so many blood, urine, & saliva tests in my life!  After months of testing, my doctor said that Cushing’s is looking more and more likely.

I struggle immensly with weight loss.  My mother is a personal trainer and has always been in amazing shape.  She & the rest of my family told me I wasn’t doing enough to lose weight.  At one point I was working out 4 hrs EVERY DAY at the gym in addition to having a very physically demanding job.  I was able to lose a couple pounds, but that was it.  I eat healthy, and I’m not just saying that… I really do!  haha!  I’m a vegetarian, eat loads of fresh fruit & veggies, & try to keep my caloric intake to about 1500 calories a day!  I recently found information that a lot of exercising can actually raise my cortisol levels, which are already high.  So, I’ve taken my workouts down to brisk walking for 30-45 min.  Which, after years of intense working out, is weird for me.  I have never been able to lose weight on my belly and face.

I really struggle with anxiety & Irritability, and I hate it.  I get anxious about everything and it drives me crazy.  I compete in dog agility & get so anxious before & after I go into the ring that my pulse is over 180 & I shake (Just while I’m standing there!).  I love the sport so much, though, that I’d never give it up!  My dogs are my life!  I want to be able to compete & be able to enjoy it more, without all the intense anxiety!  I lack emotional control at times, and it tears me up.  I am a very loving person, and hate putting my loved ones through that.  When I lose my temper, I can’t control myself.  Once I come down from it, I feel aweful & can’t believe the things I said or did.  I feel like a crazy person!

I often have mental fogginess & insomnia as well.  Trying to focus on something is difficult, which made college a real struggle.  It’s not rare for me to go through patterns of insomnia, where I can only sleep a few hours a night.

Hoping to get officially diagnosed soon, so I can move forward with treatment.  I’m so eager to get all this figured out and feel “normal” again!

~~~

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Marki (Marki), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi!

My name is Marki, and I am a 21 year old student. I have been suffering from Cushing’s-like symptoms for a while now, and the doctor at my college health center just recently told me that I most likely have Cushing’s.

My symptoms have all intensified over the past few years. I have gained almost 60 pounds in the last 11 months, I feel weak and tired almost all the time and my muscles have gotten so weak that I have a hard time walking up 2 flights of stairs to my apartment. I sleep for at least 10 hours a night, and have to set at least 5 alarms to be able to wake up for my 9:15 class, and I still end up missing it a lot of the time. I feel like I am walking around in a fog most of the time, and school is harder than it’s ever been. I am having a really hard time retaining information, even after studying for hours.

About 3 years ago I started growing hair under my chin, and getting stretch marks on my boobs. The stretch marks have now appeared on my belly below and around my belly button. My hair has always been really thick, and I have noticed that it is a lot thinner than it has ever been. I have also developed a lot of new allergies, including raspberries, tide laundry soap, nickel, and something else that I haven’t figured out yet, so I have a rash all over my stomach, armpits and thighs. I have had severe headaches since I was about 14, and they are getting more and more common. I also get frequent sinus infections. I got implanon (a type of birth control that they implant in your arm) about a year ago, and haven’t had a period since it was inserted. I have been on birth control (perscribed because of the hair on my chin) since I was 17, so I don’t really know if my period would be regular without it or not.

When I went into the health center I told the doctor about all of these symptoms, and his first thought was PCOS. I had an ultrasound, and there were no cysts. He then started testing me for Cushing’s and referred me to an endo in San Francisco. The endo ordered both a 24 hour urine test and a midnight saliva to be done before my appointment. These were the results:

24 hour-

range- 0-50

me- 49.7

Midnight saliva-

range- .5-1

me- 9.16

So, my free cortisol was within range, and my saliva was more that 9 times the normal levels. I have read a lot about Cushing’s in the last two weeks, but I still have a lot of questions! If anyone has any advice on how to deal with the sleep issues, what tests to request, or any other advice, I would really appreciate it! I need to figure out how to stay awake during the day so I can pass my classes!

Update:

My names Marki, and I am a 21 year old senior at Westmont College. After I finish my bachelors I plan on going to Physicians Assistant school to get my masters. This has been a crazy year for me. A few months ago, my doctor told me that I might have Cushing’s, and since then it has been a constant parade of tests. My body and attitude have changed SO much, and it is making school and life in general really hard. I am lucky to have the support of my family and friends, and I can’t wait to get through this and get on with my life! If anyone has any advice, feel free to message me 🙂

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