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Rachel, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am 31, will be 32 in 2 weeks.

I have been suffering from this medical condition, which I believe to be Cushing’s Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, or Pheochromocytoma, or maybe a mixture of all 3. I have had this for around 16 years, maybe longer, as I have had the classic “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck since I was 9 years old and have always had trouble with my weight. I have been on many diets since mid-childhood.

When I was around 13, I discovered a weight loss supplement, which I diligently took and lost 20 pounds over a 2-year period. I felt the best I have ever felt my entire life. I eventually had to stop taking it, though, due to not being allowed to bring any meds or supplements to my high school. I was not totally thin, but I looked pretty good. But during that first year of high school, my insomnia returned, and the rest of my symptoms started to emerge.

Autumn 1999 (when I was 14): I started getting daily headaches. Sometimes, they were minor, where I could ignore them, and other times they were so debilitating that I had to miss school. Because I wasn’t allowed to bring medication to school, I had to take Ibuprofen every morning as a preventative.

Autumn 2000: I suddenly gained 20 pounds in one month without changing anything in my diet. The fat was especially much around my face, neck, and torso.

Spring 2001: I developed fatigue, loss of concentration or “spacey-ness”, and being easily physically and mentally drained. I lost contact with many of my neighborhood friends, since I avoided lengthy times spent with them, and sometimes wouldn’t be when them at all because of not having enough energy.

Autumn 2001: Thinking I had hypothyroidism, I had my first doctor’s appointment over these symptoms, especially of the weight gain that was getting worse. Nothing showed up in tests, and the doctor wanted to put me on a 900 calorie diet. I never went back.

Summer 2002: My menstrual cycles became irregular, skipping sometimes 2 or 3 months at a time. Finally, they stopped altogether. I also gained another 20 pounds that upcoming school semester (16 weeks).

Summer 2003: I went to another doctor. She put me on birth control pills to get my menstrual cycles back. It helped a little, but they were very light with severe cramping. I gained an additional 20 pounds from the birth control pills and did not feel good. Once I got off of them, my menstruation stopped again, and I never lost those 20 pounds.

Autumn 2003: I went to another doctor from the University of Chicago. He tested various hormones and found that my androgen levels (mainly testosterone) were so high that it was off the charts. He thought that I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so he entered me in several studies he was conducting for people with PCOS. I was given several test medications and had more tests done testing insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, and other things. Nothing came up positive. During that time, I also had an ultrasound done on my ovaries to check for cysts. Nothing showed up. After other tests were done, he concluded that I did not have PCOS, and that I might actually have Cushing’s Syndrome. I couldn’t go back to him, though, as his regular appointments without the studies were really costly. This whole time of the studies lasted till summer of 2004.

I also gained an additional 30 pounds during this time.

>My symptoms of fatigue and loss of concentration continued to worsen, so I had to become a part time student to avoid exhaustion with classes. I felt my worst usually starting around 1 or 2pm, and lasting till around 5pm.

Summer 2005: Diarrhea started abruptly and has been continuing ever since. A year later, I had discovered that caffeine could cause it, so I got off of all caffeine, which alleviated it for a few months. However, it returned shortly after, blossoming into 3 different kinds and becoming worse and more frequent over the years. I used to have it only at night, but now, I have it in the morning as well, and some at night, and sometimes some in the afternoon. I can have even 5 or more bouts of it a day, which makes it difficult for me in any public place. It slows me down in the mornings (as I sometimes have to spend an hour in the restroom) and often makes me late for things.

2006-2010: I have gone to many doctors over this time, each one testing my cortisol, TSH, T3 and T4, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, and insulin levels, and each one coming up with nothing abnormal except high testosterone.

Spring 2009: I developed a candida skin infection that has been reoccurring since then. Antifungals do not take it away, only antibiotic ointments. However, even the antibiotic ointments do not take it completely away, as it keeps reoccurring and showing discoloration in spots where it had been previously.

Spring 2010: Episodes of light-headedness, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate started appearing, ranging anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour in duration. They would come completely at random, sometimes 3 or more times a week, and sometimes not for several months.

2011: I developed slow motility, where it takes hours for my meals to digest. This made it hard for me to get to bed at a normal bedtime like 10pm, since I couldn’t lie down without getting horribly nauseous. This also affected my diarrhea, making it where I have to push to make it come out, since my intestines do not contract much to squeeze it out or they contract very slowly.

Summer and Autumn 2011: I went to 2 doctors in New York who also tested my cortisol levels and catecholamine levels to test for pheocromocytoma, which all came out normal. I also had an MRI done on my brain to check for growths on my pituitary gland. Nothing showed up with that, either. I also went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. My results in those tests also were all normal, and no diagnosis was made.

Spring 2012: My menstruation returned to regular monthly cycles.

Winter/Spring 2013: I suddenly started to become sensitive to cold, so winter became almost unbearable for me. This cold sensitivity has been increasing every year thereafter. Even temperatures in the 60-degree Fahrenheit range make me feel chilled and forced me to dress in double and triple layers of clothing.

Also, around this time, my fatigue reached a new level of severity, making my “dead” time duration between 12pm-6pm.

Spring 2014: My menstrual cycles suddenly changed again, where I had constant menstruation for over 3 months.

2015: My fatigue, again, worsened, making me so tired that I could fall asleep throughout the afternoon and most of the evening. This extreme tiredness would come especially shortly after I would eat a meal, particularly in the midday. This made studying for my classes very difficult and time consuming, since I was so slow.

I also started to notice I could feel a small lump on my upper left side, just below my ribcage. This lump started out the size of a golf ball and has increased to the size of a baseball. It makes me feel nauseous if it’s pressed on with little pressure and hurts when it’s pressed on hard.

My menstrual cycles became irregular again and have stayed that way ever since.

Spring 2016: After getting nowhere with endocrinologists, I went to see a gastroenterologist because of my diarrhea and lump. A CAT scan was done of my abdominal area showing nothing abnormal. In fact, the space where the lump should be in the pictures just shows empty blackness, no organs or growths whatsoever.

Over the course of these years, I have done a lot of my own research and have noticed that my symptoms all match 3 possible conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, and Pheocromocytoma. I am wondering if all these three conditions can coexist in the same body. I know that Cushing’s results from a growth on either the pituitary gland or the adrenal cortex of the adrenal gland, making the adrenal gland produce too much cortisol.

I also know that pheocromocytoma results from a growth on the medulla of the adrenal gland, producing high levels of catecholamines, which, for some reason, does not always show up in a blood test. And I know that adrenal fatigue results when the adrenal glands become exhausted from constantly producing high levels of cortisol during stress that lasts over a long period of time, so they don’t produce enough. So could it be that I have a growth on one of my adrenal glands that extends from the adrenal cortex into the adrenal medulla, causing the symptoms of Cushing’s and pheocromocytoma, while my other adrenal gland has adrenal fatigue? That would make sense why nothing shows up on the tests, because one adrenal gland is producing too much cortisol, and the other is not producing enough. So the two would cancel each other out, yet I could still experience symptoms.

I have gone to 12 doctors over these 16 years, and not a one has ever come up with a diagnosis or even cared about investigating the cause. They resist doing further testing and evaluating, because nothing shows up in the initial blood and urine tests. They don’t even believe me and think that it must be depression or that I am just making it all up. I have been criticized, rebuked, and laughed at by them. I even had a doctor chuckle as he told me, “You better get your periods back or you could get cancer of the uterus”. I have run out of doctors and have basically given up hope.

So where I am right now, spring 2017: My symptoms have gotten so bad that I am almost debilitated. Every day, I always wake up feeling just as tired as I did the night before. No matter how much sleep I get, I do not feel rejuvenated whatsoever. This makes it impossible for me to get up before noon, so often times, I am just eating breakfast/lunch around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I have no energy all day long, and the fatigue makes me unable to do much of anything during the times I am awake. Most of the time, I feel like I am moving in slow motion, because time seems to pass by so quickly. I have to take frequent breaks from mental or physical tasks just to regain some strength and energy. I try to avoid social events, as I don’t have the energy to be with people and get easily stressed and drained. So I am alone much of the time. I can only take one class per semester in college now, as I don’t have enough energy to study.

I have acquired muscle weakness in my arms, hands and legs, that makes it incredibly difficult, and sometimes painful, to go up and down stairs, along with doing the process of going from sitting to standing or vise-versa. I appear as “lazy” since I can’t even get up from my chair to get something that is just a few feet away from me. The muscle weakness in my arms and hands makes it difficult to even do handwriting.

My memory if often foggy, also making studying difficult, as I can’t remember what I am reading. Many times, if a friend asks me what I have done during the last few days, I can’t remember. I can experience a fun event, and I still will forget and have to force myself to think about what it was. I feel like in a fog all day.

Almost every day, I will wake up with a headache, or I will get one over the course of the day. I have to take painkillers, such as Alleve, everyday just to keep my headaches under control. And sometimes, my headaches are so bad that they debilitate me. With those kinds of headaches, taking up to 12 Alleve in one day will not take them away.

Painful diarrhea keeps me in the restroom sometimes up to an hour or longer with each bout. I have to eat my evening meal earlier and earlier, so I don’t have to sit up late waiting for it to digest. I even have to keep from lying down for over an hour after drinking just water.

My immune system is also impaired, so I can get sick easily and have reoccurring candida infections. Colds and the flu hit me hard, often debilitating me for weeks. I take vitamin D3 to enhance my immune system to not get sick as often, since I have to ride the train and bus going to and from school. I have also acquired more allergies over these years. My nose has gotten really sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. I never used to be allergic to animals, but now, I can’t even go into a house that has pets without getting a bad sore throat and runny nose for 3 days after. And in general, I have noticed my lungs and nasal passages are producing more mucous, so I have to keep coughing and blowing my nose frequently, or I get a sore throat.

My menstrual cycles are very light and almost non-existent. I haven’t had one since January, and it’s now the beginning of April.

I am now 100 pounds overweight and can’t lose it, even with the same weight loss supplement I took before my first year of high school. The majority of the fat is around my face, neck, and torso, with some now accumulating on my upper arms and upper legs and pale purple stretch marks on my belly and upper arms. I have the typical fat distribution and appearance of Cushing’s Syndrome.

I still get the episodes where I experience a rapid heart rate, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. During those times, I have to breathe harder and just stop whatever I am doing. I have even almost felt like passing out at times.

I will be graduating in 4 weeks and am very afraid, as I don’t know how I will handle the stress and demands of a full time job, especially if I have to interact with people. I have very few friends, and half of my own family doesn’t believe me when I talk about my condition. I feel ugly and boring and have become very depressed. Is there ANYONE IN THE WORLD who will help me??? I hope someone (like a doctor perhaps) will read this bio of mine, and have compassion in their heart and be eager to help me.

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Matt, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, my name is Matt. I am extremely desperate for answers as I simply do not want to live anymore in this condition. I have been suffering for years with something that I strongly believe was caused by continued use of inhaled corticosteroids (Azmacort asthma inhaler, and Fluticasone nose spray). I used these inhalers for about twenty years. 2 puffs of Azmacort every morning and every night for over 20 years.

From 1996 to 2007, I began to develop several health problems. These included severe neck pain, eye twitching, tremor, heartburn, aching teeth, vertigo attacks, peeling skin from my lips and inside my cheeks, a lower eyelid “cyst” that I had removed, an episode of thrush, depression, daily headaches, insomnia, and low energy.

In 2007, I took my inhalers and threw them out. I was trying to figure out if the inhalers were contributing to my health problems. Within months of discontinuing the use of the inhalers, a few of my symptoms went away, but most of them got worse and I developed more worsening problems- brain fog, crawling skin, constant eye pressure, a feeling of sand in my eyes under my eyelids, constant crying, strange pulling feelings in my eyes, cheeks forehead and scalp, muscle atrophy in my neck, face, and shoulders, withdrawl/hangover feelings, concentration/memory problems, suicidal tendencies.

I always assumed that the problems were caused by the inhalers and figured they would subside with time, and I still think that they may. I have always been optimistic for some reason that I am getting better, but the symptoms have still not gone away. It has been ten years now since I instantly quit the corticosteroids and like I said earlier, I am getting desperate. I have talked to dozens of doctors over the past ten years, and they ALL dismiss the idea that the inhalers caused my problem.

In fact, since my symptoms are all invisible, my MRIs are unremarkable, and my blood work is always in range, most of my doctors I am pretty sure think that I am crazy. Funny thing about that is that I have no reason to make up symptoms that I am suffering with. I have already distanced myself from all of my family and friends. I do not tell any of them how much I suffer, because it is so humiliating when people say that I am depressed, or need rest, or should cut down on stress.

In other words, nobody believes that I am truly sick. I am sure that if I killed myself tomorrow because of the pain, people would say that I was a lost soul, or lonely. I have trouble being around other people because I always feel like I need to cry and decompress. I had to resign from my teaching position because of my insomnia and lack of ability to concentrate. It was the one last thing that I loved. I tried to hang on as long as I could, but I felt that the pressure to be at work and perform well daily was not benefiting my health and probably harming it.

Anyway, here is where I stand right now–


I do seen an endocronologist. I found out years ago that my cortisol levels and most other hormones other than my testosterone are normal (my testosterone level was at 100 for God knows how long). I was shocked when I found that out. I was sure that my cortisol would be through the roof, but here is the thing– I NEVER had any blood tests done while I was taking the corticosteroids. Only years after discontinuing them.

In my opinion, my cortisol levels were elevated (or depressed) while I was on the steroids. I believe that the inhalers poisoned my body. 99% of my symptoms are in and around my mouth, neck, throat, head and eyes (right where the spray was going). I believe that my cortisol levels are normal now because I am no longer taking the inhalers and my body is making the correct amount. What happens, however, to all of the cortisol that was building up in my body if this was indeed happening?

I believe that my symptoms post-inhaler are due to my body trying to get back to normal. But ten years is a long time. I was sure that I would be better by now but I really dont know how long it takes to recover from what I did to my body with those corticosteroids. After all, I used Azmacort shortly after its inception and beyond the time that it was discontinued in the US, when I was ordering it online from the UK. There probably are not many if any people that used that inhaler as diligently and for as long as I did. I have always been thin my whole life, so I cannot say that I ever had a ton of fat on my body that would indicate Cushing’s.

In the past several years though, I have noticed that I am losing mass in my neck, face, and shoulders. My face is becoming more angular. The spot between my shoulders where a camels hump would be is becoming more and more concave. It seems like this is kind of the opposite or reverse of Cushing’s. Could this be because my body is trying to recover and slowly melting away the fat deposits on my face and neck?

Again, I am extremely desperate for answers and help. I look forward to being a part of this forum and eager to find out if anybody else out there has had a similar experience to what I have been going through. I have researched Cushing’s and other diseases for years. One thing I have never been able to find online is how long does it take to recover from Cushing’s. If I did, indeed, have Cushing’s, it would have been building up for nearly 20 years. What kind of recovery would be involved with unknowingly having Cushing’s for that long? I really need to find out if it is possible that I could still be recovering after 10 years off of the corticosteroids. I still have some faith, but that faith is definitely waning.

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Niamh (niamhiblog), Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-medulla

Full link to my blog: https://niamhiblog.wordpress.com/

I will never forget the day my hair loss went from “God, don’t I leave a lot of hair around the apartment” to “F***!!!! ”. I’d always considered my hair as one of my best features, it was long, wavy, strong, shiny and I loved it! When I started to see handfuls coming out in the shower it was terrifying. I was like a chemotherapy patient, it was unstoppable and devastating. I saw up to three GPs (Family doctors) who all only seemed interested in the level of stress in my life. Not one of them really took me seriously, I did a couple of blood tests, out of my own persistence that something was wrong, but nothing jumped out of these results to my doctors. I kept being told that my hair was falling out because I was stressed but I was stressed because my hair was falling out!

To be fair, this was a particularly stressful time in my life. I had just finished a year working abroad, in Portugal, which I’d found very lonely and isolating. I’d just returned home to Cork but things didn’t pan out the way I had hoped they would on my return. I was living on my own and trying to reacclimatise to something which wasn’t the same. Around the week leading up to the extreme hair loss I’d found myself in a particularly stressful situation. After about two weeks the hair loss settled down from terrifying to worrying. Since no one seemed as bothered by it as I was, I let it take a back burner. The doctor told me it was normal, the hairdresser told me it was common, I fell into accepting that there wasn’t a problem.

Flash forward five months and I’m sitting in my bosses’ office for a meeting. I look down at my arm, both my arms are covered in purple spots. It’s not itchy. It looks like a rash. I run a glass over it. The spots don’t disappear. I let out a loud exhale “phew it’s not meningitis. I’m fine”. I go to carry on with the meeting. My boss is having absolutely none of it. She knows that whatever is on my arm is weird. So she bundles me into a taxi and sends me off to an urgent care clinic. Since I was working as a chemist at the time for a pharmaceutical company, the obvious questions were “were you in contact with any chemicals?”, “are you allergic to anything you’re working with?”. I knew I hadn’t been exposed to anything so I decided to tell the nurse about my hair loss. I can’t thank this woman enough for the next question she asked me. This was a moment, although I didn’t know it at the time, that went onto change my life. She asked me “has the shape of your face changed?” To this I went ABSOLUTELY!

I’d put on weight in the previous year. It had started when I was living in Portugal. I’d put it down to a diet of beer and white bread. I hadn’t known, but any friends who’d come to visit me had thought that I’d put on a very noticeable amount of weight in a very short time. But this hadn’t made sense to me. I was working out at least 5 days a week and even up to 7 days a week. I was lifting weights and getting weaker not stronger. My diet was excellent (except for the booze and cigarettes) but my face and middle just kept ballooning while my arms and legs were turning into sticks. My clothes weren’t fitting. I was ashamed of my face and belly. I wouldn’t let myself be photographed. I was disgusted by my own body.

So, this nurse spotted something which no one had spotted before. She believed me, she knew that something was wrong and she (along with my wonderful boss) started me along the road to diagnosis and recovery.

Next comes a tremendous mistake from me. My attitude of “era it will be grand” nearly ruined my life and landed me ill in a very serious way. If I’d done what I was supposed to do at this point my disease would have been diagnosed and treated before it started to run away, with me dragged along behind it. I know why I didn’t pursue diagnosis. I was lazy about doing the testing, the hair loss had calmed down, I still just thought I was fat and I didn’t realise how sick I was because I had so many symptoms which came on so gradually that they just became normal to me.

I had my first appointment with an endocrinologist in April 2015. Turns out she knew from one look at me what was wrong. She recommended a 24 hour urine test but I had to be at least 6 weeks off of oral contraceptives for the test. I went off the contraceptives but by the time the 6 weeks had passed I just didn’t bother. I didn’t want to carry around a pee bottle for the day and besides the hair loss had settled down and I wasn’t sick was I?

How did I not realise I was sick?

I’d almost gone bald
I was constantly covered in bruises for no reason which didn’t heal
I never got to the bottom of my strange rash
I was swimming in a constant brain fog
I couldn’t sleep at night but I was tired all day
I put all of my symptoms down to sessioning too hard, being hungover all the time and injuring myself when I was drunk.

That was until I woke up one morning at my friend’s house, admittedly after a night of drinking, without the use of my arms, legs or hands. I woke up really early in the bed with stiffness in my limbs. When I got out of bed my legs were no good to me. I dragged myself to the bathroom on my hands and knees and sat in the shower to wash myself. I went down the stairs on my bum, got into my car and tried to drive home to my mam’s house. It took me about an hour to do a 10 minute drive. I couldn’t get out of second gear because I couldn’t press the clutch, which was just as well because my right leg was no good for using the brakes. Once I got home, naturally I was a bit concerned but I’d loosened out after a bit of movement and strangely wasn’t all that bothered by my period of paralysis!

Once I walked in the back door of my house, with my mother behind me she spotted one of the oddest things! It was like someone had thrown a cup of coffee at the back of my head and it had dried on the back of my neck. At this stage my hair was so thin that the only way I wore it was in a bun at the back of my head. This strange staining was there for all the world to see! I’d no idea how long it had been there given it’s not a part of my body I spend much time looking at. Turns out it had been there about a week and I could even see it growing and spreading up into my hair line and around the front of my face.

Mam wanted me rushed to the emergency unit. I wasn’t so keen on that, so we compromised. It being a Saturday we went to the on call doctor. Now starts the saga of doctors prescribing me steroids, steroids and more steroids. Little did I know that my problem was having too much steroids. I hadn’t heard mention of the term “Cushings Syndrome”. Nobody had brought this up. I took the steroids I was prescribed. I went downhill. I wasn’t experiencing the paralysis but I was having horrendous joint pain. I would watch as my hands, elbows knees and ankles swelled to size of large oranges. I couldn’t use a pen with my swollen fingers. Stairs were a struggle with my swollen knees. I hobbled around like an old woman. I didn’t understand what was going on with my body. I was panicking. I went to my GP in Cork, she prescribed a higher dose of steroids. It was only worse I got. She prescribed higher doses of steroids again. I felt this doctor wasn’t helping me, she wasn’t listening to my concerns and her only idea was to keep upping my dose of corticosteroids. What a disaster!

Luckily, my aunt is a docotor in the major hospital in Cork. She got wind of my problems, pulled some strings and had me admitted to the acute care clinic in her hospital for the following day. This was the first of my “holidays to CUH” as I started to call them. Here I saw what I can only call a plethora of doctors. Consultants that take months to years to get appointments with were calling to check on me willy nilly. I saw emergency consultants, rheumatologists, dermatologists, radiologists and finally the endocrinologist. We were all working to the assumption that I had some strange sort of viral arthritis which was causing my joint pain and swelling.

face

It was here in hospital that someone got to the bottom of the strange coffee stain on the back of my neck. It was merely a fungal infection (tick off the symptom of persistent infections).

After having received a very stern talking to from the endrochronolgist I proceeded to do a battery of tests including 24 hour and 48 hour urine samples, dexamethasone 24 hour and 48 hour, several trips and “holidays to CUH” all culminating in a MRI to confirm that I had an adrenal tumour producing far and above the natural and required levels of cortisol. This was the answer to everything.

After my diagnosis I started reading up on the symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome. I realised that I had every single symptom on the list. Things that I hadn’t even realised were wrong with me until I gave myself permission to be ill.

I had the stretch marks on my arms, sides and legs. I’d though these were from my weight gain but who gets stretch marks on their arms? Turns out my skin was so weak it was tearing.

The cognitive deficiencies. I am someone who had always prided themselves on their intelligence, ability to think on my feet, to understand things rather than learn them. I’d always been a high achiever. I’d noticed myself getting stupider. I would be looking at someone talking to me and I’d be trying to figure out what day of the week it was. I found holding a conversation extremely difficult and very stressful. I wasn’t able to engage with people.I wasn’t able to listen, concentrate or respond. My memory was non-existent. Trying to think was like trying to swim through a thick, gloopy soup. I had put this drop in mental ability down to the partying and finding out that maybe I wasn’t as capable as I thought I was in the working world.
Bio, Continued: The bruising. I was bruising my arm from putting my handbag on my shoulder. The purple dots were actually tiny bruises. My legs were constantly just purple. I couldn’t heal. I was doing so many blood tests that the skin on my arms was constantly purple and wouldn’t heal.

Lack of libido. What libido?!

Irregularities with my period. I wasn’t getting periods at all since I’d stopped using oral contraceptives. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, see the point above and thought that I was just skipping some periods.

Brittle bones. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis at 24.

Joint pain. I wasn’t able to bend my knees to get up or down stairs. My bedroom is three flights of stairs from the kitchen. More than once I ended up stranded in the kitchen, not able to get back upstairs to lie down on my bed and feel sorry for myself.

The swelling wasn’t confined to my joints. There were days my face was so swollen it was hard to see out my eyes as my cheeks inflated and rose to meet my brow bone.

Sleep. I’d turned into an insomniac who wandered the house late at night not awake enough to do something but still unable to sleep.

Body hair. I was managing to grow a beard despite going bald! I started to get my cheeks waxed thinking this was a normal cosmetic procedure that other girls just didn’t talk about.

Stress. The choice between two different types of cheese could cause me so much anguish as to leave me in tears.

Up until the point where I was diagnosed, I hadn’t allowed myself to be sick. After the diagnosis I never let myself feel sorry for myself. I just got on with it. Planned for surgery and that was it.

In October 2015 I underwent a full left adrenelectomy to remove a tumour from my adrenal gland.

After the surgery I’d a whole new condition to learn to deal with. My right adrenal had been suppressed while my tumour was active. This left me with no natural cortisol in my body. A 180 deg turnaround from being pumped up on steroids 24 hours a day. I was on replacement steroids but my body was readjusting. I slept most of every day. I couldn’t pick up a carton of milk. If I didn’t take my medication I was in serious trouble.

I was back at work the week before Christmas. This was much too big a leap! I’d been frustrated by the speed of my recovery. I recovered from surgery quickly but the recovery from Cushing’s was slower. I’d expected everything to just go back to normal after the surgery and hadn’t anticipated the gradual decline in symptoms. I ended up getting very sick with a virus and really thought my family would have me admitted to hospital. There are two days that all I can remember is lying on the couch sweating. I lost 8 lbs in a day! I’d pushed myself too far.

And yet I still didn’t learn! I’m not someone that likes to be inactive. I also just wanted life to go back to normal. I returned to work again in January on half days and gradually built myself up to working full days.

Slowly but surely, I was taking less and less medication. I was able to stay awake a little bit longer every day. My mind was coming back to me. I was losing the bright red colour from my face. One day I woke up, looked in the mirror and suddenly had cheek bones again. I looked like my old self. By January I’d gone from a dress size 14 to a 6 with hardly any weight loss. It was just like someone had stuck a pin in me and I was deflating back down to a regular size. My hair was growing back but still had horrible wispy ends so I chopped all the sickness out of my hair. By April I wasn’t taking any steroids. I’d again pushed myself to the limit and instead of tapering slowly had gone down in major jumps. Weeks where I was doing a major jump involved lots and lots of tears. And then some more tears.

By June I noticed that I hadn’t had a day where my joints were sore since I couldn’t remember when.

Things like falling down the stairs because my legs couldn’t support me won’t be forgotten. Standing at the top of the stairs and knowing I can’t get down. My hands turning into claws. Or accidentally going into steroid withdrawals a few days post surgery (I was the crazy patient running up and down the hospital corridor screaming and crying in the middle of the night). These won’t be forgotten but they will fade in importance. The things that won’t are my little brother coaching me through all the tubes I woke up with after surgery, my friends bringing me bottles of diet coke and fancy hummus in hospital, the friend who came to see me every day in hospital, the one who picked me up and took me home, my mam who told me I was brave and that I’d gone through a lot, and the boy who listened to me cry when the pain still hadn’t gone away.

As of today I have been declared fully recovered bar one more hurdle. My repeat bone density scan. In two weeks’ time I have to repeat this to see if I still have osteoporosis. Whatever about having a tumour at 23, being diagnosed with osteoporosis at 24 just isn’t on! I’ve been drinking plenty of milk and tons of cheese though so fingers crossed.

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Amee (Amee), Adrenal / Pituitary Bio

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adrenal_glands
Hmmm, where to start? “Hello” to one & all, & how I wish I had discovered this friendly & helpful site 3 years ago. Ah well, better late, than never, eh?

Anyway, back to me : in a nutshell – 47 year old single female, 87kg, 5’4″, Post Cushings Syndrome through Adrenal tumour & subsequent unilateral Adrenalectomy I’m now Hydrocortisone (HC) dependent , Hypothyroid (just switched to NDT & T3 combo from synthetic T4 & T3), Pituitary microadenoma.

Now for the details…..are you siting comfortably? I’ll try to keep to the plot ! Suffered with bouts of fatigue & depression since my early 20’s. Spells on different types of anti-depressants which didn’t help me much.

Skip to 2004,weight going up despite no change in eating/excercise habits (those intermittent years were filled with seeming to pick up every bug & cold that was going around & weirdly taking longer than others to get over illness) prescribed Zoladex implant to relieve very painful & intolerably heavy periods, along with severe mood swings.

Tiredness is now just an unwelcome fact of life for me, weight still increasing gradually. Developed Psoriasis.

June 2012 diagnosed Hypothyroid after completely breaking down in GP’s surgery & being referred to Endocrinologist. Signed off work for foreseeable future. Prescribed Levothyroxine, Zolpidem & Ramipril, weight goes up more. More investigations pinpointed extremely high cortisol levels, (I have all the physical signs of Cushings at this point – but Endo has not even mentioned the condition to me!)

Meanwhile referred to Neurologist for my now weekly migraines, prescribed Propranolol & he & Endo agree on cranial MRI scan to help both of their cases with me. Full body scan also booked. In the same week I learnt that I had both a tumour on my right Adrenal & also a Pituitary micro-adenoma. More tests which determine that it is the Adrenal tumour causing my Cushings (oh, & I had to ask Endo if what I had was Cushings – as he had still not even uttered it’s name to me! )

Unilateral Adrenalectomy performed Aug 2013 (had to fly 200 miles to have it done – alone – haven’t told my family who live 300 miles away about either tumour).

Post op weaned down from 40 mg to 17.5mg HC per day, over few months. Feb 2014 went into adrenal crisis & rushed to hospital – remaining adrenal obviously not working yet.

Since then, have had 9am bloods every 2 months & follows up with Endo & still no sign of life in Adrenal. Have lost only about 4kg max since the op – still obese & unable to loose weight & still have the classic Cushings apple shape.

In Aug 2015 returned to work full time, in a downgraded role, & have to up dose to 20mg HC just to get me through working day. Begged Endo for T3 to try alongside the Levo & was granted in Nov 2015 . Slight improvement at first, but short lived. Also i asked to come off Zoladex implant, to see If that side of things are any better yet. No period yet. Shattered & aching, have no social life or energy & spend weekends resting in lieu of working week & in prep for the next one, waning to be alone.

Grasping at straws to feel better so am now (since mid April 2016) self medicating on NDT & T3 as Endo does not support prescribing it. Endo does not want to see me now until Sept 2016 , when I am due an MRI again to check on the Pituitary tumour size/growth & have next 9am bloods.

That’s about it medically………quite enough for me, thanks ! P.s I have bad brain fog (& also Sinusitis at the mo) so may well have missed something & will probably remember it in about 3 days or so !!

Thanks for reading & welcome to my world : /

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Emily B-C (EmilyBC), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed3

 

Hi.  I am a 40 year old female who has been feeling “not quite right” for almost 10 years.  I have been tested on and off for many different things and have been diagnosed with Epstein Barr, Adrenal fatigue, and h.pylori during these years.  I continually have vitamin D deficiency issues.  I have a rash on my lower legs that never really heals even with the most powerful of steroid creams.

This year, I started feeling worse than usual.  I have zero energy and my brain is in a perpetual fog.  My muscles and body ache, my face is round, and I have gained 40+ lbs over the years.  There are days that I physically cannot get out of bed.  I have fainting spells and a racing heartbeat at times.  I crave carbs and salt.  There is not enough water in the world to drink and I have to run to the bathroom frequently.  No matter how hard I try the weight will not come off.  When I get massages my therapist tells me that my adrenal glands are swollen and I feel very nauseous every time she runs her hands over that spot.

I was an avid equestrian- 3 day eventer.  I was riding and showing no less than 3 times a week.  I was getting fit.  Now I am just a useless blob that can’t do anything.  I have been pushing to go to the barn to just groom and be with my horse as much as I can.  

My doctor found that I have an unusually high blood cell count a couple of months ago.  I was sent to a hematologist to find out why.  We did so many tests I quit counting.  The conclusion was that I am not sick enough to be sick.  So many tests were coming back normal or high normal.  No lupus, no leukemia, no answers.  I finally asked about Cushing’s because I have a majority of the symptoms listed.  My doctor was skeptical, but agreed to let me do a 24 hour urine test.  It came back high.  This has allowed me to move to an endocrinologist.  I also have high levels of reverse T3.

So far I feel like a complete lab rat.  I have now done 2 salivary Cortisol tests and have another urine test this week.  One of the 2 saliva tests came back very high.  My doctor said we have to do yet another saliva test to test the last results.  After all of this we will do a dex suppression test.   

At this point I am very depressed that I am unable to live my life.  Riding is not an option because I just get “floppy” and risk falling off.  I was studying to get my vet tech license, but the brain fog prevents me from remembering anything I read.  

I am so lucky to have a doctor that believes my symptoms are real.  She does not gloss over the fact that it may take a long to diagnose what is going on, but she wants answers as much as I do.  For now, I am just a good lab rat.

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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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