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Leann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 14, 2008

I’m Leann, a 40-year-old single mom of three from Pittsburgh. My son was recently diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Because of this, it caused me to suspect possible adrenal problems with my oldest daughter (age 19) and myself. I am unsure of my daughters exact lab results (she sees an endo on 12/22), but mine seem to be indicitive that further testing is needed to rule out Cushing’s Syndrome. That’s why I am here (well, that – plus my friend told me to join).

My initial bloodwork shows high blood pressure, high BAD cholesterol, low GOOD cholesterol, and high cortisol levels. I initially went to my PCP due to extreme fatigue! I am soooooooo tired ALL THE TIME! My muscles are always sore and my bones hurt. I am prone to miagraines. I have been clinically depressed, I believe my entire life, but was diagnosed about 20 years ago. The weirdest thing (possibly unrelated) is my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease characterized by loss of peripheral vision and night blindness. My mom read somewhere that loss of peripheral vision is a symptom of Cushing’s, but she can’t find the website.

I also have gained a significant amount of weight in the last few years, all in my mid-section. I look like I am either 7 months pregnant or that I drink a case a beer a day.

My PCP seems to think that I do NOT have Cushing’s because my ACTH levels are fine, but he didn’t do any special ACTH testing, only the basic bloodwork, all drawn at the same time. I argued with the nurse about it and asked that my PCP call me back (on Thursday) but he hasn’t yet.

I am just so tired of feeling like crap all the time. I am hoping to find some answers here. Thanks for reading.

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Elizabeth F (ElizabethF), Suspected Cushing’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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