Woman with hump on her neck diagnosed herself with Cushing’s disease

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Jennifer Trujillo, 33, noticed she was mysteriously gaining weight and losing muscle despite training for an athletic event in 2012

A woman who lived with unexplained weight gain and debilitating symptoms is finally getting her life back after diagnosing herself with a rare hormonal condition.

Jennifer Trujillo, 33, noticed she was mysteriously gaining weight and losing muscle despite training for an athletic event in 2012. She consulted doctors, but they were unable to identify the cause.

As time went on, the music consultant and video director,from Santa Fe, New Mexico, noticed that her hair was falling out, her skin bruised to the touch, her face was increasingly round, and her bones were becoming more fragile, with her foot breaking unexpectedly.

Her anxiety increased, and Jennifer, who also suffered from debilitating migraines, consulted her doctors again. Experts told her she might have a thyroid problem, bad genes or the start of osteoporosis.

‘I was training for an athletic event and started noticing that I was gaining weight, not losing it. I was losing muscle, not gaining it,’ Jennifer said, recounting her symptoms. ‘Shortly after that my blood pressure shot up through the roof.

‘My face was taking on a moon shape, very round and chubby. My anxiety was so high. Unbelievable migraines. I’d explain all these things to doctors for years and nobody would listen to me.

‘They said I may have a thyroid problem, or I may be getting osteoporosis, or I just had bad family genes and I would have to struggle to stay a good weight. But none of it made sense. I was even referred to a therapist because they said I was making up too many symptoms to make sense.’

To Jennifer, none of these explanations seemed plausible because she was working out twice a day and eating a vegan diet.

It wasn’t until she noticed a hump growing on the back of her neck, known as buffalo neck, that she googled her symptoms and found they matched those of Cushing’s disease.

Jennifer had always thought the bump was due to her ‘terrible posture’, but she discovered the hump was in fact a symptom of the condition.

‘One night I was looking at it and I was so disgusted so I googled the words “fat on back of neck”, and this thing called buffalo neck came up,’ she said. ‘From there, everything unfolded. I found Cushing’s disease and it was every symptom I had to a T, everything down to my foot breaking out of nowhere.

‘I took this information to my doctor and he was the only one who listened to me. He helped me and the rest is history. He himself was amazed I diagnosed myself with such a rare disease.

‘In my best description I would say Cushing’s slowly attacks different areas of your body. You literally experience pain and symptoms from head to toe, and it felt like each week I was waking up to something new.

‘I was able to maintain a somewhat tolerable weight before this because I became obsessed with working out and eating healthy because all this time I just thought I couldn’t lose weight. My doctors mentioned that if I hadn’t done all of this activity then I would have been in much worse shape. I’d easily be over 200 pounds, may have diabetes, osteoporosis, the list goes on.’

Cushing’s disease develops when the body makes too much cortisol. The condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions, but can also develop as a result of a tumor inside one of the body’s glands.

The main treatment is to stop taking the medication causing it or to remove the tumor. If left untreated, the condition can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It affects about one in 50,000 people.

Jennifer found out she had a tumor on her pituitary gland that caused the body to overproduce cortisol.

Thanks to her active lifestyle, Jennifer’s weight gain, which saw her going from 105 pounds to 145 pounds was not as significant as it could have been.

Jennifer had surgery in August last year to remove the tumor on her pituitary gland and has been rebuilding her life ever since.

For Jennifer, recovery has been more difficult than living with the condition itself. She sometimes struggles to get out of bed as her body adjusts to producing less cortisol, meaning she feels less energetic.

However, her symptoms started to disappear almost instantly after the operation.

‘After surgery my symptoms quickly started to disappear like rapid fire. It was crazy,’ she said. ‘My weight dropped. I stopped bruising. The hump on my neck went down. My bones healed. My hair grew back. My face returned to its normal shape, and the best part, my blood pressure returned to normal.

‘My friends and family are amazed. Every time I see someone new they say I look like a completely different person.

‘Recovery is hard. I’m still going through it. Believe it or not it’s been harder than the actual disease. When your body is used to producing so much cortisol to all the sudden be producing nothing, your body crashes.

‘Some days it’s hard for me to get out of bed and move, I’m tired all the time and have zero energy. I’m only able to walk at the gym maybe two days a week. I’m currently on cortisol replacements so that my body levels out. Every two weeks I reduce my medication because the goal is to be completely off it and have a normal functioning pituitary gland.

‘However, every time I reduce my body crashes all over again, so it’s like a never-ending cycle. But I know that someday it will get better so I’m getting through it.’

Jennifer, who has been charting her progress on Instagram, shared her advice to others who might be suffering from similar conditions.

‘Never give up trying to find an answer and push your doctors to listen to you,’ she said.

‘If I hadn’t discovered this on my own I’d probably still be suffering.’

Read more:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5450135/Woman-diagnoses-rare-hormonal-condition.html

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Alex, Pituitary Bio


After long and tiring process was diagnosed with Cushing disease in June 2011.

Had a surgery to remove pituitary tumor in July 2011.

Remained on the cortizol for 18 months.

If you live in New York metropolitan area and have a pituitary tumor and would like to ask some questions or need suggestions, please email me.

I have seen the worst of this disease, but was able to make it through. I was lucky to have right doctors (neuroendocrenologist and surgeon).

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Jessica, Undiagnosed Bio

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First of all – I have to excuse my language – I’m Swedish, and will not always be able to find the right words.

After several years of increasing symtoms some of which worsened severely a couple of months ago, I finally found “Cushings disease” and recognised most of the symtoms. I’ve suffered from severe depression and thereafter adrenal burnout, and have explained most of my problems from this point of view. It’s “only” stress related, I’ve thought to myself.

I’ve always been slender, but gained weight using antidepressives. After ending SSRI I managed to loose weight again (I love running, and exercised a lot!) But my face stayed round and my belly stayed big. (Today BMI 21 and look 7 months pregnant)

I’m very easily bruised since several years.

I wake up several times each night and it’s often very hard for my to fall asleep again.

I get easily exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve got lowered simultan capacity, am sensitive to impressions (sounds and vision)

My skin is very dry and thin and looks like paper on the back of my hands and on my lower legs.

My cheeks are always red, as well as the front of my neck.

I’ve always had extremely low blood pressure, and now it was high (in the lower region)

Inflammations won’t heal. I’ve had stressfractures in my left foot twice the last couple of years.

My legs always hurt.

The last two months my strength has decreased a lot!

I’m always thirsty and pee a lot.

I live extremely healthy (Exercise, eat good, hardly any sugar, exercise bodyscan/meditation, minimum of alcohol – my day ends extremely early) – all in order to manage my part time job, and my two children who are in great need of me.

And now we’ve found that my cortisol is high (urine and blood), ACTH is high and I’ve been a patient for a couple of days for several bloodtests, another urinetest and dexamethasone-test. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for an MRI, and next week I’ll see a doctor to get the results.

It seems that I’ve got Cushings – and my first feeling was a sense of relief. All this suffering all these years, and I’ve always thought that I wasn’t trying hard enough. And the explanation was that something was growing in my head that they would be able to cut away. And the tumour is almost always benign.

But having read some stories on the internet I’m suddenly scared. I realize that you are in deeper need of writing if you don’t get well, but still I’m suddenly very scared.

If anyone out there is a “success” (when it comes to getting well again) please respond. I desperately need hope.


Dr. Dori, Pituitary Bio

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The author, Dori Middleman, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Merion, PA. She has a musician/conductor husband and two children. She was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor causing Cushing’s Disease in November of 2001.  This Golden Oldie was last updated 06/19/2008.


December 28, 2002

Dr. Dori Middleman


A Pituitary Party with a pituitary-shaped cake, complete with tumor of a different-colored icing, a pituitary hunt for the kids, a raffle to benefit the Wellness Community (a cancer support group), and a contest for the most creative object to be inserted inside my head in place of the removed pituitary tumor were ways in which I distracted myself from the terror of brain surgery. I hired a story-teller, who wrote pituitary stories. I bought the game, “Cranium”, to give as prizes for the winner of the replacement-object contest, and my caterer created pituitary-theme foods: pituitary pasta, cerebral cucumbers, and had a cauliflower simulating a brain decorating the table along with a scarecrow who displayed the sign, “If I only had a brain…”

My pituitary party invitation read:

As you may or may not know, I have been diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma, a small brain tumor, and am having surgery on April 3rd. I have decided that one thing you can do for me is help me have fun with my brain tumor. Traditionally, brain tumors have been viewed as undesirable, somewhat dreaded, and even potentially life-threatening. They’ve gotten a bum rap, in my opinion. I think they give life a purpose (survival with a few brains intact) and give their bearers something to talk about, but better yet, laugh about.

Dan Gottlieb, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, in his April Fool’s column on the importance of not taking oneself too seriously, gave me and my party a notable mention, resulting in all of Philadelphia knowing about my surgery and many expressions of support and concern.
Indeed, contemplating death and disease is not the way I most enjoy spending my time, although I did a fair amount of that too. But throughout my illness and recovery, I have attempted to make the most of the cards I have been dealt.

Other health-promoting strategies I have used included:

regular mass e-mailings to my close friends to keep them apprised of how I was doing so they could best offer support;
contacting everyone I could think of for recommendations and information on doctors
finding and conversing with fellow patients on-line in the chatroom for people with my illness, Cushing’s Disease
using hypnosis, yoga, exercise, acupuncture, massage, Gestalt, and energy-work as adjuncts to my medical treatment
re-entering and using psychotherapy to support me emotionally through the process of illness and the stresses of medical treatment (In Gestalt therapy, I spoke to my tumor and my pituitary and came to understand their function in my life: I had a hypomanic pituitary mimicking my own sometimes hyper-functioning mode of living.)
joking with people as much as possible about brain tumors to facilitate comfort of myself and people providing my care from hospital registration personnel to my brain surgeon
carrying with me at all times the small objects people offered to me as brain-tissue replacement
wearing a donut-like pendant covered by a symbol of a healer as a reminder of my brain with a hole in the middle healing

Unfortunately, my surgery was unsuccessful, and I faced a decision between a second surgery or radiation treatment. I did not find this funny. In fact, I was pretty demoralized and said so in an email to friends and colleagues, again inviting humor. One of my colleagues placed a request to the entire international mailing list of my Gestalt therapy colleagues on my behalf, saying she had “an ill friend in need of humor”. In came jokes from around the world – about fifty pages of them – which I read to my driver enroute to my gamma knife radiation treatment in another state. We laughed our way there and back!

Life is what it is. We get what we get. And we might as well enjoy it!

The author, Dori Middleman, M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Merion, PA. She has a musician/conductor husband and two children. She was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor causing Cushing’s Disease in November of 2001.

Listen Interview on a Philadelphia-area public radio talkshow, Voices in the Family, about Cushing’s Disease and how to make meaning out of illness and adversity.
Read Dr. Dori Middleman’s article HOW TO HAVE FUN WITH A BRAIN TUMOR.
Read “DrDori”, Dr. Dori Middleman’s First Guest Chat, April 14, 2004.

DrDori answered questions in an online Voice Chat, June 12, 2008, 7:30PM eastern. Archives aree available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

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Jean (Jinxie) Cushing’s and Acromegaly Bio

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This bio was originally posted 1/26/2008


My Cushing’s and Acromegaly Odyssey

During the summer of 1999 I was a trim and fit 130 pound woman. I was very athletic and worked out all the time. At that time I had also been taking Tae Kwon Do. I was able to eat anything that I wanted and not gain weight. I wore size 8 pants.

Fast forward to May of 2000. I developed increasing stomach and bowel problems. I had a spastic colon and serious GERD. Along with that came a poof in my belly. Although I was still wearing the same size my stomach started to look “pregnant”. I was referred to a gastroenterologist who began treating my myriad of health issues. He really couldn’t find a reason for all of it but said he could treat it. For awhile I managed okay on the drugs and diet that I was treated with. Everything went in cycles.

During the summer of 2001 my naturally light blonde hair began to change color. It got black and mousy looking at the roots. At the same time it started thinning, the texture was horrible and no longer shiny and baby soft. I developed heat intolerance. I was uncomfortable in 80 degree weather. I also developed strange rashes and red dots on my skin. Later that fall my neck and face started to turn beet red. It stayed that way.

I could no longer fit in my wedding rings and my shoe size went from a size 7 ½ to and 8 1/2. Doctors didn’t find this impressive. My neck went from 13 inches around to 16. I gained 12 pounds in 1 week alone. I started getting real fat in my stomach and armpits, and I could no longer wear normal bras. I also started getting a lot of fat on my upper back. I grew hair in places that women should not grow hair. My face was huge with strange acne outbreaks. I also got acne in weird spots.

At the time I had put on about 20 pounds all in my stomach. When I would try other clothing it wouldn’t work because the next size bigger fit in the waist but the butt and legs were huge. I gave up on real pants and started to wear stretch clothes all the time. At this time I could no longer exercise to my peak performance. I was tired all the time and never felt well and I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. I thought that I was getting old.

January of 2002 my bowel and stomach troubles peaked. I was in and out of the hospital. Although I was following the healthy eating plan and exercising no doctors believed me. My PCP did a TSH test and it came back at 27.48. I was hypothyroid, at that time my estradiol levels were also non-existent. So off I was sent to an Endocrinologist. I was given replacements for both yet nothing improved.

This started an intense year of doctors. I was diagnosed with anything and everything at this point. I was started on the Atkins diet plan. I followed this religiously and walked for up to 2 hours a day and continued to gain weight. By this time I was 165 pounds. Finally realizing that something horrible was wrong with me I started seeking out Endo’s on my own. It led me to one who thought he should do a few 24 UFC’s. One came back high, 2 others came back high normal (33.4 and 33.9 with a range of 2.9-34). They then did serum cortisols which came back below normal. I was frustrated.

It was November by now and I was getting no where fast. At this point I had seen 11 different doctors. The last of which told me that there was no way I was eating healthy and not losing. He even suggested that my fresh sliced berry snack was making me fat. By now I’ developed high blood pressure and high blood sugars. My fasting blood glucose came in at 170.

By this time I was so exhausted and developed such horrid bone pain that I could not even exercise anymore. I remember waking up late one morning and crying. I went downstairs and told my hubby I was sure my back was breaking. It was horrible. I weighed 196 pounds and looked 9 months pregnant with triplets.

I came home and looked the tests up on the internet. I started reading everything that I could find. I knew then that I had Cushing’s. I found the Cushing’s help site. The trouble was that some tests were normal and some were abnormal. Finally in January of 2003 I went to see Dr. Friedman after another patient emailed me. Dr. Friedman tested my 17-Hydroxysteroids and 17- Ketosteroids which came back elevated. He also did some additional salivary cortisols testing. He finally figured out that I not only had Cyclic Cushing’s but also Acromegaly.

After many more tests and some MRI’s my tumors were found. I had pituitary surgery to remove them. I was devastated that I was not cured from the Cushing’s. After much consulting I decided to proceed with a Bilateral Adrenalectomy to cure it once and for all. I am recovering slowly but surely.

I am now 4 months post-op.

Click any thumbnail to view the larger image.

Before Cushing’s [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

In the kitchen [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Jinxie [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Jinxie [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Catherine J (Catherine Jones), Pituitary Bio


In November 2009 my PCP diagnosed me with pituitary Cushing’s Disease.  His diagnosis was confirmed by an endocrinologist at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, WA in January 2010.

English: Concept of Gamma Knife Stereotactic R...

English: Concept of Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In March 2010, I had my first pitutary surgery at UW Medical.  My second surgery was in September 2010 at the same hospital.  My third surgery was at Harborview Medical Center, also in Seattle in May of 2011.  After my husband and I learned the third surgery had also failed I had gamma knife radiation on half my pituitary gland in November of 2011, also at Harborview.

After waiting what seemed like a very long year and a half we decided to have my adrenal glands removed by a surgeon from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in May 2012.

I am finally without Cushing’s Disease and looking forward to a “normal” life.

Shannon (sweetpea), Pituitary Bio


I am a mother of a 19 year old daughter who recently has had her life turned upside down with a diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease.

I am looking for some support so that I may better assist her.  Please someone reach out to me.

Kindest Regards, Shannon

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