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TONIGHT! Interview with Fabiana

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interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 88 other past interviews to listen to!

~~~

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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In Memory of Natalie ~ April 21, 2008

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This is another Golden Oldie.  I’m not sure when it was last written or updated by Natalie but it was updated by me after she died April 21, 2008.

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Hi! My name is Natalie, I am 35 years old and I’ve been married for 15 years. I don’t have any children at this time, but we are in the process of adopting. We can hardly wait for our little one to show up on our doorstep. We live down in southern Maryland at this time. I grew up in southern Virginia on a farm. My Dad is still farming; he raises peanuts, corn and soybeans. He has had 2 battles with colon cancer and is still hanging in there. He gives me inspiration. I have my Mom and Grandmother still living home on the farm too and we get there as often as we can. My sister lives near by my parents and has 2 boys. They spend a portion of every summer with us.

There is so much to tell, I really don’t know where to start. I had my official diagnosis in Jan. of 1990. But after all of the information I have learned over the years, I fully believe that it could have started as early as childhood. We will never know for sure.

When I graduated from high school in 1983, I was a happy go lucky teenager with a steady boy friend and many friends. My first year of college was great. I had a lot of fun and thought I had made so many new friends. Joe (boyfriend then, now my husband) left for Marine Corps Boot Camp in the spring of 1984. That was hard but I adjusted fine and was glad to see him come home that summer. In the fall when it was time to go back to school I was a different person. I withdrew from my friends and I pretty much kept to myself. After a weekend visit from Joe, I slipped into a deep depression. I stopped going to class and to work. My so-called friends didn’t want anything to do with me. I started having headaches and dizzy spells. I was really scared. No one knew what I was feeling or would even try to understand. I ended up dropping out of school and went back home. I didn’t want a job; I just stayed home and did baby-sitting jobs. My nephew was born in August of 1985 and I took care of him full time until Joe and I was married in June of 1986.

On our wedding day I cried all through the picture taking. I was very happy but cried anyway. We went to the Blue Ridge Mountains for our honeymoon, I got stung by a bee, got a speeding ticket, and we had no air conditioning in our truck. It was truly one to remember. We came back and moved to North Carolina, where Joe was stationed at the time, and I cried for the next 2 weeks. I had never been that far away from home before.

As a child I had a bad case of asthma and now all of a sudden I’m having no problems. Little did I know that my body was treating itself with cortisol. In Jan. of 1987 I had a doctor’s appointment with my Allergist.

I was told then that I had High Blood pressure and to keep check on it. I was also beginning to be very emotional around this time. I would cry over nothing.

I started having migraine headaches while Joe was away on a deployment. My parents came and took me to the ER and because I had not been able to eat for 3 days and I was living in the dark because the sunlight was killing my head. Again I was told that it was High Blood pressure. Joe came home and left again in June for 6 months on the ship. I moved home and didn’t have any problems that summer. I moved back to Carolina in the fall so that I could get our house ready for Joe’s home coming. The real nerve racking part was that Joe’s ship was part of the mine sweeping going on in the Persian Gulf during 1987.

1988 was a pretty good year. Not too many problems except for headaches. But 1989 is a different story. I fell apart this year. In the spring I broke out in this strange rash that wouldn’t go away and I couldn’t find a doctor that could tell me what it was. Not long after that my periods stopped, we were really excited thinking that we were finally going to have a baby, WRONG! I went 3 months without a cycle; I still had the rash, headaches and high blood pressure. You would think that this would have alerted my OB GYN that something was wrong. Joe came home one day and found me doubled over and took me to the ER and we found out that I had kidney stones. Over all this time I am steady gaining weight. The stones passed and then tests were done and everything was fine there. Finally I decided to go to see Dermatology for the rash and was treated for severe acne. On my second visit with them the doctor took a look at my entire medical record and excused himself from the room. A few minutes later he returned with a doctor from Internal medicine, he took one look at me and said that I was the classic Cushing’s case. Then he went on to explain it to me. This was in Nov.1989. The tests began and I had a CT Scan done in Dec of that year that I didn’t get the results from until after Christmas. They showed a tumor on the pituitary and I was told to go to Portsmouth Naval Hospital right away. We took off and headed to Virginia not knowing what to expect. I was admitted the next day and had a week of peeing in a jug and lots of bloodwork. I was sent home with my surgery scheduled for Feb. 1990. Well, being the Navy, my surgeon was called away and my surgery was delayed until March.

I had transphenoidal surgery in March 1990 and they removed what they could but it had invaded the sinus cavity and they couldn’t get it all. I was sent home on hydrocortizone and had 2 episodes where my cortisol levels dropped too low and had to go the ER. Once I was weaned off I was okay and actually felt pretty good. I had monthly 24-hour urine tests run and they began to come back high again. I was put back in the hospital in Portsmouth and all the tests came back normal. I was sent home and a couple of months later they were high again. Again I went to the hospital and sent home normal. What’s going on here? The next time this happened I demanded that something be done. The head of the Endo dept. (I won’t mention any names, but Handiman knows him personally) tried to tell me that I was faking it so that my husband wouldn’t have to go the Desert Storm. I talked on of the interns to schedule me for an appt with the radiation oncologist and they determined that the tumor was still growing and that I needed to have radiation. Joe was scheduled to go to the desert but he was pulled from that duty and assigned to recruiter’s asst. and we moved to Virginia to my parent’s home for 60 days while I underwent 31 days of traditional radiation to the pituitary. I went back to Carolina feeling more at ease that something had been done. The rash went away but I continued to gain weight and still had Blood pressure problem, but was now being treated for it.

I was doing really well and Joe went away again for 6 months in Oct.1991. He was gone that Christmas, which was hard but I handled it ok. When he returned he had orders to go to Atlanta, GA. I was doing well and we packed up and went. I didn’t like the endo I saw there so I continued my 6-month check ups in Portsmouth when went home to visit.

In the summer of 1994, I started having problems with my left eye and thought it was allergies. I went to the eye doctor and after examining me he sent me to a Neuro Ophthalmologist who ordered a MRI and guess what The Tumor’s back! It was pressing on the optic nerve causing what they called a third nerve palsy. I was treated with medication until Jan 1995, hoping that the tumor would shrink but it got worse. I began to have double vision and my left eye closed completely. In the spring of 95 I again underwent Transphenoidal surgery at Emory University under  Dr. Oyesiku. He was great. I also had a great endo there, Dr. Lewis Blevins (he is at Vanderbilt in Tenn. Now). They still could not retract the entire tumor so I went back in August of that year and had Sterotactic Radiation Surgery. That was a one time radiation and it was a real experience. I had a metal Halo drilled into my head and I had CT scans and MRIs done with it one to determine the exact location of the tumor, then I was placed in a chair that spun in very slow circles while the radiation was being done. When I arrived back in my room they couldn’t find the key to take the halo off, so I had to wear it for another 2 hours until they found it.

It has now been almost 6 years since the last radiation and my current MRIs show some shrinkage of the tumor. I am currently battling high cortisol levels again but I think if we can find the right dosage of medicine it will level off. I am currently taking meds for: thyroid, high blood pressure, estrogen, diabetes, medication to control cortisol, allergy medication and every 3 months I take hormones to make me have a menstrual cycle. But over all I am doing OK.

My husband is out of the Marine Corps now and we live in Maryland. We are in the process of Adopting. We are really excited about this and can hardly wait to get our little one. My husband and Family have been so supportive of me through all of these years and I don’t know what I would have done without them and my close friends.

I feel like I have made many friends here also. This site has been a great help to me and I hope that my story can help someone else.

Take Care everyone!

Natalie

MaryO Note: Natalie had a BLA in March, 2008. She died April 21, 2008.
In Memoriam

Natalie Fay

Monday, April 21, 2008

2001 Cushing’s Lunch. From
left: Joe (Natalie’s husband), Natalie and Linda

Natalie Fay (Natalie65), died April 21, 2008. She was only 42 and had recently had a BLA. I first
met Natalie at a local lunch in November of 2001 and have seen her seval times
since then.

Natalie started the original “Dammit Dolls” that circulated
around the country until people refused to pass them along anymore.

Dammit Doll.

Natalie also made counted cross-stitch
Cushing’s Awareness Pins:

Natalie’s bio… http://www.cushings-help.com/natalies_story.htm

Some recent past
posts.

February 10, 2008

going to UVA I am going for my first visit with Dr. Hanks at
UVA on the 20th. I will also see Dr. Vance that day. I haven’t seen her before
either. I am planning on having bilateral adrenal surgery in March. I am a
little nervous about this, but it is going to be a positive thing I hope. I
would love to hear from anyone who has had this done so that I will have an idea
of what to expect. after surgery.

Thanks! Natalie

March 18, 2008

surgery update Hey everyone!

I’m back! It has been a
very slow week and I’m just satrting to feel like moving around again. I had BLA
on the 10th and came home on friday. My parents have taken my boys (3 & 6)
home to Va. I have missed them so much this week, but I think it was the right
thing to do. I don’t know how I would have done it without them. I am still very
sore and tired at times, but I’m coming along. Sorry this has taken so long to
get out to you guys, I thought things were taken care of but I was wrong. Oh
Well! I’m doing good and I’ll keep in touch. Thanks for all of your thoughts and
prayers.

Natalie

Message Board Signature:

pit surgery 1990
traditional 30 days
radiation 1990
pit surgery 1995
sterotactic radiation surgery 1995
2004
still have remaining tumor
cortisol levels still off balance
BLA March 10,
2008


Tributes and Memories on the message boards…


Our first local DC area Cushie lunch November 17, 2001 with Linda, Jayne, me and Natalie – all in Cushe Colors [Photographer: Robin]

Our first local DC area Cushie lunch November 17, 2001 with Jayne, Linda, Natalie, MaryO and Dianne [Photographer: Robin]

Our first local DC area Cushie lunch November 17, 2001 with Jayne, Linda, Natalie, MaryO and Dianne [Photographer: TomO]

Our second local DC area Cushie lunch February 9, 2002 all the families [Photographer: Robin]

Our second local DC area Cushie lunch February 9, 2002 with Jayne, Marcia, Heather, Natalie and MaryO [Photographer: Robin]

Our second local DC area Cushie lunch February 9, 2002 with Jayne, Marcia, Heather, Natalie and MaryO [Photographer: Robin]

Our second local DC area Cushie lunch February 9, 2002 with Jayne, Marcia, Heather, Natalie and MaryO. LynneInVa made the roses for us from candles. [Photographer: Robin]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with lots of us! [Photographer: Robin]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with lots of us! [Photographer: Robin]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with lots of us! [Photographer: Robin]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with lots of us! [Photographer: Robin]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with Pat, MaryO, Ruth, Natalie, Susan, Jayne [Photographer: TomO]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with Pat, MaryO, Ruth, Natalie, Susan, Jayne [Photographer: Robin]

Our next local DC area Cushie lunch May 4, 2002 with Joe, Jed and Catherine [Photographer: Robin]

Our three families: Tom and MaryO, Natalie and Joe, Robin and Jayne…and kids [Photographer: a waitress]

Our three families: Tom and MaryO, Natalie and Joe, Robin and Jayne…and kids [Photographer: a waitress]

TomO being silly, stealing Catherine’s nose. [Photographer: Robin]


http://www.wrightfuneralhome.org/index.cfm

Natalie Grissom Fay
(June 11, 1965 – April 21, 2008)


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Courtland, Virginia– Natalie Grissom Fay, 42, passed away April 21, 2008 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown, Md. She was born in Petersburg, Va, a daughter of Edward Scott and Nan Lucy Grissom and was a 1983 graduate of Southampton High School. Natalie actively supported several Cushing Support Groups, and was a member of the Patuxent Presbyterian Church. Surviving in addition to her parents is her husband, Joseph P. Fay; two sons, Joseph Edward (Jed) Fay and Nathan Lee Fay all of Hollywood, Md.; one sister, Annette G. Stephenson of Courtland, Va.; two nephews, Scott and Vance Stephenson; and her father-in-law, Edward K. Fay and wife, Sunee, of Deltona, Fl. The funeral will be conducted at 2 pm Friday at Wright Funeral Home with the Rev. Edmund Ellis officiating. Burial will follow in Riverside Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 7 to 9 pm Thursday at the home of Edward and Nan Grissom, 16046 Wakefield Road, Courtland, and suggest that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Cushings Help, c/o Mary O’Connor, 4094 Majestic Lane, #328, Fairfax, Va. 22033.

Laree (Laree), Pituitary Bio

1 Comment

My Thanksgiving Day was less stressful this year than I thought it might be, because I had my head examined the day before at Johns Hopkins at about 9:30 in the morning.  By 1:30 in the afternoon, my endocrinologist there, a metabolic bone specialist, had emailed me that I was the proud parent of a 0.7mm lesion on the right side of my pituitary gland.  All day Tuesday I had performance anxiety because I feared that after six months of testing every liquid my body could produce for excessive cortisol, I had finally been given the green light to undergo the Holy Grail of tests and have a look-see at the Master Gland.  I feared that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the goods, but I managed to produce, and now I’m being referred to a neurosurgeon.

It’s been a very long process, even though the testing has only been a six month part of it.  In 2001, I broke  my collar bone while playing tennis.  Granted, I fell down, but it’s not like I made a Boris Becker leap for the ball or anything.  Then in 2003, my first stress fracture, followed by another one in 2005.  Then a crushed wrist on another tennis court mishap–my feet got tangled up when I was moving backward, and within a week, I was having my wrist rebuilt with a titanium plate and several screws.  Then there was  the broken tailbone, followed by the upper arm compression fracture suffered while pushing a small car off an ice shelf in Ohio.  And finally the L4 vertebra that I broke loosening the lug nuts on a tire I was changing with my still-healing broken arm.

After each incident, I would ask the doctors what could be causing all these weird bone breaks, and sometimes they would send me off for a dexascan to see if I might have osteoporosis, but the test always said no, and the doctors were always orthopedists of one sort or another.  They would shrug and say that these things happen.  After the upper arm (this past January), and the subsequent dexascan, the ortho told me that the test said I didn’t have osteoporosis, that if I wanted to try to learn more about the bone formation, I should see an endocrinologist, but he didn’t know of one to whom he could refer me.  He did refer me to his colleague to have my osteoarthritic hip replaced.  I’m 53, by the way.  He told me that going to an endocrinologist was likely to yield nothing, and he opined that I was suffering from “Laree Martin syndrome,” if I need for it to have a name.

My gynocologist, who works in the same hospital center as Ortho 1, we now lovingly refer to him as Frick, referred me to an endocrinologist who also practices in the same hospital center.   I got myself hooked up with her, and she very quickly determined that since I had broken not one, but all of the bones that are considered to be typical indicators of osteoporosis, despite multiple dexascans to the contrary, I had osteoporosis.  Shortly thereafter, she discovered excess, but “unimpressive,” levels of cortisol in my system.

Ortho 2, we’ll call him Frack, saw me prior to my hip replacement, and I complained about my back injury the week prior.  He pronounced that I had not broken my vertebra, but he offered to send me for an MRI, if that would make me feel better.  I scheduled the MRI, had it in the evening, called his office in the morning to report that I had gone for the test, as he had asked me to do, and instead of leaving a message, I got put directly through to the doctor.  Turns out that he was wrong, and it is possible to break your L4 vertebra pulling on a lug wrench with a still-healing compressions fracture in your upper arm . . .  if you have osteoporosis.  When I told him that he didn’t have to worry about my bones in general, because I was seeing an endocrinologist for that.  I just needed him to be extra careful not to break anything when implanting the new hip.  I told him that the endo specialist was working me up for Cushing’s, and he told me that I certainly did not have Cushing’s, because I wasn’t 100 pounds overweight and diabetic.

By September, the endo doc concluded that my results were equivocal for Cushing’s, but she encouraged me to go to Johns Hopkins to the metabolic bone specialist, since there wasn’t another good explanation for my osteoporosis, which had by that time been objectively diagnosed with a bone biopsy.  She felt that she had no choice, clinically, but to treat my osteoporosis as post-menopausal in origin, even though my bone breaks began 8 years ahead of my menopausal symptoms.  Off to Johns Hopkins.

The bone specialist took the history, again . . . did some more testing (blood, saliva, urine, again . . . ) and then consulted with the adrenal team, who agreed with her diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease.  Unfortunately for all of you who read these bios, it’s more complicated than just Cushing’s, because I had bilateral pulmonary emboili and a DVT in my leg when one of my stress fractures had me on non-weightbearing restrictions for six weeks.  That little incident was also considered a fluke, until about six years later when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that is also considered to be “rare.”  It is a mouthful to say–antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS).  It’s main risk is hypercoagulability, and its treatment involves lifelong warfarin (brand name Coumadin), which people mostly call a “blood thinner,” although it doesn’t really act that way.

I feel somehow more than lucky to have two fairly uncommon, fairly complicated conditions with fairly scarey treatment options.  I feel like I need a Fairy Goddoctor to be able to properly manage my surgery and treatment, because of the risks associated with drug interactions with the warfarin, the higher risk of clotting that I already have from the APS, which is apparently compounded by Cushing’s, and my understanding that I’m not supposed to be mixing hormones, including steroids, with the warfarin.  Nevertheless, it was good to know so quickly after the MRI that the result was that I flunked that test as well as I had flunked all the others previously.  I thought I was going to have to stress over that for the entire long weekend, but no.  Instead, I pretty much put it out of my mind until tonight, and now you’re getting the Reader’s Digest version of the last 12 years of my medical experience.

The doctors have exhausted my resilience with all of their certainty, which over the years I relied upon to conclude that I was just clumsy and that my weight struggles with those extra 25 pounds that could pack on in a couple of months, especially when I was recuperating from a fracture, without really changing my diet much, were probably associated with my inconsistent sleep and the fact that I will reach for pizza when I am feeling particularly low.  So when I read here and there about the recovery process after surgery and how difficullt and complicated it can be, I have to admit that my first reaction was that I should quit work, take a year off, spend all my money on travel or whatever I would feel like doing, and then just commit suicide and be done with the whole thing.  And that still has a sense of comfort associated with it when I remind myself of what I’m in for for the next maybe couple of years or more in recovery . . . and possible relapse . . .

But I have a 82 year old mother, and I”m her baby, and I witnessed her sorrow when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident about 18 months ago, and I wouldn’t put her through that again.  Instead, it’s my intention to take as much time off work as possible after surgery to let myself gather my emotional resources and get over the angry, bruised feeling that I have from both diagnostic processes that have lasted over a decade.  I appreciate that this space is here for newbies like myself to say out loud what most of my friends and family either can’t or don’t want to hear.  It doesn’t really matter so much that anyone is listening; I just need to say it.

Cheers!

Laree (who actually has Cushing’s disease, not Laree Martin’s syndrome)

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Andrea P, Steroid-Induced Cushing’s

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What can you do when the cure might be worse than the disease?

“Have you thought of losing some weight? This would most likely take care of the many complaints you have.” The all too eager yet condescending young intern continued despite my blank stare, “Have you had a sleep study done?”

How many times had I been in this situation? Change the doctor, but keep me there, in the crazy patient’s chair. “Well, the patient has five children, a long history of miscarriages, a fairly recent history of a traumatic abdominal hysterectomy… couple these with the recent death of her father to cancer and basically all normal testing… clearly she’s a depressed, middle aged woman hitting the Ben and Jerry’s a little too much and addicted to Lifetime movies.” Or something like that.

What’s worse than the tiny intern with a huge ego, was the troll under the bridge. I still had to face my PCP who listened to me a little less than a mother who’s heard “Mommy, mommy!” for the hundredth time in an hour, from her 3 year old.

For the better part of two years, I’d seen her for so many things. Each time I’d ask her why my bones were breaking so easily. I told her I was shrinking, to which she replied “It’s impossible to shrink an inch and a half in a year.” Then laughter. I’d ask her why the nausea & vomiting, low oxygen, and migraines were there… all of this was ignored and off to another specialist I’d go (for a similar experience), with more Prednisone in hand. When she didn’t see hardcore proof (i.e. a lab tests or a specialist’s report confirming the symptoms in front of her) the things simply did not exist, despite glaring symptoms.

Another specialist I’d seen did care and did see the disturbing, rapid transformation and accumulation of symptoms, so he sent me to my PCP for testing. I later found out that this specialist feared all along what I had. He had been warning me that Prednisone was dangerous and he hated it. I didn’t. I loved it. It was the only thing that relieved my severe neuropathy pain, the nausea, vomiting and migraines. Without it, I was in the E.R. at least once a week.

I suppose I could cut the PCP some slack and say that every doctor, when they themselves are the young intern, dream about the day when they can show off their seniority and knowledge (let’s not forget power) in front of another young intern. I could say this, but I won’t. Not when I know there are the most wise, sympathetic, world renowned and respected doctors, who’ve been practicing medicine longer than most interns have graced this earth, yet they treat the interns (and patients) as equals. They remain humble.

No, this PCP had no excuse for demeaning me for twenty minutes in front of this man. Alas! She did finally do her job and gave me an exam. It took her less than thirty seconds to blurt out “OMG Andrea! You have Cushing’s Syndrome!” All of the cool was gone. She fumbled with her papers, stuttered, murmured to herself… She was a mess.

andrea-fShe left the room for ten minutes and returned more composed and more… herself. “Andrea, I’m sure you’ve read about Cushing’s Syndrome on the internet.” This sentence was delivered with the same tone and sarcasm as a Disney villain about to pounce on an unsuspecting bunny (or other furry creature… did I mention the “fur” I had sprouted?). She continued, “You have every symptom of Cushing’s Syndrome. The buffalo hump is huge and classic.” She went on about my symptoms. All of which I’d been begging her to look at before this appointment.

By the end of the appointment, she had decided that she’d need to talk to my then rheumatologist; I’d need all sorts of testing, and foremost, “You HAVE to get off of that Prednisone Andrea!” Certainly she knew I wasn’t convinced that her prescriptions of Prednisone were somehow my fault, however the wee intern might have sucked that one up. Perhaps he believed it was my rheumatologist that prescribed all of it; he did do his part as well. They were both in it together.

I left the office miffed and confused. “Well,” I thought, “Let’s go home and see what this Cushing’s is, on the Internet. Probably some sort of psychosomatic disease where you think yourself into the side effects of Prednisone.”

At the point where I began my Internet search, I had changed from an active, really attractive (I can toot my horn, ’cause it ain’t so now) about to be 40 year-old, homeschooling mom of five beautiful children. I was in bed for 3 weeks prior to my PCP appointment. I found out later that my family thought that this was it, I was dying. Indeed, I was close to death and it’s a miracle that I didn’t die.

I had gained 40 lbs. for which easily 10 of it rested on the top of my back. The Buffalo Hump. The rest was hanging out in strange pockets of fat all over my middle and face. I was disoriented and in cold sweats all of the time. Everything hurt.

On the evening of that fateful Friday after my PCP appointment, I joined a Cushing’s support group online. It took me three weeks to compose my introduction post because I had not the energy, nor the wherewithal to finish it. In the meantime however, I found out enough about Steroid Induced Cushing’s Syndrome to know that I was in big trouble.

Every bad side effect one can get from steroid use, I am getting or have. What’s worse is, my adrenal glands have atrophied. They won’t wake up and naturally produce cortisol that our bodies vitally need. Every organ and gland in our body relies on the production of cortisol. When you have Cushing’s, you’re in a real pickle Fred.

With me, I’m continually in either Cushing’s mode or Addison’s mode. Two opposite diseases. You’d be surprised at how many people in the medical field do not understand this. Most disturbing is how many endocrinologists don’t understand it. My body is used to high levels of cortisol so when I try to wean off and my body gets stressed, sick, injured, needs surgery, etc., I go into adrenal insufficiency with the chance of adrenal crisis.

Ahh, adrenal crisis! My nemesis! Is it? Isn’t it? Hospital? Just a Prednisone Boost? These are questions I ask myself daily. I was very near dying during those few weeks before I saw my PCP, because my body was literally shutting down. Again, I’m still amazed that I didn’t die.

Right. I realized for me, a person with autoimmune disease, with all sorts of crazy symptoms, weaning down to a healthy level of cortisol was going to take another miracle. Those message boards? Every time I went to send a personal message to a member that I could relate to in experience, they were dead. Dead. Young women, neglected by so many doctors who thought that they too, were fat and depressed.

Monday came and I called my PCP as scheduled. When she answered the phone she acted as if she didn’t know why I was calling. Before a minute was up, I realized she was getting as far away from admitting I had Cushing’s Syndrome as she could. Both she and my rheumatologist had been prescribing me prednisone without any solid diagnosis (at that point). Basically the Prednisone was completely unwarranted. She told me to wean off of the Prednisone and “Um okay?” then let the silence hang there. I was speechless (and as you’re well aware of at this point, is pretty darn near an oxymoron).

I took it upon myself to see an endocrinologist, who I owe my life to. He ordered a bone density test, a bunch of labs, told me to get a medical alert bracelet ASAP and a whole lot more. He was shocked that none of this had been done.

The bone density test showed that my PCP was half right, I didn’t lose an inch and half off of my stature in less than a year, I had lost two and a half inches. I began a strong osteoporosis medication. A little later, I was put on 5 liters of oxygen at night and as needed during the day, a bi-pap machine and I learned more about cortisol stress doses and began searching for new doctors.

For the next year and a half, I would see a total of 3 more rheumatologists, 5 neurologists and 2 new PCP’s. I was admitted to the hospital too many times to count. I saw 5 more specialists, wasted tons of money, precious time and was demeaned further than I could have ever imagined coming from people who are supposed to “Do no harm.” at one of those big name clinics. Same thing: fat and CrAzY. At the end of it all, I had given up hope. I was on more Prednisone than when I had first seen my endocrinologist.

My teeth had begun rotting because of the calcium loss and my Sjogren’s Syndrome did not help matters there. I had 6 extractions in 3 months and was never able to get back down to the 10 mg. of Prednisone I had begun with. Stress, illness and then having to let the beautiful eyes of our children watch it all…too much.

I saw my endocrinologist for a checkup and he yelled at me. I yelled at him. We both yelled together and then he picked up the phone in front of me and called a few specialists (the most-awesome-est specialists the world has to offer) and made me appointments with them. These doctors graciously took me on as their patient and began working as a team with my endocrinologist to get me off of this Prednisone.

Well, it’s been 8 months since that loud, intense “time of fellowship” with my endocrinologist. Despite the fact that my teeth have deteriorated to the point where I will have them all extracted on Jan. 2, 2014 (Happy New Year!)… and I found out I have both thyroiditis and hyperparathyroidism and well, a bunch of other … stuff. I’m due to wean down to 9 mg. of Prednisone on Thanksgiving day! I’ve lost a little weight. There’s so much to be thankful for!

I have lost much, but what I’ve gained in return, I would never, ever give up. My faith and that of my family’s, has grown in ways that would never have happened had I not gotten this dreadful disease. I found many things. I have found that my husband really means it when he says that I’m beautiful. My children mean it… I have what many have deemed, “The Ugly Disease” yet I feel more beautiful than I ever have. I feel more blessed than I ever have. Most importantly, I remembered and again found my hope, through faith.

Faith is the essence of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. When those of us with serious and chronic illness, have no faith in a Hope, we are dead persons walking. Had my endocrinologist not been divinely appointed to verbally kick my butt, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would not be here trying to type this story of mine.

I can’t write nor say a thing without a moral. So the moral of my story is this: know who and what your hope is in. Know what the unseen things are and have fat faith. Take your illness and use it. Use your life! It’s beautiful!

Article reposted with consent of the author from Have Faith: Cushing’s Syndrome

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Leslie, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

I have no diagnosis but have a number of questions.  I think for now I would like to read others experiences.

Update September 5, 2011

Hi,

I am wondering if the issues I am currently having may be related to Cushing’s.  So I am actually looking for more information, before I ask my doctor about testing.  I have always been in the short and fat catagory physically, however in the last few years I have gained a rediculous amount of weight all in my middle.  Recently my blood pressure has gone from running very low 110/70 on a high day to 152/108.  I am waiting for more test results, blood sugar, etc.    In the past I had a horrible reaction to a cortisone shot in my knee that resulted in stretch marks that appeared overnight and horrible itching and agitation and am wondering it this was a symptom related to cortisol levels in my system already being to high.

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Leah (Lele), Undiagnosed Bio

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I am a 34 year old woman, not yet diagnosed, but suspect Cushing’s.

When I came across this website, it was like other people writing my life story.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 15 years ago, with depression about the same time.  Once on thyroxine, I improved.

About 8 years ago, I started gaining weight, especially around the stomach.  Then as time passed, other symptoms appeared.  The depression was coming back worse than ever, despite increased doses of anti-depressants.  I suffered with extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, shortness of breath and rapid heart rate.

I had tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Latex sensitivity, ECG and echocardigram, stress echocardiogram, chest X-ray, lots of blood tests.  The only thing abnormal was low iron.  I tried iron supplements, which do not agree with my stomach, so had to abandon.

Since then, I have pretty much struggled with further symptoms, the latest being the red stretch marks, the buffalo hump, fat on my shoulders (makes it hard to carry shoulder bags – they just slip off!), red, hot, puffy face, excess sweating, even in cooler weather, night sweats, pins and needles in arms, cramps in legs, high blood pressure, bruise easily, sores slow to heal – and that’s just the physical symptoms.

I am so depressed and low on self-confidence that hardly go out anymore, don’t have many friends, and had to stop working as nurse, which is the job I love.

I finally got my local doctor to send me to an endocrinologist in March this year.  She did an ultrasound of my thyroid (showed a tiny nodule) and ordered a 1mg dex supression test.  When the dex test came back negative and I went back to see her, I just cried my eyes out.  She referred me to see a psychiatrist, and said she was done with me.   The usual – you can’t have Cushing’s, its too rare.  No urine tests, nothing.

I called the Pituitary Foundation in my state who are really helpful, and gave me loads of information. The lady mentioned cyclical Cushing’s.  But they can’t tell you which doctor who can help you, it is different in Australia because you need to be referred by your local doctor, and they have no idea who can diagnose Cushing’s or what tests to order.  So now I have really lost hope of getting a diagnosis, it like fighting everyone all the time, just to be taken seriously.

There are days when I have no fight left in me, and wonder how bad it is going to get, will I get diabetes, heart disease?

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Alex, Pituitary Bio

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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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