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In Memory of Kate Myers ~ June 23, 2014

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Kate (Fairley on the Cushing’s Help message boards)  was only 46 when she died on June 23, 2014.  Her board signature read:

After 2 failed pit surgeries and a CSF leak repair,
BLA on Sept. 11, 2008 w/Dr. Fraker at UPenn
Gamma knife radiation at UPenn Oct. 2009
Now disabled and homebound. No pit, no adrenals and radiation damage to my hypothalamus.
My cure is God’s will, and I still have hope and faith!

During her too-short life, she provided help and support to other Cushies.

Her National Geographic video in 2007

Her BlogTalkRadio Interview in 2008: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/07/17/interview-with-kate-fairley

Articles to help others:

Kate’s Family Letter
Kate’s Packing Suggestions For Surgery
Kate’s Pituitary Surgery Observations

Kate’s bio from 2008:

Hi y’all! I will try to make this short, but there is a lot to say.

I stumbled across this board after a google search last night. Yesterday, I finally saw a real endocrinologist. I am 39 years old. I weigh 362. I was diagnosed by a reproductive endocrinologist with PCOS at age 30, but all of my symptoms started at age 22.

At age 22, I was an avid runner, healthy at 140-145 pounds and 5’7″. I got a knee injury and stopped running right around the time that my periods just….stopped. And by stopped, I mean completely disappeared after mostly regular periods since age 12. I was tested by the student health clinic at UGA, and referred to an obgyn for lap exploration for endometriosis, which was ruled out. I remember that they ran some bloodwork and ultimately came back with this frustrating response: We don’t know what it is, but it’s probably stress-related because your cortisol is elevated.

Soon thereafter, I gained 80 pounds in about 6 months, and another 30 the next six months. Suddenly, in one year, I was 110 pounds heavier than my original weight of 140. I recall my mom and sister talking about how fast I was gaining weight. At the time, I blamed myself: I wasn’t eating right, I’d had to stop running due to the knee injury and my metabolism must have been “used” to the running; I was going through some family problems, so it must be that I’m eating for emotional reasons related to depression. You name the self-blame category, and I tried them all on for size.

Whatever the reason, I stopped avoiding mirrors and cameras. The person looking back at me was a stranger, and acquaintances had stopped recognizing me. A bank refused to cash my security deposit refund check from my landlord when I graduated because I no longer looked like my student ID or my driver’s license. I was pulled over for speeding while driving my dad’s Mercedes graduation weekend, and the cop who pulled me over almost arrested me for presenting a false ID. These are some really painful memories, and I wonder if anyone here can relate to the pain of losing your physical identity to the point that you are a stranger to yourself and others?

Speaking of size, from age 24 to 26 I remained around 250, had very irregular periods occuring only a few times a year (some induced), developed cystic acne in weird places, like my chest, shoulders, buttocks (yikes!), found dark, angry purple stretch marks across my abdomen (some of which I thought were so severe that my insides were going to come out through them) which I blamed on the weight gain, the appearance of a pronounced buffalo hump (which actually started at age 22 at the beginning of the weight gain), dark black hairs on my fair Scottish chin (and I’m talking I now have to shave twice daily), a slight darkening of the skin around my neck and a heavy darkening of the skin in my groin area, tiny skin tags on my neck. I was feeling truly lovely by graduation from law school and my wedding to my wonderful DH.

At age 26, I ballooned again, this time up to 280-300, where I stayed until age 32, when I went up to 326. The pretty girl who used to get cat calls when she ran was no more. She had been buried under a mountain of masculined flesh. I still had a pretty, albeit very round, face, though. And I consoled myself that I still have lovely long blonde hair — that is, until it started falling out, breaking off, feeling like straw.

At age 30, I read about PCOS on the internet and referred myself to a reproductive endocrinologist, who confirmed insulin resistance after a glucose tolerance test. I do not know what else he tested for — I believe my testosterone was high. He prescribed Metformin, but after not having great success on it after 5-6 months, I quit taking it, and seeing him. Dumb move.

Two years later, at age 32, I weighed 326. In desperation, I went on Phentermine for 3 months and lost 80 pounds the wrong way, basically starving. I was back down to 240-250, where I remained from age 33-35. After the weight loss, I got my period a few times, and started thinking about trying to have a baby. Many ultrasounds per month over a few months revealed that I just wasn’t ovulating. I decided to put off starting the family when the doctor started talking about IVF, etc. It just seemed risky to me — my body, after all, felt SICK all the time, and I couldn’t imagine carrying a baby and it winding up to be healthy.

At age 35, I ballooned again, this time significantly — from 240 to 320 in the space of 6 months. Another 45 pounds added by age 37, so that’s 125 pounds in two year. I’ve remained between 345-365 for the last two years, depending on how closely I was following my nutritionist’s recommended 1600 calorie per day diet….which was not all the time.

Which takes me to last year. I went for a physical because I wasn’t feeling well, kept getting sick, had a lot of fatigue, weird sweating where my hair would get totally drenched for no reason. At this point, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypothyroism (which has now been modified to Hashimoto’s thyroidis), high cholesterol (although this was present at age 30 when I got the PCOS diagnosis). I went back to my repro-endo, and resolved to make myself stay on Metformin this time. All last year was a series of monthly blood work and attempts to lose weight with an eye toward trying to get pregnant this year. By the end of the year, I was successful in taking off only 20 pounds, and my repro-endo (always with an eye toward fertility and not health), really pushed me to give up on losing weight at that moment and to start taking Clomid. Or else, he said. The words that broke my heart: this may be your last chance.

So, skip forward to January 2006. My ovaries are blown out and they are clear — no blockages. I get cleared to start fertility treatments. My husband undergoes his own embarrassing tests. I think we have an agenda here, but my mind was chewing on serious concerns that I was simply too unhealthy to be considering trying this. That, and I felt it would be a futile effort.

By the way, more than a year on the Metformin with no real changes to anything. Why doesn’t my body respond to it like other people with PCOS?

Then late March, I started experiencing extreme fatigue. And I’m not talking about the kind where you need to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon to gear up for the week ahead (which I’d always considered a nice indulgence, but not a necessity). I’m talking debilitating, life-altering fatigue. It didn’t start out right away to be debilitating — or maybe I just made the usual excuses as I always do relating to my health: I’m still getting over that flu/cold from last month. I just got a promotion at work (though I note a greatly reduced stress and caseload now that I am a managing attorney. My weight is causing it. Whatever.

I let it go on for a full two months before I started to really worry, or admit to myself that my quality life had taken a serious downward turn. You see, despite my weight and my scary appearance, I have always been the “director” type. By that I mean that last year, I worked with two other women to direct 100 volunteers to start a summer camp for inner city kids, and I had enough energy to run this ambitious new project and to film, produce and edit a 30 minute documentary on it by the end of the summer.

In contrast, I had to take a backseat this year. I basically sat in a chair and answered the questions of volunteers, made a few phone calls here and there, and was simply a “presence” in case something major went wrong. Such a major change from the year before, where I was running the whole show 14 hours a day and loving it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. (Is anyone still reading this? I must be narcissitic to think so….yet, I wonder if anyone else has gone through a similar progression….)

Back to May. After two months of this fatigue, I change to a new primary care physician and get a whole workup: blood, urine, thyroid ultrasound, cardiac stress test, liver ultrasound when my enzymes, which had been slightly elevated, were found to have doubled since January. Appointments with a gastroenterologist, and FINALLY….a REAL endocrinologist. Ruled out any serious liver problems (and my levels, surprisingly, dropped back to the slightly elevated level in a space of 3 weeks and no treatment).

Yesterday, I heard a word I’d only heard spoken once before in my life: Cushings. Way back when I was 22 and had started gaining weight so rapidly, I had a boyfriend who worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital. He spent the better part of a non-eventful week of nights pouring over medical books in the library. He excitedly showed me the pages he’d photocopied, which had sketches of a woman with a very rounded face (like mine), striae on her stomach (like mine), abdomenal obesity (like mine) and a pronounced buffalo hump. Although my former boyfriend was just a college student working his way through his music degree by earing some money moonlighting as a hospital security guard, he was the first one to note all of these tell-tale signs.

When I got my diagnosis of PCOS, I remember discounting his amateur diagnosis, and I never thought of it again.

Until yesterday, when my new endo asked me if anyone had ever tested my cortisol or if I’d ever done a 24 hour urine test. I said no, and he started writing out the referral form along with like 15-20 different blood tests. And although we’d started our appointment with him telling me he agreed with my repro-endo’s encouragement to go ahead and try to get pregnant if I can, by the end of the visit, he was telling me not everyone is meant to be a parent, there is always adoption, etc. The only thing that happened during the appointment was that I gave him my basic history of weight gain, described the fatigue, and let him examine my striae, buffalo hump and legs (which were hidden under a long straight skirt). The question about the urine screen and corisol came after this physical exam, during which he was taking lots of notes.

Then the word, which was not spoken directly to me but to his nurse practioner as I was making my two-week appointment in the reception area outside the examining room: “She looks classic Cushings. I’ll be interested to get those results.”

Cushings. Cushings. No– that’s not me. I’m not that weird-shaped, hairy, mannish-looking, round-faced, hump-backed creature my boyfriend had shown me a picture of 16 years earlier. I have PCOS, right? It’s just my fault. I don’t eat right. If I’d just eat better, I wouldn’t be 2.5 times my weight in college. Right?

I quickly came home and did an internet search. Within an hour, I was sitting in front of the computer, reading some bios here and BAWLING, just crying some body-wracking sobs as I looked at the pictures of the people on this board. Here, here (!!!!) is an entire community who has the same, wrenchingly painful picture-proven physical progression that I went through. The same symptoms and signs. Words of encouragement — of….hope. I didn’t feel scared to read about the possibility of a pituitary tumor — last year, I had a brain MRI of the optic nerve because of sudden vision irregularities, headaches and shooting eye pain. The MRI showed nothing, but then again, the image was not that great because I had to go into the lower-resolution open MRI due to my size.

I have no idea whether I have Cushing’s Syndrome or not, but these are my first steps in my journey of finding out. After living my entire adult life with an array of progressive, untreatable, brushed-off symptoms (and years of self-blame for depression, obesity, becoming so unattractive), there was a major “click” as I read this site, and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe, what I have has a name, I’m not crazy/fat/ugly/lazy, the PCOS diagnosis, which has gotten me nowhere is incorrect, and I might have something TREATABLE.

So, without going so far as to say I hope for a diagnosis, I am hopeful for some definitive answers. If my urine tests are inconclusive (and my doctor only ordered one and no serum cortisol tests), I am going to fly out to L.A. and see Dr. Friedman for a full work up.

And, I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for posting your stories, which have encouraged me to advocate for myself in a manner and direction, which this time, may be fruitful.

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

p.s. I will post some pictures this week after I scan some of the “after” one….I try to avoid the camera at all costs. I’m sure you understand just what I’m talking about, and for that, I am truly grateful.

 

In Memory of Diana Crosley ~ June 18, 2014

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Portland, OR, Cushing’s Conference, October 2003, Day 2, at a “House of Magic” dinner.

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Portland, OR, Cushing’s Conference, October 2003, Day 3. It was very windy on the Oregon Coast!

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Brighton, MI: Cushing’s Weekend, October 2005

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Columbus, OH Cushing’s meeting, 2007

Diana’s official obituary from Adams Funeral Home:

Diana Lynn Alexander Crosley, age 58, of Sidney, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at 10:10 p.m. at her residence surrounded by her loving family.  She was born September 30, 1955, in Sidney, the daughter of Francis Alexander, and the late Laverne Egbert Alexander.

Diana is survived by her father and step-mother, Francis and Carole Alexander, of Sidney; daughters, Stacie Crosley, of Columbus, Casey Crosley, of Silver Spring, Maryland, Ericka Crosley, of Sidney; one granddaughter, Ella Laws, of Sidney; two sisters, Kathy and Randy Watercutter, of Minster, and Susan Alexander, of Mt. Vernon, Missouri.

Diana was a 1973 graduate of Anna High School. She was a registered nurse for many years. In her spare time she enjoyed meditating and doing yoga. She also enjoyed relaxing at the beach in Florida.

Her family, her children and especially her granddaughter, was the love of her life. She will be deeply missed by all.

The Crosley family would like to express their sincere thanks to Ms. Lisa Blagg and the entire staff of Wilson Hospice for the continued compassionate care of their mother during her extended illness.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 21, 2014, at 3:00 p.m., at the Adams Funeral Home, 1401 Fair Road, Sidney.

Family and friends may call from 12-3 p.m. on Saturday, prior to services at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made to Wilson Memorial Hospice in Diana’s memory.
Envelopes will be available at the funeral home.


Diana’s Cushing’s Help bio:

As with everyone who suffers from this disease, mine is a rather long story.

In retrospect, I believe I became symptomatic sometime around 1994. Particularly, I remember the weight gain and facial hair. I was also somewhat depressed, but at the time I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and had a lot of “on the job stress” in my position as a psychiatric nurse, working for an HMO. In addition, my grandmother was ill, I turned 40 and I attributed most of my problems to “life” In 1995, I accepted a job transfer from Dayton, Oh to Birmingham, Al. My grandmother had died and I needed to get away from the relationship. Unfortunately, the office in B-ham closed after approx 18months and I accepted a position as RN/Medical director at a residential facility for children with autism, seizure disorders and behavioral problems.

Meanwhile, I continued to gain weight, I began to notice some “swelling” on the back of my neck, I bruised very easily and had problems concentrating. I went on the Phen-fen diet and lost approx 40 lbs. Of course, now I’m wondering How did that happen? If the weight gain was Cushing related In June of 1998, I was thrown from a horse and fractured my pelvis in two places. Again unfortunately, the initial x-ray didn’t reveal any breaks, so I continued to work in extreme pain. My physician kept saying I was “just a slow healer”

At this point my blood pressure skyrocketed, the slightest scratch or bump would result in a major hematoma and skin tear. I had a cardiac work-up and was told I had ischemic tissue in my left ventricle and was sent to Houston for a cardiac cath.

Ok this part’s kind of funny, now of course at the time I couldn’t believe it. If anyone’s familiar with Houston, you know how terrible the traffic can be. I arrived for the cath, at 8am I was prancing like a wild animal in my room as I waited for the nurse to bring me my “sedative” At approx 11:00 she came in and began to take my vitals. Almost simultaneously, she was paged, returned to my room to tell me that the cardiologist had broken his tooth while eating a muffin for breakfast and all his procedures for the day were cancelled. I had to reschedule. Thankfully, when I did have the cath, he told my my heart” was beautiful” When I asked about the results that said I had dying tissue he replied “Oh, that must have been a blurp on the film”.

Moving on, even though my heart was fine, I had now regained all of the weight I had lost and was in constant pain. I then moved to Florida to stay with a friend’s mother, who had suffered a stroke. I began working per diem as a Home Health RN. I kept getting worse in all areas. I went to a doctor in Fl. who told me I was depressed and getting older, ergo all my problems. He told me that the buffalo hump was a fatty lipoma and referred me to a surgeon to have it removed. I went to a surgeon for a consult, was scheduled for surgery and my COBRA ran out on my insurance and I couldn’t afford to continue it.

I then went to a plastic surgeon, who confirmed it was a fatty lipoma, of course One of the biggest he had ever seen. He even photographed it to use for teaching seminars. And don’t you know, it grew right back. I spent 1700.00 (on credit) and it came back. At this point, I was having trouble standing, sitting, lying down. I was in constant pain and was having a lot of problems just trying to do my job. I went to another physician who thought I was depressed and maybe had leukemia because my lab work was all screwed up. Here again, the bad news was I was dying but it might take twenty years for the leukemia to kill me. At this point, I was ready to hang it all up.

Then, in Aug of 2001, I had just seen my last patient and was on my way to the office to complete the paperwork when a young man did a U-turn and t-boned me on the driver’s side. This just about put me over the edge, however, again, on the bright side, I went to a chiropractor, whom I had been seeing, and she ordered an MRI of my back. The MRI also, incidentally, revealed massive bilateral, adrenal hyperplasia.

I contacted the Nurse’s Endocrine Society. They sent info on Cushing’s. I could not believe the sketching of the women with Cushing’s it looked just like me. I also fit the symptom profile, almost completely. I was referred to an endocrinologist in Melbourne, FL. He did the 24-hour urines and dex test, confirmed the diagnosis, I was already convinced. He contacted the NIH as I didn’t have health insurance. I had a bilateral adrenalectomy (right side laproscopically and open left side as I began to bleed) Jan 17, 2002. I was discharged on Jan 26th.

I came to Ohio to stay with my daughters while I recovered, never thinking in my wildest imagination that that process would be so lengthy and utterly miserable. I hurt everywhere like I had never hurt before. I developed a serious sinus infection I went back to Florida in Feb. I stayed with friends. I applied for disability, I hoped for a worker’s comp settlement for my back injury. The insurance company who was handling my claim filed Chap 11 and all pay outs were suspended. They did pay for some physical therapy. There contention is that it was the Cushing’s that was my major problem and not related to the accident, however, duh! They’re right, but because I had the Cushing’s the injury I incurred in the accident was more severe than the average person would have sustained.

When I went to the NIH in Jan the chest X-ray revealed multiple healing rib fractures which were most likely a result of the accident. So, I’m still awaiting word on my disability, I was denied, appealed, denied again and am waiting for the hearing. In the meantime, my car was repossessed, I will most likely have to file bankruptcy and am now staying with my oldest daughter in Columbus.

I have lost approx 55lbs, my skin is healed, my buffalo hump and moon face are gone. I am still in quite a bit of pain in my joints, muscles and bones. I don’t have the energy I would like to have and I still have spacey moments. The mental part has been tough. A lot of days I really wanted to be dead. I was on morphine for my pain and I was so sick I would start vomiting and it would go on for 24-36-48 hrs. I finally quit taking the morphine and thank God, that has stopped. I am relying on my family and friends for everything and I’m used to being the giver, not the taker. I guess I’m learning to be humble and I am so much better, it’s just that I’ve just gotten access to the internet, and have been reading the chat board and message board and it seems that I am still a “slow healer”

It has been one year since that surgery and I guess my expectations were that if I kept trying to be patient, get through this year things would be back to a semblance of normalcy. OK I know I’m wordy.

Thanks for the support and I would welcome input from anyone.

Diana

Update January 28, 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the boards and I’ve tried to update my bio on occasion. However, due to my impaired technical abilities (lol) I was unable to figure out how to do so, even though Mary has made it SO easy. Again, lol

Anyway, the first five yrs post BLA were painful and traumatic but also a blessing. In 2005 I started taking yoga classes and that was the beginning of an amazing transformation for me. It led to meditation and an exploration of the spiritual meaning of this illness and of life in general. Of course the transformation wasn’t immediate and it is ongoing but I feel so blessed to be experiencing this life. I’ve learned to be grateful for the gifts of all of my experiences. Without Cushings, I never would have met some of the most caring and amazing people on this earth.

In July of 2008 I returned to Florida. I am now living in a little beach town, bought a bicycle and ride it almost every day. I still have pain, but it’s manageable and I focus on my breath and gratitudes as a way of managing it. I’ve learned the value of positive thoughts and intentions. I’ve learned that we are all more powerful than we may have ever imagined. I’ve met some amazing people here and continue to read and attent seminars and classes on exploring my purpose in this life and the gifts I have to give to the universe.

To all who are just beginning this Cushing’s journey, and for those experiencing the feeling of “no light at the end of the tunnel” -the light is there, just waiting for your arrival.

You can and will get through this, your life is not over.

Again, many thanks to Mary O who has given her gifts to help other souls navigate their way through a painful time

Much love to all
Diana

In Memory of Sherry Carlson ~ May 30, 2020

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Sherry passed away this afternoon, naturally and peacefully in her sleep.

She loved her community and we know how grateful she was to every one of her friends on here for the genuine love and support she’s received over the years.

We (her family) are processing, but will share details about her celebration of life when we’ve worked it out.

Sherry’s Slideshow:

Cushing’s Help message board member sherryc presented this PowerPoint at Pioneer Pacific College. It took a lot of work with her failing memory but she did It! She wanted to get the word out about Cushing’s and her journey with this awful disease.

She says that it took a lot of work with her failing memory but she did It! She wanted to get the word out about Cushing’s and her journey with this awful disease.

 

Sherry’s bio:

I have been very ill for many years now, since 1999 that I know of. But it had always come and gone, until 2004 when it decided to stay. At first it was a mystery as to what was wrong. I was seeing a psychiatrist that felt very strong that what I was dealing with was endocrine related. He mentioned a few things that it could be and one was Cushing’s, so I looked it up on the internet and sure enough I had many of the symptoms of Cushing’s disease, moon face, buffalo hump, weight gain, big round belly, red face, very ruddy complexion, acne, nausea, depression, fatigue, hirsutism, depression, anxiety, hypertension, unusual bruising, and highs and lows of energy.

I found this support group on the internet at Cushings-help.com and they helped me find Dr.William Ludlam at OHSU. He told me I had a suddle case of Cushing’s and had a pituitary tumor on the right side displacing the pituitary to the left. Although Dr.Ludlam originally saw tumors on both sides, I had a pituitary tumor that seemed to be cyclic. When it turned on I had major Cortisol energy, when it turned off I got very achy, nausea, and very tired. In March of 2006 I was officially diagnosed after 1 long year of testing, and went on to have my first unsuccessful Transphenoidal pituitary surgery 3/23/2006 with Dr. Johnny Delashaw at OHSU. I had a second unsuccessful pituitary surgery 10/12/06 and finally a BLA 11/7/06.

I am now cured of Cushing’s disease 2 1/2 years out from my BLA and I am still very sick, I traded Cushing’s disease for Addison’s disease, and my body does not like it. Cushing’s did a lot more damage than ever thought; I have permanent nerve damage to my lower back, damage to soft tissues throughout my body, Diabetes, High lipids, Fatty liver, I have no usable veins, I have permanent port-a-cath in now so they can access my veins for blood draws and any IV stuff I may need in emergency’s. I had my period for 1 year straight so I had a full hysterectomy 8/20/08. I am permanently panhypopituitary now, no working hormones any more. I am on all replacement hormones, except DDAVP. I ended up with a new doctor that gave me a severe case of steroid induced Cushing’s. I am still dealing with this aftermath; the details are in my timeline. My timeline will update you as to where I am at now. I will try to keep the timeline updated so you know where I am at as far as getting better.

Please don’t let this scare you, most people are cured and go on to live lives as best they can, and a lot of people are doing very well. Towards the end of my Cushing’s I went full blown, Dr.Ludlam told me this was a progressive disease and in me this was the case.

So if you believe you have Cushing’s, get to a specialist that knows Cushing’s disease, don’t waste time on doctors that do not know the disease, it is so worth it in the end to get to the right doctor. This disease is one of the hardest endocrine diseases to diagnose. Cushings_help.com/ founder MaryO has been a lifesaver for me and still is, I have met people from all over the country, over the years I have made many friends that have, had or are still in the diagnostic phase.

I live in a small town of around 10,000 people and I hear all the time, oh I know so and so that had or has a pituitary tumor. What I am finding out is there are a lot of people in this town that have this disease, it is suppose to be rare, one in a million, my next goal is to get my story out and have local people contact me, then start a support group. Maybe get some accurate numbers of actual pituitary/brain tumors and find out why this is happening in this small town. It will be a big adventure but if it saved even one life it will be worth it. I know of 3 definite pituitary Cushing’s cases so far.

My Timeline of illness to diagnosis

3rd pregnancy 1994 pre-term labor again, stopped, gestational diabetes, son born 3 weeks early and I got toxemia after my son was born, was told this is very rare. I should have known RARE would be a word I would hear a lot in my future.

1995-Left breast discharge, surgical biopsy done, lump removal of marble size, this should have signaled a full hormonal work-up, but didn’t. No cancer.

1997-1999 Depression and severe anxiety with panic attacks…Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Weight 130#

1999- First occurrence of unknown mystery illness. Hypertension, fatigue, flushing, swelling of face, hives, and much more that lasted several months. Sick on and off with mystery illness. Tumor was turning on and off.

April 1999-2004-Severe nausea and vomiting, extreme fatigue, weight gain of 50# in about 1 years time, headaches, dizziness, hypertension, tachycardia, muscle and bone pain, malor rash, other rashes, IBS, occasional unexplained low grade fevers, anxiety and depression much worse, increased hirsutism, almost constant mouth sores, memory loss, cognitive difficulties, loss of coordination, syncope, excessive energy spurts, insomnia.

**Off work for 3 months April-June due to symptoms…Saw PCP, Gastroenterologist, Rheumatologist and Cardiologist… diagnosis Peptic ulcer/Chronis Gastritis and Chronic pain Syndrome and Tachycardia/Hypertension. Abdominal/Pelvic Cat scan done and fatty liver noted. High Cholesterol and Triglycerides discovered.

Nov-2004 My Psychiatrist was the first to mention Cushing’s or a Pheochromocytoma; he felt all my symptoms where due to endocrinology. He did not want to see me again until I was seen at OHSU. I have never seen him again due to insurance change. I really need to thank him.

Dec-2004 10# weight gain in 1 week with severe abdominal distention….another Cat scan done, lymph nodes around vena cava where enlarged.

Jan-2005 Went to OHSU for diagnosis….First saw an endocrinologist that was not experienced with Cushing’s, she ordered 1 UFC and 2 midnight saliva tests, and told me to test when I felt my worst; Tests where low so she felt my symptoms where not due to my endocrine system. Boy was she wrong. I needed to test when I felt good, or high.

Feb-2005 Went to the Pituitary Unit at OHSU and saw Dr.Ludlam, he believed that I had Cushing’s but we needed to prove it. MRI saw adenoma on right side displacing pituitary to the left. He originally thought he saw tumors on both sides, he was right. Lot’s of testing done. Testing did not prove it yet. Dr believes I am Cyclic. It took 1 year for diagnoses from Dr.Ludlam.

April-2005 Peripheral vision test done by local optometrist, showed some peripheral loss in left eye.

May 2005-Lot’s more Cushing’s testing, PICC line in all month. Major dizziness, passed out and fell this month. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes but cannot treat due to extreme highs and lows, trying to control glucose with diet. I have very high and low Cortisol days. I am very cyclic at this point.

June/July 2005-Three TIA like event’s… left sided weakness and numbness. Saw Neurologist that sent me to Neurologist at OHSU. Found three new white matter lesions seen on my brain MRI. Unknown cause. 5 in all now.

August 2005-Had to leave my beloved job teaching Medical Assistants due to symptoms. I had one more TIA like event.

Sep-2005 Neurologist at OHSU ran several tests and came to the conclusion that if in fact we could prove Cushing’s, all of my symptoms where due to this disease. I stopped all medications by choice.

Nov-2005 I went back for extensive testing at OHSU with Dr.Ludlam and sure enough the numbers started proving my case. Very high midnight serum Cortisol’s among other high tests.

Jan/Feb 2006-PICC line in and extensive Cushing’s testing done with CSS in Feb. CSS showed left sided gradient strongly. Cortisol numbers have proven my case, finally…. I had a midnight serum Cortisol of 34.1, the Midnight Salivaries, Midnight Serum Cortisol, UFC’s and CSS all positive for Cushing’s disease.

March 23, 2006 I finally had Pituitary surgery at OHSU, they found the tumor on the left side bigger than originally though and removed the whole left half of my Pituitary gland. I was in the hospital for 6-days due to complications of Diabetes Insipitus and Adrenal Insuffiency.

April-2006 Seen in the ER 3 times. Hospitalized for 4 days again due to complications, Blood cultures showed infection. I am on very high doses of Hydrocortisone and also taking DDAVP for the Diabetes Insipitus.

April 2006- I am finally getting better somewhat…..This has been one heck of a roller coaster ride. I am now on Hydrocortisone 40/40/30. I am told we won’t know if I am cured for 3-6 month’s.

June 5, 2006- Off Hydrocortisone stimulated my Cortisol to 24 on the ACTH stim test.

August, 2006- Not cured, testing again!!! I had that gut feeling when I woke from the first surgery. I just knew…

October 12, 2006- Second Pituitary surgery, more tumor on right side, most of my pituitary gland removed. Surgery unsuccessful, still have Cushing’s disease.

November 7, 2006- BLA …soon to be cured of Cushing’s.

Dec 2006/Jan 2007- Very sick due to another blood infection. Lot’s of adrenal crises due to infections. 3 blood infections to date.

November 2008- 2 years out from my BLA and I am still very sick, I traded Cushing’s disease for Addison’s disease, and my body does not like it. Towards the end of my Cushing’s I went full blown, Dr.Ludlam told me this was a progressive disease and in me this was the case. Cushing’s did a lot more damage than ever thought; I have permanent nerve damage to my lower back requiring permanent narcotic pain relief through a pain center, damage to soft tissues throughout my body, diabetes, high lipids, fatty liver (NASH), Osteopenia, I have no usable veins, they are destroyed due to the high Cortisol, I have permanent port-a-cath in now so they can access my veins for blood draws and any IV stuff I may need, I had my period for 1 year straight because of lack of appropriate hormones after my surgeries so I had a full hysterectomy 8/20/08. I am permanently panhypopituitary now, no working pituitary hormones any more at all. I must replace all pituitary hormones, except DDAVP. Please don’t let this scare you, most people are cured and go on to live lives as best they can, and a lot of people are doing very well.

June 21, 2009-Since writing in November I sat on the couch in severe AI until around September when I was put with a doctor that has been seeing Cushing’s patients for 38 years, he put me a on a very high dose of Dexamthasone and Florinef and forgot about me, he ended up with cancer and is no longer seeing patients. In the meantime, I got severe steroid induced Cushing’s and have had severe complications from it. I started falling from atrophied muscles and broke both hips, I ended up in a wheelchair, which I am happy to say I am out of now, had to have surgery on my left hip to pin it, it is still not healing, I am having absorption issues with calcium, iron, vitamins, minerals and meds. So I have to do my DEX by injections. We are now trying to find out why I am having absorption issues. I have a new endo at OHSU Dr.V and he is wonderful. He has brought my steroids down to a safe level and did it slow. He really seems to know his stuff as far as after care. I do not think he does the diagnosis process for Cushing’s. I would definitely go back to Dr.Ludlam if I had to go through it again. But I know there are many other great Cushing’s experts out there, this was just my experience. I know I will get better, but it may be a while. I am still at home handicapped, can barely go to the grocery store and I do not drive as I am on a high dose of Morphine. My goal is to get my pain under a 5 and be able to drive myself around. That is a good goal for now. Then on to finding out why my small town has so many tumors and starting a support group. I just need to get to a point where I feel I can be a good advocate for Cushing’s and right now I can’t. But that is the goal.

Nov 16, 2009

I am still not well, I have broken my ankle, have no idea how, woke up one morning and it was broken. I am almost down to my 1/2 mg of DEX and am happy about that. had 2 surgeries in Sep and Oct on both elbows for ulnar nerve decompression. The first surgery got infected and a week later I had sepsis, which they think I had a small bowel preferation that healed itself. I was ambulanced up to OHSU and was in AI. It was a very rare bowel bacteria running through my blood stream, I was very sick. I just want to get well, but for some reason I am going through one thing after another. I am praying that 2010 will be my year of healing and I will have a good quaility of life then.That is what I am counting on.

UPDATE January 23, 2016

2016: wow has the past few years have been a roller coaster. I don’t know dates because I’m having memory issues at 47 years old.

I have had 5 port-a-caths. I kept getting sepsis and every time they would take me to surgery and remove my port. Then place another when I was better. I have no veins that work. So I received IV port fluids 2-3x a week. I just recently had sepsis, when I get it I have a 50/50 % chance of survival. They removed my port and did not place another. So no more fluids which was for Pots. I had labs done through my port every 2 weeks. Now everything stopped. I am producing small amounts of cortisol. After a BLA.

Intermittently. I am just now starting to feel good for 2 weeks now. I have started the exercise program called T-Tapp. I love it. No jumping or hard moves. 15 min and that’s it. I am a grandma of 2 and one due any day.

So for now I hope I’m on the road to recovery at least the best I can.

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In Memory of Natalie Fay ~ 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.

~~

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.

In Memory: Shianne Lombard-Treman, March 28, 2018

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Shianne was a Cushing’s Survivor who had just published a book, Be Your Own Doctor

After 17 years as a personal trainer, I ran into health problems of my own, eventually having a name put to it…“Cushing’s Syndrome,” a rare adrenal disease. Tumors were growing on my adrenal glands over-producing Cortisol, your stress hormone.

With 24/7 false fight-or-flight stress signals, the body goes haywire, producing horrific side effects such as weight gain around the midsection and back of neck, diabetes and blood sugar deregulation, inflammation, muscle deterioration, frail bones, hair loss, poor immunity, infertility, moonface, buffalo hump, extreme fatigue, brain fog, confusion, severe anxiety/depression and chemical imbalances.

Being constantly diagnosed as “healthy” caused me to be told, when I was finally diagnosed correctly, that I had maybe five years to live. Misdiagnosis can be a killer.… It is now my personal mission and obligation to help those suffering from any chronic illness that steals your joy, and bring awareness to Endocrine Disorders. From my journey through Cushing’s to Addison’s to recovery—from triathlete to barely being able to dress myself and finally to recovering into a stronger person I never knew I was.

 

 

Shianne Lombard Treman took her life on Wednesday, March 28th after a long struggle with depression brought on by the removal of her adrenal glands to the advancement of Cushing’s Syndrome. 

Shianne is survived by; her husband Timothy Treman, fur babies Molly & Charlie of Baltimore, her mother Geraldine Lombard, sister Danielle Huston, Husband John Huston and their 6 children, Caleb, Alaina, Juliana, Jeremy, Ashley, Aaron of Tawney Town, Brother Michael his wife Sue and brother Enzo and partner David of San Francisco and New Orleans. 

Shianne was born on May 3, 1977. She graduated from Towson University with a degree in Kinesiology. She used this degree to become a personal trainer. She loved helping people get healthy and ended up training two of the “Biggest Losers” on the reality TV show. This led to her being on Oprah as well as Dr. Phil to talk about fitness and health. 

She started her own business as a trainer in San Francisco for 5 years. It was in San Francisco that she met her dashing husband, Tim Treman. They were married in Bethany Beach Delaware in May of 2013 and moved to Baltimore in June of 2013 joining the O’Donnell Square neighborhood.

Among her accomplishments are a Black Belt in Taekwondo, multiple marathons, Tri Athlons and her work with charities.
Shianne changed lives. So many people have come forward to say that she changed their life by teaching them healthier ways to live. She inspired so many that when she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition, she went into research mode to find out everything she could so she could keep doing this work of helping others. Again, she brought her knowledge of health into play by writing a book about the experience to help others with this disease. “Be Your Own Doctor” explains her battle to maintain fitness and recovery which had never been previously explored for folks dealing with Cushing’s. She was asked to speak at the Magic Johnson conference on rare diseases and in Congress about Cushings. She was also asked to speak at the National Institute of Health Conference. Unfortunately, that was never to be. Cushing’s took more than just her body, it slowly took her mind and spirit.

She was an extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life… a bright star that burned out too soon.

Viewing will be from 4-7PM Wed April 4th at Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk 7110 Sollers Point Rd 410 – 285 – 2900.
Reception from 7:30- for close family and friends at Sparrows Point Country Club 919 Wise Avenue, Baltimore MD 21222

Her obituary can be read here.

 

Shianne F. Lombard-Treman
May 03, 1977 – March 28, 2018

For Rare Disease Day: MaryO, Pituitary/Kidney Cancer Bio

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rare disease day

 

Adapted from Participatory Medicine

The Society for Participatory Medicine - MemberThis is kind of a “cheat” post since it’s a compilation of other posts, web pages, message board posts and some original thoughts. I’m writing it to submit to Robin’s Grand Rounds, hosted on her blog.

For all of my early life, I was the good, compliant, patient. I took whatever pills the doctor prescribed, did whatever tests h/she (most always a HE) wrote for. Believed that whatever he said was the absolute truth. He had been to med school. He knew what was wrong with me even though he didn’t live in my body 24/7 and experience what I did.

I know a lot of people are still like this. Their doctor is like a god to them. He can do no wrong – even if they don’t feel any better after treatment, even if they feel worse. “But the doctor said…”

Anyway, I digress.

All this changed for me in 1983.

At first, I noticed I’d stopped having my periods and, of course, I thought I was pregnant. I went to my Gynecologist who had no explanation. Lots of women lose their periods for a variety of reasons so no one thought that this was really significant.

Then I got really tired, overly tired. I would take my son to a half hour Choir rehearsal and could not stay awake for the whole time. I would lie down in the back of the van, set an alarm and sleep for the 30 minutes.

A whole raft of other symptoms started appearing – I grew a beard (Hirsuitism), gained weight even though I was on Weight Watchers and working out at the gym nearly every day, lost my period, everything hurt, got what is called a “moon face” and a “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck. I also got stretch marks. I was very depressed but it’s hard to say if that was because of the hormone imbalance or because I felt so bad and no one would listen to me.

I came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal magazine which said: “If you have these symptoms…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”. After that, I started reading everything I could on Cushing’s and asking my doctors. Due to all my reading at the library and medical books I bought, I was sure I had Cushing’s but no one would believe me. Doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare, that I was making this up and that I couldn’t have it.

I asked doctors for three years – PCP, gynecologist, neurologist, podiatrist – all said the now-famous refrain. It’s too rare. You couldn’t have Cushing’s. I kept persisting in my reading, making copies of library texts even when I didn’t understand them, keeping notes. I just knew that someone, somewhere would “discover” that I had Cushing’s.

My husband was on the doctors’ sides. He was sure it was all in my mind (as opposed to all in my head!) and he told me to just think “happy thoughts” and it would all go away.

A Neurologist gave me Xanax. Since he couldn’t see my tumor with his Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine there was “no possibility” that it existed. Boy was he wrong!

Later in 1986, I started bruising incredibly easily. I could touch my skin and get a bruise. On New Year’s Day of 1987, I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker, like the rings of a tree. When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.

Fortunately, the Hematologist/Oncologist ran a twenty-four-hour urine test and really looked at me. Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s. Of course, he was sure that he did the diagnosis. No matter that I had been pursuing this with other doctors for 3 years.

It was not yet determined if it was Cushing’s Disease (Pituitary) or Syndrome (Adrenal). However, he couldn’t help me any further so the Hematologist referred me to an Endocrinologist.

The Endocrinologist, of course, didn’t trust the other tests I had had done so I was back to square one. He ran his own multitude of tests. He had to draw blood at certain times like 9 AM. and 5 PM. There was a dexamethasone suppression test where I took a pill at 10 p.m. and gave blood at 9 am the next day. I collected gallons of urine in BIG boxes (Fun in the fridge!). Those were from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. to be delivered to his office by 9 a.m. same day. I was always worried that I’d be stopped in rush hour and the police would ask about what was in that big container. I think I did those for a week. He also did standard neurological tests and asked lots of questions.

When the endo confirmed that I had Cushing’s in 1987 he sent me to a local hospital where they repeated all those same tests for another week and decided that it was not my adrenal gland (Cushing’s Syndrome) creating the problem. The doctors and nurses had no idea what to do with me, so they put me on the brain cancer ward.

When I left this hospital after a week, we didn’t know any more than we had before.

As luck would have it, NIH (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland) was doing a clinical trial of Cushing’s. I live in the same area as NIH so it was not too inconvenient but very scary at first to think of being tested there. At that time I only had a choice of NIH, Mayo Clinic and a place in Quebec to do this then-rare pituitary surgery called a Transsphenoidal Resection. I chose NIH – closest and free. After I was interviewed by the Doctors there, I got a letter that I had been accepted into the clinical trial. The first time I was there was for 6 weeks as an inpatient. More of the same tests.

There were about 12 of us there and it was nice not to be alone with this mystery disease. Many of these Cushies (mostly women) were getting bald, couldn’t walk, having strokes, had diabetes. One was blind, one had a heart attack while I was there. Towards the end of my testing period, I was looking forward to the surgery just to get this whole mess over with. While I was at NIH, I was gaining about a pound a day!

The MRI still showed nothing, so they did a Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test. That scared me more than the prospect of surgery. (This test carries the risk of stroke and uncontrollable bleeding from the incision points.) Catheters were fed from my groin area to my pituitary gland and dye was injected. I could watch the whole procedure on monitors. I could not move during this test or for several hours afterward to prevent uncontrollable bleeding from a major artery. The test did show where the tumor probably was located. Also done were more sophisticated dexamethasone suppression tests where drugs were administered by IV and blood was drawn every hour (they put a heplock in my arm so they don’t have to keep sticking me). I got to go home for a weekend and then went back for the surgery – the Transsphenoidal Resection. I fully expected to die during surgery (and didn’t care if I did) so I signed my will and wrote last letters to those I wanted to say goodbye to. During the time I was home just before surgery, a college classmate of mine (I didn’t know her) did die at NIH of a Cushing’s-related problem. I’m so glad I didn’t find out until a couple months later!

November 3, 1987, the surgeon, Dr. Ed Oldfield, cut the gum above my front teeth under my upper lip so there is no scar. He used tiny tools and microscopes. My tumor was removed successfully. In some cases (not mine) the surgeon uses a plug of fat from the abdomen to help seal the cut. Afterward, I was in intensive care overnight and went to a neurology ward for a few days until I could walk without being dizzy. I had some major headaches for a day or two but they gave me drugs (morphine) for those. Also, I had cotton plugs in my nostrils. It was a big day when they came out. I had diabetes insipidus (DI) for a little while, but that went away by itself – thank goodness!

I had to use a foam product called “Toothies” to brush my teeth without hitting the incision. Before they let me go home, I had to learn to give myself an injection in my thigh. They sent me home with a supply of injectible cortisone in case my level ever fell too low (it didn’t). I was weaned gradually off cortisone pills (scary). I now take no medications. I had to get a Medic Alert bracelet. I will always need to tell medical staff when I have any kind of procedure – the effects of my excess cortisone will remain forever.

I went back to the NIH for several follow-up visits of a week each where they did all the blood and urine testing again. After a few years, NIH set me free. Now I go to my “outside” endocrinologist every year for the dexamethasone suppression test, 24-hour urine and regular blood testing.

As I get further away from my surgery, I have less and less chance that my tumor will grow back. I have never lost all the weight I gained and I still have the hair on my chin but most of my other symptoms are gone. I am still and always tired and need a nap most days. I do not, however, still need to take whole days off just to sleep.

I consider myself very lucky that I was treated before I got as bad as some of the others on my floor at NIH but think it is crazy that these symptoms are not taken seriously by doctors.

My story goes on and if you’re interested some is on this blog and some is here:

Forbes Magazine | MaryO’s bio | Cushing’s and Cancer Blog | Interview Archive 1/3/08 | Cushing’s Awareness Day Testimonial Archive |

Because of this experience in getting a Cushing’s diagnosis – and later, a prescription for growth hormone – I was concerned that there were probably other people not being diagnosed with Cushing’s. When I searched online for Cushing’s, all the sites that came up were for dogs and horses with Cushing’s. Not what I was looking for!

In July of 2000, I was talking with my dear friend Alice, who runs a wonderful menopause site, Power Surge, wondering why there weren’t many support groups online (OR off!) for Cushing’s. This thought percolated through my mind for a few hours and I realized that maybe this was my calling. Maybe I should be the one to start a network of support for other “Cushies” to help them empower themselves.

I wanted to educate others about the awful disease that took doctors years of my life to diagnose and treat – even after I gave them the information to diagnose me. I didn’t want anyone else to suffer for years like I did. I wanted doctors to pay more attention to Cushing’s disease.

The first website (http://www.cushings-help.com) went “live” July 21, 2000. It was just a single page of information. The message boards began September 30, 2000 with a simple message board which then led to a larger one, and a larger. Today, in 2010, we have over 7 thousand members. Some “rare disease”!

The message boards are now very active and we have weekly online text chats, weekly live interviews, local meetings, conferences, email newsletters, a clothing exchange, a Cushing’s Awareness Day Forum, podcasts, phone support and much more. Because I wanted to spread the word to others not on “the boards” we have extended out to social networking sites – twitter groups, facebook groups, twines, friendfeeds, newsletters, websites, chat groups, multiply.com, and much, much more.

People are becoming more empowered and participating in their own diagnoses, testing and treatment. This have changed a lot since 1983!

When I had my Cushing’s over 20 years ago, I never thought that I would meet another Cushing’s patient in real life or online. Back then, I’d never even been aware that there was anything like an “online”. I’m so glad that people struggling with Cushing’s today don’t have to suffer anymore thinking that they’re the only one who deals with this.

Because of my work on the websites – and, believe me it is a ton of work! – I have had the honor of meeting over a hundred other Cushies personally at local meetings, conferences, at NIH (the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD where I had my final diagnosis and surgery). It occurred to me once that this is probably more than most endocrinologists will ever see in their entire career. I’ve also talked to countless others on the phone. Amazing for a “rare” disease!

I don’t know what pushed me in 1983, how I got the confidence and self-empowerment to challenge these doctors and their non-diagnoses over the years. I’m glad that I didn’t suffer any longer than I did and I’m glad that I have a role in helping others to find the medical help that they need.

What do *YOU* think? How are you becoming empowered? Comments welcome


• Medicine 2.0 (Toronto, Canada) September 17-18, 2009. Robin Smith (staticnrg), Mary O’Connor (MaryO) and Dr Ted Friedman will be panelists. The topic is “Paying It Forward in the Digital Age: Patient Empowerment 2.0 Using Web 2.0”. Robin submitted this topic. She wrote: Paying it Forward in the Digital Age: Patient Empowerment 2.0 using Web 2.0

An online community is usually defined by one or two things. These come from blogs, websites, forums, newsletters, and more. The emphasis is typically either totally support or education. But sometimes all of these meet. The Cushing’s community, bonded by the lack of education in the medical community and the necessity or self-education has become a community of all of these things.

Mary O’Connor, the founder and owner of the Cushings’ Help website and message boards started with one goal in mind. She wanted to educate others about the awful disease that took doctors years to diagnose and treat in her life. Armed only with information garned from her public library and a magazine article, she self-diagnosed in the days prior to the availability of the internet.

Mary’s hard work and dream have paid off. Others, with the same illness, the same frustrations, and the same non-diagnosis/treatment have been led by MaryO (as she’s lovingly called) to work with her to support, educate, and share.

The Cushing’s Help website soon led to a simple message board which then led to a larger one, and a larger. The site has numerous helpful webpages chock full of information. The members of this community have made a decision to increase awareness of the disease, the research that is ongoing with the disease, the doctors who understand it, and the lack of information about it in the medical field.

From this hub have come multiple Web 2.0 spokes. Many members have blogs, there is a non-profit corporation to continue the programs, a BlogTalkRadio show with shows almost every week, thousands of listeners to podcasts produced from the shows, twitter groups, facebook groups, twines, friendfeeds, newsletters, websites, chat groups and much, much more. The power of Web 2.0 is exponential, and it is making a huge difference in the lives of patients all over the world. It is Empowerment 2.0.

One patient said it well when she said, “Until this all began I was a hairstylist/soccer mom with a high school education. It’s been a learning curve. I am done with doctors who speak to me as if they know all; I know better now.” And she knows better because she’s part of our community. All patients need this type of community.

More info here.


MaryO’s Original Bio

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Christmas 1981Around 1983 I first started to realize I was really sick. At first I noticed I’d stopped having my periods and, of course, I thought I was pregnant. I went to my Gynecologist who had no explanation. Then I got really tired. I would take my son to a half hour Choir rehearsal and could not stay awake for the whole time.

A whole raft of other symptoms started appearing – I grew a beard (Hirsuitism), gained weight even though I was on Weight Watchers and working out at the gym nearly every day, lost my period, everything hurt, got what is called a “moon face” and a “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck. I also got stretch marks. I was very depressed but it’s hard to say if that was because of the hormone imbalance or because I felt so bad and no one would listen to me.

I came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal which said “If you have these symptoms…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”. After that, I started reading everything I could on Cushing’s and asking my doctors. Due to all my reading at the library, I was sure I had Cushing’s but no one would believe me. Doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare, that I was making this up and that I couldn’t have it.

Gaining weight in 1986My husband just told me to think “happy thoughts” and it would all go away. A Neurologist gave me Xanax. Since he couldn’t see my tumorwith his Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine there was “no possibility” that it existed. Boy was he wrong!

In late 1986 I started bruising incredibly easily. I could touch my skin and get a bruise. On New Year’s Day of 1987 I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker. When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.
Fall 1986I was also having trouble with my feet and walking, so I had the distinction of going to two doctors in one day, a Podiatrist in the morning and the Hematologist/Oncologist in the afternoon.

Fortunately, the Hematologist/Oncologist ran a twenty-four hour urine test and really looked at me. Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s.

It was not yet determined if it was Cushing’s Disease (Pituitary) or Syndrome (Adrenal). However, he couldn’t help me any further so the Hematologist referred me to an Endocrinologist.

The Endocrinologist, of course, didn’t trust the other tests I had had done so I was back to square one. He ran his own multitude of tests. He had to draw blood at certain times like 9 AM. and 5 PM. There was a dexamethasone suppression test where I took a pill at 10 p.m. and gave blood at 9 am the next day. I collected gallons of urine in BIG boxes (Fun in the fridge!). Those were from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. to be delivered to his office by 9 a.m. same day. I was always worried that I’d be stopped in rush hour and the police would ask about what was in that big container. I think I did those for a week. He also did standard neurological tests and asked lots of questions.

March 1987 after a week of testingWhen he confirmed that I had Cushing’s he sent me to a local hospital where they repeated all those same tests for another week and decided that it was not my adrenal gland (Cushing’s Syndrome) creating the problem. The doctors and nurses had no idea what to do with me, so they put me on the brain cancer ward.

When I left this hospital after a week, we didn’t know any more than we had before.

As luck would have it, NIH (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland) was doing a clinical trial of Cushing’s. I live in the same area as NIH so it was not too inconvenient but very scary at first to think of being tested there. At that time I only had a choice of NIH, Mayo Clinic and a place in Quebec to do this then-rare pituitary surgery called a Transsphenoidal Resection. I chose NIH – closest and free. After I was interviewed by the Doctors there, I got a letter that I had been accepted into the clinical trial. The first time I was there was for 6 weeks as an inpatient. More of the same tests.

There were about 12 of us there and it was nice not to be alone with this mystery disease. Many of these Cushies (mostly women) were getting bald, couldn’t walk, having strokes, had diabetes. One was blind, one had a heart attack while I was there. Towards the end of my testing period, I was looking forward to the surgery just to get this whole mess over with. While I was at NIH, I was gaining about a pound a day!

The MRI still showed nothing, so they did a Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test. That scared me more than the prospect of surgery. (This test carries the risk of stroke and uncontrollable bleeding from the incision points.) Catheters were fed from my groin area to my pituitary gland and dye was injected. I could watch the whole procedure on monitors. I could not move during this test or for several hours afterwards to prevent uncontrolable bleeding from a major artery. The test did show where the tumor probably was located. Also done were more sophisticated dexamethasone suppression tests where drugs were administered by IV and blood was drawn every hour (they put a heplock in my arm so they don’t have to keep sticking me). I got to go home for a weekend and then went back for the surgery – the Transsphenoidal Resection. I fully expected to die during surgery (and didn’t care if I did) so I signed my will and wrote last letters to those I wanted to say goodbye to. During the time I was home just before surgery, a college classmate of mine (I didn’t know her) DID die at NIH of a Cushing’s-related problem. I’m so glad I didn’t find out until a couple months later!

November 3, 1987, the surgeon,Dr. Ed Oldfield, cut the gum above my front teeth under my upper lip so there is no scar. He used tiny tools and microscopes. My tumor was removed successfully. In some cases (not mine) the surgeon uses a plug of fat from the abdomen to help seal the cut. Afterwards, I was in intensive care overnight and went to a neurology ward for a few days until I could walk without being dizzy. I had some major headaches for a day or two but they gave me drugs (morphine) for those. Also, I had cotton plugs in my nostrils. It was a big day when they came out. I had diabetes insipidus (DI) for a little while, but that went away by itself – thank goodness!

I had to use a foam product called “Toothies” to brush my teeth without hitting the incision. Before they let me go home, I had to learn to give myself an injection in my thigh. They sent me home with a supply of injectible cortisone in case my level ever fell too low (it didn’t). I was weaned gradually off cortisone pills (scary). I now take no medications. I had to get a Medic Alert bracelet. I will always need to tell medical staff when I have any kind of procedure – the effects of my excess cortisone will remain forever.

I went back to the NIH for several follow-up visits of a week each where they did all the blood and urine testing again. After a few years NIH set me free. Now I go to my “outside” endocrinologist every year for the dexamethasone suppression test, 24-hour urine and regular blood testing.

As I get further away from my surgery, I have less and less chance that my tumor will grow back. I have never lost all the weight I gained and I still have the hair on my chin but most of my other symptoms are gone. I am still and always tired and need a nap most days. I do not, however, still need to take whole days off just to sleep.

I consider myself very lucky that I was treated before I got as bad as some of the others on my floor at NIH but think it is crazy that these symptoms are not taken seriously by doctors.

Tom and me in Barbados

Update: Fall, 1999:

I went for my regular testing with my private endocrinologist.

Besides the annual testing, he told me that my pituitary gland is shutting down, so I must always have extra cortisone (Cortef) for any medical stress such as surgery or the flu.

Many people are now finding that they need HgH after pituitary surgery, so an Insulin Tolerance Test was performed. My endocrinologist painted a very rosey picture of how wonderful I’d feel on Growth Hormone. It sounded like a miracle drug to me!

I was only asked to fast before the ITT and to bring someone with me to take me home. There is no way I could have driven home. I got very cold during the test and they let me have a blanket. Also, though, lying still on that table for so long, my back hurt later. I’d definitely take – or ask for – a pillow for my back next time. They gave me a rolled up blanket for under my knees, too.

I don’t remember much about the test at all. I remember lying very still on the table. The phlebotomist took blood first, then tried to insert the IV (it took a few tries, of course). Then the endo himself put the insulin in through the IV and took the blood out of that. I remember the nurse kept asking me stupid questions – I’m sure to see how I was doing on the consciousness level. I’d imagine I sounded like a raving lunatic, although I believed that I was giving rational answers at the time.

Then everything just got black…I have no idea for how long, and the next thing I knew I was becoming aware of my surroundings again and the doctor was mumbling something. They gave me some juice and had me sit up very slowly, then sit on the edge of the table for a while. When I thought I could get up, they gave me some glucose tablets “for the road” and called my friend in. I was still kind of woozy, but they let her take me out, very wobbly, kind of drunk feeling.

My friend took me to a close-by restaurant – I was famished – but I still had trouble with walking and felt kind of dazed for a while. When I got home, I fell asleep on the sofa for the rest of the day.

But the most amazing thing happened. Saturday and Sunday I felt better than I had for 20 years. I had all this energy and I was flying high! It was so wonderful and I hoped that that was from the HgH they gave me to wake me up.

Edgewater Inn, BarbadosI will have to take this test annually until I do I do qualify for HgH. I got a small taste of what I would feel like on this drug – that weekend I felt much better than I can remember feeling in a very long time. Hopefully, at some point, I will “qualify” for this drug, even though it means a daily injection. I would really like to feel better sometime – less tired, less depressed, more human.

In July of 2000, I was talking with my dear friend Alice, who runs a wonderful menopause site, Power Surge, wondering why there weren’t many support groups online (OR off!) for Cushing’s and I wondered if I could start one myself and we decided that I could. This website (http://www.cushings-help.com) first went “live” July 21, 2000 and the message boards September 30, 2000. Hopefully, with this site, I’m going to make some helpful differences in someone else’s life.

The message boards are very active and we have weekly online text chats, weekly live interviews, local meetings, email newsletters, a clothing exchange, aCushing’s Awareness Day Forum, podcasts, phone support and much more.

Whenever one of the members of the boards gets into NIH, I try to go to visit them there. Other board members participate in the “Cushie Helper” programwhere they support others with one-on-one support, doctor/hospital visits, transportation issues and more.

My husband, Tom (PICTURED ABOVE) posted this on the message boards:

“I just read your description of the 9 year ordeal. I am Mary’s husband and much of your story was familiar.Mary diagnosed her own illness. After a prolonged journey from doctor to doctor.

After her surgery and recovery, I found myself at a neurologist’s office for some trivial ailment and the place seemed familiar.

Then it dawned on me that I had been there before with Mary. This was one of the doctors who had failed to listen. Or perhaps simply had no knowledge base about Cushing’s.

In any event, I stopped the process I was there for and changed the subject to the previous visit 4 years ago. I told the doctor to look up his records on Mary O’Connor and study them. Told him that what he would see in his files was a case of Cushing’s, misdiagnosed as something that might respond to Valium.

I said he could learn something and perhaps help the next person who arrived with Cushing’s.

Out of fairness to the medics, the ailment is so rare that a doctor can go his entire career and never see a single case. And it is certainly possible that the doctor may fail to diagnose the few cases they may see.

Mary’s surgery was done at NIH. It came down to them or the Mayo Clinic. At the time we did not realize that NIH was free and we selected them over Mayo based on their success and treatment record. They were happy to learn they had beat Mayo without a price advantage. We were happy to hear it was free.

During the same time Mary was at NIH, another woman had the same operation. She came from Mary’s home town. They were class mates at college. They had the same major. They were the same age. They had the same surgical and medical team. Mary recovered. The other woman died during surgery.

I am an aggressive person who deals directly with problems. I enjoy conflict and I thrive in it.

This experience made clear how little we control. And how much depends on the grace of God.

This year we celebrated our 28th anniversary. Our son has grown into a fine young man and is succeeding admirably in college.
Life is the answer. We keep going on….undaunted and ever hopeful.

Tom O’Connor”

Update July 26, 2001

I saw the endo today. My pituitary function is continuing to drop, so August 6, I’ll Be having another ITT, as described above. Hopefully, after this one, I’ll be able to take Growth Hormone and start feeling better!

Update August 6, 2001

I had the ITT this morning. I don’t get any results until a week from Thursday, but I do know that I didn’t recover from the insulin injection as quickly as I did last time. The endo made a graph for my husband of me today and a “normal” person, although I can’t imagine what normal person would do this awful test! A normal person’s blood sugar would drop very quickly then rise again at about a right angle on the graph.

I dropped a little more slowly, then stayed very low for a long time, then slowly started to rise. On the graph, mine never recovered as much as the normal person, but I’m sure that I did, eventually.

The test this time wasn’t as difficult as I remember it being, which is good. Last time around, I felt very sweaty, heart pounding. I don’t remember any of that this time around. I do know that I “lost” about an hour, though. The phlebotomist took the first blood at 9:15, then the endo injected the insulin and took blood every 15 minutes after that. I counted (or remembered) only 4 of the blood draws, but it was 11:30 when they told me that my sugar wasn’t coming up enough yet and I’d have to stay another 30 minutes. It actually ended up being another hour.

Kim, the phlebotomist, asked me if I got a headache when they “crashed me” and I have no recollection of any of that.

Like last time, I was very, very cold, even with the blanket and my left arm – where the heplock was – fell asleep. Other than that – and my back hurting from lying on one of those tables all that time this wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

So, I waited for 10 days…

Update Fall, 2002

The endo refused to discuss my fatigue or anything at all with me until I lost 10 pounds. He said I wasn’t worth treating in my overweight condition and that I was setting myself up for a heart attack. He gave me 3 months to lose this weight. Those 3 months included Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

I know that I would like to lose weight, but I’d like to do it on my own terms, not over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, not because this endo was rude about it. I left his office in tears. I’m now looking for a new one…

Update Fall, 2004

I left my previous endo in November of 2002. He was just too rude, telling me that I was setting myself up for a heart attack and that I wasn’t worth treating. I had left his office in tears.

Anyway, I tried for awhile to get my records. He wouldn’t send them, even at doctors’ or my requests. Finally, my husband went to his office and threatened him with a court order, The office manager managed to come up with about 13 pages of records. For going to him from 1986 to 2001, that doesn’t seem like enough records to me.

I had emailed NIH and they said that they would be “happy” to treat me, but it was long between emails, and it looked like things were moving s-l-o-w-l-y. I had also contacted UVa, but they couldn’t do anything without those records.

Last April, many of us from the message boards went to the UVa Pituitary Days Convention. By chance, we met a wonderful woman named Barbara Craven. She sat at our table for lunch on the last day and, after we learned that she was a dietitian who had had Cushing’s, one of us jokingly asked her if she’d do a guest chat for us. I didn’t follow through on this until she emailed me one day last summer. In the email, she asked how I was doing. Usually, I say “fine” or “ok” but for some reason, I told her exactly how awful I was feeling.

Barbara emailed me back and said I should see a doctor at Johns Hopkins. And I said I didn’t think I could get a recommendation to there, so SHE referred me. The doctor got right back to me, set up an appointment. Between his vacation and mine, that first appointment turned out to be Tuesday, Sept 14, 2004.

Just getting through the maze at Johns Hopkins was amazing. They have the whole system down to a science, moving from one place to another to sign in, then go here, then window 6, then… But it was very efficient.

My new doctor was wonderful. Understanding, knowledgeable. He never once said that I was “too fat” or “depressed” or that all this was my own fault. I feel so validated, finally.

He looked through my records, especially at my 2 previous Insulin Tolerance Tests. From those, he determined that my growth hormone has been low since at least August 2001 and I’ve been adrenal insufficient since at least Fall, 1999 – possibly as much as 10 years! I was amazed to hear all this and astounded that my former endo not only didn’t tell me any of this, he did nothing. He had known both of these things – they were in the past records that I took with me. Perhaps that was why he had been so reluctant to share copies of those records. He had given me Cortef in the fall of 1999 to take just in case I had “stress” and that was it.

The new endo took a lot of blood (no urine!) for cortisol and thyroid stuff. I’m going back on Sept. 28, 2004 for arginine, cortrosyn and IGF testing.

He has said that I will end up on daily cortisone – a “sprinkling” – and some form of GH, based on the testing the 28th.

So, in a couple weeks, I might start feeling better! Wowee!

For those who are interested, my new endo is Roberto Salvatori, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins

Medical School: Catholic University School of Medicine, Rome, Italy
Residency: Montefiore Medical Center
Fellowship: Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University
Board Certification: Endocrinology and Metabolism, Internal Medicine

Clinical Interests: Neuroendocrinology, pituitary disorders, adrenal disorders

Research Interests: Control of growth hormone secretion, genetic causes of growth hormone deficiency, consequences of growth hormone deficiency.

Update October, 2004

I had cortrosyn and arginine-GHRH stimulation test at Johns Hopkins. They confirmed what the doctor learned from reading my 4 year old records – that I’m both adrenal-deficient and growth hormone-deficient. I started on my “sprinkle” (5 mg twice a day) of Cortef now and my new doctor has started the paperwork for GH so maybe I’m on my way…

Yea!!!

It feels weird to be going back on the cortisone after being off for so many years but at this point, I think I’d sell my soul to the devil not to feel the way I’ve been feeling for the last several years.

Update November, 2004

Although I have this wonderful doctor, a specialist in growth hormone deficiency at Johns Hopkins, my insurance company saw fit to over-ride his opinions and his test results based on my past pharmaceutical history! Hello??? How could I have a history of taking GH when I’ve never taken it before?

Of course, I found out late on a Friday afternoon. By then it was too late to call my case worker at the drug company, so we’ll see on Monday what to do about an appeal. My local insurance person is also working on an appeal, but the whole thing sounds like just another long ordeal of finding paperwork, calling people, FedExing stuff, too much work when I just wanted to start feeling better by Thanksgiving. I guess that’s not going to happen, at least by the 2004 one.

As it turns out the insurance company rejected the brand of hGH that was prescribed for me. They gave me the ok for a growth hormone was just FDA-approved for adults on 11/4/04. The day this medication was approved for adults was the day after my insurance said that’s what is preferred for me. In the past, this form of hGH was only approved for children with height issues. Am I going to be a guinea pig again? The new GH company has assigned a rep for me, has submitted info to pharmacy, waiting for insurance approval, again.

Update December 7, 2004

I finally started the Growth Hormone last night – it’s like a rebirth for me. I look forward to having my life back in a few months!

Update January 3, 2005

After a lot of phone calls and paperwork, the insurance company finally came through at the very last minute, just as I needed my second month’s supply. Of course, the pharmacy wouldn’t send it unless they were paid for the first month. They had verbal approval from the insurance, but the actual claim was denied. Talk about a cliff hanger!

Update January 25, 2005

I’ve been on the growth hormone for 7 weeks now, and see no change in my tiredness and fatigue. A couple weeks ago, I thought there was a bit of improvement. I even exercised a little again, but that was short-lived.

I feel like my stomach is getting bigger, and Tom says my face is looking more Cushie again. Maybe from the cortisone I’ve been taking since October. I can’t wait until my next endo appointment in March to increase my GH. I want to feel better already!

Update March 21, 2005

My endo appointment is over. My endo thinks that my weight gain is from the cortisone, as I’d suspected. He cut that amount in half to see if I would stop gaining weight and maybe lose a little. Because of the adrenal insufficiency, I can’t completely stop it, thought. My IGF-1 was “normal” so I can’t increase the GH.

I made a vacation of this trip, though. A friend and I stayed 2 nights in a hotel and had some fun. The hotel had an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, exercise room, wireless internet access, free shuttles to Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore Inner Harbor. We had a good time for ourselves, so I came home from this endo trip more tired than ever. Over the weekend, I took 7-hour naps on both Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully, that will get better as my body adjusts to the loser dose of Cortef.

Update September, 2005.

My last endo appointment I had lost some weight but not enough. My energy levels are down again, so my endo increased the cortisone slightly. I hope I don’t start gaining again. I don’t see any benefit with the growth hormone.

Update January, 2006.

A new year, a new insurance battle. Once again, they don’t want to pay so I have to go through the whole approval process again. This involves phone calls to Norditropin (the company that makes the GH), my endo, iCore Specialty Pharmacy (the people who prepare and ship the meds) and my insurance company. This is turning into a full-time job!

Update April 14, 2006

I just went to see my endo again on Thursday to see how things are. Although I know how they are – I’m still tired, gaining a little weight, getting some red spots (petechiae) on my midsection. He also noted that I have a “little” buffalo hump again.

My endo appointment is over. Turns out that the arginine test that was done 2 years ago was done incorrectly. The directions were written unclearly and the test run incorrectly, not just for me but for everyone who had this test done there for a couple years. My endo discovered this when he was writing up a research paper and went to the lab to check on something.

So, I’m off GH again for 2 weeks, then I’m supposed to be retested. The “good news” is that the arginine test is only 90 minutes now instead of 3 hours.

Update June 2, 2006: Kidney Cancer (Renal Cell Carcinoma)

Wow, what a nightmare my arginine retest started! I went back for that Thursday, April 27, 2006. Although the test was shorter, I got back to my hotel and just slept and slept. I was so glad that I hadn’t decided to go home after the test.

Friday I felt fine and drove back home, no problem. I picked up my husband for a biopsy and took him to an outpatient surgical center. While I was there waiting for the biopsy to be completed, I started noticing blood in my urine and major abdominal cramps. I left messages for several of my doctors on what I should do. I finally decided to see my PCP after I got my husband home.

When Tom was done with his testing, his doctor took one look at me and asked if I wanted an ambulance. I said no, that I thought I could make it to the emergency room ok – Tom couldn’t drive because of the anesthetic they had given him. I barely made it to the ER and left the car with Tom to park. Tom’s doctor followed us to the ER and became my new doctor.

They took me in pretty fast since I was in so much pain, and had the blood in my urine. They thought it was a kidney stone. After a CT scan, my new doctor said that, yes, I had a kidney stone but it wasn’t the worst of my problems, that I had kidney cancer. Wow, what a surprise that was! I was admitted to that hospital, had more CT scans, MRIs, bone scans, they looked everywhere.

My open radical nephrectomy was May 9, 2006 in another hospital from the one where the initial diagnosis was made. My surgeon felt that he needed a specialist from that hospital because he believed preop that my tumor had invaded into the vena cava because of its appearance on the various scans. Luckily, that was not the case.

My entire left kidney and the encapsulated cancer (10 pounds worth!) were removed, along with my left adrenal gland and some lymph nodes. Although the cancer (renal cell carcinoma AKA RCC) was very close to hemorrhaging, the surgeon believes he got it all. He said I was so lucky. If the surgery had been delayed any longer, the outcome would have been much different. I will be repeating the CT scans every 3 months, just to be sure that there is no cancer hiding anywhere. As it turns out, I can never say I’m cured, just NED (no evidence of disease). This thing can recur at any time, anywhere in my body.

I credit the arginine re-test with somehow aggravating my kidneys and revealing this cancer. Before the test, I had no clue that there was any problem. The arginine test showed that my IGF is still low but due to the kidney cancer I cannot take my growth hormone for another 5 years – so the test was useless anyway, except to hasten this newest diagnosis.

Update August 19, 2006

I’ve been even more tired than usual now that I’m off GH. I can’t take my arthritis meds, or anything like Excedrin (no NSAIDs) so my joints are nearly always bothering me and I have to wait out any headaches. I’m also just getting over a UTI.

I just had my 3 month post-op CT scans and I hope they come out ok. At first I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to have chemo or radiation come to find out that neither has been discovered yet which works well with kidney cancer. Apparently, it can resurface any time for the rest of my life. I’m hoping that some of the chemo clinical trials show some good results so I can get this thing before it metastasizes somewhere.

I’m having trouble sleeping (1:20 AM here, now) although I’m always tired.

Whine, whine!

On the plus side – I survived the kidney cancer surgery, and it’s almost vacation time!

Even vacation will be bittersweet, though. 2 years ago, Sue went with us on vacation. She had a great time and she had asked if she could go with us again this year. Of course, we had said yes…

Update October 26, 2006

I went to see my Johns Hopkins endo again last week. He doesn’t “think” that my cancer was caused by the growth hormone although it may well have encouraged the tumor to grow faster than it would have.

He was happy to see that I had lost 22 pounds since my last 6-month visit. Not all of that was from surgery! He reminded me that I can take more cortisone, but I hate to do that because I gain weight so fast when I take more.

He thought that my blood pressure was low – for me, not for “normal” people. He took my pressure several times, lying down, getting up quickly. But I never got dizzy. Maybe my pressure increase was temporary when the cancer started. All these mysteries I have that no one can answer.

My energy levels are lower than when I was on GH, and they’re lower again because I had the adrenal removed, because of my panhypopit, because of my cancer even though currently NED, it can come back at any time, because of my GH deficiency…

Every day is a challenge getting up, doing something useful, doing something without arthritic pain and weakness, having the energy to finish even something “easy”. I’m starting to get very depressed over all this. If this is the way the rest of my life is going to be, why bother?

People mostly assume that everything is OK with me because I am not getting chemo or radiation and because I look so “healthy” (thanks to the Cushing’s/daily Cortef!). They figure that if there was any real danger of the cancer metastasizing that I would be on chemo, like other cancer patients do. They don’t understand that I have to wait and pray because there are no approved adjuvant treatments. If/when my cancer returns, it’s just more surgery. If I’m “lucky” enough and get to a stage 4 THEN I can have chemo/radiation as a palliative measure.

Update December 2006

According to my PCP my blood pressure is truly low. But can I go off these bp meds? Nope…because I have only one kidney, these would have been prescribed anyway as a support for my kidney. Can’t win!

I am maintaining my weight loss but none of my clothes are loose, I can’t fit in anything smaller. Belly is still there. So the weight loss is just a numbers game.

Update March 2007

I posted this on the message boards in late February but many missed it and are still asking…

Walking Wounded, the sequel! Wow! I guess I haven’t been on the boards for 2 weeks or so. I see that I have dozens of PMs to read, many emails to check/answer and I missed at least one person who had ordered an Awareness Bracelet that I never sent.

My Monday appointment with the surgeon went ok. He took blood/urine and was going to send me for CT scans. That day, as I recall was very cold here with a wind chill of something like -7o

I came home and taught my piano students, as usual.

Tuesday morning I woke up and my back hurt. I assumed it was from the cold combined with my arthritis. That got worse throughout the day so I called my PCP. Naturally, he was away until the 19th but had a substitute I could see Wed. I didn’t want to wait because the pain was excruciating by now and I couldn’t get out of chairs or sofa without using the walker I had from surgery to help pull me up.

So I called my husband at work and he said he’d come home and take me to the ER. I had been supposed to have handbell rehearsal that night so I called my director and let her know I wouldn’t make it. She assumed that Tom (husband) would be home sooner than he was, so she got the associate pastor from my church and they headed to the ER to wait with us.

They asked about me at the front desk and were assured that I was there although they didn’t see me. I guess they thought I was with the triage nurse or something. So they waited. Then a Melissa O’Connor was called… My people realized it wasn’t me and left.

Finally, Tom got home – he had really important work to do (sarcastically said!) and I got to the ER about 6:00PM. Last time I was there, they told me I had kidney cancer, so I was hoping that there was no rerun of that experience!

The triage nurse let me wait on a gurney instead of one of the hard plastic chairs in the waiting room.

Unfortunately, they also wanted blood and urine. My only good arm had been used by the neurosurgeon the day before. Luckily the nurse finally got the IV in to my other arm. I guess my veins are a bit better post-Cushing’s. No collapses this time.

They did CT scans (so I don’t have to do my surgeon’s ones – YEA!) and XRays and found basically nothing except lung nodules that hadn’t grown much since my last scan – say what? I didn’t know I HAD lung nodules.

I got some percocet and they sent me home with orders to see the sub PCP in 2 days. The percocet didn’t do much except make me sleepy/groggy. My days were spent watching TV and sleeping. Even sitting at the computer or the table was too painful.

Tom took me to the sub PCP on that Friday and she’s sending me to physical therapy.

Until yesterday, I didn’t drive at all, and the weather has been awful, so I haven’t even called about the PT yet.

There is still a little pain, and I need the walker to get out of bed, but I’m doing much better.

A weird side thing – Tom was driving my car since it’s a van and much heavier than his midlife crisis sports car. The van does much better with snow and ice that we had the last couple weeks.

One day he got it home, slammed the door – and the window slid down into the door. Somehow it got off the tracks. Luckily the glass didn’t break. So that was a bit of a problem and $$. No one had ever even heard of this problem before.

Anyway, I hope to get to your PMs, emails and whatever ASAP!

It feels a bit weird being here – like my baby has grown up, left home and doesn’t need me anymore. Can you have Empty Nest Syndrome for message boards? LOL

I have started a new Blog called Cushing’s, Cancer & Music and I plan to keep that updated a little more often than this bio. Rather than the actual events that have taken place, I am letting some of my pent-up feelings out. NOTE: This blog was destroyed by hackers in June 2008 😦 I don’t know when or if I will ever have the energy to rebuild it. Find the newest blog here: Cushing’s and Cancer Blog

Alaskan Cruise, 2007On an Alaskan cruise, June 2007. More about the cruise.

As of the Chicago meeting in July, 2012 I have met 90 members of the message boards (listed as Friends) in addition to Cushies who are NOT on the boards! I have traveled to meet Cushies at NIH in Bethesda, MD, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Florida, Tennessee, Connecticut, UVa in Southern Virginia and Oregon.

Update October 2018

Well, I haven’t been so great keeping this updated.  I have made other single posts after I went back on Growth Hormone in June, 2017 (Omnitrope this time).   I am posting some of how that’s going here.

No return of cancer (Hooray!)

I’ve developed a new allergy to blackberries

I’ve had a lot of problems with my knees.  This post needs to be updated since I had a cortisone shot in my knee on September 12, 2018 – best thing I ever did, even though my endo was not happy.

Update February 2020

Since then, in 2019, I had 2 more cortisone injections.  They’re only lasting about a week to 10 days now so I figure they’re not worth the potential side effects.  I’ll have one once a year before a big trip or cruise, so the next will be in August 0f 2020.

I’m still on growth hormone but I don’t see any improvement.  I’m still napping as many hours a day as I can.

The facial hair is still with me and I haven’t lost all the weight, despite 3 days a week of water aerobics (mostly for my knee).

 

I was so stupid way back in 1987 when I thought that all my troubles would be over when my pituitary surgery was over.

And so I wait…


Cushings-Help.com, and quotes from MaryO was included in the Cover Story of this issue of FORBES Magazine, BEST OF THE WEB Issue. The title: “Use With Care” by Matthew Schifrin and Howard Wolinsky.

Hopefully, this kind of mainstream exposure will help increase awareness for this often misunderstood disease. Read the article here.

MaryOVOICE Chat
Listen live to an archived interview from Thursday, January 3, 2008 with MaryO. Achived audio is available through BlogTalkRadio, the CushingsHelp Podcast or through iTunes Podcasts

Jayne and Robin also hosted a Special Cushing’s Awareness Day live chat April 8, 2008. This chat included a lot of comments about MaryO. Archives are available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

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In Memory: Judy Kennedy – December 15, 2019

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Judy died on December 15, 2019, after battling lung cancer, Atrial fibrillation, and total body weakness.  She was a great warrior for her children.

 

 

From 2008: Siblings Deal With Rare Cushing’s Diagnoses

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

COLBY — As a junior in high school, Justin Kennedy began getting sick and missing school on a regular basis.

He was fatigued, unable to sleep at night and gaining weight rapidly. He also was unable to focus on his school work and began experiencing memory loss.

After several doctor’s appointments, Justin was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare disorder caused by excessive cortisol levels resulting from a tumor on the pituitary gland.

At the time of Justin’s diagnosis, his younger sister, Jessica, also was showing symptoms of the endocrine disorder. Her diagnosis came at the same time.

“I think they both have had symptoms since they were little,” said their mother, Judy Kennedy.

Other symptoms include a round facial shape, flushed cheeks, excessive hair growth, skin discoloration and depression, Judy Kennedy said.

Weight fluctuation is uncontrollable. Weight is gained at a high rate, despite diet, exercise and other efforts, Jessica Kennedy said.

“The weight has a mind of its own,” she said.

The diagnosis, following many doctor’s appointments and tests, came last November. Today, Justin, 19, keeps busy with a job at McDonald’s, and Jessica, 15, is a freshman in high school taking online classes.

One of the most bothersome symptoms of the disease is the toll it takes on the sleeping schedule. Her children often are unable to sleep until early morning, Judy Kennedy said.

“When there was a chance for her to do online high school, it was such a relief,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about what time she starts her school work.”

Appetite fluctuation is another side effect. The two go through phases where they have healthy appetites, then hardly eat at all, she said.

That’s because the disease puts their bodies through various cycles, which can last for less than a day or for months at a time, Judy Kennedy said.

It’s predicted that about 15 people in a million are diagnosed with the disorder, which can make it difficult to find support and get answers, she said.

The family, however, discovered an online support group and has enjoyed the opportunity to communicate with other families in similar situations.

“I honestly do not know where our family would be if I wouldn’t have found that support group,” Judy Kennedy said. “Even though it’s still awful, it’s better to know that other people have the same symptoms.

“There are people on the streets who have this and have no idea,” she said. “And their doctors don’t either.”

Both teenagers also are preparing for surgery. In mid-May, the family will travel to Houston, where the siblings will have the tumors removed from their pituitary glands. This is expected to resolve the hormonal imbalances, Judy Kennedy said.

“I’m looking forward to that day,” she said.

This Topic on the Message Boards


JESS AND JUDY ARE MEMBERS OF THE CUSHING’S HELP AND SUPPORT MESSAGE BOARDS.

Jess and Judy answered questions in an online Voice Chat January 17, 2008. Archives are available.

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In Memory of Lenise Petersen ~ October 2, 2002

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in-memory

Lenise’s Original Bio

Lenise, 22 years old, single mother.

After the birth of my daughter I was breast feeding. I stopped, but did not stop producing milk. My doctor told me it was normal. So, I ignored it, and the anxiety, weight gain.

Then I went and saw a different doctor. He ran an MRI and found a pituitary tumor. That was in June. He sent me to my Endo. She diagnosed me with Cushing’s and sent me to a Neurosurgeon.

I’m now waiting to have surgery. I am tired all the time (I have a two year old). I’ve gotten so fat I can hardly move. My face is red all the time, acne too. I can’t sleep at night, and have a hard time staying awake during the day. I’m getting so tired of being tired it’s not even funny.

It’s almost been a year now, since I’ve known, and I really want something done. I want to feel normal again. I want to have the energy to play with my daughter. I feel bad for her. It takes all of my energy just to take care of her all day. I’ve had some depression with this, mainly because of the way I look. I used to look good. Not now. I have major issues with anxiety, I shake all the time. It’s like my nerves are shot to you know where. But, I’m so ready to have this surgery and hopefully get on with my life. I feel like my life is at a stand still waiting for this surgery. So, wish me luck. God Bless.

Lenise

Note: Lenise passed away Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002 at 23 years old, just after her surgery.

Official obituary.

In Memory: Kandace Bankston ‘Kandy’ Kline, September 9, 2007

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in-memory

Kandy’s Story…

Hi, I am a 39 year old woman. I have a putitory tumor for the last fourteen years. the tumor has kiilled my putitory gland. I no longer produce any hormones. I have been on steroids for over fourteeen years and now my organs are getting damage from the steroids. The doctor say I will die if I take them I will die without them. Everytime they try to lower my steroids I catch a severe infection. I usually hospitalized every three or four months because my body won’t fight the infection so They put me in give me iv steroids and antibiotics.

I have gone down hill so bad in the last two years I can no longer work or even clean my house the doctor wants me to limit my walking to two hundred feet that is impossiable to do with children. this disease is so frustrating as no one understand what you or going though. My husband has done a lot of research on it and he a wonderful support system. I had a very hard time finding a doctor that can help me. I was hoping I could find someone to talk too that is going though the same thing.

I live in constant pain and now the depression is so bad. I try so hard to be upbeat for my family but it is a efffort to get out of bed. I am thinking about going to Nashville clinc or maybe the mayo clinc. If anyone knows about these clincs please email me K-K_Kline@hotmail.com I would very thankful for any suggestions.

Kandy passed away September 9, 2007

Kandy Klein long-time member of the message boards passed away September 9, 2007.

Information about services and donation information.

Kendra D, Adrenal Bio

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My journey to writing this bio started in 2014, 34 years old.  I ended up in an emergency room in Denver while travelling with severe and unknown abdominal pain.  It came on rapidly during a lunch and I was taken to hospital via ambulance from my hotel room.  Luckily, in Denver, you get a CT scan when there is something wrong with you.  The source of the abdominal pain was never determined, however, the attending physician gave me a CD of the CT, letting me know they had observed a small tumor on the left adrenal gland and even though likely benign, I should discuss with my family physician in Canada.

Back home, I did let my family doctor know and they dismissed it.  Over the next year, I struggled with weight gain and depression, since a surgery the year prior to treat WPW (Wolf Parkinson Whyte syndrome).  It’s an extra electrical pathway in the heart that produced rapid heartbeat (SVT), starting in 2011.  3 years and several physicians later, I underwent and electrocardiogram catheter ablation after a trip to the emergency room with a heartbeat of over 200 BPM’s for approx. 5 hours.  Luckily the emerg room physician was also a cardiologist.  He recognized a small irregularity on my ECG.  I was admitted that night and had the procedure done in 5 days.  After that procedure, I noticed a decline in my energy.  Started gaining weight and just didn’t feel like I had.  I chalked it up to the rapid heart rate accounting for all the gusto I used to have not being a medical professional and that being the only real change in my life to date.

I went to see a naturopath to discuss my symptoms and try to find some answers.  I was ‘diagnosed’ with adrenal fatigue syndrome which I’m sure many of you have heard of.  And you also know how much the mainstream medical community thinks of the ‘condition’.  Not much.  But the books I’d read fit my situation and I went down the road of hormone replacement therapy.  Months of hard to find prescription pills and creams that are not covered by insurance became the bain of my existence and I wasn’t seeing measurable improvements.  I became frustrated and started cleansing, diets, supplements, and working out regularly.  Between strict diet control and working out hardcore daily (crossfit, running, weights), I started to feel pretty good.  I also started taking antidepressants, which really pushed my energy levels up, especially in the initial 6 months.  Then they would plateau, so I would try something different.  Same thing over and over.

That was the last 3 years of my life.  Trying a new drug.  A new routine.  A new relationship.  A long yo yo of up’s and down’s.  If I gained weight and felt lousy, I attributed it to the pills not working anymore.  A relationship that wasn’t working.  Stress.  Work.  Being a single parent.  If I changed something up, I could lose the weight.  If I looked good, I felt good.  That was the litmus test – never mind the depression and anxiety that was ever present.

In 2018, I began to put on weight.  I began to suffer from unmanageable anxiety/depression.  I was so tired, I completely stopped going to the gym.  I went to see the doctor about a new antidepressant.  In the clinic, they noticed my blood pressure was unusually high and started to monitor.  I was prescribed a high blood pressure medication as well as a new antidepressant.  The antidepressant was intense.  I started reading up and what I read scared me.  In conjunction with high blood pressure, I started to really consider that I’m possibly doing more harm than good.  Plus, I was not feeling better like I had in the past.

I quit both the antidepressant and the HBP meds.  Started up with the more natural approach – CBD.  Supplements.  Giving myself a break from hard core exercise.  And reading.  Everything.  In 6 months, I had gained approx. 40 lbs and weighed as much as I had the day I gave birth to my son.  My depression was unmanageable.  I was going through a lot of work/relationship stress as well.  I had tried the ‘chill out’ approach and it simply was not working.  I went back to the doctor, who referred me to an endocrinologist.  I remember bawling in her office bc I felt like a failure and a total loser.  Admitting how my weight had spiraled out of control and how I could not manage my mental health and I’d stopped taking my prescription for HBP – I felt crazy.  She looked me in the eyes and promised to do everything she could to figure out what was wrong.  In that moment, I felt like maybe there was something wrong, maybe I wasn’t crazy.  TBD.

So we spent the next year doing all of the tests.  High cortisol being the constant result.  I started back on a HBP med that acts also a diuretic – which at least helped with water weight.  At the end of all the testing, my endo revealed that she suspected cushing’s syndrome and since we knew there was an adrenal tumor from way back, we re scanned and determined it had doubled in size.  Good chance it could be the culprit, especially if increased in size, it’s a good indication that it is active.  She referred me to one of the best endo surgeons in Calgary and let me know that if her diagnosis did not make me a candidate for an adrenalectomy, the surgeon would not perform it.

I’ve spent the last several months not knowing what to expect.  I think many of you can relate to living in a state of being thankful for an answer but still in disbelief.  I still battle in my head with ‘did I cause this’, ‘is this actually what’s making me sick’, ‘what if I remove my adrenal gland and I never feel good again’, ‘what if the tumor isn’t the culprit’.  I have one last CT scan upcoming Aug 7, prior to setting a surgery date and suspect it will fall within a few weeks of the scan.  I’m looking forward to getting it over with one minute and then feeling really scared the next.

I know I can’t live my life in my current state so I have to proceed with whatever solutions are being offered to me.  That rationale promotes a positive mindset.  But it’s one day at a time.  Some days I feel great, some days I can’t get out of bed.  Still living a yo yo life.  My work keeps me pre-occupied and gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  My therapist helps keep me sane.  No antidepressants.  My family has been a great support.  Most people have never heard of Cushing’s so I just stopped telling people. It is isolating.  People assume I’ve gained weight bc people get fat.  And I have to just embrace where I’m at and not let that affect me so negatively.  This is a rare disease.  I’m excited to share more of this journey on the other side.  These bios have given me such peace of mind over the last several months.  Thank you for listening.

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