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Erin T, Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-location

 

After six years of trying to get pregnant I finally decided to see an endocrinologist who suggested I might have a tumor on my adrenal glands and prescribed by bromocriptine to make it shrink. Two years later I was able to carry a pregnancy to term and delivered a healthy baby girl. After delivery I was never able to breast feed, kept gaining weight, had horrible stretch marks and odd bruising.

One year later I still had not had my period so I went to my OB-GYN. She shot me full of progesterone and estrogen, which did nothing so I went back to the endocrinologist. That day my BP was 173/121 and I weighed 180lbs (I’m 5’4″).

On first sight he diagnosed me with Cushing’s Syndrome and after a series of tests over many months it was confirmed.

On November 25, 2011 I had surgery to remove the macro adenoma that had completely consumed my pituitary gland. Ever since then my immune system has been weak and I’m tired all the time. Despite losing weight and exercising and eating right I just can’t seem to feel good.

I take .88 Levothyroxine, 2.5 prednisone, 2 doses of desmopressin and hormone replacement. Most days I wish I had never had the surgery. But, through it all I have done my best to live.

6 weeks after my surgery I went back to grad school and graduated on-time with honors, but since then I haven’t been able to keep a job outside of the home because I get sick if someone sneezes within 100 yards of me, and lets not even talk about the stomach bug.

I’ve been hospitalized twice and now carry injections of dexomethozine and anti-nausea meds with me everywhere I go. I’ve told my doctor about my fatigue and he refuses to prescribe Growth Hormone, but I’ve learned to suffer through it.

 

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Dennis O, Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-gland

 

In February 2013 I was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease.

Over the previous 6 years, I have suffered from a variety of problems including Deep Vein Thrombosis and a Pulmonary Embolism, compressed fracture of the spine, torn achilles (right leg), ruptured achilles (left leg), several ulcers in my left leg and one in my right, hypertension, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation. Lesser injuries included a number of torn hamstrings and groins. Prior to that, I had no significant medical problems.

I also put on 14kg (30 pound) in weight. Up to 1997, I was a little overweight but very fit, taking part in distance running including a half marathon. My training routine lessened and I put on weight. The injuries I was having limited my ability to train.

My legs become very weak and have that ache that you get from working out – something which I have had to discontinue due to the weakness. Climbing stairs in particular was difficult. I have stenosis of the spine which causes sciatica which is very painful. I have lost strength in my arms as well as my legs.

When I was diagnosed with possible Cushings, I had never heard of the disease and of course got busy on the internet and read about the symptoms, causes and cures. I found myself hoping to have the disease which is bizarre given the seriousness of the condition and the havoc it causes on the body. The fact that it is not only curable but most of the problems are reversible offers me a quality of life that I thought I could never have again. (since then it has become apparent only some of the problems are likely to reverse)

I underwent testing to confirm I had Cushing’s syndrome and the particular form I had (turned out to be Cushing’s disease). I had extremely high levels of cortisol and a combination of the cortisol and dexamethasone used for testing sent me into a manic state. I had turns where I couldn’t speak. These lasted for about a minute and I had many of them.

I went by ambulance to hospital by ambulance and was admitted. I remained in hospital for 9 weeks, the first 5 of which I was in a manic state. I can’t remember much about that but from all reports I was a very difficult patient. The medical staff tried a variety of treatments until they finally found one which worked.

While was happening, I had several MRI scans on my pituitary gland which failed to find the tumour.

Since then I have had the MRI’s repeated on two occasional but to no avail. This is a common problem with the disease because the tumour is very small

My spell in hospital weakened me to the stage where I was in a wheelchair. I took on rehabilitation and am now walking unaided, albeit with a limp. The pace I can walk is slow but gradually improving. All in all my health has improved dramatically.’

My doctors have decided that they could not operate on me due to my poor health and the fact that they could not find the tumour. As a temporary measure I am taking ketoconozole to control my cortisol levels. That is working well and I am being to show signs that the symptoms of Cushing’s are reversing (loss of weight and, moon face going and strength returning).  However, my cortisol levels are at the high end of normal and this appears to be limiting the pace of my recovery.

Ketoconozole is not a drug which should be taken for long periods, and we are hoping that the tumour shows in future scans. An added complication is that the original manufacturer has ceased manufacture and I am reliant on a generic I am importing from India.

I have returned to playing golf generally twice a week. I have been attending a specialised gym which works on strengthening my back. The pain is becoming less frequent and less in intensity.

I do suffer from excessive swelling in my legs, particularly the left leg where I had the DVT. My vascular surgeon operated on this to improve blood flow. He believes that the current swelling is due to poor circulation and has prescribed full length stockings to be worn during waking hours. He also recommends a targeted exercise program to improve the blood flow in my leg.

I have recently started working with a physio and this seems to be helping.

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Don S (Don S), Undiagnosed Bio

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My name is Don.  I am 35and I am a career firefighter with 14 years on the job.

10 years ago I was injured badly at a fire and almost immediately noticed a change.  My skin began peeling off and I began gaining weight.

I knew about cortisol and its effect on the body because my mother passed away from Cushings at 46 after years of taking steroids for respiratory problems.  My doctors dismissed my issues as stress following the trauma.  My accident happened in March and by July, I had gained  80lbs.  I was constantly fatigued and developed acne all over my body.

A year or so later, I began having stomach issues.  Nausea and Reflux were with me everyday.   I continued to have high serum cortisol throughout the past 10 years but each time, it suppressed to just below the 1.8 threshold with dexamethasone so my doctors just dismissed it as stress.

In 2012, the dizziness and blurry vision began.  My spine is weak and my joints hurt constantly.  My legs are so skinny and weak, they shake when I stand and my heart races from any exertion.  I managed to continue working until a year ago when I accepted that I was putting myself and others at risk.

For the past year I have been paying guys to work for me in order to keep my job and insurance.  I worked hard for this career and promotions and I will not give it up without a diagnosis and confirmation that I can no longer do the job.

I have a new Endo now and she ordered a Urinary Cortisol.  It came back 4X higher than the upper limit.  She is convinced I have Cushings and it isnt just stress.  I have the following symptoms.  Weight gain of over 100lbs, Long purple stretch marks on my flank, side, and groin, Blurry vision, tachycardia, weak limbs, tremors, anxiety, puffy face, dizziness, stomach issues.

I am hoping after 10years of suffering, I may finally have my answer and that I can begin getting my life back.  I have a wife and 3 year old that really count on me and all I have been doing is letting them down.  Our lives are on hold because we do not know what the future will bring.

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Adrienne, Steroid-Induced Bio

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Another Golden Oldie.  The last update Adrienne submitted was October 7, 2005.

~~

I recently wrote this and thought it is pretty good for a bio as it explains the diffrent types of diagnoses and problems I have, and not just Cushing’s. I can get very technical in my writing but this is not. Somehow, I find enough brain power to write; and since it’s been so long since I was first diagnosed with Cushing’s, I do know a lot of meds, etc. And kidneys. Ha. Always happy to help see email at bottom. Thank you MaryO!

I. In the Beginning

I’ve fought against this for so long that now, at the precipice of acceptance, I am reluctant even to write the words that are playing havoc with my mind. Three words, or one if you prefer the modern version- well, in a minute. I can’t say them yet.

Asthma before-after

Asthma before-after (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past eleven years I have been dealing with the mental effects of my illness. The illness and mental manifestations began as soon as I ingested my first corticosteroid pill while living in Indiana in 1994. Given to me for severe ‘adult onset asthma’ the steroids were the result of many emergency room visits, failed ‘breathing treatments’ for said asthma, and most probably the doctor’s unwillingness to be ‘bothered’ with such a common ailment as asthma and as such not inclined to research my symptoms further. I had never had any signs or symptoms of asthma in my 22 years of active living. I loved hiking, tennis, volleyball, basketball, you name it, I most probably did it at least once.

During this time of breathlessness and pain from breaking two ribs while violently coughing, I became severely depressed. I didn’t recognize it at the time, at least not until the asthmatic symptoms receded (due to the steroids or simply time, I do not know). I had been working three jobs for the holidays, one more than usual. I was a typical workaholic in low-paying dead-end jobs as was fitting my age and lack of degreed education. I quit all three jobs, hoping to move out of state to stay with my father for a while. I wanted a change, I was still on the steroids, was still sick and growing increasingly scared. I didn’t want to move back home to my mother in California: I felt she had had enough of me and deserved a break.

With my truck packed and my three jobs no longer a worry, I was all set to leave. I was looking forward to getting to know my father better. But the night before I was to leave, my stepmother called and said it just wasn’t a good time to come stay with them. My father had broken his ankle and was undergoing extensive surgery and therapy; but all I wanted was to be with him. I was not just discouraged from visiting, but was told in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome ‘at this time.’ I was devastated.

I moved in with a friend and I just lost it. I stayed for days on end in my bedroom, my only companion my cat, Fantine. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was writing feverishly on my old Brother word processor. I wrote the most horrible things- stupid stories, neurotic thoughts and poems. There was no internet for me at the time; no way to research information on my symptoms and medications but for the public library, which I didn’t even consider visiting as it involved leaving my bedroom. I even answered some personals and went out on two dates- something I would never normally have done. What a disaster! So much for going out… I became even more solitary.

It’s important here to note that I was once considered quite stable. Unlucky in love and a poor judge of men in general, still, I was happy on a day-to-day basis. I smiled at everyone, I laughed– I mean really laughed– regularly. I was considered ‘bubbly’ if not downright ‘giggly.’ In fact, ‘Giggles’ was my nickname! I had nearly forgotten that. I always saw the positives in any given situation, I never was depressed or sad. Well, almost never. I really enjoyed living; I got up each day with a can-do attitude. I cheered up those around me and was the optimistic one in my family as well as among my friends.

Those three words… nope. Forget it. I’m not even close to being able to write them here. Not yet.

Back to Indiana, where each day seemed bleaker and more hopeless than the one before. I broke out in hives on my face, upper arms, neck and chest. The hives stayed for eight years. Each day I tried to go without my steroid pill; and each day I went a little bit crazier. A little bit more depressed. A great yawning chasm seemed to exist between me and the rest of the population. My friends were worried about me, but not really worried enough to intervene as they didn’t really care about me. All they could see was that I was no fun anymore. Pity.

I stopped going to nightclubs which I once enjoyed. I lived on macaroni and cheese and soup from a can, barely eating enough to survive and always when my roommates were out of the house. I began to take more steroids to combat the hives, as were prescribed by doctors, never knowing that they were slowly killing me. The depression was so severe that if my roommates were in the house, I would urinate into a cup and keep it in my closet to dump out once they left. And at the time, it didn’t really seem crazy to me!

My image of myself really took a nosedive; my hives were hideous. I had always been complimented on my flawless complexion. I tried everything the doctors gave me, never thinking that the cure was so much worse than the symptoms. I was suddenly gaining weight, yet I honestly was eating less than I had before these symptoms began. I just figured that since I was no longer exercising the weight gain was to be expected. My hair had always been wavy and full of bounce, but it started to get curly- really curly. In the span of two months, I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. I remember removing the mirror from my room and never bothering to approach the one in the bathroom.

I eventually took a job with a do-it-yourself warehouse as a head cashier. I had to pay for the new truck I had and my roommates were the most fiscally irresponsible people I have ever known, so I had to earn a living. Unfortunately, I was too far behind to ever get ahead and knew that I needed to go home to my mother because I was just getting sicker. I had no energy, I slept whenever I wasn’t at work. I was having trouble concentrating, had problems with coworkers as I was a bit- how shall I say- ‘pissy.’ Conversely, I would break into tears for no reason. But the day I was to drive back to California, my truck was repossessed. I booked a flight, packaged up my boxes for cargo shipment, and was gone within a week.

What followed were two years of emergency room visits for ailments I had no previous experience with. I was gaining weight still, I had hives, headaches and such a deep sadness I didn’t know what to do, where to turn. So, I just continued on the path of work. Work had always seen me through the day; work took up the hours, made me feel needed and like a responsible citizen. Through it all, I continued to take the steroids, eventually upping the dosage according to how I felt each day.

The better jobs I landed, the better medical insurance and more willing I was to submit to seeing specialists. I had been misdiagnosed as having SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus); FMS (Fibromyalgia Myofacial Pain Syndrome); and being just plain old crazy. My symptoms were starting to range quite literally in the dozens, and the list only grew as the years passed. (I was going to post it but chickened out- it’s mind-boggling, even to me).

Back to those three words. Nope, still can’t say them. Maybe tomorrow, when I shall continue my self-indulgent pity party. No, it isn’t even that: I’m trying to get to the heart of the matter but I’m taking the scenic route

II. Cute Professors and Straight Jackets

So, how about those three little words- am I any closer to disclosing them today? Maybe a little; I’ve thought of nothing else really. But for now, where was I?

I re-enrolled in college. A poor high school student, I excelled in college and enjoyed it immensely; especially the literature courses. There was this one professor too… ah never mind; this isn’t about him [giggles]. So, as of 1996 I was taking fifteen semester units of college coursework, working at least forty hours a week, and still trying to figure out what was wrong with my body. Then, the humdinger of all symptoms began worming its way insidiously into my life- the dreaded ‘uncharacteristic rage’.

It started out as simply ‘flying off the handle’ at the little annoyances in life but was so uncharacteristic of my personality that my family noticed. In fact, I was fired from a job due to this anger of mine. Sure, it wasn’t something that was said but I stayed on, daring them to fire me when I knew my position was not working out. I wasn’t working out. I saw a doctor, not a shrink mind you, just a normal primary care physician. He prescribed an anti-depressant, and even though I no longer felt crushingly depressed but angry he said it would help. And the medication did help; I was grateful for it because I hadn’t known such an angry existence since my marriage, and it scared me.

Who was I? What is happening to me? I didn’t have the answers, but I refused to give up looking for them. So, I continued my search for an accurate diagnosis by seeing all manner of specialists, and still no one knew what was wrong with me. The tests were getting too invasive and painful to be so well tolerated; I was losing hope. In fact, I think I gave up just a bit at this time; pushed it all away to a dark corner where I couldn’t see it staring me in the face.

Time passed in much the same way until the year 2000. I was firmly ensconced in a position of great authority (well not really- I was a high level secretary) at an ivy league college (yes, really). I loved this job! I finally had a position with very low stress, wonderful coworkers and a great boss. I had the perks that most people wished they had (free tea and goodies every afternoon, retreats to fabulous places, freedom to come and go as I pleased, all the time off I needed for appointments, and a helluva benefit package from day one). I ADORED the professors I worked with on a daily basis. The intelligence and wit of the staff, faculty and students was refreshing and really allowed me to be myself. I even got opportunities to edit books from the professors, something I considered to be extremely fun. And the money was the same amount I was getting practically running my former city’s IT department (my manager had a problem showing up to work and the ‘sys admin’s’ weren’t too brilliant on the day-to-day operations of the department, as you can imagine).

However happy at work I was, I continued to gain more weight. I was a little bit horrified and determined to exercise- and so I did. Rather, I tried. Everything. And nothing worked. Not only did I not lose weight when I should have, I was again out of breath. I had to use the elevators on campus, which was terribly embarrassing as most people on campus were young, fit kids (not to mention professors ) and I couldn’t even make a delivery to a symposium without frequent stops to catch my breath. By this time, I had a nurse who was frantically testing me for any and all ailments she could think of; she cared but still, nothing clicked. I was on about 15mgs of Prednisone then. Prednisone is the corticosteroid I was given; the one that still unbeknownst to me was killing me. Slowly.

Bet ya didn’t know I was half dead. Okay so it only thought it was going to kill me. Personalization of inanimate objects hmmm [scratches her head] uh-oh call in the cuties with the straight jackets if you must, but this is how I deal.

I’m really getting closer to uttering those three words… I really am.

III. He Didn’t MEAN to Forget Me

Now I want to shout the three words from a mountain top; I am tired of skipping around and through them. But I must bring this to the current day before I can do that, or those three words simply won’t mean anything.

My health came to a crises point, as such things eventually will, just four months into my wonderful job with cute professors and tantalizing bennies. For two months I had been in and out of emergency rooms, even going so far as to switch health insurance plans to try to get some decent care. It was said I had pyelonephritis, just a fancy word for a kidney infection. My kidney hurt so much, but I was used to such agonizing pain and continued to work while taking all the antibiotics I was given faithfully.

Soon the nausea, fevers and other signs of severe infection caught up with me and I went to the emergency room again, this time receiving an injection of a new, very strong antibiotic. The wanted to admit me but I refused. It wasn’t until the following week, about two months into the infection, that I allowed myself to be admitted. I knew it wouldn’t be fun and the tests were bound to be extensive because I only have one kidney. Yes, I had a congenital birth defect of extra tissue growth in my right ureter, the tube that drains to the bladder. I suffered through the pain of a diseased right kidney until, pregnant and in increasing pain at the age of sixteen, I was properly diagnosed and scheduled for surgery- but only three months after my daughter was born. That was fifteen years ago.

Nuclear imaging tests proved to be inconclusive, and no one knew what was causing such pain and infection in my remaining left kidney. A specialist was brought in from another hospital to assist the puzzled internists treating me. In the meantime, I was undergoing serious personality changes. I was angry, often belligerent and on so many medications for pain that I figured I just wasn’t myself. I was eventually given morphine, but it scared me because it didn’t work. Nothing would stop the pain.

I felt like I had ants crawling all over my skin; my thoughts were seriously disjointed, more so than would be expected with the medications. My family was scared of me, and for me. My doctor said there was nothing wrong with me, I was given every test in their charts and my kidney was fine- it was just a bad infection. But the medical history of my past was impossible for him to grasp, and he refused to consider that anything other than depression, weight gain and a kidney infection were present. He was only angering me to the point of boiling rage, so I completely ignored him as my mother fought for me. Apathy was my middle name, as I retreated to my own internal hell.

I hadn’t slept for than four days when my neighbor decided to play with my mind. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. Suffice it to say that after the Urologist specialist told me he couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with my kidney (but that he was concerned about my overall health), my mother bundled me up and despite my protests had me discharged. I wanted to stay and fight with the gang-banging girl next door. She woke me up from my first sound sleep in over four days! I was ready to kill her.

What had occurred while I was in the hospital was later revealed to me as an adrenal crises. In addition to that, I had a psychosis brought on by the adrenal crises, and a severe allergic reaction to the anti-nauseants used to keep me from damaging my kidney by throwing up so violently. It was also thought that my immune system was very weak from the years of taking corticosteroids (did you know they are used to shut down the immune system in transplant patients to prevent rejection?) At the time, I was truly as clueless as everyone else.

I went back to work for three days and it was obvious to everyone I wouldn’t be able to work until a proper diagnoses was found. I was exhausted; I had zero energy. My head was so fuzzy it felt like I was underwater, trying to do my job which was normally easy, yet suddenly seemed impossible. I couldn’t remember names, details, phone numbers even. I remember picking up the phone to call home and not knowing what the number was. They put me on temporary disability. Unbeknownst to me, I had the primo of disability plans and was to all concerned considered a professor, even though I was only a secretary! I was really too out of it to notice at the time how very lucky I was to have worked for such a generous establishment.

I continued to seek answers. I wasn’t given much choice in the matter because in order to continue to receive my benefits I had to be labeled disabled every two weeks. Oh the mountains of red tape I went through! On a return appointment to the internist who saw me in the hospital, I reached an all-time low. This doctor, one who is supposed to help or certainly to ‘do no harm’ said just one sentence to me, but it was a doozie. He said, “You have only to look in a mirror to see where your problems lie.” I wrote him a nice two page letter (faxed of course, then mailed) telling him exactly what I thought of his advice. He was so fired he was nothing but charcoal when I had finished with him.

But those words put me into such a deep, dark place; a place where only fears reigned, a place that I now consider to be the true hell. I was left without hope. I just felt useless. I had to give up my job, my beautiful apartment that I had worked so hard for, my freedom all but gone as I moved in with my mother. I was, oh, twenty-eight (I think).

With my mother’s help, I finally got an accurate diagnosis: Cushing’s Syndrome, exogenous. Such a rare disorder it is said only two in one million people in the world are diagnosed with it each year. All those lovely corticosteroid pills I was taking had caused my cortisol levels to be so incredibly high that my body’s endocrine system was shut down. Cortisol is essentially adrenalin, and without it the body cannot live. But too much of it and it shuts down the adrenal glands (remember, I only have one anyway as the other was removed with my right kidney many years ago).

This massively high amount of cortisol causes the body to be completely unable to regulate its own metabolism; resulting in excess weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and other such wonderfully fun symptoms that I’ll not continue to bore you with the details. Bottom line was, this was not my fault. Back in 2000 when I was diagnosed, the endocrinologist I was referred to ‘just to rule out an endocrine problem’ took one look at me and said, ‘You have Cushing’s syndrome.’ He said we’d do more testing to be sure, but I was a ‘classic case’ and need look no further to the answers I had sought since 1994.

But ah this wonderful doctor whom I adored made a very bad, bad mistake. This doctor put me on the corticosteroid dexamethasone to see if my adrenal gland would suppress the drug. But the drug ‘dex’ as we call it is five times as potent as the steroid I was already taking, prednisone; and he, uh, forgot to take me off the drug. The test is only ever run for a maximum of two days. In addition, the test should only be used for other forms of Cushing’s (like those that have brain tumors and adrenal gland tumors) and not for exogenous, or steroid-taking Cushing’s such as I have. I was on this highly potent drug for two months and it was killing whatever endocrine system I had left. It was later found out that the doctor was on loan from another hospital, and his mistake just caused me to receive an updated diagnoses- from exogenous Cushing’s to iatrogenic or ‘doctor caused’ Cushing’s. It is thought that without this mishap I would have recovered normally from the illness through the timely and slow withdrawal of the corticosteroids. As it was, it nearly killed me.

During this time, I was unable to sleep for more than one hour at a time, and for a maximum of three hours a day. This lasted for three months straight. Hard to believe isn’t it? Such sleep deprivation was not allowing me to recover. I was in constant pain from the extreme edema (swelling from water retention) that I was on painkillers around the clock. I gained a total of one hundred pounds in two month’s time; without overeating! I developed a hallmark symptom of Cushing’s: deep, purple colored stretch marks known as straie. The scars from this straie will always be with me. They are like potholes in my once smooth skin. The skin itself is thinned, like that of an older person.

Yes, I considered suing the hospital and the doctor that had complicated an already bad situation. Quite frankly, I just didn’t have the heart or the energy to do anything about it. Besides, he didn’t mean to forget about me. Right? Right. Too bad I didn’t know then what I know now.

I couldn’t get up from my bed because I wasn’t used to being big as a house, so I spent all my time on the living room couch. During my time on the couch, as I like to refer to it, I considered suicide. I had to rethink that as it completely went against all I knew and believed in, religion wise. It wouldn’t have been a nice thing to do to my mom either, the only one who always believed in me and was always there. Through the pain, through all the tears, she was there. She’s still there for me, every single day. My father helped me a lot in this as he too knew such extreme pain.

But this life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be if it could take a healthy, normal girl, and turn her into a decrepit old woman before the age of thirty. Right? I mean, what kind of justice is there in that? They even gave me a wheelchair and a cane when the steroids ate through the ball joints of my hips. Of course, I refused to use them. I still won’t. So, I had to find that justice; figure out why I got this illness, what I had to learn from it, so I could move on with living. This isn’t living you know- it’s existing. Surviving.

So, I withdrew into my mind to search for the answers. After all, I no longer had work to fill the hours with. I had to find something to do. I became obsessed with reasoning out my illness and my continued existence. I mean, people younger than me were dying from Cushing’s. Mother with four kids, kids… just people dying from something I had, too. It was and is such a sad motivator to live. I thought my past pain and subsequent healing from the removal of my right kidney was sufficient for one person to go through, but I realized I was wrong. So wrong.

Maybe now those three words have retreated just a bit; further into the back of my mind where they are safer for not having been spoken this day. A dear friend told me today that people would be touched by my writing this series. I don’t know about that, but I hope so. I think it’s pretty obvious I’m doing this for me but God knows I’m not the only one who can understand such soul angst. Through different reasons, and many seasons, we all remain able to learn from the hell that life can sometimes be. But then, this isn’t about my physical health, it’s about those three damned words.

IV. Revealed: Three Blasted Words

I spoke those three blasted words to someone very dear to me today. He wasn’t surprised; why did I expect him to be? I’m glad though. It was a hurdle; but on to the story.

Since first being diagnosed in 2000, I’ve been through a lot of changes. I have ‘latched’ onto people that have proven to be untrustworthy. Yes, I did that before but not to such an extent. I seem to lack the judgment I once had, unable to build it further as would befit my age. I haven’t ‘grown’ in ways I believe I would have without Cushing’s. See, I think the Cushing’s has tripped a wire in my brain- and I’ve no idea how to fix it. If I can. Or, if it will happen magically when I am well, or at least completely detoxed from the steroids.

Steroids are known to change the chemistry in the brain. They eat healthy brain cells, much as, say, marijuana will; hence the medically recognized states of confusion, memory loss and lack of concentration and cognitive abilities. If a ‘Cushie’ (which is what we Cushing’s patients refer to ourselves as, and consider an endearment) is in adrenal crises, psychosis can be present, and a confused state is the norm. An adrenal crises occurs when there is a sudden ‘dip’ of cortisol in the body, usually from a stressful event as the cushie body cannot distinguish from good and bad stress, and the body is not able to secrete hormones accordingly.

But this fascination with the inner workings of my mind is new to me. Not that I only just started looking within for answers without, but that I am aware of it. Aware that is isn’t quite… normal. I dismissed the doctors who once said it was ‘all in my head’ with good reason; it isn’t all in my head, it is real, this Cushing’s. But there’s more to it than that. This brings me to those three blasted words. Well, I really shouldn’t rush at this point. They’re coming no matter what (like a Mack truck head-on, more like).

Ah, what the hell they’re only words: ‘Manic Depressive Disorder’. ‘MDD’. Or, the one-worded definition ‘Bi-polar’. There. I said them. I’m crazy, in a way. Extreme highs and extreme lows: who would have ever thought what I’ve been feeling isn’t normal? Not I. It isn’t as easy as taking a pill to regulate the moods of this thing, because they don’t always work. I have no medical insurance. Still, I have found a good psychiatrist and shall pay to be labeled with this… this… ‘MDD’; because I can’t not be treated, now that I’m aware of it. I have to try to get better; try to be able to function on a more even keel. If not for myself, then for those who care about me!

I just never considered this. I always thought I was oh, you know, obsessive a little bit, compulsive a lot, and more introspective than most as my illness and solitary life demanded. But the evidence is conclusive, at least to me. My mind is not helping my health; such extreme highs and lows bring about their own stress, and my body already cannot function well without regulating good and bad stress on a daily basis. But I do know that I won’t continue to treat this as something that will one day go away; I need to be courageous in the face of such adversity and just deal with it. Being open about it is, I think, the first step. Perhaps, hopefully even, the hardest step.

And, so I am open. This… this angst-ridden pity-party writing is how I deal.

What else did you think the three words would be? [smiles]

AND, a little word [ha ha] about my struggle for Social Security:

Well I had my social security appeals hearing on July 15. So I think I can finally talk about it now. I first applied oh four years ago. I had to reapply two years ago or has it been three? Anyways. So I had been denied on paper four times to get to the hearing. I had appeared twice before the judge. Once, I wasn’t prepared and she said get an attorney. Second time, I had moved and lost my attorney so then I moved back she said go get an attorney I will reschedule you. So I did.

The attorney assured me she would get records that were more up to date. She did not do so. When asked if there was new information by the judge, she said no. Anyways, my diagnoses on paper are: Fibromyalgia (which I don’t have), Cushing’s Syndrome, Avascular Necrosis of both hips from steroids. Oh and glomolumerlonephritis something like that of the kidney. I don’t know if I have that, but my last doctor put it down on their paperwork.

So, the judge had an Endocrinologist on the phone to ‘consult’ her and had previously stated that he was only to help her understand the medical things, but that’s NOT how it turned out. I have never seen him before! He knows nothing of me. Her questions were really skewed. She was looking for documentation that doesn’t exist I mean COME ON I haven’t had medical insurance since 2002! How the HELL am I supposed to have MRI’s of the hips that are newer, xrays, all these tests do they THINK I’m made of money?

The endocrinologist wasn’t too bad. He said obvsiouly being given a dexamethasone suppression test for 4-8 weeks [I can no longer remember!!!] it had made my Cushing’s so severe and most of my problems could be attributed to it. He couldn’t at all understand how it happened but I told him- the doctor forgot about me and told me to keep taking the dex. I didn’t know any better. Then the doctor left the hospital, and left me.

He said according to my records my blood pressure was under control. Well it is NOW- I was hospitalized within the past year in CA and given emergency medicine to lower it as it was so out of control. How is THAT controlled? Oh but WAIT the records weren’t there that documented this. Wow- what a neat thing to find out.

My diabetes I should be on medicine for and I could go down on the steroids quicker, according to this doc who doesn’t know me. Huh? I only GET diabetes when I go down or up! Otherwise, giving me meds would only screw with the sugars. I cannot take their ferking Glucophage it makes my IBS off the charts no way, no how I’d rather inject insulin. I do think some injections when tapering might help but HOW I ask can I do THAT without medical supervison? I can’t. I’m not God!

He said I could work sedentary work. Ack ack ack! I told him of my extreme swelling but heck I guess if someone is dumb enough to hire my sorry ass then they could also give me an expensive fully padded ottoman like I have under my desk. To limit swelling. Not to mention that I’d have to call in sick about 99% of the time. Sure, I’m an employers DREAM.

But then he said I would have lifelong problems relating to the Cushing’s and steroid use. He doesn’t understand the kidney at all. The severe IBS is ‘controlled’ with Codeine even tho I told him nothing else works only codeine and I cannot take enough to control it really as it turns me into a zombie. Didn’t listen.

Said my hips when last tested were in stage I [thank GOD but that was 4 years ago!] and would likely progress as it usually does and I could expect lifelong operations. Like DUH, ya think?

But the whole problem was… the judge thought I have REFUSED to go down because I was using steroids like an addict. She asked the endocrinologist if anyone would use them recreationally AH HA HA HA! Maybe she thought I was using anabolic steroids? Yeah, I’m a jock all right. Sheeesh.

The Endocrinologist said with a giggle, “No. Can’t think of one person EVER wanting to take steroids.”

And my attorney? Basically, she said nothing. NOTHING. She hugged me at the end, and said she was sorry it didnt look good. Really? Ya think? I even spoke up for myself very respectfully and intelligently, but the bottom line is no one will listen to me; I’m only the patient.

I didn’t want their fliping money. I get a stipend until I’m 65 or no longer disabled from a private company. But NO ONE will insure me. I just wanted medical and dental. I need medical, I need dental. And I need a divorce. Erm nvm.

Appeal? HA HA HA I had to laugh at my attorney. Not with her sorry ass. She’s a nice lady folks but she doesn’t get paid unless I win. And I’m quite sure I did not, but will find out formally within ninety days. The evidence was what they wanted. I have had no doctor in my corner for two years. I have had to doctor myself.

All I can afford to buy are the main prescriptions I really need. Everything else… it just isn’t going to happen.

Ain’t life grand? It’s ok. I’ll get thru this. I want to go down now but I don’t want to get crazy in the head, or too exhuasted in the body before my sister comes down to visit me on 8/11. I’m looking forward to it.

How does anyone get disability without records??? I guess I could try on my newly diagnosed bipolarism. [shrugs]

UPDATE: I found an advocate. Waiting… to be formally denied. Current dosage: 20mgs. I went down. Yes! AND, I fixed my puter. Yay.

POEM: I’m a Fruggie Queen

I take big drugs and I can not lie
You normal people can’t define
The pain I got that makes me pop a pill cause I’m ill
Got codeine freaking me out
Dark dreams, blank stares and that ‘flat affect’
Cool for when I need to shut up
Talking everyone’s ears off
Normally ‘Speedy Gonzalez’
Stupid mouse doesn’t even do frugs
I mean drugs [eyes cross]

There’s serious frugs for days
Excruciating; pain unending. Stronger frugs
Endocet. Yeah
I take big drugs and I can not lie
How many druggies
Have fallen from doctor’s prescriptions
Fruggies I declare
Constantly cautioned for
Popping pills
But they’re so needed to drown out those

Normal people, un-frugged
Envious their vitamins
The only drugs they take, their bodies, minds, whole
My neurons forcing more
Drugs when I once needed none
Ability to function impaired
Big drugs can not lie; their purpose not evil
Lucky you, I see
Frugs really aren’t funny.
Oh well. I’m a fruggie queen, what did you expect?

POEM: Red Tape Kills

I exist on self-enforced life support, but I’m not dead.
Each day dutifully swallowing poisoned pills.
Heart and mind- basic functions- supported in this life not fully led.

Finding joy in once normal things, hopes for a life ahead.
Bottled dreams deaths only antidote, my anthem is still:
I exist on self-enforced life support, but I’m not dead.

The world whizzes past me, medicated.
So weakened, even fun is exhausting. Pain alone enough to feel
Heart and mind- basic functions- supported in this life not fully led.

Stubbornness saves me, as I will not dictate my life from Death’s bed.
Good intentions rarely enough for others to see what’s painfully real-
I exist on self-enforced life support, but I’m not dead.

Without insurance, there’s no doctor’s guidance, no caring if I live or die. Med-
students know nothing of my complexities- they simply write on my unpaid bill:
Heart and mind- basic functions- supported in this life not fully led.

Without my knowledge and persistence, my epitaph would read instead:
Here lies Adrienne- So young, such a shame. Left behind a hill of bills. Red tape kills.
I exist on self-enforced life support, but I’m not dead.
Heart and mind- basic functions- supported in this life not fully led.

I have TONS of writing, mostly about Cushing’s. If you’re interested, I am usually known under the following link at All Poetry:
http://allpoetry.com/AdrieWonky

Regular email addy is: fayrenysa-boards@yahoo.com

Update October 7, 2005

I have received a very basic health plan insurance through my state. It covers appointments and medications which is more than I’ve had these last three years, so I am happy. I do not know that it really covers hospitalization or many tests, but we shall see.

When I was at the urgent care for pneumonia last week, the doctor there told me where the nurse that I love is now practicing. He helped me get off a lot of medications that were hurting my kidney and since, I have been had fewer infections and almost no kidney pain. He quit his old practice I was seen at about one and a half years ago; I was never able to find him again.

Anyways, he opened up his own medical clinic complete with internist, and two other doctors. So, I called my disability worker and she told me to ask what plan the practice takes. So I called my nurse’s office and left a message to see what plan he accepts, and he called me RIGHT back. He was SO excited to hear from me. He said he’s been putting ads in the local newspapers in hopes I would find him (and other patients of his, of course). Knows the doctor I saw that gave me his card. He would love to treat me.

Told me to ask for the ‘family care’ plan so I called my disability worker back and I’m all setup (they just have to do the paperwork)!!! I made an appointment with my beloved nurse for 10/25/05. I cannot believe I get to go to a doctor and have meds again for nothing! Well, some are 3.00 and others are 2.00. And he knows Cushing’s of course and he looks forward to treating me. How… wonderful a feeling that is to hear. He is a nurse by choice; the practice is his. He has over 25 years in the medical field; we talk medications like two old friends. I’m so happy!

I change names often, so I will just update this as I can. My current website address link is: http://allpoetry.com/poets/Fix%20it%20Fae. I write there. Some funny, most sad. Lurkers welcome lol.

Renee (Renee), Pituitary Bio

1 Comment

pituitary-location

I am really not sure where to start! I have struggled with medical issues my entire life. I am 25 born with many anomalies–bladder, cleft lip/cleft palate, dilated aorta, hydronephrosis…the list really goes on and on. Thankfully, I have had great doctors and everything is under control until recently.

I had my first appointment with my new endocrinologist. She listened to my history that I highlighted for her and she actually took the time to *think* about me and all of my little medical issues. It was great to see her brain trying to piece things together. When she was doing my exam, she gently touched my shoulders and made a comment that my shoulders were holding a lot of weight. I said that I’ve noticed and that it makes me feel that I look like a football player. She told me that it isn’t that bad, but then asked me if I have stretch marks on my body. I told her that I do and that I’ve actually noticed that they are getting worse and deeper than usual. She looked at my belly and she said that she wants to get my checked for Cushings Syndrome.

She asked if I was on any steroids, and I am not, but I did have a pituitary cyst in 2008 that was surgically drained (specifically a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst). From what I’ve learned, whenever a doctor works near the pituitary there is a risk that hormones will be effected. This may be what is happening to me.

Last April 2012, I was also diagnosed with a pseudotumor cerebri. It is basically under control and I am on Diamox for it. These are my symptoms for why I really think I have cushings:

» Extreme weight gain

» Moodiness, irritability, or depression

» Muscle weakness– my leg muscles get tired very easily, even just walking a few blocks. It feels like I have shin splints, at times!

» Hypertension–possibly, but undetected because  of I am on meds for other heart anomalies.

» Immune suppression– a possible reason why I got pertussis (whooping cough) during the end of 2012 even after being given the vaccine

» Hirsutism–embarassing, but true

» Hypercholesterolemia–to the point that I am on a medication for it

» stretch marks

» “moon face”–it isn’t too bad, but it is noticable.

» the storage of fat on my shoulders/back

Today I got my blood tested with the dexamethasone. I don’t know how long I have to wait for results, but I am really fighting urges to call my MD immediately. I found this board because I need support. I am nervous for what my future holds because I really don’t want to have ANOTHER brain surgery, but I think all that I can do it be positive and wait. Thanks for this forum!!

MaryO, Pituitary Bio

19 Comments

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 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.

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 | Guest Speakers | 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 enarge.

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 ginuea 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 argenine 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 argenine test is only 90 minutes now instead of 3 hours.

Update June 2, 2006

Wow, what a nightmare my argenine 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 anaesthetic 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 argenine re-test with somehow aggravating my kidneys and revealing this cancer. Before the test, I had no clue that there was any problem. The argenine 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 metasticizing 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 ajuvant 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 pallative 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 travelled 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.

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 the Podcast page of this siteBlogTalkRadio, 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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