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Rachel, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am 31, will be 32 in 2 weeks.

I have been suffering from this medical condition, which I believe to be Cushing’s Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, or Pheochromocytoma, or maybe a mixture of all 3. I have had this for around 16 years, maybe longer, as I have had the classic “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck since I was 9 years old and have always had trouble with my weight. I have been on many diets since mid-childhood.

When I was around 13, I discovered a weight loss supplement, which I diligently took and lost 20 pounds over a 2-year period. I felt the best I have ever felt my entire life. I eventually had to stop taking it, though, due to not being allowed to bring any meds or supplements to my high school. I was not totally thin, but I looked pretty good. But during that first year of high school, my insomnia returned, and the rest of my symptoms started to emerge.

Autumn 1999 (when I was 14): I started getting daily headaches. Sometimes, they were minor, where I could ignore them, and other times they were so debilitating that I had to miss school. Because I wasn’t allowed to bring medication to school, I had to take Ibuprofen every morning as a preventative.

Autumn 2000: I suddenly gained 20 pounds in one month without changing anything in my diet. The fat was especially much around my face, neck, and torso.

Spring 2001: I developed fatigue, loss of concentration or “spacey-ness”, and being easily physically and mentally drained. I lost contact with many of my neighborhood friends, since I avoided lengthy times spent with them, and sometimes wouldn’t be when them at all because of not having enough energy.

Autumn 2001: Thinking I had hypothyroidism, I had my first doctor’s appointment over these symptoms, especially of the weight gain that was getting worse. Nothing showed up in tests, and the doctor wanted to put me on a 900 calorie diet. I never went back.

Summer 2002: My menstrual cycles became irregular, skipping sometimes 2 or 3 months at a time. Finally, they stopped altogether. I also gained another 20 pounds that upcoming school semester (16 weeks).

Summer 2003: I went to another doctor. She put me on birth control pills to get my menstrual cycles back. It helped a little, but they were very light with severe cramping. I gained an additional 20 pounds from the birth control pills and did not feel good. Once I got off of them, my menstruation stopped again, and I never lost those 20 pounds.

Autumn 2003: I went to another doctor from the University of Chicago. He tested various hormones and found that my androgen levels (mainly testosterone) were so high that it was off the charts. He thought that I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so he entered me in several studies he was conducting for people with PCOS. I was given several test medications and had more tests done testing insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, and other things. Nothing came up positive. During that time, I also had an ultrasound done on my ovaries to check for cysts. Nothing showed up. After other tests were done, he concluded that I did not have PCOS, and that I might actually have Cushing’s Syndrome. I couldn’t go back to him, though, as his regular appointments without the studies were really costly. This whole time of the studies lasted till summer of 2004.

I also gained an additional 30 pounds during this time.

>My symptoms of fatigue and loss of concentration continued to worsen, so I had to become a part time student to avoid exhaustion with classes. I felt my worst usually starting around 1 or 2pm, and lasting till around 5pm.

Summer 2005: Diarrhea started abruptly and has been continuing ever since. A year later, I had discovered that caffeine could cause it, so I got off of all caffeine, which alleviated it for a few months. However, it returned shortly after, blossoming into 3 different kinds and becoming worse and more frequent over the years. I used to have it only at night, but now, I have it in the morning as well, and some at night, and sometimes some in the afternoon. I can have even 5 or more bouts of it a day, which makes it difficult for me in any public place. It slows me down in the mornings (as I sometimes have to spend an hour in the restroom) and often makes me late for things.

2006-2010: I have gone to many doctors over this time, each one testing my cortisol, TSH, T3 and T4, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, and insulin levels, and each one coming up with nothing abnormal except high testosterone.

Spring 2009: I developed a candida skin infection that has been reoccurring since then. Antifungals do not take it away, only antibiotic ointments. However, even the antibiotic ointments do not take it completely away, as it keeps reoccurring and showing discoloration in spots where it had been previously.

Spring 2010: Episodes of light-headedness, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate started appearing, ranging anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour in duration. They would come completely at random, sometimes 3 or more times a week, and sometimes not for several months.

2011: I developed slow motility, where it takes hours for my meals to digest. This made it hard for me to get to bed at a normal bedtime like 10pm, since I couldn’t lie down without getting horribly nauseous. This also affected my diarrhea, making it where I have to push to make it come out, since my intestines do not contract much to squeeze it out or they contract very slowly.

Summer and Autumn 2011: I went to 2 doctors in New York who also tested my cortisol levels and catecholamine levels to test for pheocromocytoma, which all came out normal. I also had an MRI done on my brain to check for growths on my pituitary gland. Nothing showed up with that, either. I also went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. My results in those tests also were all normal, and no diagnosis was made.

Spring 2012: My menstruation returned to regular monthly cycles.

Winter/Spring 2013: I suddenly started to become sensitive to cold, so winter became almost unbearable for me. This cold sensitivity has been increasing every year thereafter. Even temperatures in the 60-degree Fahrenheit range make me feel chilled and forced me to dress in double and triple layers of clothing.

Also, around this time, my fatigue reached a new level of severity, making my “dead” time duration between 12pm-6pm.

Spring 2014: My menstrual cycles suddenly changed again, where I had constant menstruation for over 3 months.

2015: My fatigue, again, worsened, making me so tired that I could fall asleep throughout the afternoon and most of the evening. This extreme tiredness would come especially shortly after I would eat a meal, particularly in the midday. This made studying for my classes very difficult and time consuming, since I was so slow.

I also started to notice I could feel a small lump on my upper left side, just below my ribcage. This lump started out the size of a golf ball and has increased to the size of a baseball. It makes me feel nauseous if it’s pressed on with little pressure and hurts when it’s pressed on hard.

My menstrual cycles became irregular again and have stayed that way ever since.

Spring 2016: After getting nowhere with endocrinologists, I went to see a gastroenterologist because of my diarrhea and lump. A CAT scan was done of my abdominal area showing nothing abnormal. In fact, the space where the lump should be in the pictures just shows empty blackness, no organs or growths whatsoever.

Over the course of these years, I have done a lot of my own research and have noticed that my symptoms all match 3 possible conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, and Pheocromocytoma. I am wondering if all these three conditions can coexist in the same body. I know that Cushing’s results from a growth on either the pituitary gland or the adrenal cortex of the adrenal gland, making the adrenal gland produce too much cortisol.

I also know that pheocromocytoma results from a growth on the medulla of the adrenal gland, producing high levels of catecholamines, which, for some reason, does not always show up in a blood test. And I know that adrenal fatigue results when the adrenal glands become exhausted from constantly producing high levels of cortisol during stress that lasts over a long period of time, so they don’t produce enough. So could it be that I have a growth on one of my adrenal glands that extends from the adrenal cortex into the adrenal medulla, causing the symptoms of Cushing’s and pheocromocytoma, while my other adrenal gland has adrenal fatigue? That would make sense why nothing shows up on the tests, because one adrenal gland is producing too much cortisol, and the other is not producing enough. So the two would cancel each other out, yet I could still experience symptoms.

I have gone to 12 doctors over these 16 years, and not a one has ever come up with a diagnosis or even cared about investigating the cause. They resist doing further testing and evaluating, because nothing shows up in the initial blood and urine tests. They don’t even believe me and think that it must be depression or that I am just making it all up. I have been criticized, rebuked, and laughed at by them. I even had a doctor chuckle as he told me, “You better get your periods back or you could get cancer of the uterus”. I have run out of doctors and have basically given up hope.

So where I am right now, spring 2017: My symptoms have gotten so bad that I am almost debilitated. Every day, I always wake up feeling just as tired as I did the night before. No matter how much sleep I get, I do not feel rejuvenated whatsoever. This makes it impossible for me to get up before noon, so often times, I am just eating breakfast/lunch around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I have no energy all day long, and the fatigue makes me unable to do much of anything during the times I am awake. Most of the time, I feel like I am moving in slow motion, because time seems to pass by so quickly. I have to take frequent breaks from mental or physical tasks just to regain some strength and energy. I try to avoid social events, as I don’t have the energy to be with people and get easily stressed and drained. So I am alone much of the time. I can only take one class per semester in college now, as I don’t have enough energy to study.

I have acquired muscle weakness in my arms, hands and legs, that makes it incredibly difficult, and sometimes painful, to go up and down stairs, along with doing the process of going from sitting to standing or vise-versa. I appear as “lazy” since I can’t even get up from my chair to get something that is just a few feet away from me. The muscle weakness in my arms and hands makes it difficult to even do handwriting.

My memory if often foggy, also making studying difficult, as I can’t remember what I am reading. Many times, if a friend asks me what I have done during the last few days, I can’t remember. I can experience a fun event, and I still will forget and have to force myself to think about what it was. I feel like in a fog all day.

Almost every day, I will wake up with a headache, or I will get one over the course of the day. I have to take painkillers, such as Alleve, everyday just to keep my headaches under control. And sometimes, my headaches are so bad that they debilitate me. With those kinds of headaches, taking up to 12 Alleve in one day will not take them away.

Painful diarrhea keeps me in the restroom sometimes up to an hour or longer with each bout. I have to eat my evening meal earlier and earlier, so I don’t have to sit up late waiting for it to digest. I even have to keep from lying down for over an hour after drinking just water.

My immune system is also impaired, so I can get sick easily and have reoccurring candida infections. Colds and the flu hit me hard, often debilitating me for weeks. I take vitamin D3 to enhance my immune system to not get sick as often, since I have to ride the train and bus going to and from school. I have also acquired more allergies over these years. My nose has gotten really sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. I never used to be allergic to animals, but now, I can’t even go into a house that has pets without getting a bad sore throat and runny nose for 3 days after. And in general, I have noticed my lungs and nasal passages are producing more mucous, so I have to keep coughing and blowing my nose frequently, or I get a sore throat.

My menstrual cycles are very light and almost non-existent. I haven’t had one since January, and it’s now the beginning of April.

I am now 100 pounds overweight and can’t lose it, even with the same weight loss supplement I took before my first year of high school. The majority of the fat is around my face, neck, and torso, with some now accumulating on my upper arms and upper legs and pale purple stretch marks on my belly and upper arms. I have the typical fat distribution and appearance of Cushing’s Syndrome.

I still get the episodes where I experience a rapid heart rate, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. During those times, I have to breathe harder and just stop whatever I am doing. I have even almost felt like passing out at times.

I will be graduating in 4 weeks and am very afraid, as I don’t know how I will handle the stress and demands of a full time job, especially if I have to interact with people. I have very few friends, and half of my own family doesn’t believe me when I talk about my condition. I feel ugly and boring and have become very depressed. Is there ANYONE IN THE WORLD who will help me??? I hope someone (like a doctor perhaps) will read this bio of mine, and have compassion in their heart and be eager to help me.

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J, Pituitary Bio

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When I began this journey in 1999, I could only find one link for pseudo cushings on Google. I actually gave up finding anyone else like me until today. I was misdiagnosed several times before 2001, when I started seeing Dr. David Schteingart at the University of Michigan (two hours from my home). I was to the point where I was lactating, was growing facial and chest hair, was covered in acne from stem to stern, was passing out, had gained 30 pounds in one month – all around my stomach, was developing a hump on my back, was losing hair, had lost strength, memory, and self-respect, and some days couldn’t even raise my head.

With high cortisol, prolactin, and DHEA I was told I had PCOS even though I have never missed a period in my life. I was then told I had diabetes because I had had a high sugar read when I was pregnant in 1995. I was treated with birth control pills, anti-depressants, and diabetic meds. All of these things made me worse.

Finally, I had an MRI that showed a 2-3 mm mircroadenoma on my pituitary. Two more MRIs confirmed the findings. I was sent off to U of M to their pituitary clinic to find that my pituitary was fine. They sent me to their endocrinology department where I was diagnosed with pseudo cushings. I spent several years traveling to U of M monthly and began taking oral ketoconazole. Yes, that’s right, the same stuff that’s in Nizoral the dandruff shampoo. It took about two years on this stuff for me to develop an allergy. Dr. Steingart told me to choose: relief from cushings or relief from the hives that covered 90 percent of my body. I chose to give up the hives and have not taken ketoconazole since 2004. This is what I have come to realize: I cannot live in a stressful life. If I miss sleep, don’t eat well, or stress out at work, my cortisol sky rockets and I’m back to square one. This makes working almost impossible. My adrenals start off and don’t stop when I’m in a pressure situation. I am like a Southern Belle with the vapors pretty much all of the time. The only difference is: I want to live my life. I want to return to my career and be supermom; my efforts are continually thwarted by my body.

I’m anxious to hear if there are others like me out there in the world and how they have coped and made a go of it.

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Chelsea, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

 

Hello Cushing’s world! My names is Chelsea. I’m 23, female and waiting for a possible Cushing’s diagnosis. I’m trying to see if anyone has a similar story to mine? I’ve had a hard time finding people in my age bracket with similar symptoms or test results.

Up until I was 21, I was 110 pounds soaking wet. I’m 5’3 and have always been extremely active. I was on the USTA junior tennis circuit for 15 years and then started coaching when I was in college. I also was always on a high protein, low card diet for the majority of my life.

I also went on birth control at age 13 and stayed on it until I was 20. The first 6 months off of birth control, I never had a period but I assumed it was normal after being on the pill for so long so I didn’t worry about it.

Then, about 3 and half years ago, roughly six months after I turned 20, I gained 45 pounds in a matter of 5 months. Completely unexplained when, at the time I was coaching a JV tennis team and in kickboxing class twice a week. Obviously I was utterly shocked and disappointed. I started trying to lose the weight. I cut down from 1500 calories a day to 1200 and amped up my cardio routine.

My period had come back, but I started noticing that it would always come about 8-10 days after I expected it to come. Again, I assumed my body was just getting back into the swing of things after going off the pill.

During all of this, it was time for my yearly physical with my GP. I went to the appointment, had weight and height taken, and was ready to discuss with him the weight problem I got in what seemed like overnight. After walking him through my diet and exercise routine and mentioning my period irregularity, he simply insinuated that I was probable a closet over eater and said “Just eat more celery”.

Still to this day I can not look at celery without my blood boiling. He also said that once I lose the weight, my periods will get normal. Ok. I’m 20 at the time and a little naïve in my thinking that, “he’s the doctor, he must be right”. So I pressed on in my quest to lose the weight. To no avail. Instead, every Wednesday when I stepped on the scale, it showed that I had gained a pound of two.

At this point I’m weighing in at 158. Not grossly overweight but also not a healthy BMI. I also started noticing that my once long, strong jaw line was turning into mush and seriously thought I needed a chin implant. Then I noticed that I was starting to oddly resemble a linebacker. The fat on my back between my shoulders came out of no where. I have worn a scarf almost every day since to hide it. I also noticed that, while the sleeves in my shirts were fitting fine, my pants were not buttoning and I could no longer wear my mid-drift bearing tops without looking at myself and crying.

The depression began to set in. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18 due to boughts of depression followed by highly elevated mood, never quite reaching mania. Also, I was anxious 24/7. I never took antidepressants. Only a mild mood stabilizer and still do to this day. It is the only medication I’m on.

Back to age 20, the next thing I noticed was that I could no longer bear going to school, coaching tennis, and working part time. It was everything I could do to just get out of bed. My back ached, my knees ached, and I was not even recognizing myself in the mirror. As my mother puts it, I started looking like I was stung my a thousand bees rather than putting on weight.

It was about this time, age 21 that I had skin problems. So I went to the dermatologist who diagnosed me with mild eczema on my elbows and tops of my hands. But it hurt. I couldn’t and still can’t stand for my hands to come in contact with anything hotter than warm bath water.

It then came time for my annual gyno appointment. Again, I rehashed everything I had been feeling and noticing and again, I was told it was just “life stress” and to “learn to relax and work hard to lose the weight”. So again, I left feeling like it was all in my head. The next few months is when I started noticing that I was not functioning like I used to. The comment I often made to my mom was ” I just feel like I’m on autopilot all day. Everything seems so hazy.” She began thinking I may have a thyroid problem.

SO I made another appointment with my GP and brought her with me. He adamantly insisted it was in my head and would not order blood work. Again, I left feeling like this was all my fault. A few months later, I accepted a job after graduation and moved to Boston. This is when I first noticed the disgusting black mustache that had taken up residence above my upper lip. I began having to shave it every day and decided well this must have something to do with my period problem, that was still coming farther and farther apart every couple of cycles. Again, more weight gain.

Finally, I hired a personal trainer and nutritionist. I met with the trainer twice a week and the nutritionist once a week. I kept up with this regime for about 11 months. I lost a grand total of…… four pounds. I was defeated to say the least.

During those 10 months I noticed that my vision was so blurry. Every day all day, it was slightly fuzzy but there would be instances where it would get so bad, I could no longer read my phone. I had been diagnosed with refractive amblyopia when I was 5 ( a non-wandering lazy eye) but I had never had blurry vision before. I decided to find a GP in Boston and made an appointment.

I yet again, went through my whole list of symptoms that I had been gradually wracking up over the last two years and again, heard “you need to just try harder to get the weight off and then everything will go back to normal”. UGH. I thought by choosing a female doctor this time that I’d hear something at least a little more hopeful. But no.

A few months later, I took a job with a great company and relocated to Houston. It was this time last year and I had completely missed a period. 84 days with no period. I decided to get serious. I starting tracking my cycle and recording my weight. I met with another GP. Again, I heard, you need to lose the weight. I was done. I resolved that this must be how I was going to spend my life. Fat, achy, depressed, most probably infertile, and going through life in a haze. However, I kept tracking my periods just so I’d get an idea of when to expect them.

Then, in October of 2015, I accepted a dream promotion and relocated to Seattle. I had started having hot flashes in Houston but guessed that it had to just be that Texas heat. However, they continued in Seattle. I was still living life with the sense that maybe all people feel like me. Maybe all people have aches and pains and can’t muster up the energy to do tasks as simple and mundane as cleaning the coffee pot.

Then, I went home over Christmas where I experienced the three most awful hot flashes of my life. My whole body started tingling, I felt like I was being held up to a fire. I resolved then and there that when I got back to Seattle, I was making a gyno appointment and I was not going to leave that office until the doctor thoroughly listened to me and blood work was ordered. I had a “don’t take no for an answer attitude”.

Luckily, by God’s grace I presume, I didn’t need that attitude. My new gyno is now my hero. Immediately after I went through the last three years of my symptoms, he sent me for blood work. He was thinking PCOS or a thyroid problem. Maybe both. A week went by and I never heard from him. He had said he’d call in two days. Finally, after I called the office about 5 times, he called and said he was sorry to keep me in suspense but that he had never seen blood work like mine. He was expecting to see either my thyroid levels elevated or my testosterone/androgen elevate. Instead, those were all in normal range. What wasn’t in normal range was my moderately elevated Prolactin level and my “through the roof” DHEA level. He had consulted four other doctors who were all just as puzzled as he was and recommended he refer me to a medical endo.

In the meantime, I had made an appointment with a new GP. I went to that appointment two days after my gyno called with my test results. I didn’t mention that conversation with my new GP. I wanted to see what her opinion was when I presented her with my symptoms and test results. She too thought PCOS with symptoms but when she looked at my blood work said ” I have no idea but something is not right”. SCORE! I couldn’t have been happier.

After years of feeling crazy and lazy and defeated, I had validation that my body was working against me. She didn’t come out and say “I believe you have Cushing’s” but she did say “When you see the endo, please ask him about Cushing’s”. My guess is, she didn’t want to make that kind of diagnosis. I got my referral to endo and called to make the appointment, it’s for next week. And I found out my gyno had written “possible Cushing’s?” on my referral. So now I’m anxiously awaiting my endo consultation. His assistant called yesterday and asked why no one had order a pituitary MRI yet. I told her that these were the first two doctors out of 7 that I have seen in the past two years who ever even believed something was wrong. She decided we should do the consultation and go from there. Weird to say, but I really hope it is a cut and dry endocrine issue. Then I’d have a real answer. So now, I’m at 173 pounds, 5’3, (obese as I have been told by several non Seattle physicians), with stage 1 hypertension and a multitude of symptoms that I hope are all linked together.

If anyone has had a similar experience, please reach out. I know this is different for every patient but any kind of similarity will be welcomed while I anxiously await the endo appointment next week.

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Kim, Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

Hello, everyone. Below is information from my introduction at Cushings-Help.

“So, about me…I’ve had various non-specific symptoms since I was a child and various specific diagnoses as an adult … hypothyroid, fibromyalgia, adult ADD (misdiagnosed and treated as bipolar from 2005-2008), chronic atrophic gastritis and chronic duodenitis (diagnosed via biopsy), colon polyps, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, sinus polyps, insomnia alternating with hypersomnia (sometimes I sleep up to 15 hours a day), plus an REM sleep disorder (REM sleep latency 287 min/378.5 total sleep time, REM sleep 37.5 min with 12 upper airway resistance episodes during that time) … and the list goes on. I have multiple vitamin deficiencies too (C, D, zinc and iron) and other abnormal blood levels (low arginine and dopamine, and high folic acid, glutamine, glycine, norepinephrine and ornithine). The levels that made some people suspect Cushing’s (vs. PCOS) were my DHEA and Testosterone. My highest DHEA was 1342, lowest Free T is 0.2.

From a CT scan of my abdomen in August 2011, I know there’s a “probably benign” lesion on my liver, a cyst on my kidney (plus medullary sponge kidney), a 10 mm cyst on my ovary and an umbilical hernia. My PCP considers all of this normal. Also, I’ve had four fractures as an adult (two in 2008 alone, one that required surgery) partly because of poor balance and coordination (frequent trips and falls, dropping things, etc.). I was through an EEG and 24-hour EKG because I fainted and collapsed on the sidewalk outside of my kids’ school at the end of December 2011. Those tests were normal.

…In terms of my physical appearance, I don’t have stretch marks but the shape of my face changes almost daily. It’s been hard for me to piece together a visual timeline since I hate having my picture taken and therefore, steer clear of camera lenses. (NOTE: I did manage to put a timeline together…You can find it here. http://cushings.invisionzone.com/index.php?app=gallery&album=408) How sad is it that I have very few pics with my kids because the person I see in the mirror is a stranger! I don’t even resemble the person I once was…my weight just continues to creep up regardless of how little I eat or how much I exercise. The fatigue has gotten REALLY bad lately and my tolerance for any physical activity is gone. I have regular shortness of breath and my blood pressure and heart rates are all over the place. Just the thought of doing stairs to throw in a load of laundry is overwhelming. And after showering to get ready to go somewhere, the only place I’m ready to go is back to bed. I also have a small buffalo hump and my neck is very thick. 16″ necklaces that used to fit comfortably won’t even close now.”

January 30, 2012

Today I had an initial appt with an endo who ordered the following tests:

Gave blood today to measure:

UR/CS/CBC/FT4/T3RIA/TSH (have confirmed hypothyroid; TSH has been remaining high even on 125 mcg Synthroid)

GONAD #1

Thyroid Antibodies

Vitamin B12/Folate

IGF-1 (have two kids with GHD being treated, third child is being tested; endo suspects IGF-1 may come back low)

IGF-BP3

ACTH

Cortisol

Cardio CRP

DHEA (history of high DHEA … 554, 717, 1342)

Ferritin

Prolactin

Free Testosterone (history of low Free T)

Vitamin D, 25 (have confirmed Vitamin D deficiency, rechecking levels)

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B6

Vitamin C

Tuesday, January 31 having DEXA scan of spine, hips, and right wrist and ankle (have had multiple fractures on right side…cuboid (foot), anterior process (heel), elbow, wrist).

Thursday, February 3 having nerve conduction study because of peripheral neuropathy in hands and feet

Friday, February 4 meeting with opthamalogist for vision testing (peripheral vision is diminished, causing dizziness, balance issues, resulting in falls)

I’m waiting for endo’s order to have an MRI of the pituitary. Endo reviewing report from the CT scan I had in December 2011 after my fainting episode/collapes on the sidewalk outside my kids’ school. The report says nothing except there were not hemmorages, so anticipate order for MRI will be coming soon.

This seems like a lot of tests, but I think the endo wants to determine where to dig deeper. The nurse practitioner asked a lot of questions that led me to believe she may have been suspecting Cushing’s and/or growth hormone deficiency. And they were interested in a timeline I’d put together demonstrating my eight month experience on Ketoconazole, which allowed me to shed weight and caused an improvement of symptoms. (The weight went back up and symptoms flared off Keto as posted above.)

I guess I’m in a waiting pattern now as the endo pulls together the results of all these tests and decides which tests will be next. The only next test that was discussed was GH stim testing, again leading me to believe the endo may think he’ll uncover that issue, especially since I have two kids who are GHD. (My son also has smallish pituitary and chiari malformation and my daughter has a Rathke’s cleft cyst.) I know a lot of the standard Cushing’s tests are missing from the above list, but this is a starting point. I’ve never had such a full endocrine workup, so at least I’ll have a baseline.

I’ll post more about my journey as my test results start coming in.

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Shelleyw, Adrenal Bio

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Hi all! I am joining this group because my 19 year old daughter is going through testing for cushing’s.

She has PCOS although she is very thin. Her cortisol levels have come back high on more than several occassions, so our GYN sent us to the endocrinologist.

They have done 2 24 hour urine, Dexa suppression, cortisol serum, ACTH, CBG, DHEA, 2) Salivary tests. This has been ongoing since May. The Endo said that she has failed all of the tests, and she just did a third 24 hour urine and CBG again.

They are really puzzled, as she really doesn’t fit the normal symptoms list(neither did she fit PCOS). They have said that it seems to be adrenal as the ACTH was low and the DST was high. So we are patiently awaiting the results.

She is my only child. I am so afraid. We also have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Magdalena, Food-Dependent Cushing’s Bio

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Magdalena is from Windsor, Ontario (Originally Poland). She has Food-Dependent / GIP-Dependent Cushing’s Syndrome. This means that genetically, she has cells on her adrenals that are only supposed to be in her intestines. They respond to a polypeptide hormone (GIP) that is produced in response to food. So when she eats, the hormone triggers her adrenal glands and they produce cortisol. It is an ectopic response that is ACTH-independent.

A Golden Oldie last updated 01/22/2008.

~~~

Hi, I am 22 years old now, at diagnsis. I have a rare form of cushing’s syndrome called food-dependant cushing’s syndrome. Sometimes it is referred to as gip-dependant cushing’s syndrome. This means that genetically, I have cells on my adrenals that are only supposed to be in my intestines. They respond to a polypeptide hormone (GIP) that is produced in response to food. So I eat, the hormone triggers my adrenal glands and they produce cortisol. It is an ectopic response that is acth-independant.

I am writing this bio because it was very hard to find this disease, and it was like nothing else, even normal cushing’s fit rather loosely.

I began having problems at age 12, but the disease did not “blow up” till I was 19. When i was 12, I started having stomach pains. First, the doctors said it was apendicitis, then my period, then lactose intolerance. This was on and off, and I kept eliminating foods that I thought i might be allergic too.

When I was 15, the problem intensified. I lost my period and my stomach aches grew worse; I noticed that my stomach was quite swollen after a normal meal, and everyone elses was not. I assumed that it was my fault and I should eat healthier.

Unfortunately, the stomache aches grew worse till my stomach swelled even below my breastbone and I could barely breathe. I started eating very little and very thought out proportions of food, often feeling that I was doing this to myself and then feeling that this couldn’t be normal.

At 17, I started getting really annoyed that my face was so swollen all the time and my skin so bad; I thought i was just ugly. I was quite thin at 5’5″ and 105lbs, but with a very swollen face and stomache. This was getting out of control, the pain was worse, and I was getting thinner. My yelled at me in class because I wasn’t jumping high enough and I told her it hurt cuz of my stomach, she told me I was too thin and that I probably had an eating disorder.

I was in so much pain, I would have gone to a doctor for a monkey growing out of my head. I went to the eating disorder doctor, I told her my stomach hurt. She told me I had an eating disorder (no kidding.) I was put into a group where they would feed me. Over the next two years, I was put on many antidepressants, fed weight gainers, but the pain grew worse and I grew thinner.

Eventually, they put me in the hospital where the problem grew much worse. I couldn’t even lay down because the food would come back up to my throat and I started having a problem with constipation. Nausea became a problem; thank God I only threw up once in my life, when I was five and I had the flu. I have never had a high temperature since, or thrown up since. This should have been a sign that something was wrong with my immune system, but no one listened. For some reason, my cholesterol was very high and I had a fatty liver. Needless to say, there was no improvement and I signed myself out after 6 weeks.

I knew there was something wrong. I was 19 and the pain was worse. I left my eating disorder doctor with the same complaint that I had come with. So she said that I had IBS. I knew that couldn’t be it, because it never went away, it only got worse, and it had nothing to do with stress or the type of food I ate. To the day of my diagnosis, I thought IBS was a bullshit diagnosis- we don’t know what’s wrong yet…

At 19 something odd happened, i started gaining weight very fast and my ankles and knees started hurting. I was pushing through the pain to eat because life was hard, but I started gaining weight too fast. I went off to a musical theatre conservatory in Feb 04 and disaster struck. I blew up like a balloon, my face looked awful and my stomach would hurt to the point I would become paralyzed. It hurt to breath and I could barely walk upright sometimes. I came home and we went through the diagnosises; pancreatitis, ibs, psychosis, eating disorder, lupus, diabetes, thyroid and celiac disease.

It looked like celiac disease so I eliminated bread, but little changed. It was winter and I could barely shower and comb my hair because I had so little energy. The weight would come on so fast that my skin hurt to touch, and my eyes were swollen shut. I also thought i was psycho, but a little voice said I couldn’t be.

The next october the same cycle occurred, really quick weight gain, fatigue, sweats, and blurry vision. Independant university study was hard, but I got through it. That May and everything started going down, I could exercise again. However, the fatigue, nausea, stomach pain and occasional flareups were a rollercoaster. I know now that these are signs of adrenal insufficiency because my acth was still suppressed. The flareups made me feel crazy, that i was doing this to myself by eating.

The third time this cycle happened was much more painful. It was sept. 06 and I was going to university again. The bachelor of design was tough and I had to focus so much on staying healthy. Going to the gym everyday to sweat so that my swelling would go down. Watching what I ate, doing an IBS diet. I realized I couldn’t digest fruit or vegetables. I kept going to endocrinologist because I had no period and my dhea was high (which worried my gynecologist), but they all said it was nothing. My stomach aches occurred after eating, and even drinking water. The doctor at my school told me that I should know how to stop eating and drinking (He was a really fat, sweaty guy too). I had constipation for 10 days straight and laxatives barely worked. I had such swollen lymph nodes that I tasted raw blood in my throat and could barely swallow. Needless to say, I came home.

I ended up in the hospital at Christmas. The ER doctor and gastroenterologist both said there must be a endo problem because I had been constipated for 10 days, colonoscopy laxatives weren;t working, and my intestines and bladder was so full they couldn’t see on the Ct scan.

I finally went to an endocrinologist in Toronto, Dr. Rosario Briones-Urbina. I suggested Cushing’s, she said I was too skinny. Though I had just gone from 110lbs to 130lbs in two weeks. She agreed to test me in Jan. The test came out 550 out of a max of 250. She waited three months to do the dexamethasone and it was too late, it was march and my cortisol had gone to 90 (the min. was 60). She said she had never seen such a quick cycle.

I wanted to show her just how fast the cycle was; I took a UFC one day that came out 90, the next day I had a party, ate just like everyone else, but got a paralyzing stomach ache and sweats. I did a UFC the next day and it came out 350 (max 250). She was shocked. She said my symptoms fit an extremely rare form called food-dependant cushing’s. Unfortunately, the testing is not standard and I am waiting for it. After it is done, I will have a bilateral adrenalectomy.

If you got this far in my story, thank you for baring with me. I haven’t found a story like mine and wanted to share it, cuz I spent so much time looking. Over two years, I saw 24 specialists. I don;t know how I got through it, I must of been quite a witch with a B. However, I kept pushing. I studied at home independantly to keep me going and have now been accepted to medical school.

The most important advice i have to give is this:

    1. GO TO A TEACHING/RESEARCH HOSPITAL!!!
    2. If you have kids, think twice before eating disorder treatment. I went into the program with pain and a method of coping. I came out with an eating disorder psyche, bad experiences, and a truckload of pills that were making me crazy.
    3. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOOD DEPENDANT CUSHINGS, HERE IS HOW I COPE;
      • the cortisol goes up with too much of any protein, fat or carbs. I eat small turkey/cheese sandwiches at every meal (enough to be full, but well balanced).
      • I use stevia instead of sugar because its natural (health food isle.)
      • alcohol really hurts now, so only a little wine occassionally.
      • lots of yogurts.
      • every couple days a mixture of senna laxative and stool softener (not too often)
    4. Remember the squeekiest wheel gets the grease.

Marian U (MaidM), Adrenal Bio

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HI!

I had Cushings symptoms for about 20 years (I am 43) before I finally had surgery at NIH on August 29, 2012.  Before 2 years ago, I had never even heard of Cushings.  Without the aid of a very perseptive medical accupuncturist, I would probably still be suffering today.   Perhaps, if I had heard about it sooner, I wouldn’t have suffered for so many years.  My goal is to help as many people as possible in battling this devastating disease.

I am so happy that I have a new chance at a real life! Feel free to contract me.  Below is a piece I wrote before surgery and my stats.

🙂 Marian

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My Experience with Cushing’s Syndrome

The changes came about gradually.  So gradually, that it is very difficult to pin-point exactly when the overall change became larger than the sum of individual changes and thus was something that was difficult to ignore. For my whole life, I was “Marian” and then one day, I was someone else.  I had become someone unrecognizable: the “Not Marian.”

One of my favorite books, “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell, expands on the premise that little changes make a huge difference.  Individually, the changes I experienced were easily explained.  I was tired. I had nighttime hot flashes.  I gained weight. I was moody and forgetful.  My sight was blurry.  I often typed or said the wrong word. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t remove my rings without soaping up my finger first.  One day, I forgot how to roll down my car windows.  I experienced moments of panic where I was driving and couldn’t remember what road I was on or where I was going. When I mentioned any or all of these symptoms in a group of women over forty, I heard a cavalcade of similar stories, usually expanding into an animated discussion centering on menopause and aging.

I also noticed that I stopped getting compliments.  People, except my amazingly supportive husband, just didn’t say that I looked nice or pretty anymore.  I tried not to be vain; I thought that I probably had just reached the point where I aged enough that I no longer was going to get the attention that I used to get.  I had “hit” the proverbial “wall.”

It is easy to look in a mirror and only see a stylized version of yourself.  But, photos are more precise.  For some time, I had noticed something “off” in the photos that were sometimes posted of me on-line.   They just didn’t look like me anymore.  I untagged myself and brushed them off as bad photos with only the vague realization that the “Marian” I thought I was, was no longer me.

My epiphany came in the form of the photos on my work identification cards, taken about three years apart.  Not only do I look like I have aged about ten years — I also look completely different.  My face is much fuller, my features are distorted, my eyes are sunken, my hair is stringy, and my skin is sallow.  I look like a bad photo copy of my former self.

Now, I realize that how I look is a small part of who I am as a person.  However, it is also the part of me that everyone sees first.  I remember being in the dressing room at Target and catching a glimpse of the “Not Marian” in the mirror.  I was astonished at my reflection and cried.

A friend suggested that I just realize that this “Not Marian” is who I am now.  I don’t think that this bad advice; it is just advice that is easy to say, but difficult to follow.  I often compare my sense of futility regarding my desperate attempts to become “Marian” again to Hercules’s labor of cleaning the Aegean Stables.  I exercised four or so times a week.  I went to a diet doctor.  I ate under 1200 calories a day.  I bought new clothes.  I got my nails done.  Despite these efforts, I only saw minor improvements in the way I looked and felt.  I still felt as though I was always wearing a rubber suit over my skin that covered my former self.

In many ways, the diagnosis of Cushing Syndrome was a relief.  Finally, there was an explanation for the way that I felt and, though serious, Cushing’s is generally a completely curable disease.   But, knowing I have Cushing’s presents another problem, when is it appropriate to tell peop

My initial inclination was to tell everyone.   I wanted to explain the difference between the “Marian” you remember and the “Not Marian” that you see now is a result of this rare disease I have.   “It’s not really me!  It’s the Cushing’s.”  I tried it a couple of times with mixed results.

Mostly, people said that they had not noticed a significant change in the way I looked or behaved.  My closer friends were more tolerant, expressed concern, and asked questions.  The reality is that nothing (except maybe vacation recaps) is more uninteresting in light conversation than talking about illnesses and ailments.  And though it was significant to me, the changes were not readily observable.  So, I will try not to talk about it.

I know that my upcoming surgery is not a panacea, though it is nearly impossible not to view it as such.  I have scrolled through hundreds of websites and blogs looking at photos and reading synopses of people before and after treatment.  I have connected with someone who was successfully treated for a Cushing’s syndrome through Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation.  Ultimately, my hope is that the loss of me is only temporary and that through successful treatment of the disease; I can begin to feel like “Marian” again.

STATS

July 2010: MRI at Kaiser showing a pituitary adenoma. High 24 Hour cortisol. Low DHEA.  Low ACTH. Referred to NIH.

Late July 2010:  CT at Kaiser showed “suspicious” tumor on left adrenal. (High HU, e.g. cancer)

Sep 2010: NIH testing.

Nov 2010:  NIH re-read the results of CT and MRI. NO pituitary adenoma and BENIGN tumor on left adrenal.

Dec 2010 – April 2011:  Unable to replicate high cortisol test at NIH. Diagnosed as pseudo Cushings due to stress. Yearly follow up recommended.

April 2012:  Follow up testing at NIH.  Cortisol is high.  CT of adrenal tumor is stable.

June 2012.  Second cortisol at NIH is high.  Diagnosis cyclical Cushings.  Will not operate.  Note that I do not look like clinical Cushings, so that was part of the problem.

July 2012: Bone density loss of 25% in three years confirmed through Kaiser.  I happened to luckily have had a previous bone scan so that they could compare.  The current bone density scan wouldn’t have been enough because I didn’t have osteoporosis yet.

Aug 6, 2012: Referred for surgery on Aug 27.

Aug 26, 2012: Enter NIH.  Surgery postponed but I can’t leave because of the testing!

Aug 29, 2012.  Surgery!  The surgery itself was easy.

Sep 2, 2012:  Left NIH

Returned to work half days Sept 4 and full time Sep 10.

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