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Cathy T, Pituitary Bio

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Hi! My name is Cathy Tia. I’m 27 yrs old and was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease 6 yrs ago while doing my first year of an education degree. I had worked in the fitness industry at that stage for 5 years and was fit and healthy but as soon as I started to fall asleep at the wheel driving into varity. I thought something was wrong symptoms persisted and weight gain fatigue, sweats, acne no periods. The list goes on, started to get out of control.

I went to a endo and she did some tests on my bloods and was shocked that my cortisol levels were in the thousands then we did some 24hr urine tests and they were as high as 3000. After nothing showed up on the MRI scan we did the petrosal sampling and it showed the source from coming from my pituitary gland so I then went to hospital for them to have a look at my pituitary gland they saw no visible tumour and that was that I then was put on a course of drugs as I kept going into adrenal failure where my cortisol levels were as low as minus 10 so no wonder I was in agony and feeling like I was going mentally insane. My weight dropped to 48kgs at the time of low cortisol, then my body changed again weighing in at 70’ish kgs.

I started to get heart palpitations and was exercising so much I nearly dropped dead but nothing I did seemed to help the weigh loss. My cortisol was tested again and again it was high, I went on a block regime to mimic what it would be like to have no adrenals before the trauma of the surgery well as I expected they didn’t bring down the cortisol in fact it increased. I went off all drugs as they made me feel so sick and I couldn’t even hold a job because of no energy etc.

Now 2 yrs later it is back with a vengeance and again there was talk of removing my adrenal glands but I refuse as the pills didn’t work so why would the surgery again? I said I would try the drugs. I have been on them 4 months and my levels which are meant to decrease have gone from 284 this week to 1225. My endo is at her wits end I’m going back to the hospital on Wed but I feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel as I feel we have exhausted all my options.

I’m newly married only 9 months ago I have the most supportive wonderful husband but feel bad for him as we can’t conceive and do normal things young married couple do as I’m always tired and hate going anywhere because of my appearance. If anyone has any answers out there or just words of support I would love to hear from you.

cheers, Cathy ‘mad’ Tia ( at least I feel mad)!!!!!!!!!!

Update Monday June 30, 2003:

Hi. Well, I have had more tests and yes they confirm that my Cushing’s disease is pituitary based, I had an MRI scan last night so we will wait and see if there is any visible change from the one I had done 4 years ago, then from there surgery.

I am gaining more weight and my skin is full of acne even though I’m on an antibiotic and the pill to help it, My periods have stopped even though I’m on the pill and the hair on my face and body is really embarrassing. I have totally lost confidence in myself and any situation I feel is stressful even paying the bills is an effort.

My diet is still very strict only protein and I try and walk and do weights everyday but I feel I’m losing the battle. I hate the waiting for results I just want them to hurry up so I know what my options are start them and get on with life!!!!!!

Frustrated Cathy ‘mad’ Tia (at least I feel mad).

Update Wednesday July 9, 2003:

As you all know I went for an MRI scan last Monday and the Monday just gone I recieved the news I had a 7mm tumour on the left side of my pituitary gland which means removal of that left side, I’m relieved after 6 years of cyclical Cushing’s there is something to show for it at the same time I’m terrified not only about the surgery but all the after effects the drugs the quality of life after this terrible disease!!!!!,

My husband and I are have amazing faith and support from family and friends but it is still such a roller coaster ride we are only 27 years old and have been married for 10 months we don’t know if we will ever have children which is so important for us. We don’t know where life will take us but we do and have accepted this is for a reason god works in mysterious ways so please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we do for all you fellow Cushing’s patients out there what ever the stage of disease you are at, never ever give up be strong.

cheers, Cathy Tia from little old New Zealand.

Update August 3, 2003:

Hi everyone well it is now the 3rd of August 2003 and I am going to the hospital on Tuesday here in little old New Zealand, to have a meeting with the brain surgeon to go through the procedure. They have found a pit tumor on the left side of my gland and need to remove the whole side. Wow, pretty scary but at least I’ll feel better after 6 yrs of not such great health.

I’m excited about my future and hopefully my husband and I can start our lifes together with children in the future, I’ll write on Tuesday night to tell of my surgery date, if I get one.

Keep the faith, everyone. There is always hope we are the strong ones what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! Feel free to email me on cathyscurves@hotmail.com.

Update August 22, 2003:

Hi everyone well I haven’t written in a while as you know the hospital systems are slow at getting things moving. As you know a tumour was found on the last MRI but now they think there is more to it so Monday 24th August, tomorrow, I’m going for another CT scan then surgery although I don’t have a date for surgery. I’m hoping it will be in the next month because I want to be out of hospital to share my 1st year wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband my angel here on earth at home not in hospital. I’ll keep you all updated this week for the next chapter.

Hang in there everyone. Remember, if we all stick together and send love through our thoughts we will beat this thing!!! please email me anyone if you want to talk I know I’m down here in little old New Zealand but don’t hesitate.

Update September 15, 2003:

Hi everyone it’s Cathy here agin from little old New Zeland, I finally have a surgery date it is on the 15th of October one month away it’s been a long wait but now I know the date I can plan my life!!!! I should be fighting fit for xmas day that was my goal so My husband and I can plan a holiday a family and get back into full time work. I’m so excited.

Hang in there everyone and please send your prayers and happy vibes my way on the 15th
cheers Cathy ‘mad’ Tia

Update October 10, 2003:

Hi everyone. Well, only 4 more sleeps to go until my 2nd pit surgery. Let’s hope they get the bugger this time. I’ll update you all as soon as I can focus on the computer screen
cheers Cathy

Update October 27, 2003:

Hi everyone! Well, it’s 2 weeks tomorrow post op. I’ve been home 1 week and recovering well, things went to plan as you all know the discomfort only last 3-4 days and my cortisol is dropping which is so positive. We will know for sure in a month. I’m hoping it comes down and stays down so we know I’ve been cured. I’ve already lost 2kg’s and the high colour in my face has gone down my joints are not as sore and my acne is clearing up. I can’t believe in 2 weeks. I’m already looking better. I ask you all to keep praying and sending happy healthy thoughts and vibes my way as you all know this is just the beginning as it is such a reecurrent disease. I really want to avoid having my adrenals out which they will do asap if my cortisol doesn’t stay down. They say this is the only way for sure to cure Cushing’s disease.

But I send hugs and kisses to you all and anyone whos going to have pitaitary surgery either for the 1st time or 2nd don’t worry just relax and go with it rest and recover as much as possible then get your life back please feel free to write to me my email is in this bio.
cheers Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update November 26, 2003:

Hi all, well it is 6 weeks today since my second pituitary surgery, I developed diabetes insipidous but that has gone now hooray no more peeing every 2 minutes, ha, ha.

Well the last 2 blood cortisols were high again so I’m really bummed out the first 3 weeks after surgery it seemed to be on the way down and I lost 5 kg’s I was elated, but now the symptoms have returned the tiredness puffiness etc and I’m not even on any replacements I haven’t had a period so it looks like the adrenals will have to be removed bummer!, I have just completed a 24hr urine collection so the results should be in early next week everything hinges on this result if it is high they are taking me straight back in for the double adrenalectomy if anyone has any suggestions or has had the same experience please email me I feel depressed again just as I thought I had my life back on track.
kind regards Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update December 4, 2003:

Hi everyone me again, well unfortunatley my cortisol is high again after 6 weeks post op so I am booked in to see another surgeon next Wednesday to talk through the procedure of a bilateraladrenelectomy (what a mouthfull), could anyone who has had this done please email me as I’m terrified and want to know what to expect in regards to recovery time, sickness, etc

keep your chins up

talk to you when I have more gossip
Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update January 29, 2004:

Hi all well happy new year to you all. I have a CT scan date on Feb 16th of my adrenal glands then surgery will follow hopefully soon after that I’m scared and would love to hear from others who have had their adrenals out because I’ve heard some horror stories, please email me.

I have had an interview with a local magazine that goes out to the nation telling my story and journey with Cushings disease it was fun my husband and I have had photos etc I will post it when it comes out next week I just want others to be more knowledglable and perhaps people may come forward and talk to me if they suspect they may have it.

I would love to set up a support group in New Zealand because there is no one I can talk to here.

Well I’ll talk to you all soon and please email me if you have any words of encourgement.
God bless Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update February 3, 2004:

Hi all! Well, I have more exciting news from the magazine article that has only been out two days. I have been asked to go on a morning talk show televised across New Zealand to talk about the disease and my story and have already recieved emails from others in NZ that have been cured. It is so positive it makes me want to get on and move forward to help others when I’m finally cured hooray! I’ll update soon when I’ve been on TV.

God is good god bless you all Cathy ‘Mad’ Tia

Update March 30, 2004:

Hi guys. Well I finally have a date for my adrenal surgery. 2 failed pit surgeries so here is their last ditch attempt to cure me hooray!

It is scheduled for the 15th of April 2 weeks time so I’ll get back to you as soon  as I’m up to it, please pray for me as this is the final time hopefully then I’ll be rid of this nasty disease.  I would love you guys to email me whoever has had the adrenals removed to tell me the good and bad things during recovery so I’m prepared.
cheers everyone and hang in there.

hugs cathy ‘mad’ tia

Update April 29, 2004:

Hi everyone. I’m back it’s 2 weeks today since my surgery the removal of both adrenal glands. I feel I’ve been to hell and back over the last 7 years but I’ve come out on top I’m sore and bruised but feeling the best mentally and emotionally the best in almost a decade. I’m on a normal dose of hydrocortisone which understand the average person produces and have already seen marked changes in my appearance like redness had gone, night sweats aches nausea are all gone in only 2 weeks so I’m looking forward to getting my body back.

Thank you all for your support and I will keep you updated as to my situation. You all must hang in there and fight fight fight! Your day will come in those dark days of despair never give up tommorow is always better and you don’t want to let this disease win you can do it.

Update July 3, 2004:

Hi everyone well it’s been ages since I wrote I have had both adrenals out and finally I feel normal most of the Cushing’s symptoms have gone and the old Cathy is slowly emerging it is nearly 3 months since surgery and I have lost 9kgs and am looking not so tired and puffy hooray when people ask how I’ve lost the weight I say I’m on a cortisol diet which they laugh and don’t understand but I know you all do.

Well if any of you are scared to have this surgery don’t be they do it all keyhole so it’s neat and tide and it has changed my life I feel like a near normal 28 yr old who can restart her life my husband and I are so happy we have been given a 2 year gap to try for a family before radiation to the pit gland to avoid Nelson’s Syndrome so it’s not over yet but I believe it will be all worth it soon.

Well take care all hold your heads up high and be strong.

Update September 26, 2004:

Hi it’s Cathy Tia here again, well my husband and i have just celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary cushing free hooray!! IT IS A BLESSING TO HAVE MY HEALTH BACK. It has been five months since my adrenal surgery and have had one adrenal crisis due to an underlying viris which was a bit scary i was in hospital for 5 days being pumped full of hydrocortisone ironic really after 8 yrs of having too much oh well, i’m back and working full 3 different jobs and loving life. All of you out theree still waiting to be cured please hang in there it is so worth it you will never take life for granted again.

God bless to you all and please never give up.

Update January 31, 2005:

hi all well a little update to my story. It has now been 9 months since i have my adrenal glands removed i have lost 27kg’s and people are starting to recognise me again all of the symptoms are gone i now have addisions disease as my adrenals can shut down the meds i take are cortisone and hydrocortisone to help with balancing my hormones out. I have had one adrenal crisis but recovered well. Peter my husband and i are on the fertility track now i am on fertility drugs to hopefully bring us a little bundle of joy this yr i also have PSCO so having a baby is a challenge but i know God will bless us when the time is right. I am working again like a normal person and can get through the day without a sleep.

Life is great. To all of you in the beginning, midst or end recovery phase of this terrible disease please always have hope and determination, remember you are what you believe so keep positive.

God Bless Cathy ‘mad’ Tia

Update January 31, 2006:

Hi all well it’s beena yr since I wrote. Alot has happened for my husband and I. Last time I wrote we were embarking on a huge rollercoaster ride with IVF fertility treatment and guess what we have had two cycles and the second one worked like a dream. We were given 15% chance of ever getting pregnant with the trteatment so we are proof that doctors only know so much with much gusto determination prayer and support from family and friends we did it we are now 3 and a half months pregnant due August 10th 2006. We feel so blessed and want to let you all know this can happen for you keep the faith and search inside yoiurself about what your life is worth this disease is only a label not who you are, seek and you will find the answers even if it has taken yrs it’s taken me 10yrs of being sick surgeries lost hope and regained faith. God has a plan for all of us and now I’m going to be a mum i can hardly believe the blessings.

I have had 2 trips to the emergency ward with adrenal crisis being pregnant does put stress on the body so now i have altered my drtugs i feel great i have only had 2 weeks of morning sickness and noew i have full energy back and only get tired like anyone at the end of a day. I ahd emergency surgery last week for an abcess caused by mastitis even though i haven’ breast feed they tink because my immunity is lowered by having no adreanl glands it wa so serious.

In my mind I know i always have to be careful but my advice to eveyone is live each day like it is your last be knind and never stop loveing or giving because it will come back in ten folds as it has for me.

God Bless and kind regards to all my fellow cushies, families and supporters.

Hugs cathy tia

Update October 25, 2006:

Hi cathy Tia here from New Zealand last time i was trying to concieve through IVF and we did it we have had a beautiful baby girl Grace Ruby weighing 6 pounds 13 ozes 3 weeks early all is grand with all of us healthy and loving being a family. Keep the faith and hope if you believe with your heart your dreams will come true.

cathy tia

Update February 22, 2007:

hi 22/2/07 cathy here agin

i now have another new 5mm tumour on the right side of pit gland due to having nelsons sydrome after nearly 3 yrs ago having boyth adrenals removed

any suggestions on what to do? they want to give me radation. has anyone had this?

cheers cathy

Update May 3, 2007:

hi all well my daughter is now 9 months old , I mde the decision to havea breast re3euction last week and am so thrilled with the results the 12 yrs of cuhsings and three yrs of addsions (removal of glands due to recureent cushings) ravished my body i feel young again and sexy hooray for my husband!!!

I had a very scary time this week though due to the stress of the surgery on my body my addisions played up big time and i ended up in Er twice having cortisol shots and saline to give me balance, i’m still very tannedyellow and can’t seem to get on top of the balance but feel better than last week.

Has anyody experience addisions after cuahings?, i’d love to hear from you and ask how you mmagae your balances of medications and water balance.

until next time,

Hugs feloow cushies/addisions

Cathy Tia

Update September 17, 2009:

hi all well its been a while my daughter is now 3 and i have a beautiful miracle son called Elijah who is now 6 months old , i ahve had a great run since having my adrenals removed and had the breast reduction i’,m even breast feeding a real miracle and testament that if you have hope you can achieve anything. i ahve had many talks to churches and articles written to educate people in New Zealand and hope to give them hope whatever their circumstances.

unfortunatly i may ahve developed nelsons syndrome so am having an MRI in 2 weeks to see what the pituatary tumour is doing if it has grown i’ll have radiation to shrink it.

hope this finds you all well.

God Bess Cathy Tia

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Marie C (MarieConleyHbg), Pituitary/ BLA Bio

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Marie Conley is a consultant focusing on engagement and stakeholder strategies and fund development for a variety of clients through her company Conley Consulting, LLC.

During her tenure in politics (1994-2009), Marie was a trusted advisor to top-level government officials and private sector organizations beginning in 1994 as the scheduler to Governor Tom Ridge. In 2009, as a senior level fundraiser, strategist and event planner, she made a successful transition from Pennsylvania’s highly competitive political landscape into the equally challenging field of non-profit development as director of Penn State Hershey’s Children’s Miracle Network. In 2012, her focus was working with Sue Paterno, wife the late Coach Joe Paterno, to assist with a number of initiatives around the issue of prevention and awareness of child sexual victimization focused in the arena of higher education. Marie continues with the national experts Stop It Now! on its Circle of Safety for Higher Education. ™

Marie never takes any professional or personal task at face value. She is always looking for ways to improve efficiencies, outcomes and most importantly calls upon herself and those around her to do the right thing for the right reasons. Her accomplishments in such a short period of time at Children’s Miracle Network are only one example.

Marie was unanimously granted Governor Emerita status by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for her more than 13 years of service. Until she submitted her resignation in May 2016, Marie served as the Vice Chairman for the Board of Governor member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and was Chair of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. She spearheaded significant changes in policy regarding the recruitment and hiring practices for university presidential and chancellor searches and has re-evaluated and changed the policy for university presidential evaluations. Marie was first nominated in 2002 and was re-appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in 2004 and re-appointed by Governor Tom Corbett in 2012. From 1997 to 2011, Marie served as a Council of Trustee for her alma mater, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. She played a critical role on the Board of Lincoln’s Footsteps commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. She continues to be a guest speaker and panelist on development and stakeholder engagement for a political and non-profit organizations.

But today Marie is facing her toughest battle yet. In 2012, Marie was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease – a disease so rare it affects less than ten people per million each year. She has fought through dozens of hospital stays and numerous surgeries – including brain surgery – and still struggles daily to run her successful consulting business and a household that includes a husband and young son.

There’s a reason former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge calls Marie “one of the most indefatigable people I’ve ever known.” Because while Marie drew the short straw in being one of those ten-in-a-million with Cushing’s, she has chosen not to simply live with the disease, but to use her skills honed in political campaigns to raise awareness and to fund critical research that will help those around the world who are living with this insidious disease. Already, The Conley Cushing’s Disease Fund has raised tens of thousands of dollars to fund research, to educate doctors on the signs of Cushing’s and to support her new book, A Cushing’s Collection.

Marie is not defined by Cushing’s. She is inspired by it to help others – and to leave a legacy of hope.
Marie hails from Bucks County, Pennsylvania; she lives in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania with her husband, Chris Lammando, and their son, Carter.


The author of A Cushing’s Collection: A Humorous Journey Surviving Cushing’s Disease, Diabetes Insipidus, and a Bilateral Adrenalectomy is a member of the Cushing’s Help message boards.

From Amazon:

Diagnosed with a rare disease that only affects between two and ten people per million, Marie Conley used emails to communicate with family, friends, and co-workers to keep them apprised of the diagnosis and prognosis of Cushing’s disease and the many complications she experienced on this journey. Her ironic humor and raw, emotional approach helps bring hope to those touched by this rare and unrelenting disease.

In her mid-thirties, Conley, who strived to keep herself healthy while maintaining the delicate balance of raising a young child, keeping a home, and a demanding career, began to experience a variety of unexplained maladies inconsistent with her life style.Because of the elusive nature of Cushing’s disease, the treatment is a long and complicated process of trial and error. At this time, there is no cure, largely due to the fact that Cushing’s disease is considered an “orphan disease.” As is her nature, she has decided to “adopt” this “orphan” and is doing everything she can to bring awareness to this disease.Conley’s tenacious spirit and determination would not allow this insidious disease to triumph over her life. Armed with her laptop as the only weapon available in the sterility of the recovery room, the author attacks the keyboard with a vengeance to let friends and family know that in this battle, there is no surrender.

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Andrea (AndreaM), Pituitary Bio

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I suffered from Cushings when I was 9 years old. I had pituitary surgery, bilateral adrenalectomy (back in 1988 when it was not laparoscopic), then 2 more pituitary surgeries as my tumor grew and regrew too close to the optic nerve. My last pituitary surgery was followed by Gamma Knife Radiation. That was when I was 19. Thankfully, since then, my ACTH levels have been normal, so there is no evidence of regrowth of pituitary tumor. I just turned 36.

The good news is that despite needing repeated pituitary surgery, I recovered well from the Cushings once my adrenals were removed and I was on daily replacement steroids. I have gone on to have a fairly normal life, including 4 children with no help needed in conceiving. I guess the doctors consider this basically a miracle considering my irregular cycles and all the pituitary surgery. I did end up with diabetes insipidus from the last pituitary surgery, which is probably the most uncomfortable (and expensive) lingering problem. It can be very uncomfortable at times, particularly when pregnant is is difficult to get the right dose of DDAVP.

Not sure what prompted me to look online for others with Cushings Disease/post adrenalectomy, but I have never in my life met anyone else with my condition and my endocrinologist says she has only one other patient with adrenal problems, but that person still at least has 1. Of course doctors can’t tell you who their other patients are anyway. Obviously when I was actually suffering from Cushings there was no Internet. I guess it would just be interesting to compare notes about living without adrenal glands. Since I was so young when it happened it is all I’ve known and I’m thankful for how basically normal my life is. I see too that I can encourage people that although I do take 3 medications multiple times daily, I basically have a normal life, including 4 normal, healthy children ages 9, 7, 5, and 2.

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Melissa F, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

Melissa F was interviewed on BlogTalk Radio November 3, 2010. She has had pituitary surgery. Archives are available on BlogTalk Radio and on iTunes podcasts.

From the Clutches of Cushing’s

A journey through Hell… with a happy ending
by Melissa Fine

The most insidious aspect of Cushing’s Disease is, while it is attacking you physically, it is destroying your self-esteem, your peace of mind, your very spirit. That more doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, drug, alcohol and weight-loss counselors (and the list goes on) don’t know how to recognize something that, in retrospect, seems so blatantly obvious is appalling—and not only tragic, it is, in my opinion, criminal. I often wonder how many Cushing’s victims we lose to suicide because they were not able to get a diagnosis before they lost the will to live… simply because no one thought to look for the definitive answer in their blood, urine or saliva. I am certain that Cushing’s isn’t nearly as rare as the doctors believe it is. What is rare is their ability to recognize it.

This is my story…

First, you need to know that I was always a pretty happy girl (though PMS- related mood swings have always plagued me). I come from a very close family, always had a lot of support, had a group of true friends I could count on, and was always very driven to accomplish my goals. I moved to Las Vegas from Southern California in 1994, right after graduating from UCLA, to move in with the guy who would become my 1st husband (Rat Bastard!). My goal in life was to be a writer, and within a month, I landed a job with a magazine publishing company and was getting paid to do what I love. You should also know I was always way too skinny. No matter what I ate (and I was a picky eater, but what I did like, I ate as much as I wanted of it), I was lucky to keep my weight above 100 pounds. I was happy if I could maintain 105 pounds, so I didn’t look so gaunt…

In 1995, I started noticing something wasn’t right with me. I had every reason to be thrilled with my life, but I was constantly blue. Down. Not tragically depressed—that would come later—but I just never seemed to feel happy. I also found myself complaining of body aches and fatigue all the time. And I kept noticing big, unexplained bruises on my arms, buttocks, and thighs.

In July 1995, I was covering the opening of a new casino/spa in Mesquite, NV. I came out of some exotic acupressure chakra-cleansing massage with one thought: I WANT BEEF! Now, the mere smell of steak would always nauseate me, but I was starving and steak was the only thing on my mind. I ate a 16 oz. New York Strip plus a ½-pound of crab for dinner. Woke up the next morning STARVING and ordered another steak to go with my eggs, hash browns, toast and pancakes, and devoured it all.

That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Over the next five or so years, I went to many doctors with seemingly vague, unrelated symptoms. I was always famished, so by this time, I was 145 pounds. The depression was also heavier, but at the same time, I felt a constant sense of anticipatory anxiety, like something was about to happen. In less than 10 minutes, a psychiatrist labeled me with “bi-polar 2” and I was thrown on mega- doses of serious anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. I caught every cold, was always bone-tired, constantly in pain, and was finding it more and more difficult to focus on anything. I went on and off various anti-depressants, none of which seemed to work for any length of time. The consensus among the many medical minds was that I needed to diet and exercise.

2000 brought a lot of change—and not the good kind. I found yet another new “family” doctor. This guy, though, actually tried. He noticed, after running a blood panel and looking at my many bruises, that my red blood cells were “abnormal” looking and that my white blood count was up. Up enough that, just to be safe, he wanted me to see a specialist. He told me not to be worried that “oncology” was on the specialist’s wall… he was just really good with blood.

By late August, I was in the oncologist’s office. After looking at more lab results, he promptly scheduled me for a bone-marrow test—which, in his opinion, was just a formality. He told Rat Bastard and me that I definitely had leukemia. My soon-to-be ex-husband asked him flat out: “Is there any chance that this could be something other than leukemia.” The good doctor said, “No. She has leukemia. We just need to find out which kind.”

Bone marrow tests take six weeks to come back. Six days before (and about two weeks from my 30th birthday) the results that would tell me which kind of leukemia I definitely had came back, Rat Bastard decided he “didn’t feel the same way about me anymore” and walked out.

Imagine my surprise when the good oncologist didn’t find the “Philadelphia” chromosome he was expecting to see. Still, he stuck to his guns and was really, really sure I had leukemia. He then took a job at MD Anderson in Houston, TX, but insisted I see his other good oncologist every six weeks or so to keep looking and monitoring my white blood count and my screwy red blood cells. After many months passed and my condition worsened with no explanation, the second good oncologist told me, “You are a ticking time bomb.”

Not helpful.

So, my wonderful boss (who was also a good friend, and, as it turned out, was the guy I was supposed to marry!), paid to send my mom and me to MD Anderson to speak again with the first good oncologist, who was now heading up a leukemia department of his very own. Time for bone-marrow tap Number Two, because he was positive that pesky Philadelphia chromosome was there somewhere.

It wasn’t.

I was back to square one. Only now body parts were starting to break. I fractured my foot by stepping out of bed the wrong way. I tore my meniscus— an injury I was told is usually found in professional tennis players—by doing a single jumping jack in a futile attempt to exercise. A new specialist ran a bone density test that showed I had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. Another specialist discovered I had insignificant, benign tumors on my adrenal glands—something, he told me, I had in common with approximately 25% of the population. But those revelations were the least of my concerns. The depression turned into an all-consuming black hole. For the next three years, not one day went by that I didn’t sob uncontrollably. I couldn’t do my work, because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to edit a simple story. I couldn’t read a book or even sit through a half-hour sit-com. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. Even worse, old friends and even my own cousin—people I hadn’t seen in a few years—didn’t recognize me either. They literally walked by me as though I were a stranger. My physical appearance was that dramatically different. I would wake up at 5 a.m., ravenous, and I would FORCE myself to wait until 6 a.m. before I would allow myself about a third of a box of Cheerios with non-fat milk. It was the only time of the entire day that I would actually feel “full.” It only lasted for about two hours, tops… but for that brief window, I found relief from constant hunger pains.

Alone, I no longer knew my own mind. I hid away in my craft room and started endless scrapbooking projects that I never finished. The pretty paper and nifty hole-punches somehow made me smile a little. Like many, I would imagine, I started to self-medicate. Prescribed painkillers.

Thankfully, mercifully, my family bonds were stronger than ever. My parents even moved to Las Vegas to be near me. And that guy, my boss, Glenn… though he met me in my 20s, when I weighed 100 pounds, married me in my 30s, knowing I was truly sick, not knowing what illness I had, and at my heaviest. I was 188 pounds on my wedding day, and he made me feel like a beautiful princess.

At some point around 2003, I had yet another new family doctor. Overall, his diagnostic skills were, at best, questionable. He knew just enough to send me to other specialists. But he was generous with his prescription pad, so I continued to see him. I do, however, owe this particular doctor a huge debt of gratitude. He was the first to mention the word “endocrinologist.” I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Many lab tests later, the endocrinologist told me I had too much of something called “cortisol.” She became annoyed when I asked her what that meant. She faxed her notes back to my family doctor. I noticed she had scrawled the word “Cushing’s” with a question mark after it. I told my doc I didn’t know what

Cushing’s was. His exact words were: “Well, I do know what it is, and you don’t have it.”

The endo disagreed, I guess. She had me scheduled to have my adrenal glands removed. Somehow, 10 days before my surgery, my many questions and stubborn attempts to understand why I was going under the knife really pissed her off. I received a certified letter informing me that, due to my “abusive and indignant attitude,” I was “fired.”

Meanwhile, my mom started Googling. She read the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease as though it were a page from my diary. It was a perfect fit. Except that, according to what she had learned, the lab results weren’t making sense. They were pointing to my pituitary gland, not my adrenals. I cancelled the date with the surgeon and headed back to the family doc’s office. He was quite pleased with himself, claiming he knew it was Cushing’s all along. (He still takes great pride in that epiphany. Why let the facts stand in the way of a good story, right?)

Family doc told me it was great news that my pituitary gland was the culprit: All I would need is a highly focused beam of radiation and some salt pills, and I’d be as good as new. He filled my prescription and sent me to another endocrinologist.

This guy was clever. He actually sent me for an MRI. Unfortunately, the MRI showed nothing. He was, however, in agreement with the previous, previous, previous doctor who told me the adrenal tumors were nothing to worry about. I trusted him, because he dropped the name of a renowned neurosurgeon at USC in Pasadena: Dr. Martin Weiss. I did some research. Dr. Weiss was the real deal—a graduate of Dartmouth and Cornell and a professor of neurological surgery. Finally… an honest-to-goodness expert.

Husband and I packed our bags and were off to Pasadena for a venous sampling. Who knew there was such a test? I found myself in the bizarre position of praying with all my might that I had a brain tumor.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Dr. Weiss confirmed that the MRIs did not show the tumor, but he did point to a microscopic something-or-other at the base of my pituitary gland that was tilted ever-so-slightly. He explained that he had, at best, a 50–50 chance of finding the tumor and removing it. He also told me that salt pills weren’t going to do the trick.

In December 2004, Dr. Weiss successfully removed the tumor from my pituitary gland.

This is the part of the story where I’d like to say I dramatically awoke with remarkable bravery and perfect hair to a room filled with calla lilies. Instead, my eyes opened to four or five post-op nurses, I was hooked via a tangle of cords to various machines, my mouth was so dry my tongue was stuck to my palate, and I was frantic to find a toilet. Bedpans just don’t work for me and my bladder was going to explode. After much arguing and cursing, the nurses decided unhooking me was safer than allowing my blood pressure to go any higher. They rolled over a porta-potty, I went forever, and no sooner did they re-hook me than I had to go again.

Learned a new term: diabetes insipidus.

The morning after being released from the hospital (prescription for diabetes insipidus filled and at arm’s length), I remember that, for the first time in nearly a decade, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I was full.

I’d love to end it with that perfect tagline, but…

Back in Vegas, the brilliant endocrinologist put me on the whopping dose of 20 mgs of hydrocortisone a day. Anxious to “jump start” my adrenals, he quickly lowered the dose to 10 mgs.

After more than a year of seeing a cardiologist for my racing heart; a (mis) diagnosis of panic attacks because it felt like I had an SUV parked on my chest; repeated bouts of nausea and dizzy spells; low blood pressure; increased joint and muscle pain; more depression; and a complete neurological work-up for symptoms too similar to MS for comfort; my incredibly insightful endocrinologist told me to stop coming to his office, go home, and praise God because I was “cured.” In what can only be called a surreal segue, he then added that I should also praise God for my inability to get pregnant, because children are so selfish and self-centered that they only degrade your quality of life. Not surprisingly, he retired from medicine shortly thereafter.

It was at this point that I found the Cushing’s Help and Support boards and verified that I was not, in fact, insane.

One doctor’s name was repeatedly touted: Dr. William Ludlam. He sounded like the savior of all endocrine-challenged souls. I was astounded when he, personally, actually took my call. After listening patiently to my story, he informed me that I was not yet his patient, and therefore, he could not and would not offer me any medical advice or instruction over the telephone. He then told me a story of a hypothetical situation in which certain familiar-sounding symptoms would, to a trained hypothetical specialist, be immediately recognized as the brink of full-blown adrenal failure. I took the hypothetical hint, did some quick online research—and (following only my own hunch, rather than immediately seeing a local doctor as I should have done) took a significantly higher dose of Cortef. Within an hour, I felt human—a feeling I hadn’t known in more than 10 years.

Dr. Ludlam made room in his schedule and, the following week, off we went, at last down the road to recovery.

I celebrated my 40th birthday last month. As 2011 rapidly approaches, I can finally say that my adrenal glands are now functioning on their own. I have not had the need for Cortef in more than a year. I have battled the addiction to pain killers and am emerging as the victor. My size 4 jeans once again fit, and while I still fight depression, it is no longer my primary state of mind. Slowly, I’m regaining energy and enthusiasm. My thoughts are clear, my will is strong, my creativity is restored.

I live.

—–#—–

If you or a loved one is suffering with Cushing’s or Addison’s or you believe you might be, and you need to talk, please feel free to contact me with any questions or simply for an understanding ear. I can be reached at mfine@casinocenter.com (please put “Cushing’s” or “Addison’s” in the subject line) or follow me on Twitter @SinCityTweeter. My thanks and ever-lasting gratitude to MaryO, www.cushings-help.com , and all the fellow Cushies who helped me along the way.

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Marie C (Marie Conley), Pituitary Bio

2 Comments

I was diagnosed in June 2012 with Cushing’s Disease after almost three years of a variety of illnesses.

My husband and 8 year son have seen me through a brain surgery and its failure, permanent DI, removal of my adrenal glands, a hernia surgery, a severe hip fracture, four additional hospital stays including 10 ER visits.

I used humor to get me through these past couple years (and prayer). I needed to laugh as I gained 81 pounds (while doing a sprint Tri, running a 10k, and working out when I wasn’t on crutches), having hairy arms, a hump on your back and so much more.

I have been lucky enough to continue to work and am blessed with a supportive family and friends.  I hate this disease for so many reasons but I am not going to give in to it.

I feel very lucky that someone directed me to this site and I am grateful for the opportunity to not feel alone on this journey.

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Gina M, Ectopic Bio

3 Comments

I was diagnosed with Cushing Syndrome in June 1999.  At that time my urine cotisol level was 342.

Prior to being diagnosed I suffered for over 7 years with severe migraine headaches. I also had gained 80 lbs, had a moon face, buffalo hump, mood swings, severe fatigue (could sleep 20 out of 24 hours a day), aweful sweats day and night, weak muscles, thyroid disease.

I had pituitary surgery at Mass General because my state didn’t do that type of surgery.  After surgery, my levels were still elevated and I was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus.

When I returned home I underwent more tests ie. blood work, 24 hour urines. This continued for another year and during that time my endo put me on Ketakonazal in an attempt to lower my cotisol level to no avail. The medication just messed up my stomache.

In 2000 I had surgery again this time I had both adrenal glands removed. still no tumor had been found. That’s when the worst news of all came. I was told I had Ectopic Cushings Syndrome and had 5 years to live. The reason for this if you my not know is 50% of ectopic tumors end up being small cell lung cancer.

I was also diagnosed with Addison’s disease because of no more adrenals. Today it has been 13 years since my adrenal surgery and I am still alive and no cancer!

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