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Sharmyn, In the Media

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Sharmyn, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My story is about the best kept secret in medicine…

I went from a petite dress size 2 to an obese size 22 in just one year. I went from athletically fit to barely able to walk upstairs. One of my closest girlfriends was a former Miss Universe and actor in Hollywood; we looked like sisters. We often hung out socially with those in the entertainment biz where anorexia is a compliment—not a disease.

But in 1993, at the age of thirty-one, I started to gain weight and lots of it. I ate a very healthy diet; I worked out five to seven days a week and trained with a fitness trainer just as I had always done, but the weight piled on. While my friends were busy planning their weddings and starting their families, I began my journey of the next seven years, seeking help from doctors all over California for a correct diagnosis and treatment. My beautiful thick, long blonde hair fell out by the handfuls. I got up to nearly 250 pounds, but the odd weight gain was mostly in my round moon face, and my stomach stuck out over fifty-four inches. Soon, many other symptoms started: I had constant anxiety, and I felt like I wanted to come out of my skin from the constant nervous energy racing through my body.

Nighttime was the worst; while I should have been sleeping, I paced my apartment to help slow down my racing heart. I felt nauseous from anxiety 24/7. I slept fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, but once I’d fall asleep, I would jolt awake with a shot of more nervousness pumping throughout my body. Sometimes I’d go days with only a few hours’ sleep.

Soon my blood pressure had to be controlled by medication; I also needed medication for anxiety and depression just to function. As a single woman, I needed to be able to keep my job; I needed to keep my medical insurance so I could keep seeking help from doctors. Although there were so many times when I wanted to give up, I had to keep going.

All the medical professionals said there was nothing medically wrong with me; just eat well and exercise more was their sage medical advice. I knew they were missing something as none of this was in my nature. A person doesn’t go from being thin, happy, and full of life to gaining over 100 pounds and enduring chronic anxiety and depression for no reason.

I continued for seven long years seeking help from general doctors to endocrinologists to gastroenterology specialists, rheumatologists, hematology experts, and even psychologists. All were highly respected and highly educated; unfortunately, none were willing to think outside their narrow perspective; none of these medical professionals wanted to listen to me, who in their words “let herself go.”

They would not believe me when I told them I was truly eating well and exercising properly but instead, offered more and more prescription drugs. When I said I didn’t want to take the drugs, and I wanted to find out what was causing me to be so sick, they wrote me off as unwilling to help myself. I was madly frustrated and felt betrayed by the medical community as well as society.

Many friends and even some family members felt I was causing myself to be sick. I’m not a shy personality, and I had no problem speaking up. Loudly, I begged for proper diagnosis; I begged for proper treatment. I told everyone, loud and clear, there was something medically killing me, and I wanted my life back, but they continued to blame me for my laundry list of poor health issues.

Eventually, I was so sick, I accepted that this undiagnosed illness was going to kill me eventually, but I was determined NOT to die before I found out what disease had turned my health upside down! I wanted to make sure other people did not have to suffer from this horribly embarrassing, lonely, debilitating disease. So, I started my journey to save myself, and whoever else was suffering like me.

Unlike today, back then, I couldn’t simply Google my symptoms, so I had to research by going through all my medical records. I remained persistent until I got copies of everything I needed. Through the years many doctors suggested I had hormonal issues, but they attributed any hormonal abnormalities to the fact I was obese and suggested if I lost weight, all my health problems would be gone. They were like an annoying, broken record.

But I didn’t go to medical school, so I had to rely on my intuition and the fact that I knew my body better than anyone else. I had a hunch the hormone issues were causing ALL my health issues.  Fortunately, while going over thousands of pages of lab results and doctor’s notes, among innumerable discrepancies of the medical opinions and endless mismanagement of my healthcare, I also found a few clues of where to start.

I borrowed a friend’s computer and typed in Cortisol. According to my health records, this hormone had only been tested once in seven years, and it registered as Very High—Above Normal level. The doctors said it was high because I was overweight, but I wanted to see for myself. And up on the computer screen popped an article published by the Pituitary Network Association,www.pituitary.org.

The article’s headline read: “Cushing’s Disease.” In one of my previous medical reports, a doctor wrote he ruled out Cushing’s syndrome. This article proved him uneducated about proper testing for Cushing’s, and he was very wrong.

Cushing’s disease is a secondary disease caused by a pituitary brain tumor. The pituitary is a small, bean-shaped gland, less than one centimeter in size, and referred to as the master gland. It sits at the base of our brain between our optic nerves and carotid arteries. This small but powerful gland controls our quality of life by producing major hormones.

A Cushing’s tumor produces high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, (ACTH), which in turn signals the pituitary gland to stop producing the normal production of ACTH. One of the key functions of the pituitary gland is to keep us alive by signaling the adrenal glands when to produce and when not to produce Cortisol, our one life-sustaining hormone. However, the ACTH producing tumor never shuts off the production of ACTH, causing the pituitary to stop its normal feedback system with the adrenal glands.

Therefore, the adrenal glands never stop overproducing our fight or flight hormone, cortisol. For years the medical community and others told me that my health issues were all in my head. Well, in fairness, they were right. Luckily for me, I knew I was not causing this madness. Although it still sounds strange to say, I was so happy to find out that I had a serious and life-threatening pituitary tumor because, for the first time, I knew where to start my fight.

Once I suspected I had Cushing’s disease, I had to find the experts to confirm the often-complicated diagnosis. And that’s when the universe guided me through more research to meet the team that helped save my life! Dr. Pejman Cohan, my neuro-endocrinologist, and Dr. Daniel Kelly, my neurosurgeon, the director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA. My angels were in my own backyard!

Dr. Cohan soon confirmed my diagnosis of Cushing’s disease, and it was Dr. Kelly’s difficult task to remove the tiny tumor that wreaked so much havoc. On April 14, 2000, Dr. Kelly successfully removed the tumor, and the next chapter of my journey began: helping others who suffer from this horribly underdiagnosed, misunderstood, life-threatening disease.

For the past nineteen years, I have been honored as a pituitary patient advocate spokesperson both nationally and internationally. Pituitary Tumors are the Best Kept Secret in Medicine. I’ve remained dedicated along with a team of pituitary neuro-endocrine experts to raise public awareness and help educate, and in some cases, reeducate the medical community on recognizing the symptoms of a pituitary tumor and/or hormonal issues related to the neuroendocrine system.

Pituitary disease is uncommon but not rare; however, there are commonly four types of pituitary tumors: prolactin-producing tumors, acromegaly, caused by too much growth hormone, Cushing’s disease, too much ACTH causes a secondary disease of too much cortisol hormone, and non-functioning tumors, which have their own set of problems.

For more information, visit www.hormones411.org, and https://www.pacificneuroscienceinstitute.org/pituitary-disorders/

Or email Sharmyn at pituitarybuddy@hotmail.com or sharmyn@hormone411.org

Join us for support and education Pituitary Patient Support Group Meetings: https://www.pacificneuroscienceinstitute.org/resources/patient-resources/patient-support-groups/.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I can say in all honesty the darkest part of my life, struggling for a correct diagnosis, has turned into the brightest part of my life. The pituitary tumor experts I work closely with: Dr. Daniel Kelly, Dr. Garni Barkhoudarian, Dr. Pejman Cohan, and a handful of others are truly amazing.

These teams of experts respect and value my patient advocate perspective, and they have restored my faith in our medical community. I’m honored to have traveled this difficult journey with these brilliant, caring, and compassionate doctors along with many others who are dedicated patient advocates.

But truly, what makes this journey rewarding and worth the endless hours we’ve all put into the proper treatment and awareness of pituitary disease is the patients. Seeing how far we have come to help raise public awareness and education in our medical communities makes me extremely proud I could be an important part of it.

Speaking with the patients, seeing them get their lives back, helping them to make good, educated decisions about their treatment is really what keeps us all going. And the icing on my cake has been meeting two of my closest friends, Krystina, who had a prolactin tumor, and Shady, who had acromegaly—both had pituitary surgery with Dr. Kelly, and they are leading healthy and productive lives. I love them like my sisters.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Hormones411 – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
When I was growing up, I struggled all through school; learning wasn’t easy for me. One of my high school teachers had me stand up in the middle of her class in front of my peers while she berated and humiliated me over my poor grammar and spelling. I walked out of her class and never went back.

After that, I was petrified to write so much as a greeting card that someone would read. After barely graduating from high school, I was unable to pass the entrance exam for English 101 at our local college. I tested at a fourth-grade level. Earlier that year, I was diagnosed as severely dyslexic.

My high school in Southern California was overcrowded with 2100 students in my graduating class. My home life was chaotic, and there was no one there to help me either. I felt that my dream of becoming a writer was impossible. This was long before computers, so I stuffed my dreams of writing lighthearted mysteries way down inside.

But instead, I excelled at drawing, painting, graphic design, cartooning and photography; anything I could draw, design, capture or paint, I did extremely well. And I still love anything to do with creating art. After my surgery for the pituitary tumor, my passion to help others was bigger than my fear of writing. I knew I would have to write articles and correspond with medical professionals if I wanted to get their help and/or attention.

I created my first flyer, “They Were Right; It Was All in My Head—Pituitary Tumors. The Best Kept Secret in Medicine.” I was scared to death to let anyone see it, but I created a good design layout because of my graphic arts studies, and I finally worked up enough nerve to ask Dr. Kelly to look it over and edit it for mistakes. Dr. Kelly loved it, so after he made a few minor corrections, I was off and running!

The flyer traveled without the help of emails or social media, but rather it was distributed all over the country by people who read it and passed the flyer to someone they thought might have the same disease. This one little flyer helped save so many lives, and it started my patient advocate ball rolling. I took a couple of writing classes because I wanted to learn to be a better writer; one of the classes was to learn how to write for magazines.

I sent out thirteen query letters and got twelve rejections. But when the health editor from Woman’s Day magazine called me and asked if they could buy my story, I said, “I’m a writer; may I write it? And she said, yes! From there I continued writing and publishing my story and raising awareness about Pituitary disease. I’m not sure what was more rewarding, overcoming the challenges that had held me back with dyslexia or raising awareness about Cushing’s to over ten million readers; they both felt amazing.

Nineteen years after my pituitary surgery, it’s finally time for me to write my fun mysteries! I’m working on a three-book mystery series. I’ve finished the first draft, and I’m working on my revisiona. I hope to have, Dying to Date: Looking for Mr. Right but Finding Mr. Wrong, out in 2019; book two: Dying to Marry and book three: Dying to Divorce out after that. My Dying series website and Facebook page are coming soon. Praise to Lillian Nader, my amazing editor for her patience.

My goal is to get involved with speaking for schools to encourage kids not to let people discourage them from their dreams. It will always take hard work, but with dedication and a lot of effort, you can do what you love.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I have seen a lot of wonderful progress in  the work Dr. Kelly and his colleagues are doing at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute to advance treatments and improve the quality of life for their patients with cancerous brain tumors, pituitary tumors and so many other areas of the neurosciences. They are truly a comprehensive Center of Excellence.

I plan to continue helping them and their patients, and I am also excited to write my mystery stories. I will continue to use my public platform to help raise awareness for pituitary disease. I hope to have the opportunity one day to inspiring children the importance of reading great books and telling their stories.

Contact Info:

From http://voyagela.com/interview/meet-sharmyn-mcgraw-hormones411-santa-monica/?platform=hootsuite


Women’s Day, March 9, 2004 issue

Woman's Day, March 9, 2004 issue

What’s Wrong with Me?

I’d never heard of Cushing’s disease, until it was revealed as the culprit behind my mysterious illness

By Sharmyn McGraw
Photographed by Brett Panelli

What's Wrong with Me?For years I was a size two. I worked hard to maintain my weight by exercising and eating a healthy diet—I even had a personal trainer. But in 1993, at the age of 31, my body rapidly changed. In four days I gained 11 pounds, and by six months it was 85. I tried eating less and working out more, but my weight just kept going up.

One year and 100 extra pounds later, my appearance was drastically changed. With most of the weight centered around my stomach, I looked as if I were pregnant with twins. My face and chin were round and the back of my neck had a buffalo hump. On top of it all, my thick blond hair began falling out in handfuls.

The anxiety and depression were nearly unbearable. I was a 31-year-old woman with a 227-pound body living in Newport Beach, California, a town south of Los Angeles where there’s no such thing as being too thin. Obesity just does not exist, especially among my peers. As an interior designer, I was often invited to social events, but I was so embarrassed by my appearance that I started avoiding them.

What was going on inside my body was just as troubling. I felt as if I’d had a triple espresso on an empty stomach. I was flying at top speed with constant jitters and chronic indigestion, rarely sleeping more than two hours a night. Mentally and physically, I was exhausted.

Searching for an Answer

While my girlfriends were busy planning their weddings and starting their families, I went from doctor to doctor hoping that someone would figure out what was wrong with me. In seven years, I sought help from more than 15 highly recommended physicians, as well as nutritionists, psychotherapists, an acupuncturist and a naturopath. Pleading my case as if I was on trial for a crime I did not commit, my closing argument was always the same: “I eat a healthy diet and exercise fanatically. This rapid weight gain, anxiety and depression is completely out of my nature.”

Nearly ever doctor I saw, convinced that I was a compulsive overeater with a mood disorder, simply offered advice on dieting and exercise. “Maybe you just think you work out as often as Jane Fonda,” was one physician’s comment.

One doctor labeled me a hypochondriac, and another said I had too much yeast in my system. Over the course of seven years, I also heard that I had fibromyalgia, a spastic colon, acid reflux and a sleep disorder, was prediabetic and premenopausal. I endured painful and expensive medical tests, including two endoscopies, a colonoscopy, a bone marrow biopsy and multiple CAT scans and ultrasounds. I had my thyroid removed and ankle and knee surgery (due to the excess weight on my joints).

During this time, with my family living far away in Illinois, I relied on my friends for support. Many of them were helpful, but some just continued to drop subtle hints about the latest diets they had read about. As for having a relationship—anxiety, chronic muscle pain and uncontrollable diarrhea were just a few of the reasons I stopped dating completely.

As days turned into years, I knew my symptoms were getting worse. My mind was no longer sharp and quick, and I stuttered to complete even simple sentences. I was not sure how much more I could endure, but I was determined that my obituary would not read, “Obese woman dies of unknown causes.”

I gathered all of my medical records and went to work studying every line. I found there was just one thing almost every doctor agreed on: My cortisol level was too high. In fact, it was three times the normal level for this hormone, yet none of the doctors felt that it had anything to do with my laundry list of complaints. By this point, I was fairly certain that it did.

Borrowing a friend’s computer, I went on the Internet and typed in the word “cortisol.” Up popped an article on Cushing’s syndrome, a hormonal disorder caused by excessively high blood levels of cortisol, and there on the screen were every one of my symptoms. I couldn’t believe it! Had I possibly diagnosed myself seven long years after my symptoms began?

Suddenly I remembered that I had seen the word “Cushing’s” in a report from a clinic I’d been to four years earlier. Ironically, the doctors had ruled it out because my eyes weren’t yellow and I didn’t have mouth sores. Now my next step was to convince a doctor that I had this disease.

Finally, a Diagnosis!

I’ll never forget the day I was ushered into the office of endocrinologist Andre Van Herle, M.D., at UCLA Medical Center. I was prepared to once again plead my case. But without knowing anything about me, he simply shook my hand and said, “So you are here because you have Cushing’s.”

This was a doctor with more than 40 years of experience in diagnosing people with the syndrome, and he knew at first glance that I had the physical appearance of someone with the disorder. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and tears streamed down my face. Most importantly, I realized I was not crazy and someone was willing to help me.

Dr. Van Herle and his colleague, Pejman Cohan, M.D., soon confirmed through blood tests that I did have Cushing’s syndrome. In my case, as in about 70 percent of cases, the problem was a tumor in my pituitary gland that was causing the overproduction of the hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH). This hormone stimulates the body’s adrenal glands to produce cortisol, the life-sustaining “fight or flight” hormone, which has many important functions. High amounts of cortisol, however, can wreak havoc, causing rapid weight gain, upper-body obesity, a rounded face, increased fat around the neck, anxiety and depression. Over time, abnormally high levels can even be life-threatening.

The next step was surgery to remove the tumor in my pituitary, located at the base of the brain, but there was one more obstacle. Although my hormone levels indicated I had a tumor, it was apparently so small that it wasn’t picked up on an MRI. So there was a chance that my surgeon, Daniel Kelly, M.D., director of UCLA’s Pituitary Tumor and Neuroendocrine Program, wouldn’t be able to locate it. Thankfully, he didn’t encounter that problem. On April 14, 2000, Dr. Kelly was successful in removing the tiny tumor though an incision in the back of my nasal cavity.

Today, four years later, I am 100 percent cured, and my body and mind are finally free from the horrible effects of Cushing’s. I’ve been able to lose 40 of the 100 pounds that I gained and am confident I can lose the rest. As a volunteer, I help facilitate a UCLA pituitary tumor support group, and I recently spoke to medical students at UCLA School of Medicine, explaining my difficulties obtaining a correct diagnosis. Looking back over nearly 10 years, it’s painful to think about all that I’ve been through. But I am so proud of myself for never giving up. I hope my story will help encourage and empower other women to do the same.

Sharmyn McGraw is a member of the Cushing’s Help and Support Message Boards.


Pituitary Cushing’s: Sharmyn (sharm on the boards) was featured on the Montel Show.

In 1993 at the age of 31, Sharmyn went from a socially acceptable dress size two and full of life to an obese size 22 and barely able to function in just one year. Despite the years of dedication to maintain a shapely muscular body, she suddenly had no control over the rapid weight gain. Her hours of personal fitness training and a healthy diet did nothing to stop the pounds from piling on. Sharmyn gained as much as eleven pounds in four days, 85 pounds in six months and 100 pounds in a year. Soon the weight gain was the least of her health problems; her hair fell out by the handfuls, her stomach stuck out like she was pregnant with twins, emotionally she felt like a misfit, and much more.

For seven horrific years Sharmyn searched the medical community for help, but over and over doctors told her there was nothing medically wrong with her…nothing some good old dieting and exercise couldn’t fix.

In spite of the many years of challenges within our healthcare system, Sharmyn ultimately diagnosed herself via the Internet and was fortunate to find a team of experts at UCLA Medical Center who confirmed her diagnosis. On April 14, 2000. Dr. Daniel Kelly, a world-renowned pituitary neurosurgeon—her angel – successfully removed the tumor and literally gave Sharmyn her life back.

Discuss this TV show.


Pituitary Cushing’s – interview with Sharmyn (sharm on the boards)


Cushing’s disease-Pituitary Gland

Sharmyn McGraw searched for answers for seven years for whatever it was that was killing her; finally she diagnosed herself via the Internet with Cushing’s disease, caused by a pituitary brain tumor.

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Rox (Rox) Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

40yo female, in the process of diagnosis, high cortisol confirmed by UFCC (4x) & saliv cort (2x) & serum, high ACTH, DHEA, & MSH; did not suppress on DST (0.5mg dose), suppressed on high dose (1.0mg), 7mm pit tumor by MRI. Waiting for decision point from endo, considering IPSS or transphenoid. Aware of BLA as an alternative but that seems to be roundly not recommended as first-line treatment from all the reading I’ve done.

Primary question is if anyone has experience with Dr. Daniel Kelly in Santa Monica? He works with my endo and was recommended. I am open to nationwide if necessary, but if he ranks at the top anyway then would go with him.

Is QOL typically worse after surgery? If so, what’s the point?

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Interview With Pat – Golden Oldie

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golden-oldie

 

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 – 01:04AM

My show, “Interview with Pat Gurnick” on “CushingsHelp” is airing 06/23/2011 on BlogTalkRadio.

Next Interview, Thursday June 23 at 9:00 PM eastern with Pat Gurnick:

The Call-In number for questions or comments is (646) 200-0162.

Listen to Pat’s interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2011/06/24/pat-gurnick-pituitary-patient

Join Pat on THURSDAY JUNE 23 AT 9PM EASTERN

My name is Pat Gurnick. I had a Pituitary Tumor (Cushing’s Disease) removed  (Macro 1.4 size) by Dr. Kelly at UCLA.

This has been a long journey for me. In 1990 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Fibromyalgia, and Environmental Illness/Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I was a Needs Assessment and Referral Counselor at Charter Hospital. I than went to work for Brotman Hospital as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor, with their day treatment program for Chronic Mentally Ill Substance Abusers, but by 1992 I was so ill I went on disability. I could not read or write for over a year, so sick. I started a support group, WEBSITE  and phone hotline in 1993, to give myself a reason to live. I had such cognition difficulties and fatigue, to name a few symptoms, that I don’t honestly know how I achieved this!

In 1994 I thought I was in remission, little more functional and decreased Fibromyalgia pain; yet, I also went through premature menopause at that time, age 35 (I am 45 now), which I now found out was the cause and beginning of a Pituitary Tumor/Cushing’s Disease! I was single and I had no children. My doctor figured this is when the tumor developed/high cortisol, to compensate for my crashed adrenals (HPA Dysfunction common to CFIDS Patients).

I tried so hard to lose the weight all those years, and the past few years people were always asking me when I was “due” for my stomach was so distended. In addition, I was anxious and depressed, experienced nausea most of the time, facial hair, moon face, hump/fat pads ,and many of the other Cushing’s effects. The Rheumatologist just attributed this all to getting older and osteoporosis (which I had a severe case by this time due to Cushing’s – little did I know!).

No one picked up on the Tumor situation until last October, 2003. I had other health problems, especially mold injury (from water damage in my home) and had to leave with basically the clothes on my back in August. My life was upside down. I was stressed and went to see a chiropractor to ease my tight neck. I knew something was wrong when the x-rays showed fat pads not bone as my old Rheumatologist had claimed.

By October 2003 a New doctor (been to so many through these years trying so many things to get well) wanted me to have an MRI done when I showed him my x-rays and told him of my concerns. I was not willing to give up and attribute it to old age! He stated he thought I had Cushing’s disease and wanted to test me. The tumor was clearly seen on the scans, and Cushing’s Disease confirmed. I had gained 40 pounds by this time, and looked totally different, as you can imagine.

After I was diagnosed, I went to many healers, tried holistic things, which didn’t heal me, but got me in good shape for surgery a year later. Thank God it was a slow growing tumor, because it was close to my eyes and sinuses, and waiting any longer would have been detrimental to my health. I had surgery performed December 17, 2003, at UCLA with Dr. Kelly. He has been very kind and patient with me while I tried alternative treatment, knowing surgery would be eminent.

As for my hospital experience, 2x’s I had adrenal insufficiency and was terrified. I had no idea what to expect, fainting on the floor, staff all around me when I woke up, going in and out of consciousness, frightened I would go to sleep and never wake up, wanting to throw up all the time, could not walk, dependent on oxygen mask (trouble breathing) and I.V., using a bed pan, and had a longer stay than anticipated. Plus, hurting from stitches on my stomach, and was told was used for fat during surgery; had cerebral brain fluid leakage and titanium mesh was placed in my head. Little did I know that was only the beginning. I did not understand the post-op situation (cortisol withdrawal symptoms, medication side effects, emergency bracelet, light headedness, to name a few).

So, I have been looking for answers and finally found you all! I am not alone! It is ONE DAY AT A TIME now, and I am looking forward to better days ahead.

Update: April 15, 2004

I am a wreck since surgery, going from depression to anxiety, hormones bouncing off the walls. hot flashes, cognition problems, incontinence (cortisol weakens muscles including the bladder), and sometimes crippled to the point I cant even stand to brush my teeth. I am struggling with continual weakness, edema, painful/swollen hands and body. Now, ailments are popping up as the high cortisol decreases in my body. I have a fatty liver and gallbladder disease (cortisol can do this), Rheumatoid Arthritis (Cortisol can do this break down the muscles and joints), heart irregularities, high cholesterol, to name a few. Cortisol can cause so much damage, and I feel like I am left in pieces all over the floor, running from doctor to doctor to patch me up. Having little energy but dragging myself all over town to find some relief; hoping for a solution.

I have only lost 5 pounds but my mustache is gone, which is good news. Plus, my osteoporosis has gotten better and is now osteopenia status; in such a short amount of time. Taking out that tumor saved my life!

Update: December, 2004

It has been a year since my pituitary surgery. I have lost almost 40 pounds. I think more clearly and feel more confident. Look like a real woman again! Sure, I still have my mood swings, cortisol still low (but off cortef now), have phsycial pain (decreased 60% due to Lexapro antidepressant), fatigue (limits me on some days), and need to monitor my stress level or my immune system goes down quick and I get sick. My body is not the same. I am way more sensitive. But, I changed my lifestyle to fit my needs. I moved from Los Angeles to Boulder, Colorado, for the slower pace and beautiful mountains. My adrenals are not strong, and I have to be careful to take it easy or I have symptoms of adrenal burnout. However, I am so glad to be alive, mentally functioning, and taking walks again in nature!

Dr. Kelly at UCLA was fantastic, and I will always be grateful for his excellent expertise in ridding me of the tumor. I have a new chance in life. I do look over my shoulder, ever reminded that it can come back, having tests every 6 months for years to come. But, I have learned from this experience that really life is to be lived one day at a time anyhow. Appreciate each day as it comes, living in the moment, making the best of the time I have.

I look at life and love differently now. I left a stuck relationship, moved to a place that will bring me more peace and joy, empowered myself, being my best friend, having more fun and laughter in my life. I plan on continuing with my goals, which were stopped by the tumor, doing what matters to me instead of being co-dependent. I am important. I deserve the best. I have been given a 2nd chance and I will take it for all it is worth!

Update: September 16, 2007

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of my experience with Cushing’s Disease. I remind myself that I don’t have the tumor anymore, than I look out at the sunshine lighting up day and take in a breath of fresh air, so grateful to be alive.

Yes, I catch myself from wandering back to the Cushing’s memories: when I felt like a Cherub, blown up and uncomfortable in my own skin, emotional, feeling like my blood was racing in my veins, breaking my toes, pimples like a teenager, and the dark mustache I knew everyone could see! I still look for those returning signs, relieved that they have not come back. I was told by my surgeon, Dr. Kelly, that the tumor would not return. When fear grabs me, during infrequent times of fatigue and a rush of anxiety, I reassure myself that these are only aftereffects not the tumor returning. I have my cortisol levels tested every year to confirm this fact, and my levels are normal. However, I went through ‘Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome’ from all the medical trauma I endured! It took 8 years for the doctors to finally diagnosis this disorder! You can imagine all the ailments they told me I had or that it was all in my head. I was running around to doctors begging for answers but feeling so discouraged, hopeless, and helpless. I tried many medications hoping for a solution, but none came. I did many holistic treatments, to no avail. Little did I know that I suffered from Cushing’s Disease/Pituitary Tumor!

One day I walked into a Rhumatologist’s office, Dr. David Hallegua, seeking help for my Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the doctor exclaimed I also had Cushing’s Disease because of the obvious physical signs I exhibited. This is all a memory today. The once obvious ‘fat’ humps on my shoulders and neck are gone. I dropped most of the weight, my face structure is visible again, my hair healthy as is my skin, my moods finally balanced from the ‘bipolar’ roller coaster of emotions I previously tried to control – time healed this (I am not on any antidepressants), and my hormones are balanced without hormone replacement therapy. I know how lucky I am, believe me, I am thankful!

Yes, I have realized this illness has also given me an amazing gift, one of appreciation for every bird in the sky, every flower that bloomed, every whiff of baked bread, everyday I could walk by the Boulder Creek with vigor, and how I gradually was able to retain information to the point that I could multi-task again! Each little thing has been a blessing. I have much gratitude for being alive, remembering the days when I had Cushing’s but didn’t know it and negotiated with God dark agreements…looking back I am glad that I didn’t follow through. What lesson’s has this teacher left me with? I live in the moment now, present, not running to the past or the future, just appreciating today. Ah, I have today to live! I have come back into my body, proud of my curves, my soft skin, my long hair, my searching eyes, feeling the calm peacefulness that rests in my heart, and the relaxation in my body. It feels good to experience positive sensations, wanting to walk again around the block, to go shopping for clothes, taking a swim in the heat of the summer, all dressed up going to a dinner party with friends, taking meditation classes at the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center. I have a social life again! For so many years I hid in my house, heavy, unhappy, and discouraged. I didn’t know I had an illness, and all I thought was, “who would want me like this?”. Yet, there was a sliver of hope, for I never stopped trying to figure out what was wrong, desperate to find a solution, knowing all along that I was NOT just fat and growing older, at the age of 35! My body was betraying me, that was clear. The lesson, to not give up, to have faith. My warrior came out in me. I became a stronger woman through all of this, and moved through the challenges that were dropped in front of me, bomb by bomb. I came through the surgery with flying colors, hard but I did it! Winning round one! Round two, dropping pound after pound of fat. Round three, learning how to walk and breathe easy again. Round four, winning the grand prize, learning how to relax, and to be happy that I am alive.

I was able to provide counseling services again , and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 pat@caringcounselor.com

There is life after Cushing’s Disease!

Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
Psychotherapist
www.caringcounselor.com

Glad to be alive!!! September 2007

Pat’s photos:

The only picture I have after Cushing’s,
a number of years ago,
gained 25 more pounds since then.
[Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me and my sister at Thanksgiving – right before surgery. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me at home, right after surgery, with my kitten sleeping on my stomach. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me with my Cat JACK 4 months after surgery.
You can see my face has gotten thinner, but my body is still Cushy. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

April 2006 [Photographer: Pat’s family]


Glad to be alive!!! September 2007 [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Update January 25, 2016

In 2010,  I had a near death experience from dehydration and ended up in the ER with Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. See the video I created at that time:

 

I notified NADF (National Adrenal Diseases Foundation) that Cushing’s patients suffer and need to be recognized through their organization with this serious life threatening condition: Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. As a result, the Medical Director,
Dr. Margulies, MD, developed a brochure on Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency:
Stress dosing and recognizing Adrenal Crisis symptoms is most important. Today, I have a better understanding and can recognize the symptoms of dehydration, and I am more prepared to double my hydrocortisone medication under an emergency situation (often for me it is the flu) or stress.
Hear my CushingsHelp Radio Interview 2011:
After my surgery in 2003, I was able to provide counseling services again, and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, Skype, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 or pat@caringcounselor.com
There is life after Cushing’s Disease!
Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Psychotherapist
Matrix Energetics Practitioner
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
www.caringcounselor.com

 

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