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Sheryl, Pituitary Bio

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My journey started about 7 years ago. I began with generalized symptoms. I had severe insomnia, muscle and joint aches. I would be wired for a few days than couldnt get out of bed for days. The symptoms continued to get worse.

I sought help from several dr’s which led nowhere. after doing research I really felt that my symptoms were related to cushings. My local endo did run a few urines and salivas which came back elevated, however, he just wanted to re test in 6 months. I was deteriorating so rapidly that I decided to go to LA and see Dr. Friedman. Best decision of my life.

I will be starting on Ketokonazole after he gets labs that he drew back, and he has Dr. M at MD Anderson reviewing my MRI.

For the first time in many years I feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am so greatful that I have found Board s like this one so that I am able to inform myself. So thank you !

Sheryl added her Helpful Doctor, Theodore Friedman, to the Cushing’s MemberMap

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Amy (Amy), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

 

I have been going back and forth on whether to add a bio here because I don’t yet have a diagnosis. Also, it is really difficult to believe in myself sometimes and occasionally I feel relatively good. Some members of my family don’t support or believe me, but my husband is incredibly supportive and has been with me since my symptoms first started. My sister and my dad have both said to me that they don’t think anything is wrong with me and either implied of outright said that I am just depressed. They keep pushing me to continue with school even though I am taking two classes right now and can barely keep up with them at this point. I graduated from college a few years ago in biology and really would like to go on but don’t really feel like it is possible since I was barely able to get the degree in the end due to my energy levels (mental and physical). At this point I am going to L.A. to visit Dr. F next Tuesday so I am hoping that I will be getting a diagnosis and that something good will come out of this.

I think that my symptoms started as a sophomore in high school. I noticed that I was always tired for some reason and couldn’t seem to “wake up” mentally a lot of the time. I also developed cluster migraines that were particularly hideous. This is also when I noticed that I had a buffalo hump below my neck which I assumed was caused from a fall on my head when I was seven years old. The logic here doesn’t really make sense since I only developed neck and shoulder problems and pain in high school with no symptoms beforehand. I had chiropractic care for years for a stretched ligament in my neck that could never seem to heal. At this time I was very thin (5’8” and 140lbs) so there was no reason that I should have had a fatty lump at the base of my neck. I also had stretch marks on my sides at this weight. I have since gained around 90lbs (about 120 if you count some weight lost over the years due to drastic measures) and I am now 25 years old. There are a ton of stretch marks now all over my body from my knees to my elbows.

I really don’t have an explanation for the weight gain since I have never eaten much. Over the years I kept assuming that I was going to start losing weight because I kept making changes that should have led to weight loss. When I talked to anyone about it the problem was always me and what more I could be doing relating to something they randomly read about weight loss. There was always an explanation for why it wasn’t happening and why I needed to just try harder. I have continued to exercise throughout most of my “illness” either intensively (beachbody insanity several times, running daily) or light (walking or yoga). The intense times are unsustainable for me and it is incredibly hard to get dressed or take a shower let alone do intense physical activity. Nevertheless, I try to run or walk a little every day. In my diet I have made considerable changes such as becoming a vegetarian, vegan, going on juice fasts of vegetable juice for weeks, and just severe calorie limitations. Now I just stay under 2000 calories a day. Frequently I don’t eat very much because I don’t have the energy to make anything. Some people on here talked of acquaintances not recognizing them- I have the same thing. I felt ugly on my wedding because of my weight and have noticed that people are not as kind to the heavier me.

Whenever I talked about having low energy and feeling down the answer was to go to a counselor and that I was depressed. Counseling throughout college was to no effect. I honestly don’t think that I am depressed. I feel happy much of the time, but I’m just very tired and foggy and it is incredibly easy to feel down because of this.

My symptoms and the development of new ones have gotten much worse over the years. During college I had to take a semester off and towards the end I felt like there was no way to keep up with my class load even though I pretty much studied all day long. My memory is terrible and any classes that required memorization were impossible. I developed low grade fevers that continued off and on during the day for at least three months. I sought medical treatment and was tested for HIV, lyme, lupus, hypothyroidism, etc., but the cause never became apparent and I think my doctor lost interest in trying to figure out what it was. My doctor said I probably had PCOS because my testosterone was at the high side of normal, and an infectious disease doctor said I was just depressed. I was too tired to fight for myself and I thought maybe the stress and work of school was getting to me and maybe I really was just depressed. I thought that the weight, the brain fog, the aches, and the tiredness would go away once I removed myself from a stressful situation-it didn’t and has since gotten worse.

I just had a cortisol saliva test done that I ordered from ZRT labs and it indicated high cortisol, but it wasn’t that high and was lowered in the evening. I don’t really know what this means since I thought cortisol was supposed to remain high at night if you have Cushing’s, but I guess I will see what the doctor thinks next week. I have so many of the symptoms and I don’t know what else to do if I don’t end up having Cushing’s. Some other symptoms that I have experienced or that are persistent include: eczema on my fingers, round face, fat neck, sore joints (hands, feet, ankles, hips, shoulders, back) and muscles, excessive sweating, high blood pressure readings, becoming more awake at night and having trouble falling asleep, hip, ankle and foot pain, very dry hair and loss, trouble climbing stairs and descending due to weakness, lower back pain and more neck and shoulder pain (my hump is bigger), blood pounding in ears after little activity, blotchy arms and cheeks, acne on my chin, hirstruism, feeling swollen and uncomfortable, body stiffness, spinal cyst, lightheaded, shaky and clumsy, feeling hot (maybe hot flashes), long recovery from colds and chronic sinus infections, long recovery for injuries, arms and legs fall asleep easily, menstruation date fluctuates constantly, trouble giving blood, nausea and stomach problems, anxiety, twice a bump on the side of my cornea that was inflamed and I could visually see and feel, and a few instances where I had abdominal pain so bad that I couldn’t move. As far as easy bruising goes- I never know why I have bruises but I don’t get them often. I do have some other weird things with my skin such as having “sleep” marks from very short term positions that will not go away for a long time. Also, easy breaking of skin… I once used an electric massager on my back and didn’t realize until later that it had literally mauled me. I had horrible red and circular scratches and (now) a large scarred area. Other times I have had scratches so minor that they barely broke the skin, but I still have a scar…

Being sick all the time is a very humbling experience and at times it can be way too humbling to the point where I feel worthless. I hope there is more understanding and love for people experiencing pain on a daily basis since it seems to be much more common every day. It has been really beautiful to see on this forum the support that parents are giving to their children with Cushing’s and support from doctors and other family members. I don’t know if I would have believed I could have this if not for your stories and your personal struggles to get treatment. The more I read (scientific articles and medical information and bios) the more I recognized that what I was feeling all these years was real and could possibly get better. Thank you for reading my story.

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In Memory: Martha, October 14, 2008

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in-memory

 

StaceyH posted this on the boards:

I just wanted you good folks to know that my dear Martha and partner for 11 years passed away this evening. I’m not sure why I am posting this now, just one thing to check off my to do list and hoping that getting this in writing will help me.

Dr. F had wanted to give Martha an IPSS, but she had a problem with an EKG two weeks ago so the doctor would not release her for surgery. She went for a cardio strees test last week and was to get her results tomorrow. She was feeling “ok” but when I arrived home this evening, I found her in the bathroom. I tried to give her CPR but I really knew it was too late.

She was such a good woman, loved her horror movies and we loved to watch them together. She cared deeply for other people and would go out of her way to tell a stranger hello and learn their name. She was even known to give little old ladies that she didn’t know a ride home if they would let her.

I’m going to miss her so much. This was so unexpected, but deep in my heart – expected. Please, love your loved one like it’s your or their last breath. Push your doctors and advocate for yourselves.

Although Martha never used this forum, she told me she was grateful that all of you were here to answer our questions and accepted us with open arms.

In lieu of flowers that may be coming, I would like people to donate to this forum in memory of Martha. Do you know who to contact or who donations should be sent to via mail?

Please feel free to move this to the In Memory thread.

Thank you again you good folks….
Stacey

Read more about Martha’s story here: A tribute to Martha on Robin’s Blog.

Jeanne, Pituitary Cushing’s and Acromegaly Bio (Golden Oldie)

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golden-oldie

 

During the summer of 1999 I was a trim and fit 130 pound woman. I was very athletic and worked out all the time. At that time I had also been taking Tae Kwon Do. I was able to eat anything that I wanted and not gain weight. I wore size 8 pants.

Fast forward to May of 2000. I developed increasing stomach and bowel problems. I had a spastic colon and serious GERD. Along with that came a poof in my belly. Although I was still wearing the same size my stomach started to look “pregnant”. I was referred to a gastroenterologist who began treating my myriad of health issues. He really couldn’t find a reason for all of it but said he could treat it. For awhile I managed okay on the drugs and diet that I was treated with. Everything went in cycles.

During the summer of 2001 my naturally light blonde hair began to change color. It got black and mousy looking at the roots. At the same time it started thinning, the texture was horrible and no longer shiny and baby soft. I developed heat intolerance. I was uncomfortable in 80 degree weather. I also developed strange rashes and red dots on my skin. Later that fall my neck and face started to turn beet red. It stayed that way.

I could no longer fit in my wedding rings and my shoe size went from a size 7 ½ to and 8 1/2. Doctors didn’t find this impressive. My neck went from 13 inches around to 16. I gained 12 pounds in 1 week alone. I started getting real fat in my stomach and armpits, and I could no longer wear normal bras. I also started getting a lot of fat on my upper back. I grew hair in places that women should not grow hair. My face was huge with strange acne outbreaks. I also got acne in weird spots.

At the time I had put on about 20 pounds all in my stomach. When I would try other clothing it wouldn’t work because the next size bigger fit in the waist but the butt and legs were huge. I gave up on real pants and started to wear stretch clothes all the time. At this time I could no longer exercise to my peak performance. I was tired all the time and never felt well and I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. I thought that I was getting old.

January of 2002 my bowel and stomach troubles peaked. I was in and out of the hospital. Although I was following the healthy eating plan and exercising no doctors believed me. My PCP did a TSH test and it came back at 27.48. I was hypothyroid, at that time my estradiol levels were also non-existent. So off I was sent to an Endocrinologist. I was given replacements for both yet nothing improved.

This started an intense year of doctors. I was diagnosed with anything and everything at this point. I was started on the Atkins diet plan. I followed this religiously and walked for up to 2 hours a day and continued to gain weight. By this time I was 165 pounds. Finally realizing that something horrible was wrong with me I started seeking out Endo’s on my own. It led me to one who thought he should do a few 24 UFC’s. One came back high, 2 others came back high normal (33.4 and 33.9 with a range of 2.9-34). They then did serum cortisols which came back below normal. I was frustrated.

It was November by now and I was getting no where fast. At this point I had seen 11 different doctors. The last of which told me that there was no way I was eating healthy and not losing. He even suggested that my fresh sliced berry snack was making me fat. By now I’ developed high blood pressure and high blood sugars. My fasting blood glucose came in at 170.

By this time I was so exhausted and developed such horrid bone pain that I could not even exercise anymore. I remember waking up late one morning and crying. I went downstairs and told my hubby I was sure my back was breaking. It was horrible. I weighed 196 pounds and looked 9 months pregnant with triplets.

I came home and looked the tests up on the internet. I started reading everything that I could find. I knew then that I had Cushing’s. I found the Cushing’s help site. The trouble was that some tests were normal and some were abnormal. Finally in January of 2003 I went to see Dr. Friedman after another patient emailed me. Dr. Friedman tested my 17-Hydroxysteroids and 17- Ketosteroids which came back elevated. He also did some additional salivary cortisols testing. He finally figured out that I not only had Cyclic Cushing’s but also Acromegaly.

After many more tests and some MRI’s my tumors were found. I had pituitary surgery to remove them. I was devastated that I was not cured from the Cushing’s. After much consulting I decided to proceed with a Bilateral Adrenalectomy to cure it once and for all. I am recovering slowly but surely.

I am now 4 months post-op.

Click any thumbnail to view the larger image.

Before Cushing’s [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

In the kitchen [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Jinxie [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Jinxie [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

 

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In Memory: Kate Myers ~ 2014

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kate-fbkate

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

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

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

Her National Geographic video in 2007

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

Articles to help others:

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

Kate’s bio from 2008:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, I’ll keep you posted.

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

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

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

 

Deanne (DeeR), Suspected Cushing’s

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undiagnosed3

 

Please help suspected cushings. I have chance to go see.Dr f. And Dont want to waste the opportunity.

I am 45 and a chronic pain patient from a drunk neuro surgeon removing my first ribs and scalene muscles when I was mid twentys. He injected me with about 20 cortisone shots in a year trying to cover his mistakes. Seveve hot flashes and mood swings began. Then can ovarian cysts that would burst. Finally contolled by 1/50 birth contol pills.

2003 Prior to loss of insurance and a divorce primary dr did pituitary scan after my complaints of increased pain every few months with my cycle, the hot flashes and my bearded lady feature.

2005 or 2006 menstal cycles so bad can’t leave house because of amount of bleeding and muscle aches, extreme fatigue and weight gain. At this point too old for birth control pill and naughty me yep I smoke.

2007 they day hot flashes, weight gain because i.u.d.is at the end of its life cycle have it removed.

2008 pregnant hot flashes and breast feeding. Beautiful seven year old and I am sleeping through her childhood. Soooo sad. Memory is now awful and cognitive getting worse. Thought I had alzemers new primary says cushings and sad it was a relief not crazy and maybe can get better.

Not alot of tests vit d so low at 17, morning cortisol high , 24 hour fine. Acth ref range low was 6 mine 7.

I’m thinking adrenals. Need help making sure i am as ready as can be to see dr f. Do not want to waste my chance to get better.

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In Memory: Kate Myers

7 Comments

kate-fb kate

 

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

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

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

Her National Geographic video in 2007

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

Articles to help others:

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

Kate’s bio from 2008:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, I’ll keep you posted.

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

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

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

 

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