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Sandy (KindredSpirit), Pituitary Bio

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I have been married for 33 years to a wonderful, patient man. Mother of 2 grown boys. Will be a gramma in May 2017.

I have been on the health journey for a number of years. It was a friend who gave me the name of Cushing’s and had I been tested. Tested?! Never heard of it.

Went online and saw the symptoms. Felt that the missing piece of the puzzle was found.

Made an appointment with my doctor in Sept. 2016. After initial urine test and blood work was sent to endocrinology.

Several tests later received confirmation just before Christmas. Awaiting MRI.

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Andrea L, Pituitary Bio

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A Golden Oldie

I first noticed something abnormal about my health in the summer of 2009, at age 23. I suddenly developed severe acne when I had had clear skin since I was a teenager, and I noticed more hair on my face and body than I was used to. In retrospect I realize that I’d also had bouts of weight gain, a buffalo hump and excessive sweating during my adolescent years, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Around the same time I noticed the acne and hair growth, I also started putting on weight. I’d been on the thicker side for my height since childhood, so I decided to join Weight Watchers. Even though I was hungry a lot of the time, I stuck to the plan religiously and lost about a half pound per week. It was slow, but I was moving in the right direction so I stuck with it. I had bouts of fatigue throughout the process, but I would just assume that I needed to tinker with my diet – more protein, less protein, more fruit, less fruit, whatever. I tried a lot of different things, always focusing on getting adequate nutrition, but never had the energy that my Weight Watchers buddies seemed to have.

About six months later I finally went to my mom’s endocrinologist when I was visiting my parents in Texas. I was concerned that the acne and hair growth meant I had PCOS. All those tests came back normal, so the doctor gave me a 24 hour UFC just in case. It came back elevated, and she said I ought to follow up with an endocrinologist in New York where I live.

My next menstrual period didn’t come until 4 months later, and then they stopped completely.

My new endocrinologist in New York ordered more tests (you all know the drill). Over the next six months or so the 24 hour UFCs kept coming back high, salivary cortisols were normal or high, and one dexamethasone suppression test was kind of ambiguous. The doctor said that my urine volume was really high and might be screwing up the results, so I retested after limiting my fluid intake. That UFC came back normal, so I was instructed to follow up in six months.

As if on cue, the months following my normal UFC were great. For some reason I finally felt like I was bursting with energy. Beyond that, I had lost weight and even landed my dream job. At the time I assumed that the energy was from finally finding the right balance in my diet. The acne and hair growth were still there, but as far as I was concerned it was nothing that couldn’t be solved with some tweezers and makeup. Later I noticed in photos that even though I had lost weight, my face was much rounder than it had been before.

The nightmare began in January of 2011. I started feeling more anxious than usual. I began to cut more and more things out of my schedule because I didn’t feel like I had the mental energy to handle my normal workload. I had to take a Benadryl most nights to sleep. I started suffering from regular constipation for the first time in my life. My appetite increased markedly; I kept feeling less and less satisfied with my normal diet. I gave in and started rapidly gaining weight again.

After a particularly stressful week in February, I asked my mother to stay with me in New York for a little while, admitting that I had been feeling out of sorts. I figured I’d take a week off from work and just do fun stuff and I would be right back to normal.

…Wrong.

The bouts of fatigue returned, this time so crushing that I didn’t even have the energy to make my own meals. I’ll never forget the day I attempted to go out for my morning jog, trying to convince myself that it was all “in my head,” and despite having plenty of cardiovascular and muscular strength, I could barely take a single step. I felt like the world had gotten bigger somehow, like I drank the shrinking potion from Alice in Wonderland.

At the same time, my appetite became so ravenous that I felt like I could gnaw my arm off 24/7. I also started feeling scatterbrained and having difficulty focusing. These were the beginnings of the cognitive symptoms that would prove to be the most debilitating of all.

My mother, god bless her eternally, suggested that the odd change in my mental state might have something to do with all those abnormal hormone levels from the prior year’s tests. I followed up with the endocrinologist again and had a very high 24 hour UFC. He ordered an MRI. My symptoms were getting worse, but my mom fatefully broke her foot and had to return to her home in Texas.

By the time March arrived I was so scatterbrained that I constantly felt drunk. Going to work was petrifying. My appetite was still insatiable.

Finally, the mood swings came. By “mood swings,” I don’t mean irritability. I mean that I became an ultra-ultra-rapidly cycling manic depressive. I would wake up at 3:30 in the morning giddy with energy, writing long, rambling e-mails to everyone I know, trying to go for a jog only to have to stop and dance to the music on my MP3 player in the middle of the Bronx. Then I would feel horrendously depressed mere hours later.

I could spend a lifetime attempting to describe the pain of bipolar depression. It is beyond despair. Take the icky feeling you might get with a cold or a flu and multiply it by a thousand. I was so distressed I felt like my brain was on fire. Like I had been poisoned. It would get so bad that I couldn’t speak. I vomited just from the discomfort. Once I went to the ER, desperate for relief. All my vitals were normal. They just let me ride it out, like I was having a bad drug trip. Later, I described these feelings to my roommate, who said she felt that exact feeling while going through narcotics withdrawal.

One of the most interesting aspects of this experience was that every time I got a migraine headache (which I’ve had periodically for most of my life), my depression would lift or I would get more manic. Note that if I had a choice, I would take a migraine every day of my life over the pain of severe depression.

I went to a psychiatrist, and much to my dismay, he told me I was not crazy. He gave me totally ineffective herbal mood-lifters and told me to go back to the endocrinologist. I started taking huge doses of caffeine in an attempt to take the edge off the low moods. It worked temporarily, but the feeling always returned. I ended up back in the ER after experiencing a lovely phenomenon called “sleep paralysis” (Google it) for two hours straight, which understandably gave me a panic attack. I was put on benzodiazepines, which prevented another panic attack but did nothing to make me more comfortable.

Some interminable time later, my endocrinologist called to inform me that I had a 5mm adenoma on my pituitary gland. I wept with relief and my family made immediate arrangements to take me to MD Anderson for surgery.

Maybe if I had read some of the bios on this site I would have anticipated what was to come. Cushing’s patients never have it that easy. In my scatter-brained, benzo-doped, manic-depressive stupor, I showed up at MD Anderson for…more tests. There, both a 24 hour UFC and dex/CRH test came back normal. A few things about the dex/CRH test were not administered as planned, but the in-house testing results combined with my still-normal bodyweight convinced MD Anderson that I did not have Cushing’s, and was simply a total nut case. They sent me on my way.

Finally I returned to my mom’s endocrinologist, the same woman who had had the foresight to give me my first 24 hour UFC. She ordered another round of tests and sent me to a wonderful psychiatrist who promised to do her best to make me feel better while we waited for a diagnosis. A litany of psychiatric medicines (mood stabilizers, sleeping pills, stimulants, antidepressants) would each work for a few days or a week and then wear off. Eventually the mood swings turned into a persistent, mind-numbing depression.

In retrospect, the benefit of having my mood fluctuate so violently earlier in my illness was that the depression didn’t have time to take hold of my thoughts. It was painful, yes, but I was able to fight the feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred with logic and positive self-talk. Later on I was not only completely miserable, but also came to believe that my misery would never end. I’m amazed I lived to tell the tale.

By midsummer I had a few more elevated 24 hour UFCs under my belt and had gained enough weight to look more “cushingoid.” This time I went to Methodist Hospital in Houston. The surgeon there agreed with my endocrinologists that I had pituitary Cushing’s, but disagreed that my MRI showed a defined adenoma. Again, Cushing’s patients never have it that easy. Luckily this surgeon was caring and proactive enough to order an IPSS and schedule me for surgery, though he warned me that it may not cure my depression. I asked for the surgeon to remove my entire pituitary gland in the event that he didn’t find a tumor.

August 23rd, 2011 was the day of my rebirth. I can attribute my euphoria in the week after the surgery to the strong pain meds I was on for the CSF drain, but by the time they were out of my system I was astounded to find that my mood and thinking were absolutely 100% normal. I can once again think, laugh, smile, sleep, taste, and enjoy the company of others. Within three weeks I had enough mental energy to resume working from home.

No tumor was found, so my entire gland was removed. No amount of hormone replacement in my future can dampen the joy of having my self back, permanently, with no fear of relapse. I’m not even fully recovered from surgery and I’m feeling better than I have in quite a long time. Even the constipation and acne are gone!

It’s disorienting and traumatic to have essentially lived with a temporary form of bipolar disorder, only to be cured of it as suddenly as it began. I fancied myself knowledgeable about mental illness before this, but I know now that you just do not fully understand it until you feel it first-hand. Luckily it all feels like a distant memory now. There must be a natural sort of psychological distancing that occurs with a traumatic experience like that.

As I posted on the forums shortly after my surgery, for those of you who may have given up hope, keep fighting! Take it from me that there are better times ahead.

Note: Email Andrea or add comments to this bio below.

Andrea was interviewed on the BlogTalkRadio Cushing’s Program on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Listen live at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2011/10/19/andrea-l-pituitary-success-story

This interview is archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/CushingsHelp and iTunes podcasts at http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/cushingshelp-cushie-chats/id350591438

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Mickey D (MickeyD), Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-location

I am now 65 years old. I was first diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome in 1995 after 2 years of weekly doctor office visits stating that “my blood tests came back ok, so it must not be anything serious”.

My blood pressure shot up to stroke levels daily, my hair was falling out, I gained about 8 lbs in 6 months, had the moon face, buffalo hump, etc.,etc..

Every possible test imaginable was done to find the problem except a CT scan. The CT scan I had (after 2 years) revealed that I indeed had a tumor on my adrenal. I went to surgery and had the tumor and adrenal removed.

In fact, if I may interject, I was the “guinea pig” for the Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy performed by the doctor who invented the procedure. I was subjected to hundreds of observations while I was in the hospital for 2 days by student doctors and other Endocrinologists who wanted to see the outcome of the new procedure. Anyway, I went home after the surgery, returned to work in a week and was told I would not have to worry about ever getting this again.

I have had problems of various natures since the surgery. They have not required surgery but have been very emotionally upsetting. I can not seem to lose weight no matter what I try and I have tried it all. I did lose about 50 lbs shortly after surgery but I am still overweight and cannot seem to get it off.

I know my age isn’t helping but I am very physically active even with my age. My middle section is fatty, my breasts are enornous which is not a family trait, and I had had a total hysterectomy in 1994 at the age of 46 and I suffer daily with extreme hot flashes and mood swings.

The hot flashes are affecting my life. I am miserable. I have talked with my doctor about the weight, hot flashes, irritability but he doesn’t think it is caused by the Cushings from before. I DO!!! I have not been to an Endocrinologist since I was diagnosed back in 1995 so I have not had my levels checked. I don’t know what to do. I’m starting to think like I did back in 1995, that this is all in my head and it’s my fault that I cannot get relief for these symptoms I still have. I do not have a OB/GYN because my old one retired.

So, I am hoping that there is someone who has advice for me . I didn’t know this resource was here but I sure am  glad I found you.

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Angela Marie (Angela M), Undiagnosed Bio

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Growing up I’d always been anywhere from underweight to average with a couple chubby phases in my pre-teens and teens. I actually got into modeling work for nearly 10 years and I found myself having to take time off in 2008..At least I thought it would just be little while. Between anxiety, being fairly active and a high metabolism, I never had trouble losing weight until In 2007 out of nowhere, I found myself rapidly gaining a lot of weight. All together I had gained about 60-70 lbs in well under a year without my diet or lifestyle ever changing and I’d always been a light, picky eater. I went from a usual size 5-7 to 15 or S/M to XL/XXL. I got back into yoga, pilates and even bought a Total Gym. Working out and dieting even I wasn’t losing even so much as water wieght. I was notiing a whole host of new symptoms. From purple stretch marks, gaining weight, my fingers, toes and palms of hands constantly bright red. Weight gain/appearing swollen only in my torso and upper body, to even my features changing. Adema, constantly craving and eating ice. My once heart shaped face was now completely round and full starting from the top of my ears. I appeared more swollen than anything.

My first endo diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. He was the first to suggest Cushings and my first 24 UFC was 4 times higher than normal and the next was slightly above normal. The rest after that were in the normal ranges. Eventually hypothyroidism was ruled out after routine tests came back normal without taking the Synthroid and telling my doctor I was. Once I admitted it, he was so angry I proved him wrong that he dismissed me as a patient.

I was sent to another Endo and a specialist he referred me to. The next endocrinologist ended up being the most arrogant, rude person I’ve ever met and the few appointments I had with him ended up being mostly arguments or me breaking down into full blown panic attacks. The specialist I seen and his fellow who are supposed to be the best in my state initially believed I have Cushings once they went over my symptoms, medical history and photos documenting my physical changes. The specialist and my past endocrinologists even had grand round meetings on my case and still blew me off!

In 2008 I started having fluid/discharge from my right breast and after tons of testing to rule out breast cancer I was sent to surgery to remove the ducts. After this traumatic surgery, I still have fluid and from both breasts now that’s been ongoing for 6 years. Even after expalaining my situation and medical issues, I’m just told to lose weight. I went from completely normal sugar levels to borderline diabetic to “full blown” diabetic within a matter of months at the age of 26. I’ve seen numerous dieticians, nutrition and diabetic classes and no one can figure out why I’m not losing weight doing everything right. I was prescribed Metformin and lost a little over 20 lbs, but it was such a high dose it had to be lowered and I stopped losing any more weight.

Since everything started in 2007 it seems I’m adding more and more symptoms almost monthly to my already too long list with no answers as to why or what is causing them. I’ve done more research than some would consider humanly possible and probably more than some doctors I’ve seen! Reading blogs, forums, bio’s, etc. I can’t believe how many of the same symptoms I have as other patients. Mystery Diagnosis anymore is hard to watch relating so much to the stories I break down crying. The only symptoms I seem to be lacking is the constantly high cortisol, pronounced buffalo hump and thinning skin. Other than that I seem to have every single one, even the rarest or some I’ve never even seen associated. I’ve been offered so many possible diagnosis’, but nothing definitive. Everything from metabolic syndrome and PCOS to auto immune, parathyroid and that’s just your body!

I’ve seen or been pushed off on just about every specialist there is. At least my primary doctor admits there is something serious going on, but it’s over his head. Every single one of my other doctors, PA’s, surgeons or specialists believe I have Cushings, but I need an Endocrinologist to agree.

6 years later I still with labs all over the place, a list of literally 30+ symptoms and health problems because of this mystery disease that’s yet to be diagnosed. My Cortisol tests seem to be back and forth, but mostly showing low. My testosterone, ACTH and Insulin Like Growth Factor are all elevated. My vitamin D and iron are extremely low even with prescription strength vitamins. My white cell count is high enough to be sent to a cancer center to rule out different types of cancer. I was dagnosed with fattly liver disease and no answers as to why. Hair growth on my face and body, acne breakouts worse than I ever had in my teens. Chronic reoccuring skin, bacterial and viral infections.Dark pigmentation under my arms. Excessive sweating to the point my hair is soaked or sweat drips from my face in cool weather or shopping. Severe intolerance to heat. Growths or polyps on different organs without any further testing and more abnormal labs and symptoms than I can keep track of. I’m just at that point where I’m not sure if I give up and let it take me out or just keep searching for that one possible doctor who will listen and order the right tests.

All I know is I’ve lost so much of my life being so sick and disabled. Not working, not even modeling work on the side, no college to work with animals and be a veterinary tech, turning 30 and still not being able to get pregnant, going out and having fun like I should or even recognizing myself in the mirror. Loving swimming and summer, but can’t stand looking at myself or being engaged for over 5 years and pushing off a wedding because I don’t want to walk down the isle like this and look at my wedding photos remembering this time in my life.

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Shelleyw, Adrenal Bio

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

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

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

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

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

Britney (PandaBearHobbit), Undiagnosed BIo

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I’m a 25 year old who’s in the middle of being tested for Cushing’s.

I have very high anxiety, hirsutism, fatigue, muscle weakness, can’t lose weight, acne, irregular periods, very high testosterone (163, normal is below 79 for women), always thirsty & pee often, ect.  My doctor referred me to an endocrinologist, and I was diagnosed with PCOS.  My cortisol levels were never tested.  I was put on birth control & metformin and the doctors told me that would help with everything.

After being on these medications for two years and seeing little to no improvement I started to do my own research.  I went to my endocrinologist and brought up the possibility of Cushing’s.  She assured me that it is too rare and I am fine.  I would’ve just taken her word for it, because I figured she knew what she was talking about, but my wonderful husband pushed for us to go ahead and do the tests.  I’m SO glad that he did.  All of the many, many tests have come back abnormal.  I’ve never had so many blood, urine, & saliva tests in my life!  After months of testing, my doctor said that Cushing’s is looking more and more likely.

I struggle immensly with weight loss.  My mother is a personal trainer and has always been in amazing shape.  She & the rest of my family told me I wasn’t doing enough to lose weight.  At one point I was working out 4 hrs EVERY DAY at the gym in addition to having a very physically demanding job.  I was able to lose a couple pounds, but that was it.  I eat healthy, and I’m not just saying that… I really do!  haha!  I’m a vegetarian, eat loads of fresh fruit & veggies, & try to keep my caloric intake to about 1500 calories a day!  I recently found information that a lot of exercising can actually raise my cortisol levels, which are already high.  So, I’ve taken my workouts down to brisk walking for 30-45 min.  Which, after years of intense working out, is weird for me.  I have never been able to lose weight on my belly and face.

I really struggle with anxiety & Irritability, and I hate it.  I get anxious about everything and it drives me crazy.  I compete in dog agility & get so anxious before & after I go into the ring that my pulse is over 180 & I shake (Just while I’m standing there!).  I love the sport so much, though, that I’d never give it up!  My dogs are my life!  I want to be able to compete & be able to enjoy it more, without all the intense anxiety!  I lack emotional control at times, and it tears me up.  I am a very loving person, and hate putting my loved ones through that.  When I lose my temper, I can’t control myself.  Once I come down from it, I feel aweful & can’t believe the things I said or did.  I feel like a crazy person!

I often have mental fogginess & insomnia as well.  Trying to focus on something is difficult, which made college a real struggle.  It’s not rare for me to go through patterns of insomnia, where I can only sleep a few hours a night.

Hoping to get officially diagnosed soon, so I can move forward with treatment.  I’m so eager to get all this figured out and feel “normal” again!

~~~

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Gail S, Pituitary Bio

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After constant wondering for over two years, I was sent to see an Endocrinologist about my weight. Numerous tests and an MRI, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.

I am 2 months post pituitary operations and things are lookings up.

Heres to a road to recovery! 🙂

See my full story here: www.mylifeasacushie.blogspot.ca

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