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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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Denise, In the Media

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Cushing’s survivor hopes to make others aware of illness

July 16, 2007

Denise Potter, who works at the Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital as a mammographer, has Cushing’s disease which affects the performance of the pituitary gland. Greg Pearson/The Times 07.12.07 (Greg Pearson/The Times)

Cushing’s Help and Support: http://www.cushings-help.com/
National Institutes of Health: http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.htm
Oregon Health & Science University: www.ohsupituitary.com/patients/print/cushings.html

By Mary Jimenez
maryjimenez@gannett.com

Denise Potter never connected her rapid weight gain to a disease or her high blood pressure to anything but her weight.

The hump on the base of her neck was a feature she supposed came with the weight.

And although the roundness and redness in her face was odd, she never connected it to the other symptoms she was having or the fatigue, heart palpitations and swelling she begin to experience in her 30s.

And neither did a stream of doctors over the decade when Potter’s symptoms related to Cushing’s disease began. It would take another two years after diagnosis to find a treatment that worked.

“You can see my face getting real round in this picture. They call that a ‘moon’ face,'” said Potter, 42, looking over a handful of photos that showed the progression of the disease, diagnosed when she was 37. “You learn one of the best ways to show doctors the changes happening is to bring pictures with you to appointments.”

Potter, who works as a mammographer at Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital in Shreveport, calls herself lucky to be working and functioning in life as well as she is.

“I only hope by telling my story someone else can be diagnosed sooner,” she said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Cushing’s disease is a form of Cushing’s syndrome — caused by the overproduction of cortisol over a long period of time.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and essential to many of the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic functions. It also helps the body respond to stress.

Cushing’s disease is specifically caused by a hormone-producing tumor on the pituitary gland.

About 1,000 people each year in the U.S. are told they have a form of Cushing’s, but those affected think many more cases go undiagnosed.

“Making people aware of the disease is the name of the game,” said Louise Pace, founder and president of Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation Inc., based in Boston, Mass. “There’s a chance for 100 percent recovery if you get diagnosed soon enough. But not too many do. Out of the 1,000 members I have, only two are 100 percent cured and they both got diagnosed within a year. It took me five years. The longer you go, the more damage it does.”

In addition to feature changes, left undiagnosed the disease can cause associated diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension and osteoporosis.

“It’s such a difficult disease to catch. It’s different from one patient to another. And for a lot of people it cycles. Doctors miss it unless they do particular tests,” said Warren Potter, Denise’s husband, whose gained a strong medical knowledge about the disease. “It’s amazing how much you learn about medicine when you have to.”

Warren Potter, originally from New Zealand, has lived in the states now for about eight years and met Denise online by chance while he was living in Tennessee.

He gives luck a large role in his wife’s diagnosis.

“At one stage she found a doctor who wasn’t too far out of medical school,” said Warren of the young doctor his wife went to in 2003 for her high blood pressure that would diagnose the disease.

“He was very worried about my blood pressure being 215 over 105 (a healthy adult is around 120/80) and began asking other questions,” said Potter, who’d also experienced an extreme, rapid weight gain. “I’d always been around 135 pounds but in my 30s my weight jumped up to 300 pounds. I knew my eating hadn’t changed enough for that much weight gain.”

Headaches and later migraines that Potter experienced throughout her life also began to make sense with a Cushing’s diagnosis. More than one eye doctor thought there might be something else going on there, but were looking on the brain not the pituitary gland where a tumor that causes Cushing’s disease sits.

A 24-hour urine collection was enough to prove that Potter’s cortisol levels were high, but not enough to pinpoint why.

Cushing’s syndrome can be caused by myriad of reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A person who takes excessive amounts of steroids for inflammatory diseases or other reasons can suffer the symptoms of Cushing’s. Also a number of things can go wrong in the precise chain of events needed to produce cortisol.

It all starts with the hypothalamus that secretes corticotropin releasing hormone that tells the pituitary to produce adrenocorticotropin, which then stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol that’s dumped into the bloodstream.

Potter’s tumor was confirmed with a magnetic resonance imaging of the pituitary.

The cure is surgical resection of the tumor, states the NIH, with about 80 percent success rate.

Potter’s first surgery done at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., failed as did another attempt to shrink it with radiation.

Potter and her husband took a bold step they both felt was her best chance for a cure.

“We moved to Oregon where the best specialist in the country was,” said Potter, who was treated by Dr. William Ludlam, an endocrinologist. “I liked him immediately. He thought maybe my first surgery hadn’t been done quite right and wanted to try it again.”

When a second surgery done at the Oregon Health and Science University also failed, Potter and her doctor made the decision to remove both her adrenal glands in 2005.

The surgery took away her body’s ability to produce cortisol, which is now replaced orally. She’s also taking other hormones that are no longer produced by a damaged pituitary.

“On the endocrine aspect it’s all guess work to the levels of medication that works to make her feel relatively normal. We learn to tweak it when she needs to,” Warren said. “We’re lucky in a lot of ways that the disease was caught in time. She did not get the cure from the tumor being removed and she has other symptoms, but they can be treated.”

The Potters moved to Shreveport late in 2005 to be closer to her parents. An endocrinologist follows her hormone replacement therapy.

“I’ve lost 70 pounds, but because my age and the length of years I had the disease, my recovery will be slower,” said Potter, who takes 10 pills and one injection daily to manage her hormones and diabetes. “It’s also caused some memory loss that I still can’t access.”

Potter and others affected by the disease think experts are underestimating the number of cases.

“I see people all the time that look they are walking around with similar symptoms as I use to have,” she said. “I hope this makes people more aware of the disease.”

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Cathy T, Pituitary Bio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update Monday June 30, 2003:

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

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

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

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

Update Wednesday July 9, 2003:

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

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

cheers, Cathy Tia from little old New Zealand.

Update August 3, 2003:

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

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

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

Update August 22, 2003:

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

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

Update September 15, 2003:

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

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

Update October 10, 2003:

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

Update October 27, 2003:

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

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

Update November 26, 2003:

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

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

Update December 4, 2003:

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

keep your chins up

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

Update January 29, 2004:

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

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

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

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

Update February 3, 2004:

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

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

Update March 30, 2004:

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

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

hugs cathy ‘mad’ tia

Update April 29, 2004:

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

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

Update July 3, 2004:

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

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

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

Update September 26, 2004:

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

God bless to you all and please never give up.

Update January 31, 2005:

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

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

God Bless Cathy ‘mad’ Tia

Update January 31, 2006:

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

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

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

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

Hugs cathy tia

Update October 25, 2006:

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

cathy tia

Update February 22, 2007:

hi 22/2/07 cathy here agin

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

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

cheers cathy

Update May 3, 2007:

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

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

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

until next time,

Hugs feloow cushies/addisions

Cathy Tia

Update September 17, 2009:

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

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

hope this finds you all well.

God Bess Cathy Tia

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Maria, Pituitary Bio

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Originally from December 29, 2007

 

Hi there, I am 26 but I was diagnosed at the age of 16 with a pituitary tumor, 17 when I had removed the first time and 19 the seconded time.

Here is the story. I was pregnant at 15 and gave birth at 16. My son was born in June (I was 135 lbs) by December I was 240lbs. I had all the classis symptoms. Weight gain, thin skin, upper back hump, moon face, lack of a menstrual cycle, high cholesterol and the strata (all over stretch marks).

I was diagnosed in March in July (1999) since I live near Pittsburgh I had surgery with one of the doctors who developed the use of the Endoscope for removal of pituitary tumors. I had been told that the tumor would not come back. It was fine to have more kids. There was one in a billion chance that it would be a tumor that grows like cancer, and then there was a one in a million chance that there would be any of the tumor left behind that could grow back. A

fter words I lost most of the weight and the moon face. I had no need for hormones, because they only remove part of my pituitary, I also graduated high school and was married.

I felt very good when I gave birth to my 2nd son 22 months later (April 01). I was 160lbs. Well, I tried to ignore the weight gain, the lack of menstrual cycle, but when my hump started to come back and when in infant’s finger nail scratched me and I bleed, I self diagnosed this time and went to the doctor for confirmation.

I was 280lbs when I went in for the second time in November (2001). Now I am 90% sure there is a tumor up there I do not know I do not want to have a M I R to see. My husband and I will not have any more kids.

I still have a fear that it will come back on its on or if I suffer a body troma that causes the pituitary to enlarge that it will cause the tumor to grow and I will have to go through this again. I am still struggling to lose this weight. I am now 230

 

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Renee (rmaxwell), Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally posted December 5, 2008

My symptoms began when I was about 21 years old. At the time I worked as a Martial Art instructor so I was very physical and in good shape, weighing about 120lbs. Suddenly, and I do mean SUDDENLY, I gained about 60lbs or so. It was as if my clothes fit one night and then didn’t fit in the morning. The weight is mostly in the middle area. My face shape changed and I developed a second chin almost.

I also started getting some whiskers on my chin and neck. Not a lot, just a few, but it was strange.

I was under great stress at the time because I had lost both of my parents in the same year, to two different medical things. So as you can imagine, it was very difficult for me. I developed extreme fatigue, and anxiety attacks. Friends were sure all my physical and mental symptoms must be from depression over losing my folks. One friend advised I see a psychiatrist, so considering everything it sounded reasonable, and I did.

I was placed on Paxil, which caused me to gain even more weight. Since then I’ve tried so many antidepressants I can’t even begin to name them. I went through many SSRI’s, then SNRI’s, then tricyclic, and most recently as a last resort an MAOI.
But in spite of this, over the years my depression has only gotten worse. I’ve had two suicide attempts and been hospitialized a few times. My depression seems to follow a pattern or cycle, two weeks of barely being able to function, followed by a week of doing a little better, then a day or two of feeling good, then back to two weeks of misery, etc. I am not bipolar or anything like that.

I continued to gain weight, developed stretch marks on my belly and arms, got a lot of dark hair all over my belly, and the few whiskers that appeared on my chin and neck have become like a beard. I developed insulin-resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I can seldom sleep at night. I experience such deep depression and fatigue that I haven’t been able to keep a job or finish collage, I barely function.

For many years I just thought I had really bad depression and continued trying whatever psych meds I was prescribed. I thought all my physical symptoms were my fault for being so depressed and not getting enough excercise, etc. And most of the time, I was on so much medication I didn’t really care, I was so out of it.

Finally I found a great psychiatrist who truly cares about me and wants to see me happy. After having little or no success treating my depression, fatigue, and panic attacks, she did some research and told me not long ago that she felt I must have something biological going on with me that wasn’t any type of clinical depression. She said she had tried hitting all the different receptors in my brain (seretonin, norephinepherine, dopamine, etc..) and I should have responded to something. She suggested I might have Cushing’s Syndrome. I went online to find out about Cushing’s and I was like “Wow I really match a LOT of these things!”

Now I am on quest for getting tested. It’s difficult as I do not have any health insurance. But I am making a little progress and hope I start to get some answers soon.

I either have Cushing’s syndrome, some other endocrine problem, or the most treatment-resistant depression ever.

That’s my story, thanks for reading. I’m open to any comments or advice.

-Renee

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Leann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 14, 2008

I’m Leann, a 40-year-old single mom of three from Pittsburgh. My son was recently diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Because of this, it caused me to suspect possible adrenal problems with my oldest daughter (age 19) and myself. I am unsure of my daughters exact lab results (she sees an endo on 12/22), but mine seem to be indicitive that further testing is needed to rule out Cushing’s Syndrome. That’s why I am here (well, that – plus my friend told me to join).

My initial bloodwork shows high blood pressure, high BAD cholesterol, low GOOD cholesterol, and high cortisol levels. I initially went to my PCP due to extreme fatigue! I am soooooooo tired ALL THE TIME! My muscles are always sore and my bones hurt. I am prone to miagraines. I have been clinically depressed, I believe my entire life, but was diagnosed about 20 years ago. The weirdest thing (possibly unrelated) is my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease characterized by loss of peripheral vision and night blindness. My mom read somewhere that loss of peripheral vision is a symptom of Cushing’s, but she can’t find the website.

I also have gained a significant amount of weight in the last few years, all in my mid-section. I look like I am either 7 months pregnant or that I drink a case a beer a day.

My PCP seems to think that I do NOT have Cushing’s because my ACTH levels are fine, but he didn’t do any special ACTH testing, only the basic bloodwork, all drawn at the same time. I argued with the nurse about it and asked that my PCP call me back (on Thursday) but he hasn’t yet.

I am just so tired of feeling like crap all the time. I am hoping to find some answers here. Thanks for reading.

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Lisann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 20, 2008

 

Being checked for Cushing’s. Have adenoma, long term hydrocortisone user, Graves Disease, a lot of the symptoms.

Don’t know much about Cushing’s.

Having cortisol,diabetes,lipid,blood test all next week.

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