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Laura F, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed7

 

Hi. I am now 52 yrs old.

I’ve been gaining weight for about 3 1/2 yrs since having my thyroid removed due to a 25 yr old nodule that was calcified. My thyroid levels have always been good, before and after removal. There were A typical cells in the nodule, that’s why they advised removing the thyroid.

As I gain weight and have lumps of inflammation now over all of my body, all I have been told is to eat less and exercise more. Even though I have told my drs that I barely eat at all.

I have been through the cardiologist, rheumatologist, ent, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, 2 gen practice drs and finally now an endocrinologist.

I still have the same symptoms; weight gain, headaches, abdominal distention, inflammation in ribs, feeling of breathlessness, buffalo hump, heart palpitations, acne, worsened vision, poor memory, insect bites take weeks to heal, teeth have moved leaving large gap, no armpit hair but facial hair instead, etc…

I have been waiting to see this endo for so long and she switches my levothyroxine (generic synthroid) to name brand synthroid plus gave me a paper to have many labs done. Day 4 of the synthroid, I woke up with hives. I took benadryl and it helped. Day 5 again hives but also feet swelled very bad. So I went back to the generic and those issues are gone.

Now i have to wait 2 months to have labs done and see endo again. I’m so upset and depressed. I feel like just doing the labs now and get a copy so that atleast I might have an answer. Waiting is frustrating. I keep telling these Dr’s that I’m not looking for something to be wrong with me, there is something wrong with me.

Whether it is adrenal/ pituitary or something else entirely, I don’t know. I feel like I am begging them to find out. All of my appointments with the specialists have been, come back in 2 months. WTH. This is very frustrating. I just want an answer. I will update if I ever get one. Best to all of you.

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Laurie (Boo), Undiagnosed Daughter

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undiagnosed2

 

18 yr old daughter. Diagnosed with alopecia areata as a toddler. Continued through childhood until eventually lost most hair on body. Some re growth at puberty, but minimal. (Checked for PCOS age 15 ultra sound looked fine but showed mild fatty liver, she had started to put on excess weight)

Age 15. Late menses, then irratic, sometimes every 4 or 5 months, then heavy or light. Height growth stopped around 16. (Few inches shorter than all female relatives. ) Weight again, headaches, back pains, hump, chest pain episodes (3 different times), (ruled out as stress in the ER even though all episodes happened while she was having fun) light headed upon awaking in am, then felt nausea, sometimes vomits until bile. (many times led to testing of gall bladder some disfunction), (cyclical) constant throat and tonsil infections led to tonsil removal, still many throat and urinary infections, excellent student but deals with extreme fatigue, occasional brain fog, anxiety at times, moodiness, dry eye, thirsty a lot, some course black hair growth occasionally, acne, red face, moon face, problems in heat, a few pigment discoloration in spots, some purple stretch marks, weight gain heavier in midsection, repeatedly tries to eat healthy and can’t drop wieght unless she is ill and not eating at all.

Seems to be cavity prone even though she is diligent and obsessive about clean teeth. Wears corrective lenses, has vision blurriness at times, can’t wear contacts due to dry eye and discomfort.

Finally ended up at endo after many other doctors. Have been waiting over 3 weeks for results of dex suppression text. Still no news from doctor, even though I call. Frustrated, have known things were wrong outside of the norm, separate of the auto immune disease Alopecia Areata. Yet no one can figure out a connection or what.

My Daughter hasn’t felt good in 4 years. I’m sick and tired of no one trying to find cause. If it is Cushing’s, why the lack of urgency to help us figure out. After chest pains episodes etc, I’m scared of damage to her body. Not to mention possible infertility issues down the road. I’m tired of being treated as if its nothing All I want is my kid to be the happy go lucky, full of energy, brave, intelligent, confident (even though she has been bald most of her life), like she was her freshman year of high school.

Been a gradual slope downward since.

Help

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Jane (Jane), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed3

 

Hi. I am retired RN in Oklahoma.

I have undifferentiated connective tissue disease, chronic kidney disease and peripheral nerve disease in arms and legs.

I had an autoimmune disease in 1972 called Guillian Barre that left me with residual neuropathy.

Recently my PCP noticed I had hyperpigmentation and thought it might be Cushing’s. My ACTH was in the upper 70s, serum cortisol normal. My weight has been out of control for years.

I did 24 hour urine with normal result. My PCP ordered MRI and showed suspicion for 6 mm adenoma left side of pituitary. Saw endo who ordered 1 mg Dex test. To see neurosurgeon in Dec.

Have also had some severe headaches and intermittent nasea and vomiting (both unusual for me). Also unreasonable emotional outbursts totally out of character for me. If I have Cushings it must be cyclic or subclinical. I haven’t done my Dex test yet because I just don’t know if I should do it when I feel really bad or really good. I’ve felt like my life has been a roller coaster of highs and lows for over a year now.

My endo said if my Dex test is positive she would need to send me to Mayo because she has never dealt with this and there is no one in Oklahoma she can send me to. I have read many bios on this site. It’s crazy how long it takes for people to get diagnosed. Literature says timely diagnosis is so important in relationship to good outcomes. I don’t have the Cushings striae. I do have really bad swelling and pain, fatigue. I’ve been on a daily diuretic for almost 30 years. If I miss it my face and hands swell up and one eye gets red and tears. I feel like my problems began after I had my last child 30 years ago.

Sending good thoughts to all of you out there and what you have and are currently going through. There are lots of heroes here, and even if my problems turn out to be something else, this website has been a life savior. Thanks so much for being there.

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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.

 

Denise (Jeff’s Mom), Undiagnosed Bio

2 Comments

My son is almost 16 years old and so sick he hardly gets out of bed anymore.  Although no Dr.s believes me I do believe he has Cushings and the Dr.s can not give me any other idea’s of what is wrong with him only that he needs to lose weight and exercise more.  My son is so tired of hearing this that at his last appointment with a specialist at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia he left in tears and wants to know why no one is helping him.  He is to the point where he doesn’t even want to go to the Dr.s anymore, he thinks it’s pointless.  He has only had one 24hr Urine test which came back normal and an cortisol & ACTH test taken at 5pm and these were also within range.  I am going to guess maybe things started at the age of 9 or 10 and progressively gotten worse.

His symptoms are as follows and the explained away answers from the Dr.s –

1. Headaches all day everyday – sometimes severe, sometimes just there and no amount of advil seems to take it away completely – Dr.s probably puberty and since he is a big kid take up to 4-advil every 4 hours.
2. Buffalo Hump – we brought him to the Dr. about 2-3yrs ago for this odd hump on the back of his neck – Dr.s it’s just a fat deposit – he just deposits fat in odd places
3. Red to purple stretch marks that fade and get brighter but never go away completely – they appear in masses on his sides, back, shoulders and stomach – Dr.s response although his stretch marks are quite impressive they are typical of what you would see in cushings they are not purple enough or wide enough.
4. Severe pain in back and knee (sometimes elbows) – he can’t even take a simple trip to the stores as it is to much for him to walk around – his is 15yrs old and is now asking me to get him a cane to help him get around.  Dr.s response to the pain – must be growing pains (my son is 6’1″ and I was just told he is pretty much done growing)
5. He does not sleep at night, says can’t fall to sleep no matter how hard he tries and when he finally does fall asleep in the morning early hours he will sleep most of the day, then wake up still feeling tired.  He told me it’s like his mind sleeps but his body doesn’t feel rested at all.  Dr.s said he needs to stop video games and t.v. to hours before bed – these types of things stimulate the mind thats why he can’t sleep.
When the Dr.s were told the rest, they really didn’t say anything at all – below are the rest of his symptoms:
6.  He is starving at night – he says he has to eat he is so hungry
7. Having a hard time remembering things and getting progressively worse
8. Losing his grip – he can barely right his name – when I ask him to squeeze my hand it hardly even hurts me now and he says when he tries to squeeze hard he gets this odd sensation up his arm and it feels really off .
9. Has a hard time sitting for an extended amount of time – this has caused him to miss the last 6 weeks of school – his says the pain in his back and sides are just to much to handle when trying to sit.
10. He has had numerous skin aliments, mouth sores
11. Always thirsty
12. Acanthosis Nigricans – back of neck, under arms, elbows
13. never a sick child until recently – strep throat, mono (which I was first told he didn’t have), normal colds now last for weeks with him where he never even got colds before.
14. slow healing of cuts and he scars horribly

I am sure there are other things but these are the first to come to the top of my head.  His biggest complaint is the memory loss, lack of sleep and pain.  I am scared for my son and do not understand how this is acceptable for anyone let alone a 15yr old.  I am watching him get worse and watching his precious teenage years just pass right by him.

Contact Denise here.

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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.

 

MSU Docs Help Local Teen with Rare Disease

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A team of MSU doctors has helped a Leslie teen overcome a rare disease of the pituitary gland.

19-year-old Sydney Kandell was diagnosed with Cushing disease about a year ago. Doctors say the disease is often mistaken for obesity.

Kandell gained 100 pounds during her senior year in high school. She struggled with headaches, high blood pressure, acne, and dark stretchmarks. Her face also appeared very round. Kandell knew something was very wrong. “I was very depressed. It was very upsetting because I went to the doctor multiple times about my weight gain, and acne, and they all said the same thing, ‘Write a food journal, exercise more, it will solve all your problems.'”

But a visit to the Emergency Room for an intense headache, lead Kandell to a MSU Resident Physician who recognized Kandell’s symptoms. Dr. Tiffany Burns said, “I was very sure that she had Cushing disease. We ruled out the more common things. Cushing disease is very uncommon. We ruled out the uncommon things first, but once we got to testing her urine for the steroid level, that’s when I knew I had to call Dr. Aldasouqi.”

Dr. Saleh Aldasouqi, a senior endocrinologist at MSU confirmed Burn’s diagnoses. “I rushed to MRI because I had a strong belief and a gut feeling that she has a pituitary tumor and perhaps a big pituitary tumor. Usually these tumors that cause Cushing disease are small in the pituitary and they are very difficult to detect. Her tumor was big.”

A neurologist removed the tumor a few weeks later. Kandell now controls the disease with cortisol. She’s lost 60 pounds and is thankful someone listened. “I can’t even explain how that felt in words how that felt to have an answer.”

Kandell has a tattoo on her wrist as a reminder of her journey with Cushing disease. She is very passionate about spreading the word about the disease often mistaken for obesity. She plans to go to medical school to study endocrinology.

Cushing disease is caused by small benign tumors in the pituitary gland that increase levels of the hormone cortisol.  The disease and growths can go undetected.  Doctors say the disease can be mistaken for depression or obesity in its early stages.

Symptoms Include: Weight gain, fatty deposit between the shoulders (buffalo hump), pink or purple stretch marks, Thinning fragile skin that bruises easily, acne.  Women may experience irregular menstrual periods, thicker or more visible body and facial hair.

From WILX.com

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