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Lauren (Iskah), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed6

 

My name is Lauren. I am currently being tested for Cushing’s Disease. I’ve read that every patient is different, and from what I can see it is completely true.

I am not entirely sure how long ago my story started. I began seeing my family doctor in high school because I was having menstrual issues. At the time my Mom’s biggest concern was that I was having very irregular periods. She had also noticed that I had been growing hair on my face, under my chin and side burns. I was referred to two different specialists – an Endocrinologist and a Gynecologist to try and determine that root cause.

After multiple appointments with both specialists, the Endocrinologist said that I was on the edge of being Hypo(?) Thyrodism (it’s the one that makes you gain weight) and the Gynecologist said that I had PCOS (or PCOD – the name has recently changed, but I prefer to think of it as a Syndrome instead of a disease). I had a large amount of weight gain between grades 10-11, bumps (or cysts) all over my ovaries, facial hair growth and very irregular periods. I disagreed with the diagnosis.

Even at the age of 15 I felt that it was not the right diagnosis. I had friends with PCOS, and every one of them had insanely painful menstruation and small breasts. This may sound silly, but it was honestly the boobs that made me feel like the diagnosis was wrong. I may have small boobs for my family, but I still carry around size D (or DD depending on my weight) breasts. Either way, the voice of a 15 year old does not tend to carry far and I ended up being prescribed Glumetza (Metformin – used in Diabetes patients) and Yaz (Birth Control).

The Glumetza has always made me sick. I can’t eat my favourite foods with out feeling sick, if I can even get it in my mouth. The one thing I’ve always told my family is that it’s like being pregnant 24/7 with no bun in the oven. I’ve been on and off the medication for years now.

About 6 months ago I went in to see my family Nurse (I’ve stopped seeing my family doctor since, as the diagnosis is always “Lose weight”). I had been having chest pains while working out. Now although I say chest pains, it was more like severe pressure in my left shoulder. I would get dizzy and light headed while running with my sister, and on one occasion I threw up (Just bring it up to my sister, and she will start describing the cheesy spagetti coming flying out of my mouth and on to the yard of one our neighbours.. she still will not run that way).

At the point Erin (the amazing family nurse) also mentioned that my blood pressure had been high, not just recently, but for the last year. Furthermore I was hypertensive. I had heard this term before because for the last year my Mother had been going through her own set of genetic heart issues. My Mom had just been diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (genetic form of it) and Superventrical Tachycardia (SVT – PSVT specifically). My Mother was also Hypertensive. This was concerning to Erin, as it had already been determined that my Mom’s condition was genetically given to her.

After monitoring my blood pressure for 3 months, with no improvements I was referred to an Internalist who also specialized in Cardiology. He’s great, just for the record. It’s not very often I that I get to speak with a doctor who understands sarcastic humour. Dr. A-R immediately removed me from Mavik (Blood Pressure Pill) as it was actually doing more harm then good. The palpitations that I was having on those pills were beyond intense, and the worst I ever had. They were never long lasting, never lasting more than 20 seconds at absolute most, but I can definitely say that I do not envy my Mom. Dr. A-R diagnosed me with SVT after a 14 day heart monitor. He literally called me the following Monday after I handed the monitor in. He immediately changed my medication from Mavik to a Calcium Channel Blocker. I still have heart episodes but not nearly as many or as bad as when I was on Mavik.

At my 3 month check in last week he said that he was concerned, because he did not believe that the blood pressure and the SVT were actually connected. He believes that I also have Cushing’s Disease. I had some blood work done a few weeks back that showed a very high number for a stress hormone in my blood. Now I am new to this whole thing, and my memory is horrendous, so I honestly do not remember what that hormone is called. I laughed when he said it though, for two reasons. 1. When I was diagnosed with PCOS, I was told that my body didn’t make hormones, hence the thoroughly detested Glumetza. Apparently that’s a different hormone. 2. It’s a stress hormone? Seriously? I am stressed 24/7 between work, home and my constantly changing relationship with the love of my life. I asked him if that would affect the number. As all of you know, it didn’t. At 8am when I had my blood work done, it shouldn’t be that high. He asked that I do a 24 hour Urine test. I waited until this weekend to do it, and I can honestly say that I did not enjoy a single moment of that test.

My Symptoms:

> Weight Gain

> Facial hair

> Irregular Periods

> High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

> Back Pain (Which I always assumed was from my curved spine – scoliosis)

> I have a little bump on my shoulders, but unless you’re looking for it, you won’t see it.

> High levels of stress hormone.. and waiting on results for Cortisol.

> I recently have been struggling with depression

> Anxiety & Irritability are a constant.

> Acne

I am currently waiting on my urine results.. and I have no idea what to expect. I do not even know how long it will take to get results.

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Trish G (Trishg), Undiagnosed Bio

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question

 

I have hypothyroidism and recently undergoing tests for Cushings disease.

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Kari W (karialeen), Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-gland

 

I am a 37 year old female.

I had a 6mm tumor removed from my pituitary on May, 7th that was causing me to have cushing’s disease.

I also have hypothyroidism.

I am now in recovery and I had no idea what I was in for. Some days i wish for my tumor back. 😦

 

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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.

 

Kim (lil dickens), Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

March 2009
I was diagnosed in 1995 with hypothyroidism, after the birth of my son vie C section. This was my third Cesarean section. I knew I was gaining too much weight during pregnancy but no one would listen to me. I’ve had hypo for fourteen years now, with ongoing difficulties and no weight loss.

I became suspicious when I couldn’t get my thyroid disease under control and started moon facing. In 2003 my daughter noticed my buffalo hump. I tried to point it out to the doctor but to no avail. Said it was fat. I was tired, depressed and sick.

I have to note that when I was a child I cracked my skull open. My sister said I had clamps on my head. I cannot find anything else about it. I had severe headaches, poor appetite, skinny and fearful. Many emotional problems. I came home from school many times to have ice packs on my head for the headaches. I started to drink alcohol at about 13 yrs old, becoming an alcoholic until age 33. 20 years of drinking! I am now sober 18 yrs.

I am pursuing a diagnose for Cushing disease based on my symptoms and the huge hump on my neck. I’ve been really complaining for the last two years.

My newest PCP was the one who gave me a copy of a printout on Cushings. She is sending me to an Endo but who knows. 3 1/2 month wait to see Endo. Now, wouldn’t you know it, my hubby’s job looks like its going to be terminated in March, so my insurance will only be in for two months after that! I’ll be without insurance!

September 2009
I’m now in the process of testing after going through 2 more Endos and meeting a great Endo in Maysville, KY: Dr Holmes. “Wonderful, Good doctor “as we’d say in PA! I had went to one Endo here in PA and had two UFC24 test done and I showed high, but he just asked if I was stressed and sent me to Hershey. I heard Hershey Medical wasn’t very good for Cushies so I moved on to KY. I’m so glad I took the time and the money to go there. I will never regret that. It saved my life!

I feel so fortunate. Dr Holmes ordered more testing which I am doing now, and he looked over a Pituitary MRI which I obtained from the other Endo. Dr Holmes disagrees with the radiologist that my MRI was normal. BTW, my husband got another job that uses the same Union Insurance! I also have high GFI-1. He said I might have an Acromegaly.

Dec 2009
I am now diagnosed with Cushings and Acromegally. At this present time I have chosen my surgeon and am waiting for his approval for surgery and set a date to meet with him.

All of this testing and paperwork is time consuming and a lot of patients is needed. I am diagnosed during the holidays and this is really a slow process with many delays.

My symptoms are many, including that horrid buffalo hump. I feel really sick sometimes, and bloated like I am going to exploded. I have extreme fatigue. I also feel during my lows like I am just going to die, with waves of dizziness and a huge general weakness that I can hardly turn over in my bed. I thank God that I do not hurt. I am just stiff in the knees and I can’t get up very well from a squat or from sitting too long. My emotional state is awful, from rages to deep depression.

I suffer/suffered from TMJ ,Depression, Mood Swings, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (2)with surgery, Weight gain, Headaches and Vertigo- dizziness, teary right eye, Teeth gapping, Cavities, infected Root Canals, Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s Disease, Tonsillectomy, Costochondritis, Heart Murmur, Tortuous Aorta- a twisted heart valve, shortness of breath, Tennis Elbow, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Dysentery, Impotency, lost periods, Osteopenia, Ovarian Cysts, 3 C sections, Joint stiffness, chronic rectal itching, Hemorrhoids, Heel Spurs, Ganglion foot cyst, MRSA.

I am very afraid of the Acromegally. I have changed sizes. I was a petite 10, I am now a size 22. I do believe I have gained height by 1–1 ½ inches. My wedding rings size has changed twice and now I can no longer wear them. I suffer chest pains from Costochondritis- inflammation of the rib bone area. As the days go by without treatment, I swear I can feel the damage that is being done to my organs. I suffered terrible dental problems with major infections and I also had an awful infection in my foot from a minor injection for a cyst. I ended up with surgery to clean out MRSA and had two areas of incision! I also show a twisted Aorta valve, which I feel is from Acromegally.

I succeeded in obtaining my diagnose of Cushings Disease with Acromegally from Doctor Holmes through UFC tests (Urine) and blood work for IGF-1, CRH testing, and Glucose Suppression Tests. Salvia testing didn’t work for me. I feel I have problems with my saliva in general, perhaps a malady not yet diagnosed, but nevertheless is present. I was tested once with saliva that proved I had a very low acidic value, and the comment from the lab was “could be due to cortisol access!” 5 years before I was diagnosed with Cushings! I am now waiting to meet my surgeon, Dr Jho and set up a surgery date.

This site is invaluable to anyone suffering. The amount of information can be overwhelming because it is so plentiful. The forum is wonderful. Up to date information, wonderful people who give help, information; support and Hope!

Update April 5, 2011

I had my 1st pituitary Surgery Jan 28th, 2011. My tumor stained positive for Growth Hormone but did not stain for ACTH as suspected. i was on cortisone for less then 3 months, for I was told to wean quickyl when I was actually gaining weight and aquired more stretch marks. I had some relief…such as my tongue had swellling the went down some, my hemmroids disappeared overnight, and my earlobes went down from being swollen so big you couldnt see my post earrings. And that horrible feeling I was being squeezed to death. But, after tesing one UFC and some other blood labs, I was found to be high with my UFC24. It was a 53 (0-50). Even though my doctor said I was cured, I begged for another UFC. He gave me a lab slip and said return in 6 months. I went home and did the lab and it came back 57 (0-50). He made a note to discuss this when I returned in the fall. I knew I wasnt cured. I actually gained more weight then ever and grew more in the waist line. I tried to get help at John Hopkins and Allegheny General Where I had my surgery with Dr Jho’s Endo, but to no avail. They told me to go home and forget about Cushings.
it is then I called Dr Ludlaum with photos and a note explaining my surgery and testing. I went to Camp Cushy in Seattle, Washington @ Swedish Medical Center. 5 Days testing proved successful. I had high Midnight serums, high UFC and High ACTH. Though not quit enough for a diagnose , I went home with a test kit to continue testing. I have just completed my third kit and am waiting for result. Dr Ludlam said this is it for home testing an he will come to a conclusion soon after this. I hope that I will get an ok to have another surgery. I am now suffering more problems …I am now a pre diabetic. Dr Ludlam found that I have a enlarge left Adrenal Gland. I have tested high in all areas now, including one high saliva! ( surprised me! ) My ACTH has been consistantly high ( about 10 units higher than the top limit) and I had a few more UFC highs. I definely feel sicker, unable to clean my house, run the sweeper, wash clothes or even take a walk very far. I get extremely out of breath. I suffer high and very low BP. (92/49/75) I am anxiously awaiting Dr Ludlam’s final say in my matter.

Also, I am dealing with my son who is 16 and is now in testing for Cushings also. He is showing signs of this dreaded disease!

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Lauren, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello. my name is Lauren. I am currently being tested for Cushing’s and am scared.

I have hypothyroidism/ Hashimoto’ s auto immune disease. Also my sugar is pre-diabetic.

I am 53 years old.  I don’t have a lot of the symptoms. I had gone into my endo and told him how rotten I feel. So he started with some testing. My ACTH number was 278 and my cortisol was 19.
This was around the middle of November.

However, in August i herniated a disc. I have been on oral steroids  for 5 days in August, a epidural steroid shot in my back in August, had back surgery end of September and put on a steroids for 5 days and had a steroid shot in my knee in  October. Also on a lot of pain killers and meds. I am off all meds for the last 4 weeks, off pain killers since October.

Also, I have had a very stressful and sorrowful last 10 years. I buried my 22 year old son 2.5 years ago.

I am hoping this is causing the reading.
I am glad I found this site. Thank you for reading this. I pray we all get well.

Thank you,
Lauren

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In Memory: Kate Myers

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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.

 

Catherine B, Pituitary Bio

3 Comments

I’ve had random symptoms off and on for years (almost two decades now, from about the age of 15) but didn’t realize they were related to illness, or that I had one overarching disease causing them all.

Looking back, the onset of my disease was in my teen years.  I gained more than 60lbs in roughly a year’s time without changing diet or activity level.  I developed stretch marks that ran from my knees to my elbows (and everywhere in between!).  I started losing my once-thick hair.  I developed horrible acne.  I went from being an early morning riser to staying up late at night because I was wide awake, and waking often throughout the night.  I went from being happy overall to being anxious and depressed for no apparently reason (and medication had no effect on either).  I was told it was either all in my head or all my fault (by varying people, some directly, some implied) and I internalized that and just assumed I was too lazy and had bad genetics…  I TRIED to exercise but would feel so sick afterwards that I couldn’t make any gains, I joined a gym and put myself on a diet in high school but none of it made any difference.  When I brought up my symptoms to doctors, they could never put it together, often blamed me for them (Just diet and exercise and it’ll go away), and sometimes treated me like I was just plain crazy.  I still don’t go to doctors unless I have to because of those experiences.

After getting married, I had had some complicated pregnancies…but it was more than that.  I would get flank pain and drop into “lows” that I didn’t understand, complete with feeling cold, diarrhea, weakness, exhaustion, nausea, loss of appetite, and extreme weight loss (muscle loss, more like it).  I had high cardiac output but low blood pressure and a high pulse rate.  I’d go into tachycardia (140 bpm +) for NO apparent reason and had all kinds of cardiac monitoring done.  My blood pressure was labile, but usually low, and still I’d end up with severe complications. Breastfeeding wasn’t going well despite the “mechanics” and flow being there…my babies were never satisfied and I always felt sickly.  The differences were drastic (but a bit graphic to share here publicly).  I seemed to get pregnant at the drop of a hat (opposite of the norm for Cushie women), but my body seemed unable to deliver on it’s own.  My body just didn’t react like it should to anything.  I even once had an episode post-partum that now I know was likely some mixture of adrenal insufficiency and/or my hypoaldosteronism.  I was left alone to sleep it off (just thinking about it now scares me), but I didn’t know any better at the time.

Then about 3-4 years ago I hit this point where I just had the feeling that if I didn’t get whatever was going on under control, I’d end up with something more permanent and dangerous (like cancer or diabetes).  I still got seemingly random symptoms but I had too many of them, and they were getting worse.  I also started to notice that my good days and bad days seemed to come in cycles.  3 days, 3 weeks…I’d be good for a while, then worse for a while, then good for a while.  I had already eaten “clean” and kept myself active, so I decided to try “nutritional balancing therapy” and started taking a karate class multiple times a week (burns TONS of calories, fyi).  They ran some tests for various vitamins/minerals, and said I had adrenal insufficiency.  The diet I was put on was a higher fat (good fat), higher protein, TONS of veggies diet (basically we just cut out my grains/starches and added in more fat) but between the diet and the exercise, I became so ill I couldn’t get off the couch for about 4 weeks.  I had to give up both and it took some time to recover, but I never got back to where I had been, not even close.

I started studying the natural healing term “adrenal fatigue” and came to the realization that I had done everything to correct AF but was still going downhill.  I had tried supplements, diet (years of it), everything.  I became pregnant unexpectedly and was active, even tap-dancing with a major part in a musical at 20 weeks pregnant.  I would have these ups and downs that seemed random, but when I finished the musical, I hit a new low and never seemed to come back from it.  I just became more and more exhausted.  To the point that certain days I could *feel* the energy it took to hold my head up to watch a movie with my kids.  The CNM and OB both said I was just depressed and upped my dose of Vitamin D.  They wanted me to go on antidepressants, and I refused.  I knew the difference between not wanting to do things and not being able to do them. I called a doctor that specialized in Adrenal Fatigue in California after having read through his website, and he basically said that I would continue to get worse, but that he wouldn’t treat me because of my pregnancy.  No help, no suggestions, he told me “come see me if you make it out alive.”  I obviously needed outside help from a true expert.

I had joined an Addison’s support group online about this time, and they helped me learn a lot about AI and Addison’s, about symptoms, testing, about Hashimoto’s, etc.  I am SO grateful to these women who supported me and taught me much.  They never questioned if I was just depressed or if I was really sick, and they were so kind they WERE the sanity that I needed so desperately.  I was getting nowhere with local doctors, my husband believed me and was as helpful as he could be, but it was taking a big toll on us, and when we asked for help from our local church leaders with cleaning our home because I no longer could do it (and my husband was so overwhelmed doing everything by himself), we were threatened as a family and refused help.   I was desperate; I was hurting.  My whole family was struggling because of this disease and the treatment (and lack thereof) we’d received from doctors and so-called friends.

These Addisonians had been talking a lot about one specific endocrinologist that specializes in pituitary disorders (who also happens to be in California).  In complete desperation, I emailed him, knowing the chances that he’d take me or that I could even get in to see him before delivery (due to travel restriction based on gestation) was unlikely.  But I was scared of what a delivery with untreated Addison’s might bring (I knew the stats and knew I didn’t trust the local OB), so I emailed explaining my situation and sent my current lab work (I had to go to my GP because my OB wouldn’t even test my thyroid or iron!).  I knew it sometimes took weeks to get a response or get in to see this doctor 3 states away, but I sent the email on February 8th, and heard back via email that same night from his office lady.  She was sure he could help me, and suggested I schedule an appointment right away, and was waiting to hear back from him directly.  He responded that he did see something amiss in my lab work, and I was scheduled for an appointment and buying plane tickets.  My appointment was on Valentine’s evening and a friend flew with me because I was too weak to do it alone, and because my brain was too foggy to feel comfortable understanding and responding to everything in the appointment, not to mention I was super pregnant with my 6th child!

I went in SURE I had Addison’s Disease, or at least a form of adrenal insufficiency, and even tried to argue that fact.  I came out with a LOT of testing for Cushing’s Disease.  It was, in fact, the low cortisol periods that I was noticing, but it was being caused by periods of high cortisol.  You see, the cortisol takes a big toll on your body and overrides the normal feedback system of your pituitary and adrenal glands.  While the tumor is actively pumping out ACTH, it can shut down your own pituitary’s normal production because the pituitary feedback says there is already too much cortisol in your system.  Then, if/when the tumor “kicks off” (who knows why they do this), your pituitary is in a lazy state from not having been working and it can take a while for it to kick back in.  This can bring life-threatening lows, but generally it just brings low-cortisol symptoms which are still uncomfortable.

I was unprepared for the change in direction at my appointment.  I had the right system and hormones, but I was looking at it backwards, and the more I learned about cyclic Cushing’s Disease, the more sense it made, the more things clicked together, and the more I understood about my past and present symptoms.  I have cyclic Cushing’s Disease.  I had read up a little on this about 10 years prior, when my mother-in-law had died from untreated Cushing’s (she refused treatment and was a stubborn, intelligent women who got her way).  I had read through some information with my husband at that time.  We had concluded that it was a possibility, but I didn’t have enough of the symptoms (maybe half?) and decided that I wasn’t nearly sick enough for that to be the problem.  How wrong we were!  I certainly wasn’t as bad as many, but I found that the downhill turns were often sudden and drastic, especially in the more recent years.

At my appointment I was also told I had hypothyroidism.  He ordered more of those tests (to get a trend) and an antibody test.  It was found I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid disease) and was put on thyroid medication.  My ferritin level (stored iron) was so low it was in single digits (he wants it around 60) and he said that had I not been flying home the next morning, he’d have had me in the hospital for IV iron infusions.  Needless to say, I was put on iron –lots of it.  My vitamin D was still lower than he’d like despite having been on treatment, so he switched me to 50K iu’s of D3 weekly (My OB had chastised me repeatedly for taking D3 instead of D2; Ha ha!).

I had to wait for a while after my pregnancy to allow my body to normalize before doing my Cushing’s testing.  I first tested by date (randomly, basically) and got a few marginal highs, but mostly normal test results.  My pituitary MRI was read clean.  Dr. F told me he didn’t know what was wrong, but that it didn’t look like it was Cushing’s because of the testing.  I was not prepared for that, and just ended the conversation in an emotional mess.  I was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted and didn’t plead my case.  I didn’t have insurance or the money to test more, even though I was pretty sure I needed it.  And looking back, had I asked, he probably would have obliged.

I decided to again try natural healing methods.  Nothing worked, and some things (extended juice fasting, for instance) actually made me much worse.  Every time I hit another “low”, it seemed to become my new normal…and that was scary.  I kept losing more energy and strength, more of my mental ability, and each time I couldn’t imagine it getting worse, yet it always did.  (I still haven’t learned this lesson!)

About a year later, after a lot of prayer and thinking, after I’d exhausted most natural treatment methodologies I felt willing to try, I realized I did indeed need to go back and push for further testing, and test by symptoms.  Mentally and emotionally I was in a much better place, and while I had recovered a bit after my delivery, I had started to again slide downhill despite my best efforts.  I came up with a game plan, and the hope of it made the effort required seem possible.

I emailed Dr. F to ask about further testing, this time by symptoms, and there was no pushing or arguing necessary!  He gave me more sensitive testing this go round, and told me to test as much as it took.  He believed me!  It was as if the way just opened up for me this time.  I was uninsured, but I applied for the Cushing’s Assistance program through NORD (The National Organization for Rare Disorders) and was accepted.  They offered to cover the costs of testing, doctor’s appointments, and travel needed for the same, that would lead to a diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease.  I was in public when my husband called and read me the letter, and I started bawling right then and there in the shopping isle.  It was an answer to a prayer I didn’t even think to voice.  I then called to share the news with family and friends and bawled again, scaring yet more customers!  Having no insurance, this made everything possible.

Tracking my symptoms wasn’t a very easy task.  I went totally OCD on them, and still I was only somewhat successful in my efforts. I could get the overall trend, but the day-to-day was confusing as all-get-out.  My testing was also complicated by living in Alaska.  I could only turn in tests 4 days a week because they had to fly out to the labs in Seattle, WA and beyond.  It took about a month to get each result back.  Add to that a head cold that killed my cortisol levels for 6 weeks, and it took me a few months to get sufficient high labs even with my 2-page-wide spreadsheet of symptom data.

In that time, I also made friends on the Cushing’s-Help website and Facebook groups.  I learned a LOT of things from them, and one friend in particular likes to “read” pituitary MRI’s the way I like to “read” fetal ultrasounds.  She looked at my previously “clean” MRI and said that in her lay opinion, it was anything BUT normal.  As a favor, her neuro-radiologist also took a look at my MRI, and was so kind as to send back pictures with ARROWS of pituitary adenoma’s and suspicious areas on my MRI to forward on to my endocrinologist.  As it turns out, my doctor hadn’t read the disc himself and had just read the radiologist’s report.  He looked at the disc and agreed it was not normal, then sent me a message stating I needed a new MRI (it had been over a year at this point and my previous MRI still had some of that post-partum “rainbow” shape to the pituitary) and that it should be read by a neurosurgeon this time around.  JOY OF JOYS!  This brought me even more hope!  He said SURGEON, not just himself…that meant I was getting so close to that diagnosis and surgery clearance –to getting help.

I scheduled my MRI trip (can’t do a 3T dynamic here), and decided to schedule a face-to-face with my endocrinologist again while in the same city.  NORD paid for the flights, reimbursed me for the cost of my doctor’s appointment, paid for the MRI, and paid for my hotel room.  My husband came with me this time, and it was the best doctor’s appointment I’ve had in my life.  I was still nervous that somehow it wasn’t enough, or that the MRI done the day before my appointment would miraculously have become normal again.  That was not the case.  My MRI showed two possible adenomas on opposite sides of my pituitary amongst other things, and my 7+ diagnostic-level high labs were sufficient…and it felt AMAZING!

Who knew we’d be so excited to hear I was diagnosed with a deadly disease?  That we’d shout for joy and clap our hands at finding multiple tumors in my head?  I had a smile that wouldn’t go away.  The medical student shadowing my endocrinologist hadn’t seen the diagnosis side, where patients are so relieved to have an end in sight, to finally be getting help and have a chance at getting better, that they are happy!  I also wore my “Does my pituitary gland make me look fat?” shirt to this appointment, so we were joking, taking pictures, and having a grand old time.  He gave me permission to share the picture of us, and without prompting pointed to my head for the next picture saying, “It’s right HERE!”  My endocrinologist is generally stoic, quiet, caring yet professional, dealing with very ill people with a very serious disease and he is often their last hope at life…so I feel myself privileged to have had the opportunity to see him in-person for my diagnosis appointment, and to see this other side of him.  I hope he felt our gratitude as well.

The “pick whose going to cut into your head” decision took a while.  I was offered 100% coverage through a quality hospital and with a quality neurosurgeon for anything done at their facility, but the endocrinologist there wanted me to start my testing process ALL over again with them, at my cost at home.  I was not willing to start over after all that hard work and with as quickly as I was deteriorating, so I decided to wait till January when the new health coverage laws were in effect and I could again get insurance without preexisting conditions clauses.  I was able to be referred to my first-choice of neurosurgeon’s and placed on Ketoconazole to help lower my cortisol while I waited.

I had pituitary surgery on February 5,2014 (I am writing this 4 months post-op).  They were able to find and remove the more obvious of tumors on my MRI, and explored the rest of my gland, finding no more tumor tissue.  My pathology report came back as “hyperplasia”, meaning I had a bunch of individual scattered cells that were a tad overgrown instead of a solid, encapsulated tumor.  This kind of tumor has a very low success rate, since the entire gland can be diseased, but it can be impossible to see and remove every one of the scattered cells.  We knew early on that it didn’t look like remission based on my symptoms and post-operative lab results.  I was off my replacement hormones within a month, had to wait for my cycles to normalize a bit (I guess all that pituitary fileting was noticed by my pituitary even if I wasn’t cured! lol) and then I could begin retesting for re-diagnosis.

In April I had a post-op MRI and follow-up with my neurosurgeon, who said I did not have a visible target on MRI, and with pathology report of “hyperplasia,” I am not a candidate for repeat pituitary surgery or radiation therapy.  We now know that a bilateral adrenalectomy (BLA, the surgical removal of both adrenal glands) is in my near future…but I need a multitude of lab tests to prove I need it, and give a surgeon enough reasoning to permanently remove two very vital little organs and put me on life-sustaining medication instead.  It is a drastic surgery for a drastic disease, but it is my best chance at a lasting cure with the least amount of hormone replacement and further damage to my other organs.

During this same trip, I was able to attend the Magic Foundation’s adult convention just a few hours from my follow-up appointment.  What an amazing event.  I learned many things, but perhaps more important to me, I was able to meet other people who had my disease, who understood what I was going through, had been there themselves, etc.  They just knew!  I felt at home.  I consider it quite telling that they switched the schedule of the conference to part-days to accommodate our fatigue…  The trip was hard on me, but I am SO glad that I went.

In May I started testing in earnest for my re-diagnosis.  After intensive testing one week, and hit/miss testing the next (I was cycling lower and thus stopped testing), I now have 5 diagnostic-level high lab results.  Because of the severity and permanency of this next surgery, my endocrinologist has asked me to continue testing.  I will start testing again during my next high cortisol cycle in the hopes of doubling the number of diagnostic-level highs that I have and move on to the surgeon referral process.  It’ll take a couple of weeks to get my lab results back (Oh, the agony!), and another couple of weeks to get my endocrinologist appointment and surgical referral if I do indeed have sufficient highs.  I’m *really* hoping he won’t want me to go on medication prior to surgery as I’d like to move forward towards a permanent cure and health!  Not to mention, my deductible is met for the year, so this year would REALLY be nice on my already broken budget.

With the new goal in sight, and some diagnostic testing that proves I’m still ill, we are hopeful.   I’m now nearly bedridden due to the physical exhaustion, but I’m starting to allow myself to plan for a near-future in which I am somewhat functional and active again.  I can’t wait!  Once again, it sounds silly to be so excited and wishful about having surgery to give me Addison’s disease, just as it was to be thrilled to be told I had a tumor, dreaded disease, and needed brain surgery.  But, I’ve been sick for so long and becoming more and more debilitated and sick the longer this has gone on that I am excited at the prospect of any semblance of improvement, health and normalcy!  (Okay, within reason…I am well educated and using logic, etc on this, but…YAY!)  I can feel it is within my reach again.  I’m on the path and moving forward.

———————————————————————

Here is Magic’s video of me: 

And the picture I spoke of in my story is attached (Dr. Friedman did give me verbal permission in-person to share it online –facebook, etc.  I imagine he’d be fine with it published in an email?)

I will include a before/after onset collage of pictures as well.  Use whatever you like.

Catherine blogs at http://muskegfarm.blogspot.com

catherine2

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Leah (Lele), Undiagnosed Bio

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I am a 34 year old woman, not yet diagnosed, but suspect Cushing’s.

When I came across this website, it was like other people writing my life story.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 15 years ago, with depression about the same time.  Once on thyroxine, I improved.

About 8 years ago, I started gaining weight, especially around the stomach.  Then as time passed, other symptoms appeared.  The depression was coming back worse than ever, despite increased doses of anti-depressants.  I suffered with extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, shortness of breath and rapid heart rate.

I had tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Latex sensitivity, ECG and echocardigram, stress echocardiogram, chest X-ray, lots of blood tests.  The only thing abnormal was low iron.  I tried iron supplements, which do not agree with my stomach, so had to abandon.

Since then, I have pretty much struggled with further symptoms, the latest being the red stretch marks, the buffalo hump, fat on my shoulders (makes it hard to carry shoulder bags – they just slip off!), red, hot, puffy face, excess sweating, even in cooler weather, night sweats, pins and needles in arms, cramps in legs, high blood pressure, bruise easily, sores slow to heal – and that’s just the physical symptoms.

I am so depressed and low on self-confidence that hardly go out anymore, don’t have many friends, and had to stop working as nurse, which is the job I love.

I finally got my local doctor to send me to an endocrinologist in March this year.  She did an ultrasound of my thyroid (showed a tiny nodule) and ordered a 1mg dex supression test.  When the dex test came back negative and I went back to see her, I just cried my eyes out.  She referred me to see a psychiatrist, and said she was done with me.   The usual – you can’t have Cushing’s, its too rare.  No urine tests, nothing.

I called the Pituitary Foundation in my state who are really helpful, and gave me loads of information. The lady mentioned cyclical Cushing’s.  But they can’t tell you which doctor who can help you, it is different in Australia because you need to be referred by your local doctor, and they have no idea who can diagnose Cushing’s or what tests to order.  So now I have really lost hope of getting a diagnosis, it like fighting everyone all the time, just to be taken seriously.

There are days when I have no fight left in me, and wonder how bad it is going to get, will I get diabetes, heart disease?

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Emma (emma22), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi there,

I’m not really sure where to start! I’m 22, and work full time (10-12 hour shifts) as a porter in the operating department of a city centre hospital- so i’m very very active, constantly walking/lifting/carrying on a daily basis.

I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue when i was 13 after a bout of severe flu/repeated shingles infections, and never really recovered, but i was gradually well enough to live a more or less normal teenage life. I have never struggled with my weight (a constant 9 stone at 5 foot 5), until a year ago, when i suddenly started suffering from extreme weight gain (7 stone in 10 months), fatigue, acne, mood swings, hair loss where there should be hair/hair growth where there shouldn’t be, stria, irregular periods (and when they arrive they’re incredibly heavy, buffalo hump, heat intolerance and all manner of horrible symptoms.

I’ve been diagnosed after tests and ultrasounds with PCOS and hypothyroidism, and am currently being treated with 75mg thyroxine (to be increased), and am due to start on metformin.

There’s been very little improvement in how i feel, and after a pretty horrible meeting with the endo, in which all she really did was call me fat, tell me to stop the late night trips to mcdonalds (I’M VEGAN! mcdonalds is pretty much the antichrist to us!) and refer me to the dietician. i felt really let down and all i could do was try to hold the tears in until i got back to the car.

she didn’t seem to realise that for a 22 year old woman to be feeling more like a 90 year old, is a pretty horrific experience. but i digress…

i’m due to be tested for cushings in a few days time with the low dose dexamethasone, and i know this is awful to say, but i’d jump for joy knowing what’s going on with my body at last.

although i know i have pcos and an underactive thyroid, i just know that there’s something else going on with me, and unfortunately my consultant just won’t listen to me.

my social life has disapeared, i just feel too goddam ill, not to mention my incredibly unsupportive boss, who seems to want to make my life a living hell because i’ve had to take a lot of time off work- she even screamed at me until i cried when i collapsed at work one day. i’ve actually taken to hiding in the toilets in the afternoon to have a nap, and to regroup, just so i can get through the day. never mind that i’m a 22 year old who has gained 7 stone in under a year- it’s hard to feel great about myself!!!

anyway, hopefully one day i’ll find out what’s wrong with me

this was me last year:

 

and this is me now:

quite a difference huh?! and apologie for the poor fashion sense!
anyway, wish me luck, and and my best wishes for everyone going through diagnoses/treatment for any health issues, we’ll get there in the end 🙂

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