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Jennifer, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, I am a 33 yearl old female who has been living a nightmare for the last 5 years as I have seen my total health delcine before my eyes.

I have gained massive amounts of weight with no medical reason, my monthly cycle has left me, insomnia, severe depression and anxiety for no reason, infertility, allmy obesity is in my stomach and upper back, I have developed sleep apnea from having a thick neck, I have the infamous buffalo hump, hair loss of 50% of my hair, I cannot lose weight no matter what I do, I take these weird week spells where I cannote even get out of bed, hair has literally stopped growing on my legs and other areas of my body, except on my chin and abdomen where I do not want it to grow, my face is round and red and people who see me cannot believe this transformation my body has undertaken and I then have to hear how could have let myself go? If you would just stay on a diet longer than 2 weeks? I am glad that my children are not fat? I could go on and on the emotionally abuse I have had to enudre the last 5-6 years.

I have exercised and exercised to no improvement other than I feel exhausted, I eat a very strict diet, my Mother had to move over here with us because I no longer can care for my children and need her help. I have medical bills back in the states that are like science fiction.

I finally got diagnosed with hypothyroidism and still feel horrible, I have to take Toprol XL for heart palpitations without no explanation from where they are coming from it is so much easier for some physicians to keep just giving you pills instead of trying to figure out what is the root problem.

I now live in a foreign country where it is even harder on me, but I do have an appointment after 10 months with an Endocrinologist here in Doha tomorrow and on November 9th I have an appointment to go see a Cushings Expert in the UAE in Dubai his name is Dr. Taher so I will give an update after theses two visits.

Jennifer
Doha, Qatar

Update December 30, 2007

Hello My name is Jennifer and I am a 33 year old American living in Doha, Qatar (Middle-East), I was finally sent to Dubai and seen an Endocrinologist and he did an MRI and i have two pituitary tumors and he believes that I do have Cushings so he referred me to see Dr. Bill Ludlam, MD in Seatte in January 2008 to get further testing.

I know that there were something worng with me a long time ago but I never knew it was something as stealthy as this disease possibly, I have all the classical symptoms. Also the tesing is so so expensive in the States so I am waiting for the Qatari Governments approval for my medical expenses in Seattle.

I will giva another update soon.

Update May 28, 2008

My current update. I did go see Dr. Ludlam with no avail since my insurance would not pay for him but he did state that I needed further testing so after I left Washington I went to my friends house in Alaska just to have time to think since my husband and I are seperated.

I decided to go back home to West Virginia to be with my family for support and see a Doctor there bringing all my reports and scans to him from the Dr. in the Middle-East and Dr. Ludlmas suggestions.

I seen Dr Yakub and they did tests and all of them came back positive for Cushings my urine, salivory and blood several times came back positive and high for Cushings , also my MRI in January showed that my pituitary tumors are still there.

He is a good doctor and is located in Huntington West Virginia and he not only practices Endocrinology but he is also a Professor of Endocrinology at Marshall University School of Medicine. I will keep all of you updated and thank you so much for your support through this trying time in my life and I pray that all of the Cushies on this board get diagnosed, treated and healed.

Update July 10, 2008

I have finally got my diagnosis and I am heading to the University of Virgnia in Charloettesville on July 23rd! I will update what happens from there. I would also like to say thank you to Christi who has helaped me and talked to me through this difficult time.

Update September 19, 2008

Hello Everyone I am so sorry that it has taken me son long to get back with you I had my Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling done this week at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and it is confirmed I have pituitary dependent Cushings and I am scheduled for surgery the first week of October with Dr. John Jane Jr. They are great at the University of Virginia and I am so thankful for them. I am hoping that someone will take me under their wing while I am getting ready for surgery and give me some advice. I would really appreciate the help.

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Doc Karen, Pituitary and BLA Bio

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Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

 

 

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

 

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

Edith T, Adrenal Bio (Golden Oldie)

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golden-oldie

 

First diagnosed with Cushing’s November 1999

Petrosal sampling confirms Cushing’s in left lobe of pituitary March 2000

Transphenoidal surgery June 2000 (not successful)

From July 2000 – September 2001 on 200 – 400 mg of ketoconazole

Lost weight from July 2000 – November 2000

Began significantly gaining weight again in March of this year (2001)

Currently reshowing all signs of Cushing’s (for a while the buffalo hump and purple striae all but vanished – oh well – they’re back, as is the mid-riff bulge – urgh!)

Still hiking, biking, swimming, and cavorting and refusing to let this whole thing get me down (yeah, right – who am I kidding)

Endocrinologist currently encouraging me to consider stereotactic radiosurgery as I have made it clear I have no desire to allow anyone to remove my adrenal glands (not that I am any more interested in having my pituitary irradiated when it’s a hit or miss deal).

And that’s my history.

Edith T
from Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

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Consuelo (Conny), Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-gland

 

39 year old diagnose with Cushing Isp sampling at Uci was positive waiting surgery.
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Joseph (joeysauce), Pituitary Bio

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Hello everyone. My name is Joe. I’m a 23, soon to be 24 year old male who is (hopefully) in remission from ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease and two transsphenoidal surgeries.

I’d like to say my journey all started back in November of last year. Though, the past year has been a stressful, anxiety filled year for me with a roller coaster of it’s own. I was working full-time as a web designer at a web firm down the block from me for a little over a year, but was just getting so sick of the grind. I was also dating a younger girl for about 2 years up at this point, who had just left for college last August. Thinking that I was finally going to have a little more time to myself to make and save money and just freedom in general, I was proven very wrong. As soon as she left, the separation anxiety hit me like a TON OF BRICKS. I could hardly sleep, go to work, or even function. I knew the first thing I needed to do was free myself of the miserable grind of work and get back to freelance work. I told my job I was leaving and actually had an opportunity to do some other work with my uncle across the country decorating malls for the upcoming holidays as soon as my two weeks approached. It was a nice break and a good way for me to get away and experience some new things, like my girlfriend was doing. When my girlfriend first went away, I started taking Valerian Root to help me sleep and have been taking St. John’s Wart for about a year and a half to keep the anxiety as it’s lowest. I decided that when I get home from this trip, now that I’ll have a MUCH more free life, that I’d like to cut out all these vitamins that I’ve been taking for years to help with my skin, health and anxiety. Like Fish Oil, Vitamin A, E, C, Multivitamins, Probiotics, etc. I wanted to come home and have an awesome natural routine of exercising, working, and juicing. It sounded perfect. Make money, get fit, stay healthy and feel good. As the end of the trip approached, I was pretty much finished with all the vitamins. We traveled for about a month and a half and was home just in time for Thanksgiving. My girlfriend was home then as well, so it was good to see each other again finally. We were in touch as much as we could be when we were both away and decided to keep things going.

Here’s where things started to change. One of the FIRST things my mom said to me when I got home was “Wow, your face looks puffy and swollen.” I actually agreed and said it’s probably this stuff that I decided to stop taking called “hyaluronic acid”. It’s supposed to make your skin more supple and moisturize from the inside out. I figured that’s why my face was looking that way. I JUST started using it too. As the weeks went on, I noticed that there was a prominent redness in my cheeks as well. My cheeks were usually red like this, and I always thought I had Rosacea, but noticed that they were now red the whole day long, and I could almost see where the redness kind of cuts off. I didn’t pay much attention to these signs, but still was a little concerned.

As the holiday’s approached, I didn’t really get a chance to start working out or running or anything that I planned to do now that I was working home. I was gaining a little bit of weight in my face and my tummy, but just blamed it on being lazy. My girlfriend noticed and would tell me that I’m getting chubby and looking different. It was getting pretty annoying at this point hearing everyone saying that I’m puffy and chubby looking. I then started to work out a little and was running as much as I could outside, even though the winter was approaching and it was getting harder and harder to run. I really wasn’t seeing much progress and even started to diet pretty hard with veggies. The crazy part is that I’ve ALWAYS been such a thing HEALTHY person. Always juicing veggies, always drinking water, always taking vitamins, very athletic, etc. It was crazy that I couldn’t get rid of this belly weight or get my face to slim back down.

This is when the weirdest thing happened…The stretch marks. I began to freak out. I saw these ugly purple lines on my inner thighs and was really confused. I thought…”How can someone my size get marks like this…am I exercising too much?” This was around February, and my girlfriend came home on another break and I remember one morning her mother made a comment and said “Wow, your face is so puffy and red, maybe you’re allergic to something, you look so different” This is when I finally decided that I needed to see a doctor. I decided to see an allergist to figure out why my face is so red and bloated looking. We did all kinds of allergy tests just to find out that I’m allergic to most environmental allergens. In between visits, I was doing my research. I started to Google things like “stretch marks inner thighs” and eventually came across the word “Cortisol”. Then Googling Cortisol, I eventually came across “Cushings”. I started to read the symptoms and began to notice that the majority of them were exactly what I had. The “moon face”, the “striae”, the “central obesity”. Then I realized how bad my sleep was over the passed few months. I thought it was just me being anxious about work, because I would wake up VERY early in the morning and wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, so I would just get up and make breakfast and hop on the computer. Then I remembered the headaches I’ve been getting, or how tired during the afternoon I’d be. I was starting to make sense.

So one of the visits with allergist, I figured I’d mention the research I was doing. I asked the doctor if he was familiar with the disease. He said he definitely is. I showed him how different I looked a few months ago, and showed him my stretch marks. He was pretty shocked to see, but said it could just be from just eating bad and not exercising enough. I asked him if he could get me a blood test to check my Cortisol anyway. He said absolutely and sent me to a lab a few blocks away. I was very much expecting to see high cortisol levels. Like a fool, I went right after my appt with him, so the blood was taken around 12PM. I didn’t realize then that cortisol should be drawn around 8AM, but anyway…

The next time I came in to see him, he gave me the results. He said “You wanted to know if your Cortisol was low, right?” I said “No, I wanted to know if it is high.” He said “Oh…well, yes, they are a bit high.” He did mention that the RX said for me to have them taken in the morning and was kind of mad that the nurse didn’t notice that and say to come back in the morning. He said they could be high because of the time of the day and maybe the stress because of what I thought was going on. I knew now that I had to take these results to an endo.

This is when I started to mention things to my parents. They knew I was seeing the allergist and I have already talked to them about the cortisol and cushings, but I didn’t really get in depth. Once I had this blood taken, I knew I had to let them know what I think is really going on. I explained that the disease is caused by a tumor in the brain, or in your adrenal glands and they thought I was talking crazy. I was looking for local endos and found one not too far from me. When me and my mother first met with him, I knew instantly I wasn’t going to like him. It seemed I had to introduce myself before he even said anything. When I explained what I thought was going on, having Cushing’s and all, he said “You don’t look suspicious of Cushings at all.” He mentioned that the disease is VERY rare and that he has only diagnosed it about two times in his career. He looked my stomach, the back of my neck and said that when people have moon face, you usually see fatty deposits by the side of their eyes. As much as I didn’t want to hear I have Cushings, I wanted a solid answer to what is going on. He didn’t even ask to see the stretch marks when I mentioned them. He said, “Yes your cortisol is high, so we will do further testing.” I took home the urine test and also had a few blood tests done. Very anxious at this point, a few days passed and we came to see him again. Just as I thought, very high cortisol levels. He seemed very shocked and pretty much stated that Yes, I do have Cushings. He then wrote up multiple RXs for me to have done. An MRI, a CT scan, a chest scan. I was beginning to get pretty nervous. He explained how the disease is very complicated to diagnose and to find where the excess cortisol is coming from exactly. I was becoming very knowledgeable at this point and knew it wasn’t going to be an easy process.

Things started to get a little ‘different’ around the house and with my relationships. I’m actually a triplet and 1 of 3 children. My brother and I are very close, but not so much with my sister. My brother knew what was going on, but didn’t really know much about the disease. I would tell him and explain to him, but not really sure if he was even listening much. My dad was starting to get involved with things and becoming supportive of the changes. I was getting depressed with how I look and felt, and thankful my girlfriend was still away, even though I could’ve used her support…I just didn’t want her to see me like this. Things started to become pretty stale with her and my health was becoming more of a priority. I told her what was going on, but she hardly understood. So I started with the CT scan.

The doctor suspected the tumor to be found my in adrenal glands. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found. The doctor then took some more blood work and realized that we should be looking in the pitutary. I then had an MRI done. At this time I receiving help from the whole family. My aunts and uncles were doing some research too, looking for better doctors. We live on Long Island, New York…so Manhattan is just a small trip away. It’s said that the best doctors around here are located in NYC. My mom found an endo by the name of Eliza Geer at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. We were lucky enough to get a appt rather quickly. We were still waiting on the results of the MRI at this point and recieved them the day of the appointment.

We took them to Dr. Geer. Now this Dr. is no ordinary endo. She actually is VERY familiar with the disease and runs a research study on Cushing’s on “Body Composition and Metabolism” in Cushings patients. Immediately, we knew were at the right place. She took a look at all the blood work and could most definitely tell that what is going on is definitely Cushings. She was very impressed with me that I was able to basically diagnose myself, and asked me if I was studying in the medical field, hah. She knew that there was no need for more testing, but now just to figure out the source. We gave her the CD with the MRI results but she had trouble getting the images to show up on her computer. She asked that if we could wait a bit longer, that we could meet the neurosurgeon that she works with, Dr. Kalmon Post, and we would look at the imaging together in his office. Feeling pretty good about the new doctor, we waited a bit in the lobby until they could both see me again. During the wait, I dozed off, but woke up to my mother and aunt talking to a lady in the lobby. She was with her son. After some conversation with her, they found out that he also had Cushings, and has been going through it for several years. He is 20, so a few years younger than me. My aunt asked if it was okay to exchange emails, so me and him have actually been in touch since our surgeries.

Anyway, it was finally time to meet both doctors. Feeling very nervous and anxious, we sat with them and he explained a little more about the disease, and the complications of the surgery, etc. He made a joke about my rosy cheeks and it actually made me feel a bit comfortable with him. He also said how the reversal of the symptoms almost seem magical. I was beginning to feel really good about him as well. He said that he does pituitary surgeries multiple times a week. He then opened the CD and we all looked at the images together. He explained that when there is a distinct tumor found, you will see it quite easily and explained how it would make the gland look in the scan. Unfortunately…we couldn’t find anything. He explained that at this point it could so small that it may never show up on the scan, so he never wants to go into the gland and begin any sort of surgery without being 100% positive that this is the source of the problem. He then explained that there is procedure that completely confirms where the source is…”Inferior petrosal sinus sampling” It sounded pretty strange to me, but I knew it had to be done. As soon as we left his office, we made an appt with Dr. Patel to have the IPSS done ASAP.

A week later we were back for the procedure. What a strange procedure…but all went well. The results came back telling Dr. Post that it’s time for surgery. I think it was another week or so later that we made the appt for my first surgery on May 6th 2013. Both anxious and excited, I was more that ready to get this done and over with. My surgery was late in the day, so I wasn’t in recovery until I think about 6pm and then in my hospital bed until about 8pm. I remember my endo coming to see how I was feeling, as well as my surgeon. Knowing that I was supposed to be feeling flu-like symptoms, I was honest and said that I felt okay. My parents spent the next few hours with me until they had to leave. Unfortunatly, I was not feeling any sort of crash, but just very uncomfortable from the darn nasal-tampon in my nose. The next day the blood results came back from after the surgery and my cortisol levels were still very high. Disappointing news, but pretty much expected. I think they were 77. Though, the doctors mentioned that a second surgery is common and that the levels may be high because of the time of the day. We still kept our fingers crossed that they would still be dropping over the next day. They did come down ALOT the next day, but not in a normal range. I was sent home on the Hydrocortisone, incase that they would continue to drop, though I wasn’t very optimistic at this point. The pathology report did come back that whatever he did remove was all tumor, so that was good to hear.

Still feeling the Cushing-like symptoms over the next few days, I took my week later blood work again just to find out that the cortisol levels went back up. My endo said that I am going to need another surgery. I remember my surgeon explaining how he wants to be as gentle as possible when messing around with my pituitary, to make sure no damage is done to it. So I understood that maybe there is some tumor cells left behind and this time he will get the job done. We were lucky enough to schedule the second surgery only about a week or so later, with a very early appointment (May 20th).

Right before the surgery, the surgeon came to me and my mother and mentioned “Hyperplasia”. He said it’s very rare, but there is a chance that my gland is what’s producing the excess ACTH and not a tumor. He said is going to try his best to determine that and continue to remove any abnormalities he see, as aggressively as he thinks he needs to be. A few hours later, waking up in recovery I felt crazy anxious. I couldn’t stand the oxygen mask so I removed that after a few minutes. I could not wait to be in my bed. Unfortunately, again, I was not feeling the crash. Disappointed again, we were giving it time and hoping again that there were just a delay in the levels dropping. The next two days passed, and my levels were still a bit high. I saw both my surgeon and endo before leaving the hospital, and we spoke about other treatments at this point, but obviously we were going to wait on the near future cortisol results before moving forward with anything else. Me and my family were pretty devastated at this point, but my parents were still being optimistic. Not able to understand how this “amazing” doctor was having a hard time curing me and why it has to be so complicated for me was beyond everyone at this point. Sent home with HC again, everyone was praying for a drop in the cortisol levels. My doctor had me get my blood taken that following Friday with STAT on it. I spent most of that day with anxiety attacks and tears, over the fact that I just didn’t know if I was cured or not. I was feeling pretty dizzy and sick to stomach…but didn’t really noticed that UNTIL…

I received a call later that day from my endo. She first asked me how I was feeling. I told her very anxious and pretty dizzy. She responded with “Good! Because your results came back and your cortisol is at 12.” My parents both jumped up (I was laying in their bed between them…yes, I felt that awful about everything going on) in shock and awe. I was shocked to hear good news for once. She said to continue the HC and that we will be doing follow up bloodwork in about a week. The next blood test approached, with prayers that it would be even lower or at least hopefully in a normal range. This time the levels were a LITTLE raised, to 18…so my doctor felt that at this time we can begin to taper the medication since my levels are indeed high, yet still in a normal range. At this point, we believed that I am in remission and on my way to recovery.

A week later, we went for the two week follow up with both the surgeon and endo. We were able to meet with both of them at the same time. Both doctors said that I am starting to look less cushing-oid, which was relieving to hear. My endo explained that because of the surgery, my Thyroid and Testosterone levels are also a bit low, and that I’d have to go on replacement until both levels are normalized. I figured that this follow up would only be to talk and go over a few things, with not any real results or new good news, but I was okay with that. Though, we did have an interesting conversation with the surgeon.

Dr. Post, the surgeon wanted to explain what was going on with this pathology report. He is known to be one of the top neurosurgeons in the country and has done thousands of pituitary surgeries. He said that I seem to be a very perplexed case of Cushings. From what he can see when he performed the surgery is that the abnormalities do NOT look like tumor cells, but that the pathologist insists that what they look like to them ARE tumor cells. Because of the confusion, he is having my pathology report results sent out to other surgeons and pathologist for further questioning. At this point, he feels that the abnormalities that he removed are indeed abnormal pituitary cells, or Hyperplasia, like he explained to me and my mother before performing the second surgery. From how it sounded to me and my parents, that treatment for Hyperplasia is pretty much the same and that if all of the abnormalities have been removed, then I should be cured. He did also say that during the second surgery, he removed a lot more abnormal cells than he did the first time. Knowing that I perplexed one of the best surgeons in the country, we all felt a bit confused and a little down about things. We spent the rest of the day in Manhattan and headed home trying to keep our chins up.

Well, today I think has been about 2 weeks from the follow up, and almost a month from surgery. I’d like to say that I am seeing changes with my face, but it’s really hard to tell, though everyone around me is saying that I look fantastic. I can’t seem to get rid of the awful bloat belly, though. I have been going to the gym with my cousin for a week or so now, since my body has been feeling ALOT Bbtter than it has the passed couple months.

Last week my endo was away for the week, and being that I have been feeling better, she decided to give me the week off from blood work, which was relieving. I finally received my Thyroid RX yesterday and began it today and will be getting the Testosterone tomorrow. I got a call from my endo today and she is having me get blood work for my cortisol this Thursday. I am praying everything is normal and that I can continue to ween off the HC even more. I’d also like to mention that I going to see a laser dermatologist tomorrow for a consultation to see what can be done about the hideous stretch marks that my legs are covered in.

So it seems at this point I still am not 100% positive that I am in remission and this Thursday’s results should give us a pretty definite idea. I think this just about covers everything you guys need to know about me and my journey and battle with Cushings. I’m sure there’s so much I left out, though I am sorry it’s such a long introduction. I do feel my story is quite unique, being that I basically diagnosed myself and caught the symptoms so quickly. Please, if anyone has any questions or anything they’d like to discuss, PLEASE feel free to post back. It looks me DAYS to finish this and about 6 drafts that I started over a month ago when I was going to introduce myself to you guys before my surgeries…just was never able to bring myself to finish.

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ORKitty, Pituitary Bio

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Another Golden Oldie, this bio was originally posted 01/22/2008

Hi, I’m ORKitty. I live in Portland, OR, with my wonderful husband and kitty. I just turned 50 in 2005.

I began this journey quite possibly 17 years ago when I had some isolated panic attacks and then suddenly had panic 24 hours a day. I also kept crying and didn’t know why. I was eventually put on Xanax and then found a psychiatrist who put me on the anti-depressant imipramine and weaned me off the Xanax. It worked well for both the panic and depression for about 10 years. I gained some weight which I attributed to the anti-depressant. During this time I was still able to work and ran my own home-based business for 3 years. About seven years ago my anxiety worsened and my psychiatrist added Klonopin to deal with it. About this time I began gaining even more weight.

Due to a terrible (and terrifying) experience with a doctor, I developed a real phobia about seeing doctors. I managed to overcome this in early 2003 and have a large lump on my neck examined. An ultrasound showed normal tissue, but while I was there the doctor took my blood pressure at 160/100 and then decided to do an EKG. She found an abnormality and sent me to a cardiologist who diagnosed me with severe cardiomyopathy (next step dead). I was put on medication and had regular echocardiograms every few months and each one showed more improvement.

In fall of 2003 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and began taking Levoxyl, increasing by very small doses because it seemed to increase my anxiety every time I upped the dose. At the same time I was taken off the imipramine because there was some concern that it may have contributed to my heart problems. As my thyroid meds increased I began to lose weight and began having serious digestive problems including constant diarrhea. I had burning sensations in both arms, edema in both legs and my periods stopped. After some misdiagnoses and some doctor abuse I was finally found to have gallstones and had my gallbladder removed in April of 2004. I had hoped this would clear up the digestive issues, but that wasn’t the case.

After the surgery I noticed that my depression was getting much worse. By July I found that I couldn’t stand to listen to music or watch TV without getting anxious and upset. I was also feeling like I was in a fog and had racing, looping thoughts. I had trouble with reasoning and memory. My psychiatrist began prescribing a variety of medications, none of which seemed to help any of my symptoms. Things were so bad that I became suicidal for the first time in my life.

I finally persuaded my doctor to do a CAT scan to see what was wrong with my digestive system. Nothing showed up there but they found a uterine/ovarian mass and an adrenal adenoma. My doctor didn’t tell me about the adenoma until a later visit when she mentioned it in passing, saying it was nothing to worry about.

Oregon Health Sciences University.

Oregon Health Sciences University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was when I saw my first endocrinologist hoping to get help with my thyroid and an explanation of what was going on with my adrenal gland. He did a 24-hr. urine collection and my cortisol was high (200). He did an 8mg Dex test and I didn’t suppress completely so he sent me to Dr. Cook at OHSU who did a CRH/Dex test. The results were somewhat ambiguous, but he decided that the most likely source was the adrenal adenoma and recommended having the gland removed. I had that surgery in December of 2004. The day of the surgery I developed phlebitis in my right arm starting at the site of the IV. My arm became red and swollen from wrist to shoulder and all the superficial veins in that arm clotted up and disappeared. Ten months later I still can’t have blood drawn from that arm.

In the months after my surgery my heart went back to normal and my cholesterol and blood pressure improved, my periods came back and the burning sensations lessened. My legs were still swollen and suddenly became very red and hot. Doctors suggested it might be cellulitis or vasculitis. After 10 days of antibiotics the redness went away and a few months later the edema did, too. An ultrasound of my legs showed a thickened vein in my right leg that suggested there might have previously been a blood clot there. The mental fog slowly improved but I’m still not back to where I was. The anxiety and depression did not improve and have even gotten worse.

I planned to have the uterine mass removed after the adrenal surgery. This would be a total hysterectomy and my surgeon feels that my blood clotting problems need to be treated before the surgery. He is 99% certain that it is not cancerous since it hasn’t changed in over a year so I have the option of having the surgery when and if I choose. Of course there is a very slight chance that this mass could be the ACTH source.

Dr. Cook wants to do the IPSS before the MRI of my pituitary but this clotting problem needs to be dealt with before we stick 3-foot catheters in my veins. Plus I am running out of arm veins for the IVs.

Right now I’m waiting for my doctors to decide how to deal with this clotting problem before I can get the IPSS done.

I had a follow-up visit with Dr. Cook in September of 2005 and he ran all the tests again including the CRH/Dex. Since we thought the adrenalectomy had cured the problem, we were both surprised when my ACTH did not suppress. Dr. Cook wants to do an IPSS to see if the source is ectopic or pituitary. As I mentioned above, there is a slight chance that the growth on my uterus and right ovary could be the source of the ACTH. Neither my Gyn surgeon nor Dr. Cook feel that this is very likely, but it does make having the IPSS even more important than it would normally be.

Lavane V (lvowell), Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

The pituitary gland

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease in September 2012.  I started my search for a diagnosis back in March.

So here is how my story goes… in January of 2012, I decided that i was going to change my diet and exercise.  I had weight to lose from a previous pregnancy.  I began working with a nutrionist and personal trainer.  I spent a lot of time working out and logging everything that went into my mouth.  I even tracked my water intake. It became very obvious that for a hard as I was working that something was wrong.  i was gaining weight instead of losing.  I was also feeling very run down.  I had also started noticing that I did not have very many patience for much of anything and I felt very uptight about silly stuff.  I decided to go have my hormones checked.

At first the doctor told me that I was extremely deficiet on vitamin D and needed to drink a lot more water.  He said we need to run more tests.  He did a salivary test and some bloodwork to check my corisol levels.  On my follow up with him he said that i had very high cortisol levels and wanted to run more test.  He then went on vacation for a few weeks.  I was unable to get answers from his nurse and then he was so behind when he came back that i could never get an appointment.

I started researching on the interenet about high cortisol levels.  Everything that I was reading sounded like me.  Weight gain (i had gained 100 lb), exhaustion, stretch marks, blurred vision, high blood pressure, water retention, etc.  I found another endocrinologist and made an appointment.  I told him all my symptoms and what I felt was wrong with me.  He asked me what i wanted him to do.  I suggested some of the tests that  I had read about because I thought i might have cushings and he said, “ok, let’s get started but, cushings is very rare and I doubt that is what is going on”.

After running blood work, 24 urine test, plus many more test, he told me that I had Cushing’s Syndrome.  He indicated that this was very rare and that he had not seen but one case before.  He ordered an MRI.  The radiologist that read my MRI said that he did not see a tumor.  However, he did say that he saw “sinus disease”.  Now I have never hear of that so i questioned it.  I was told that I would need to go to a ENT doctor for learn more about that.

The endo doc wanted to proceed with the IPSS test.  I keep studying on the interenet about the disease and all the testing.  I even watched a few pituitary surgeries.  I just felt like I need to know everything possible besides, I could not sleep so this was a great way to spend hours.   I also kept reading all that I could on this site as well. I met with a local neurosurgeon and he scheduled the IPSS test.  I asked him about how we would proceed if my test results showed positive for a pit tumor. I was basically told since no tumor was seen in my MRI that the IPSS test would help them to decided which side of my pit they would take.  I was totally not comfortable with just losing part of my master gland.  I kept my scheduled test but started to research experts in cushing’s.  Then I researched which were covered by my insurance.

In the meantime, I kept the appointment for the IPSS since I didnt want to lose any time.  I checked into the hospital and got prepped for my test only to have the doctor come in to tell me that we would not be doing the procedure because the company that made the medications used for testing no longer was making the mediation.  Now then, how do you not know this before you prep someone for the procedure?!?!  I told the doctor that there were other hospital that were treating cushing patients and were performing this test.  I had been reading about them on the boards.  He told me that there was not anyone in the US that had the meds.  That was when I really knew that I was going to have to leave my state to get treatment.

I called my endo and explained what had happend and asked for a referral to MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  I also went online and did a self referral.  I just kept following up with them.  They have a pituitary tumor board that reviews cases.  My case was approved and I had my first appointment in Sept 2011.  I spent on day running tests, having an MRI and meeting with the a new endo.

Within 48 hours, he confirmed that I did have cushing’s disease and showed me the tumor on my pituitary.  In November 2011, I underwent transphenoidal pit surgery.  An 8mm tumor was removed.  There was some concern because the tumor was right up against my cavernous sinus cavity.  This is where your carotid artery is and the surgeon did not want to get close to this artery.

Unfortunalely, I did not experince a “crash” after surgery.  My levels did indicate they were in the normal range so the doctors sent me home with a perscription of hydrocortisone.

English: Cavernous sinus

English: Cavernous sinus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

for me.  He is going to confer with my endocrinologist and then I will go from there.

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