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Sheryl, Adrenal Patient

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I was diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome of the adrenal glands in September, 1973. I underwent a bi-lateral adrenalectomy in January, 1974. 30 years ago.

I’m sure some things have changed since then; I was in the hospital for 3 weeks post-op. I had all of the symptoms listed on this site. I originally was in the ER for what turned out to be a kidney stone. While there the doctors noticed a few oddities. For me the symptoms had been coming along so gradual that no one really noticed. The kidney stone was one result of Cushings. From the ER I was sent for many tests. MRI was not available then, and a test was done by threading a catheter into the groin area artery and shooting dye into it in order for the doc. to see the tumor(s). I tried to find it interesting and it was except every time they pushed more dye into me it was painful and eventually passed out.

By that time I had entered the hospital knowing surgery would happen and that was the final test to make sure exactly where the tumors were. The surgeon told me afterwards that each adrenal had a huge tumor-benign-fortunately-each one the size of a grapefruit. The surgical incisions were made in my back, one on each side of the spine, in a sort of half moon shape. They are quite large because the tumors were so large. The replacement therapies required are hydro-cortisone and florinef. Because everyone is different you may have a different dose than I do. It took quite some time for my body to really become adjusted to the replacements. At least 5 years for me. I would hope for you newcomers that medical progress has considerably lessened that time!

I did have to be hospitalized on 3 or 4 occasions afterwards just because my body was still adjusting and because this is a rare disease not too many docs understand it. At any rate here I am 30 years later and this is the first time I have ever been able to really talk to anyone like me.

I kept asking my docs if there was anyone I could talk to, but they were not aware of any. I am 51 years old now, and feel so very uplifted that I can finally share with others my experiences of ups and down. I am married to the most wonderful man in the world, who is very supportive in every way. We have 2 children, our daughter is 21 and our son is 19. Our son is also a special needs person, having been born with cerebral palsy. He uses a wheelchair and is mentally delayed. PLEASE NOTE: His birth defect was not in any form or fashion caused by my having had Cushings. Do not be afraid to become pregnant and give birth. Unless medical information has changed for this area-we were told by many specialists and OB’s etc. that CP did not result from the Cushings.

I have been going through perimenopause and menopause since I was 38. (I was 21 when I had my surgery.) It has been difficult finding a doc who believed what I was telling him. I have been on various hormone medications for the menopause. At present I am taking Prempro for it. In all, the medications I am on include 30 mg. of hydro-cortisone, 1mg of Florinef and 30 mg. of Prozac. I know Prozac has been bad for some women, but for me it was a life saver. I had severe mood swings more than just once a month.

I would like to correspond with anyone who would like to know what may lie ahead after surgery, and also anyone who might be in the “older surgery” area. Just knowing that this site exists is heart warming! Hope to hear from you all soon. Love you all-Sheryl


Listen to Sheryl’s Interview here.

 

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Sam in the News

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Sam is Jackie’s daughter.  There is more info about their family’s Cushing’s experiences here: https://cushingsbios.com/2013/06/23/jackie-samsmom-adrenal-bio/

Sam and her mom also participated in a Cushing’s Help interview which you can read here: http://www.cushie.info/index.php/cushing-s/about-us/interviews/207-sam-and-her-mom-jackie-february-2-2005

And one to listen to on BlogTalkRadio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/05/15/interview-with-jackie-samsmon-jordan

This article was posted by long-time message board member Samsmom about her daughter Sam.

AIM senior Samantha Edgar doesn’t let health issues hold her down

superkidedgar

SNOHOMISH — Samantha Edgar, 17, has faced limitations with serious health issues, including Addison’s disease and osteoporosis. But the AIM High School senior is overcoming them in amazing ways.

Question: Your school administrator says you come to school every day with a smile despite some serious health challenges.

Answer: I’ve had adrenal deficiency since I was 4 years old because my adrenal glands were infected with a lot of tumors. The guy who diagnosed me (Dr. Constantine Stratakis) I’m actually doing an internship with this summer at the National Institutes of Health. It’s pretty nerve-wracking. It will be fun.

Q: Wow. How did you end up with that?

A: (My mom and I) were talking about asking for an internship, and joking that he’d probably just say apply, like he normally does. … I asked “if I can maybe shadow you this summer and, um, hang out?” He was like, “Of course.” All the interns just stared at me. (Most of them are in medical degree programs) who’ve applied five times.

Q: What do you hope to get from it?

A: I’m hoping to understand my own thing a little bit more afterward, and then have opportunities after that stem from it. It’ll be interesting at least.

Q: Your mom is planning to rent an apartment and live out there with you.

A: I’m still her baby. … If anything, though, it’s the best place to have an issue.

Q: Your last life-threatening experience was when you were 10. You had the flu and were unable to keep down your medications, which you need to take three times a day. What other issues are you susceptible to?

A: If I am to break a bone or something I could go into what’s called adrenal crisis. (The body) goes into shock.

Q: And yet …

A: I do mounted archery, which is horseback archery. My mom is pretty much nervous every time I go down the course because I’m probably going around 30 (mph) and shooting an arrow at a target or five.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.heraldnet.com/news/aim-senior-samantha-edgar-doesnt-let-health-issues-hold-her-down/

samhorse

 

Joslyn (Joslyn), Adrenal Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted Monday, June 8, 2009

 

I’m 25 years old and was diagnosed last week with cushings syndrome.

I’m one of the lucky 1% and I do mean lucky since it’s curable, to have a a tumor on my adrenal. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear “you have a tumor”

I have surgery schgeduled for 7/6. I’m quite scared but excited.

She was interviewed in the Cushings Help Voice Chat / Podcast series after her surgery.
Listen to Joslyn’s interview.

 

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Deborah S, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed

 

Hello all,

I do not know where to begin. For many years I have been struggling with these symptoms. I have proximal weakness, intolerance to stress, blood pressure fluctuations, hyperpigmentation, reactive hypoglycemia, sweating, severe dehydration, very bad confusion, vision, memory problems, physical body changes (hump, bruises), carb intolerance, and inability to exercise.

My endocrinologist did a workup for Cushing’s disease and the midnight saliva test was high. She brushed it off as “stress”. I am seeing a doctor now that says I have POTS and Dysautonomia. My doctor says I have inappropriate adrenaline rushes.

My body is falling apart because I haven’t found a doctor who will take my symptoms and test results serious. I would like to talk to others who are having trouble getting diagnosed and also to those who have gotten diagnosed who have a good doctor.

God Bless and Thank You,
Deborah

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Interview With Pat – Golden Oldie

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golden-oldie

 

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 – 01:04AM

My show, “Interview with Pat Gurnick” on “CushingsHelp” is airing 06/23/2011 on BlogTalkRadio.

Next Interview, Thursday June 23 at 9:00 PM eastern with Pat Gurnick:

The Call-In number for questions or comments is (646) 200-0162.

Listen to Pat’s interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2011/06/24/pat-gurnick-pituitary-patient

Join Pat on THURSDAY JUNE 23 AT 9PM EASTERN

My name is Pat Gurnick. I had a Pituitary Tumor (Cushing’s Disease) removed  (Macro 1.4 size) by Dr. Kelly at UCLA.

This has been a long journey for me. In 1990 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Fibromyalgia, and Environmental Illness/Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I was a Needs Assessment and Referral Counselor at Charter Hospital. I than went to work for Brotman Hospital as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor, with their day treatment program for Chronic Mentally Ill Substance Abusers, but by 1992 I was so ill I went on disability. I could not read or write for over a year, so sick. I started a support group, WEBSITE  and phone hotline in 1993, to give myself a reason to live. I had such cognition difficulties and fatigue, to name a few symptoms, that I don’t honestly know how I achieved this!

In 1994 I thought I was in remission, little more functional and decreased Fibromyalgia pain; yet, I also went through premature menopause at that time, age 35 (I am 45 now), which I now found out was the cause and beginning of a Pituitary Tumor/Cushing’s Disease! I was single and I had no children. My doctor figured this is when the tumor developed/high cortisol, to compensate for my crashed adrenals (HPA Dysfunction common to CFIDS Patients).

I tried so hard to lose the weight all those years, and the past few years people were always asking me when I was “due” for my stomach was so distended. In addition, I was anxious and depressed, experienced nausea most of the time, facial hair, moon face, hump/fat pads ,and many of the other Cushing’s effects. The Rheumatologist just attributed this all to getting older and osteoporosis (which I had a severe case by this time due to Cushing’s – little did I know!).

No one picked up on the Tumor situation until last October, 2003. I had other health problems, especially mold injury (from water damage in my home) and had to leave with basically the clothes on my back in August. My life was upside down. I was stressed and went to see a chiropractor to ease my tight neck. I knew something was wrong when the x-rays showed fat pads not bone as my old Rheumatologist had claimed.

By October 2003 a New doctor (been to so many through these years trying so many things to get well) wanted me to have an MRI done when I showed him my x-rays and told him of my concerns. I was not willing to give up and attribute it to old age! He stated he thought I had Cushing’s disease and wanted to test me. The tumor was clearly seen on the scans, and Cushing’s Disease confirmed. I had gained 40 pounds by this time, and looked totally different, as you can imagine.

After I was diagnosed, I went to many healers, tried holistic things, which didn’t heal me, but got me in good shape for surgery a year later. Thank God it was a slow growing tumor, because it was close to my eyes and sinuses, and waiting any longer would have been detrimental to my health. I had surgery performed December 17, 2003, at UCLA with Dr. Kelly. He has been very kind and patient with me while I tried alternative treatment, knowing surgery would be eminent.

As for my hospital experience, 2x’s I had adrenal insufficiency and was terrified. I had no idea what to expect, fainting on the floor, staff all around me when I woke up, going in and out of consciousness, frightened I would go to sleep and never wake up, wanting to throw up all the time, could not walk, dependent on oxygen mask (trouble breathing) and I.V., using a bed pan, and had a longer stay than anticipated. Plus, hurting from stitches on my stomach, and was told was used for fat during surgery; had cerebral brain fluid leakage and titanium mesh was placed in my head. Little did I know that was only the beginning. I did not understand the post-op situation (cortisol withdrawal symptoms, medication side effects, emergency bracelet, light headedness, to name a few).

So, I have been looking for answers and finally found you all! I am not alone! It is ONE DAY AT A TIME now, and I am looking forward to better days ahead.

Update: April 15, 2004

I am a wreck since surgery, going from depression to anxiety, hormones bouncing off the walls. hot flashes, cognition problems, incontinence (cortisol weakens muscles including the bladder), and sometimes crippled to the point I cant even stand to brush my teeth. I am struggling with continual weakness, edema, painful/swollen hands and body. Now, ailments are popping up as the high cortisol decreases in my body. I have a fatty liver and gallbladder disease (cortisol can do this), Rheumatoid Arthritis (Cortisol can do this break down the muscles and joints), heart irregularities, high cholesterol, to name a few. Cortisol can cause so much damage, and I feel like I am left in pieces all over the floor, running from doctor to doctor to patch me up. Having little energy but dragging myself all over town to find some relief; hoping for a solution.

I have only lost 5 pounds but my mustache is gone, which is good news. Plus, my osteoporosis has gotten better and is now osteopenia status; in such a short amount of time. Taking out that tumor saved my life!

Update: December, 2004

It has been a year since my pituitary surgery. I have lost almost 40 pounds. I think more clearly and feel more confident. Look like a real woman again! Sure, I still have my mood swings, cortisol still low (but off cortef now), have phsycial pain (decreased 60% due to Lexapro antidepressant), fatigue (limits me on some days), and need to monitor my stress level or my immune system goes down quick and I get sick. My body is not the same. I am way more sensitive. But, I changed my lifestyle to fit my needs. I moved from Los Angeles to Boulder, Colorado, for the slower pace and beautiful mountains. My adrenals are not strong, and I have to be careful to take it easy or I have symptoms of adrenal burnout. However, I am so glad to be alive, mentally functioning, and taking walks again in nature!

Dr. Kelly at UCLA was fantastic, and I will always be grateful for his excellent expertise in ridding me of the tumor. I have a new chance in life. I do look over my shoulder, ever reminded that it can come back, having tests every 6 months for years to come. But, I have learned from this experience that really life is to be lived one day at a time anyhow. Appreciate each day as it comes, living in the moment, making the best of the time I have.

I look at life and love differently now. I left a stuck relationship, moved to a place that will bring me more peace and joy, empowered myself, being my best friend, having more fun and laughter in my life. I plan on continuing with my goals, which were stopped by the tumor, doing what matters to me instead of being co-dependent. I am important. I deserve the best. I have been given a 2nd chance and I will take it for all it is worth!

Update: September 16, 2007

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of my experience with Cushing’s Disease. I remind myself that I don’t have the tumor anymore, than I look out at the sunshine lighting up day and take in a breath of fresh air, so grateful to be alive.

Yes, I catch myself from wandering back to the Cushing’s memories: when I felt like a Cherub, blown up and uncomfortable in my own skin, emotional, feeling like my blood was racing in my veins, breaking my toes, pimples like a teenager, and the dark mustache I knew everyone could see! I still look for those returning signs, relieved that they have not come back. I was told by my surgeon, Dr. Kelly, that the tumor would not return. When fear grabs me, during infrequent times of fatigue and a rush of anxiety, I reassure myself that these are only aftereffects not the tumor returning. I have my cortisol levels tested every year to confirm this fact, and my levels are normal. However, I went through ‘Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome’ from all the medical trauma I endured! It took 8 years for the doctors to finally diagnosis this disorder! You can imagine all the ailments they told me I had or that it was all in my head. I was running around to doctors begging for answers but feeling so discouraged, hopeless, and helpless. I tried many medications hoping for a solution, but none came. I did many holistic treatments, to no avail. Little did I know that I suffered from Cushing’s Disease/Pituitary Tumor!

One day I walked into a Rhumatologist’s office, Dr. David Hallegua, seeking help for my Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the doctor exclaimed I also had Cushing’s Disease because of the obvious physical signs I exhibited. This is all a memory today. The once obvious ‘fat’ humps on my shoulders and neck are gone. I dropped most of the weight, my face structure is visible again, my hair healthy as is my skin, my moods finally balanced from the ‘bipolar’ roller coaster of emotions I previously tried to control – time healed this (I am not on any antidepressants), and my hormones are balanced without hormone replacement therapy. I know how lucky I am, believe me, I am thankful!

Yes, I have realized this illness has also given me an amazing gift, one of appreciation for every bird in the sky, every flower that bloomed, every whiff of baked bread, everyday I could walk by the Boulder Creek with vigor, and how I gradually was able to retain information to the point that I could multi-task again! Each little thing has been a blessing. I have much gratitude for being alive, remembering the days when I had Cushing’s but didn’t know it and negotiated with God dark agreements…looking back I am glad that I didn’t follow through. What lesson’s has this teacher left me with? I live in the moment now, present, not running to the past or the future, just appreciating today. Ah, I have today to live! I have come back into my body, proud of my curves, my soft skin, my long hair, my searching eyes, feeling the calm peacefulness that rests in my heart, and the relaxation in my body. It feels good to experience positive sensations, wanting to walk again around the block, to go shopping for clothes, taking a swim in the heat of the summer, all dressed up going to a dinner party with friends, taking meditation classes at the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center. I have a social life again! For so many years I hid in my house, heavy, unhappy, and discouraged. I didn’t know I had an illness, and all I thought was, “who would want me like this?”. Yet, there was a sliver of hope, for I never stopped trying to figure out what was wrong, desperate to find a solution, knowing all along that I was NOT just fat and growing older, at the age of 35! My body was betraying me, that was clear. The lesson, to not give up, to have faith. My warrior came out in me. I became a stronger woman through all of this, and moved through the challenges that were dropped in front of me, bomb by bomb. I came through the surgery with flying colors, hard but I did it! Winning round one! Round two, dropping pound after pound of fat. Round three, learning how to walk and breathe easy again. Round four, winning the grand prize, learning how to relax, and to be happy that I am alive.

I was able to provide counseling services again , and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 pat@caringcounselor.com

There is life after Cushing’s Disease!

Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
Psychotherapist
www.caringcounselor.com

Glad to be alive!!! September 2007

Pat’s photos:

The only picture I have after Cushing’s,
a number of years ago,
gained 25 more pounds since then.
[Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me and my sister at Thanksgiving – right before surgery. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me at home, right after surgery, with my kitten sleeping on my stomach. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Picture of me with my Cat JACK 4 months after surgery.
You can see my face has gotten thinner, but my body is still Cushy. [Photographer: Pat’s family]

April 2006 [Photographer: Pat’s family]


Glad to be alive!!! September 2007 [Photographer: Pat’s family]

Update January 25, 2016

In 2010,  I had a near death experience from dehydration and ended up in the ER with Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. See the video I created at that time:

 

I notified NADF (National Adrenal Diseases Foundation) that Cushing’s patients suffer and need to be recognized through their organization with this serious life threatening condition: Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. As a result, the Medical Director,
Dr. Margulies, MD, developed a brochure on Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency:
Stress dosing and recognizing Adrenal Crisis symptoms is most important. Today, I have a better understanding and can recognize the symptoms of dehydration, and I am more prepared to double my hydrocortisone medication under an emergency situation (often for me it is the flu) or stress.
Hear my CushingsHelp Radio Interview 2011:
After my surgery in 2003, I was able to provide counseling services again, and opened my Psychotherapy practice in Boulder, Colorado, older and wiser. I specialize in helping those who are challenged by Chronic Illness, by phone, Skype, in person, or in the client’s home if they live in the Boulder area. I can always be reached at 303/413-8091 or pat@caringcounselor.com
There is life after Cushing’s Disease!
Warmly
PAT GURNICK, CLC
Psychotherapist
Matrix Energetics Practitioner
Certified Lifestyle Counselor
www.caringcounselor.com

 

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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.

 

My Journey | Living with Cushing’s Disease

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It’s hard to say when my exact “journey” began with what we now know is Cushing’s Disease.  Both my Mom and my doctor believe I’ve had this for years, when I started having period problems, migraines and unexplained weight gain in high school.

I can safely say that I started really noticing/documenting this last round of health issues in the spring of 2007.  I can remember my first doctor’s visit regarding the onset of this in spring 2006, but the majority of my health issues really began a year later.  I’d always suffered from migraines, but only around my menstrual periods.  I took birth control to help with that, and it also helped regulate my periods for the majority of my adolescent and young adult life.

In Spring 2007, however, I started experiencing cluster migraines that were debilitating, blinding and just absolutely horrible.  I don’t usually have a primary care physician because I’m, for the most part, a really healthy girl.  But I started seeing a doctor to pinpoint the cause of the migraine headaches.  I had a CT scan which came back negative for any problems.  I tried different abortive medications to treat the migraines when I had them (Imitrex) and also preventive medications (Topamax) but nothing helped.  I’m not a big fan of popping pills and insisted that I find the cause of the migraines, rather than just masking them with an expensive, non-generic daily pill.  I cut back on caffeine, avoided certain trigger foods, changed the lighting in my house and in my office, had my eyes checked and even experimented with different birth control options, since estrogen can be a huge trigger for migraines in women.  Those lifestyle changes helped a little, but I was still having them.

Read more at My Journey | Living with Cushing’s Disease.

interview

Rachel will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, June 3 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 84 other past interviews to listen to!

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