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MaryO – 10 Years Cancer-Free!

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WOOHOO

Amazing! It’s Been 10 Years, Already.

Today is the Tenth Anniversary of my kidney cancer surgery.  These ten years have been bonus years for me.  For my cancer stage, the 5-year survival rate was 81% and I’ve made it twice that long – so far.
What were the odds I’d get kidney cancer? According to my “risk factors”, I “should” have had colon cancer because both parents and an aunt had it twice each.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that I won’t get that, too.

And the risk factors for kidney cancer aka renal cell carcinoma? The majority of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. Risk factors for renal cell carcinoma include:

  • Age. Your risk of renal cell carcinoma increases as you age. Renal cell carcinoma occurs most commonly in people 60 and older.

I was younger than this.

  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop renal cell carcinoma than women are.

I am female

  • Smoking. Smokers have a greater risk of renal cell carcinoma than nonsmokers do. The risk increases the longer you smoke and decreases after you quit.

Not me!

  • Obesity. People who are obese have a higher risk of renal cell carcinoma than do people who are considered average weight.

A Cushing’s gift

  • High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of renal cell carcinoma, but it isn’t clear why. Some research in animals has linked high blood pressure medications to an increased risk of kidney cancer, but studies in people have had conflicting results.

Never had this until the kidney cancer.  It went away immediately post-op but it’s back now.work

  • Chemicals in your workplace. Workers who are exposed to certain chemicals on the job may have a higher risk of renal cell carcinoma. People who work with chemicals such as asbestos, cadmium and trichloroethylene may have an increased risk of kidney cancer.

What?  Me work?  

  • Treatment for kidney failure. People who receive long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure have a greater risk of developing kidney cancer. People who have a kidney transplant and receive immunosuppressant drugs also are more likely to develop kidney cancer.

Nope.  Some sites also list polycystic  kidney disease.  I don’t have that but half my husband’s family does.  Hmmm – wonder if that’s contagious

  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease. People with this inherited disorder are likely to develop several kinds of tumors, including, in some cases, renal cell carcinoma.

I’ve wondered about this but, you know, it’s too “rare”.

  • Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma. Having this inherited condition makes it more likely you’ll develop one or more renal cell carcinomas.

Not that I know of. 

I am so thankful for all my doctors but today I am thankful for Dr. Amir Al-Juburi who saved my life by removing my kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma).
April 28 2006 I picked up my husband for a biopsy and took him to an outpatient surgical center. While I was there waiting for the biopsy to be completed, I started noticing blood in my urine and major abdominal cramps. I left messages for several of my doctors on what I should do. I finally decided to see my PCP after I got my husband home.
When Tom was done with his testing, his doctor took one look at me and asked if I wanted an ambulance. I said no, that I thought I could make it to the emergency room ok – Tom couldn’t drive because of the anesthesia they had given him. I barely made it to the ER and left the car with Tom to park. Tom’s doctor followed us to the ER and became my new doctor.
When I was diagnosed in the ER with kidney cancer, Tom’s doctor said that he could do the surgery but that he would recommend someone even more experienced, Dr. Amir Al-Juburi.
Dr. Amir Al-Juburi has been so kind to me, almost like a kindly grandfather might be, and he got rid of all 10 pounds of my kidney and cancer.
I owe him, the original doctor, and my Cushing’s doctors, my life.
The following are extracted from posts that were made during my kidney cancer diagnosis and surgery in 2006:
From Alice April 29, 2006
This is Mary’s friend, Alice (Dearest of Power Surge).
I’m not going to go into every detail at this time. I will fill you in on more details as I receive them from Mary and Tom. I’m sure Mary posted on the boards that she recently went back to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to be retested because the tests that had been done the past year were incorrect and she was getting the wrong dose of hGh for the past year. In any event, she was tested again on Thursday and then returned home. The above is just a preface to create a time frame of events. It isn’t the reason I’ve come here to ask for prayers for Mary.
This is: Mary mentioned to me last week that she had noticed some blood in her urine. She was going to get it checked. As it were, when she returned from Johns Hopkins, she drove her husband, Tom, to get his regular biopsy for his history of prostate cancer.
While in the emergency room, Mary started having cramps in her stomach and when she went to the rest room, discovered a great deal more blood in her urine. Fortunately, she was at the hospital with her husband when this occurred. The cramps were becoming more severe. The doctors checked her out and they found a tumor in one of her kidneys – the tumor is actually the size of the kidney.
At this point and time, the doctors are recommending removal of the kidney and one of her adrenal glands. One surgeon recommended immediate removal of the kidney. Mary and Tom wanted to first talk with her other doctors and will decide on what surgeon performs the surgery. She never left the hospital where she simply went to take Tom for his test. Instead, she was admitted. She had a great deal of pain last night, but it was helped with pain killers. I will provide hospital details later.
She’s scheduled for an MRI later this morning or early afternoon.
I don’t want to go into much more detail except to say that whatever the condition of the tumor, the prognosis is pretty good.
I know how much all of you love her (as I do), how much she’s done with this site, how hard she’s worked to provide you with so much wonderful information about Cushing’s — plus what a good friend she’s been to so many of you. I also know that those of you who talk to her may want to call her. She needs time to go through all the preliminaries before being inundated with calls.
I will do my best to keep you apprised of Mary’s situation as I receive information. When she gives me the go ahead for giving out the hospital and is ready to take calls, I’ll pass the information along.
Please take a moment to send prayers for {{{{{MaryO}}}}} (she’s “our” MaryO on Power Surge, too) that everything will turn out all right and she will get through this crisis with flying colors.
Dearest
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Alice April 30, 2006
* Addendum: 9:30 AM – made some corrections to the 5 something AM post.
What a beautiful show of love and support.
I spoke to Mary last night. She had the MRI as scheduled. She spoke with her own doctor and they decided on a surgeon, but it means going to another hospital. She said she’d probably be coming home for a day before going in for the surgery.
I hesitated to mention in my first post that the doctors said they * think the kidney tumor is malignant due to it’s size – 5 cm. I’m sure many of you surmised that, or why would the emergency room doctors recommend immediate surgery. However, as I said earlier, Mary and Tom wanted to consult with her own doctor first. She was told that if, in fact, it is kidney cancer and is detected and treated early and confined to the kidney, the chances for a full recovery are good.
Considering what she’s going through, Mary sounded good. Lord knows, she’s been through so much already. God willing, this may resolve some of the other health issues she’s been experiencing.
Knowing Mary, when she returns home for a day before checking into the other hospital for surgery, if she’s up to it, she’ll post here herself and provide you with additional details.
For now, I’ve told you just about all I know.
Keep up those prayers!
Alice
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From Alice April 30, 2006
11 AM Update:
Mary had a brain scan this morning. She was supposed to have a bone scan today as well, but they’re doing it tomorrow instead, so they told her she could GO HOME TODAY (until she checks into the other hospital for the surgery)! She’s thrilled to be going home and I’m sure she’ll be here posting to all of you herself. You know Mary can’t stay away from computers very long. I’d venture a guess that if they looked inside, her arteries and veins would look more like computer cables (ducking).
We love Mary – so keep on praying that everything goes well, that the tests all yield good results and that she’ll be getting better ‘n better until she’s finished with this whole ordeal
(please, God!)
Reminds me of the phrase . . .
Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Til the good is better
And the better, BEST!
Alice
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From Alice April 30, 2006
Update – 2:15 PM:
Spoke with Mary. She’s home. She’s resting. The brain scan, chest/lung x-ray, abdominal scan all came out clean. The only test remaining that I know of is the bone scan, but it’s excellent that the above tests yielded good results.
She’s going back to the hospital for the bone scan tomorrow and, hopefully, scheduled for surgery ASAP.
Her attitude is very good. She sounds very good and I know, with God watching over her, and everyone showing so much love and caring, she’ll pull through this with flying colors.
It’s easier for me in conveying information to you to do so with an upbeat attitude. I try to avoid thinking of these things as tragedies or things that make me sick. Of course, I’m saddened and sorry that Mary is going through this — and has gone through so much, but such is life. You all certainly know that very well. Nobody hands us a guarantee that life is going to be without problems. And, yes, as the Morton’s salt container says, It never rains, it pours. But my M.O. is to try to keep as positive as possible, especially when in the throes of life’s unanticipated crises.
I believe the expression, “Attitude” is half the battle won.
Mary’s attitude is excellent and I know in my heart she’s going to come through this just fine.
Alice
P.S. An expression I remember my mother using, “The things we fear never happen. It’s the things we never think about that do!”
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From Alice May 2, 2006
There wasn’t much to add yesterday. Mary was scheduled for a bone scan, but first had to have the radioactive tracer substance injection (I presume it was injected — she wasn’t sure herself). She was scheduled to have that around 10:30-11 AM, ET, and then had to return five hours later for the bone scan.
I didn’t speak with her last night, but she text messaged me around 6:30 that she was finally home and that the surgery had been scheduled for a week from today, Tuesday, May 9th at 9:30 AM.
I’ll post the hospital information as the time draws near.
That’s about it for now. She’s still sounding pretty good and wants to get the surgery done already!
Let’s keep those prayers going!
Alice
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From Me May 2, 2006
First off, I’d like to thank you all for your good wishes, support and prayers. I could do the Sally Field thing and say “…and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” but I won’t 🙂
I plan to print everything out and take it with me to the hospital as a cheery-upper.
Alice has been such a wonderful friend through all this, calling, checking up on me, keeping all of you updated on things as they are known right now. Her support and love has been such a wonderful blessing in my life, especially now.
As it is, I’m currently feeling “normal” whatever that is. If I didn’t know I had a problem, I would think that I was just fine.
I am fortunate that I found this out before the tumor could grow any larger. I am fortunate that I was close to the ER, not driving home from Baltimore, or in Baltimore, Oklahoma or on the cruise.
I know that the tumor has been growing for quite a while – it’s very large. I saw the MRI images and even I can tell that it’s not normal. As far as I know now, all the other scans have been fine. I had an abdomen CT, chest CT, brain MRI, chest/abdomen MRI and a full body bone scan.
When I was in the ER Friday, they assumed that it was a kidney stone and did the first abdomenal CT scan looking to see where that was. They came back with the news that yes, I had a kidney stone but that it was the least of my worries at them moment. So, I was admitted to the hospital and had all the other scans except the bone scan. Knowing what I know now, it would have been better and easier for me to have had the bone scan as an inpatient. As soon as I checked out and was out of the system, it was harder to get an “emergency” (not scheduled weeks in advance) bone scan. Oh, well.
My surgery will be next Tuesday, May 9, at 9:30AM at Fairfax Hospital (http://www.inova.org/inovapublic.srt/ifh/index.jsp ). I’m expected to stay there for 3-5 days post op and they don’t anticipate any pesky complications like chemo or radiation at this time.
For now, I’m keeping my normal schedule, avoiding reading horror stories online, eating, sleeping – even napping! – as usual. Sometimes I even forget that I have this little medical appointment next week.
For a non-phone person I’ve talked with so many people these last few days, it’s mind-boggling.
I’m happy to report that all is not lost on the (Cushie) cruise. Someone will replace me – and there will be another cruise later in the year. YEA! My main “concern” on that now is that I’ll lose weight (finally!) post-op and my cruisewear will no longer fit. Yeah, right.
In thinking back, I think it’s a good thing that my arginine test was messed up in Sept of 05. If it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have redone it on Thursday. I believe that having that stuff in my body was what made my kidneys rebel and act up on Friday. So, without the lab screw-up I might not have known anything for a long time.
So, it’s all good
Thanks to everyone who has called and posted such wonderful things. I cannot begin to imagine what my email looks like…
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From Alice May 9, 2006, 09:10 AM
I’ve been in constant contact with Mary. Spoke to her at 7 this morning. She, Tom and their son, Michael, were on the way to the hospital. Mary sounded very good as she has all week. She’s going in with an excellent attitude.
She’s probably being prepped right now. The surgery is set for for 9:30 (ET). They anticipate the surgery will last 3 1/2 – 4 hours.
Now, all we can do is pray and wait. Tom will call me after the surgery is over. As soon as I hear something, I’ll make it a point to come back and post what I know.
Your support, love and prayers have been remarkable. Thank you on behalf of Mary. Please keep on praying until it’s over.
God? You listening? You’ve got someone very special to watch over this morning. We’re counting on you!
Alice
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From Alice May 9, 2006, 12:33 PM
Mary’s husband, Tom, called me at 12:15
He said it’s going to be another 3 hours – around 3:15 PM – before they’re done. Surgery didn’t start as scheduled at 9:30, but more like 11:30. There wasn’t that much he could tell me except that the doctors said, so far everything is going as expected and Tom said, “so far, so good.”
I hesitate to draw any conclusions from that statement because I’m not 100% sure of what the doctors expected, so it’s a matter of waiting until it’s over.
I’ll keep you posted. Keep praying, please!
Alice
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From Alice May 9, 2006, 2:00PM
Tom called at 1:15, but we had a bad connection. We finally connected.
The operation is over. Mary was being sewn up. Tom said according to the doctor, “the tumor and the kidney were removed.” The doctor is calling the operation a “complete success.”
I asked if they saw any signs of cancer anywhere else because Mary had told me originally that they’d said they might remove the gallbladder, too, but they didn’t remove the gallbladder – which is a good sign.
It appears as though everything was concentrated in the kidney.
Thank God. It’s over!
Alice
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From Alice May 9 2006, 07:39 PM
Someone said: “… I told her that I would wait until she was home and feeling much better before I talked to her again and she agreed that she wasn’t sure she would be up to taking phone calls. Again, thank you so much for keeping us updated… this way we can know how Mary is doing without her having to take so many calls…”
That’s exactly how Tom and I feel. Tom suggests people not call the hospital. I wouldn’t even call his cell phone all day. I waited for him to contact me. I know he’s also exhausted. I figured he’d call when he was up to it. He called about 15 minutes ago.
It’s important that Mary get all the rest she can while recovering. Yes, everything turned out well, but she still had major surgery, is on morphine and needs her sleep. It’s important that we all allow her this time to rest.
It just so happened she was awake when he called and he turned on his cell phone’s speakerphone so Mary and I could talk for a minute. I was so happy to hear her voice. She sounded tired, her mouth was dry, but she sounded good.
Because this is a public message board, I prefer not to post details of the room she’s in. If anyone wants this information for the purpose of sending something to Mary, please E.mail me from the address you registered with on the board, and please include your user name. Thanks.
Another thing is that Mary has allergies, so for those wishing to send something to her, Tom and I (and Mary, as we discussed before she went into the hospital) agree she’s better off without flowers.
Finally, Tom said the doctor was very pleased with how her surgery went – that her body was quite robust, that there was very little bleeding, so no transfusion was needed, and he was generally very pleased with the surgery.
It’s been a very stressful day. I love Mary like a sister. We’ve been good friends for 11 years. I cried so after he initially called and said everything went well. I know all of you love and care about Mary, too.
All I’ve thought all day is, thank you, God, for watching over MaryO. I know all of you have thought the same thing.
That’s about it for now — she even cracked a personal joke when we said goodbye — she’ll be back to her old self again before too long.
Alice
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From Alice May 13 2006, 08:10 PM
Saturday Update on Mary:
When she’s back on her computer, I know Mary will be thrilled to read all your thoughtful, beautiful and caring messages.
She’s doing well. The worst part is the incision which is quite large because the doctors originally anticipated the possibility of having to remove the adrenal gland above the kidney that was removed and the gall bladder as well. However, as I posted earlier, once they got in there, everything was found to be clean so they just took out the tumor and the kidney (as if that’s not enough). So, when she gets up to go to the bathroom, the incision is quite painful. I imagine an incision of that size will take a while to heal. Other than that she says she feels good!!
Additionally, the doctor was awaiting the results of the lymph node biopsy (just to be sure) and he told her yesterday, “everything looks clean.”
She was originally scheduled to go home tomorrow, Sunday, but . . . she went home TODAY!
Spoke to her after she arrived home (sorry I didn’t post earlier, but also have my Web site to deal with).
She sounded great and was glad to be home especially since a new person checked into her room yesterday and Mary wasn’t able to sleep all night.
That’s all for now – and all very good news, thank God!
Alice
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From Me: June 17, 2006 post-op:
Thank you all for your prayers, good wishes, cards, phone calls, gifts, general “cheery-uppers”. They all really helped me on my road to recovery.
I do have a ton of thank you cards to send out to lots of people – I’m very slow at that. Under normal circumstances my handwriting is terrible. Now, post-op kidney cancer, I can no longer take my arthritis meds or any NSAIDs and my writing will probably be even worse 😦
I am very nearly better, not much pain anymore, a nasty big scar and my energy levels aren’t so great. Of course, they were awful before. I can no longer take the GH even though I’m deficient. In 5 years (if I survive!) I can take the GH again, supposedly.
I’ve had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking over the last 6 weeks. I know I was extraordinarily lucky to have my tumor discovered before it was too late. The lab reports and my surgeon reported that it would only have been a week or so before the tumor had hemorrhaged and caused major problems. Thank goodness the argenine retest for GH had caused me to bleed – at least I think that’s what set it off. If I hadn’t had all the blood and pain for one day only, I’d have had no clue that I had this cancer and who knows what would have happened in that next week.
I will be getting CT scans every 3 months for awhile to be sure that there is no cancer hiding out.
During my time of thinking, I have also been thinking about making changes to the boards based on what I have heard was going on here. I am not yet sure how these changes will manifest themselves but I do know that bashing others will not be tolerated. More on this later, in another area.
Again, thank you for all your support!
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From Me July 6, 2006
Since I recently had surgery for kidney cancer, I’ve been looking around for another board to read and talk about this with other survivors (hopefully!) I haven’t found anyplace I’d like to visit or feel comfortable with yet, so I decided to make a new area here.
I know – or I think I know – that no one else here has had kidney cancer, although I know at least 1 other person has had a kidney removed and several others have reported kidney stones and other possible kidney diseases.
I’m sure that my recovery will be much the same as for any other major abdominal surgery, although I’d like it to be faster.
Before my surgery, I didn’t have time really to consider that I had cancer, and what it meant for my life. There was no going from doctor to doctor, running a different test each week, suspecting that maybe… Just boom, there it is. Cancer.
Now that I’m about 8 weeks post-op, I’m thinking more and more about this and how it might affect my future. I know that there are going to be lots of scans, every 3 months, just to be sure that there wasn’t a cell hiding out.
I know I have to be careful with meds – no NSAIDs so my arthritis is worse. No GH – it’s contraindicated for 5 years…assuming I’m cancer free then.
I’m supposed to be eating less protein, more fruits/veggies, drinking more water.
And I’m supposed to avoid playing football and other things that might damage my remaining kidney.
Normally, I know how very lucky I am. I just reread the path reports and know that the tumor was already hemorrhaging around the borders and the cysts contained hemorrhagic fluid. Things could be much worse.
Sometimes, at night when I can’t sleep, I wonder why I was lucky like this. What haven’t I done with my life that I should. Seems to me that I’ve accomplished what I should already.
And, in the night, I worry about the cancer returning, taking my other kidney or worse.
At this time, there’s no standard chemo unless it’s metastasized, although there are some promising clinical trials and radiation doesn’t seem to work for this kind of cancer, so if it returns it’s more surgery.
I suppose I could/should have put all this in my blog, but I put it out here in case anyone else should need this in the future. I hope not!
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From me Aug 19 2006, 01:25 AM
Thanks so much for asking!
Unfortunately, I haven’t read the boards much lately – I’m spending most of my online time deleting/banning the InstaChat intruders.
I have been working on the websites, though, and that’s always fun! I’ve even added a new one to the roster and it has some cool stuff on it. New features to be announced in the upcoming newsletter.
I’ve been even more tired than usual now that I’m off GH. I can’t take my arthritis meds, or anything like Excedrin (no NSAIDs) so my joints are nearly always bothering me and I have to wait out any headaches. I’m also just getting over a UTI.
I just had my 3 month post-op CT scans and I hope they come out ok. At first I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to have chemo or radiation come to find out that neither has been discovered yet which works well with kidney cancer. Apparently, it can resurface any time for the rest of my life. I’m hoping that some of the chemo clinical trials show some good results so I can get this thing before it metastasizes somewhere.
I’m having trouble sleeping (1:20 AM here, now) although I’m always tired. My mind plays all kinds of tricks in the night. Those InstaChat people don’t help, either! When I wake up just a little, instead of falling back asleep, I’ll go check to see what they’ve done.
Whine, whine!
On the plus side – I survived the kidney cancer surgery, and it’s almost vacation time!
Even vacation will be bittersweet, though. 2 years ago, Sue went with us on vacation. She had a great time and she had asked if she could go with us again this year. Of course, we had said yes…
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From me May 8 2008, 11:07 PM
I am feeling very maudlin, a bit down and depressed. It’s very nearly the anniversary of my kidney cancer surgery. I posted this in my blog a few days ago:

I’ve been feeling weird for about a week now. Last Friday, I went through the whole “Sending Prayers” topic (MKO’Note: this thread) that my good friend Alice started for me.After I read that, I started reliving all the kidney cancer events…again. I know I shouldn’t do this. My counselor says that this is a very stressful thing to do and it’s not good for me, for anyone. But I do it anyway, especially the pituitary and cancer surgery anniversaries. I wish I did this with good stuff, could relive that instead of the scary and painful.
After I finished rereading all that, I went back to my post in the cancer section: I guess I’ve talked about this more than I think! I just wish there was someone I could get answers and support from. I have never met anyone in real life who has shared my particular brand of cancer, haven’t talked to anyone on the phone or emailed anyone.
I even asked at my local cancer support center about support for me – they have all kinds of meetings, mainly for breast and prostate cancer, but other kinds, too. But they said that there weren’t enough kidney cancer people to have a meeting. The one and only book that the library there has on kidney cancer was given to me by the author to donate there.
Lucky me – two rare diseases that no one gets. According to statistics I should be a black man who smokes and works in the iron and steel industry or is exposed to certain chemical and substances, such as asbestos (a mineral fiber that can be used in construction materials for insulation and as fire-retardant) and cadmium (a rare, soft, bluish-white chemical element used in batteries and plastic industry), also increase the risk for renal cell carcinoma. I should have polycystic kidneys and not drink the copious coffee.
So…where did it come from? A mutation of my parents’ and aunt’s colon cancer or do I still have that looming on my horizon?
And the Cushing’s came from nowhere, too. I know that no one knows these answers but I think of them a lot, especially at night.
Although I’m not afraid of death and would like it to be as peaceful and pain-free as possible, I still dream at night that I’m dying or have died. These dreams have been going on since before the cancer and I can’t seem to shake them although I’m taking them more in stride now and can go right back to sleep.
And from last year’s post on this topic, these still concern me:
What if the lung nodules that “aren’t growing” turn out to be something on the next scan? Is the stomach distress I’m currently feeling a cause to ask for my next colonoscopy a bit earlier?
Is the pain on the other side the other kidney causing trouble? Or something new with an ovary?
What if, what if…?
Seems like in my addled brain any new symptom could be cancer, not the simple stomach bug or pulled muscle.
Had they told me in 2006 that I only had a year or two to live, I’d have thought it far too short a time. I guess how long a year is depends on the frame of mind!
I hate going for scans because they could show something but I get nervous when there are no scans because there could be something else! Seems like my mind is setting me up for a lose-lose situation.
I’m sure as I get closer to Friday that other thoughts will come to me. I am so grateful that I’ve had these two “bonus years”. I feel like there is so much still to do with the Cushing’s sites and I will never get them done in my lifetime but I plan to keep trucking along!

And from Wonderful Words of Life…
I’m acquiring the title of an old hymn for this next post.
After I was finished with the long Cushing’s diagnostic process, surgery and several post-op visits to NIH, I was asked to give the scripture reading at my church. The man who did the sermon that week was the survivor of a horrific accident where he and his family were hit by a van while waiting at an airport.
i thought I had written down the verse carefully. I practiced and practiced, I don’t like speaking in front of a crowd but I said I would. When I got to church, the verse was different. Maybe I wrote it down wrong, maybe someone changed it. Whatever.
This verse has come to have so much meaning in my life. When I saw at a book called A Musician’s Book of Psalms each day had a different psalm. On my birthday, there was “my” psalm so I had to buy this book!
Psalm 116 (New International Version)
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, save me!”
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed; therefore I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
11 And in my dismay I said,
“All men are liars.”
12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.

I carry a print out of this everywhere I go because I find it very soothing. “when I was in great need, he saved me.” This print out is in a plastic page saver. On the other side there is an article I found after my kidney cancer. I first read this in Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul and is posted several places online.
The Best Day Of My Life
by Gregory M Lousignont
Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!
Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.
I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.
Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.
Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for her and how much she means to me.
Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me.
I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine.
And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures.
As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

When I’m feeling down, depressed or low, reading my 2 special pages can help me more than anything else.

TONIGHT! Interview with Fabiana

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interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 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 88 other past interviews to listen to!

~~~

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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Laree (Laree), Pituitary Bio

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My Thanksgiving Day was less stressful this year than I thought it might be, because I had my head examined the day before at Johns Hopkins at about 9:30 in the morning.  By 1:30 in the afternoon, my endocrinologist there, a metabolic bone specialist, had emailed me that I was the proud parent of a 0.7mm lesion on the right side of my pituitary gland.  All day Tuesday I had performance anxiety because I feared that after six months of testing every liquid my body could produce for excessive cortisol, I had finally been given the green light to undergo the Holy Grail of tests and have a look-see at the Master Gland.  I feared that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the goods, but I managed to produce, and now I’m being referred to a neurosurgeon.

It’s been a very long process, even though the testing has only been a six month part of it.  In 2001, I broke  my collar bone while playing tennis.  Granted, I fell down, but it’s not like I made a Boris Becker leap for the ball or anything.  Then in 2003, my first stress fracture, followed by another one in 2005.  Then a crushed wrist on another tennis court mishap–my feet got tangled up when I was moving backward, and within a week, I was having my wrist rebuilt with a titanium plate and several screws.  Then there was  the broken tailbone, followed by the upper arm compression fracture suffered while pushing a small car off an ice shelf in Ohio.  And finally the L4 vertebra that I broke loosening the lug nuts on a tire I was changing with my still-healing broken arm.

After each incident, I would ask the doctors what could be causing all these weird bone breaks, and sometimes they would send me off for a dexascan to see if I might have osteoporosis, but the test always said no, and the doctors were always orthopedists of one sort or another.  They would shrug and say that these things happen.  After the upper arm (this past January), and the subsequent dexascan, the ortho told me that the test said I didn’t have osteoporosis, that if I wanted to try to learn more about the bone formation, I should see an endocrinologist, but he didn’t know of one to whom he could refer me.  He did refer me to his colleague to have my osteoarthritic hip replaced.  I’m 53, by the way.  He told me that going to an endocrinologist was likely to yield nothing, and he opined that I was suffering from “Laree Martin syndrome,” if I need for it to have a name.

My gynocologist, who works in the same hospital center as Ortho 1, we now lovingly refer to him as Frick, referred me to an endocrinologist who also practices in the same hospital center.   I got myself hooked up with her, and she very quickly determined that since I had broken not one, but all of the bones that are considered to be typical indicators of osteoporosis, despite multiple dexascans to the contrary, I had osteoporosis.  Shortly thereafter, she discovered excess, but “unimpressive,” levels of cortisol in my system.

Ortho 2, we’ll call him Frack, saw me prior to my hip replacement, and I complained about my back injury the week prior.  He pronounced that I had not broken my vertebra, but he offered to send me for an MRI, if that would make me feel better.  I scheduled the MRI, had it in the evening, called his office in the morning to report that I had gone for the test, as he had asked me to do, and instead of leaving a message, I got put directly through to the doctor.  Turns out that he was wrong, and it is possible to break your L4 vertebra pulling on a lug wrench with a still-healing compressions fracture in your upper arm . . .  if you have osteoporosis.  When I told him that he didn’t have to worry about my bones in general, because I was seeing an endocrinologist for that.  I just needed him to be extra careful not to break anything when implanting the new hip.  I told him that the endo specialist was working me up for Cushing’s, and he told me that I certainly did not have Cushing’s, because I wasn’t 100 pounds overweight and diabetic.

By September, the endo doc concluded that my results were equivocal for Cushing’s, but she encouraged me to go to Johns Hopkins to the metabolic bone specialist, since there wasn’t another good explanation for my osteoporosis, which had by that time been objectively diagnosed with a bone biopsy.  She felt that she had no choice, clinically, but to treat my osteoporosis as post-menopausal in origin, even though my bone breaks began 8 years ahead of my menopausal symptoms.  Off to Johns Hopkins.

The bone specialist took the history, again . . . did some more testing (blood, saliva, urine, again . . . ) and then consulted with the adrenal team, who agreed with her diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease.  Unfortunately for all of you who read these bios, it’s more complicated than just Cushing’s, because I had bilateral pulmonary emboili and a DVT in my leg when one of my stress fractures had me on non-weightbearing restrictions for six weeks.  That little incident was also considered a fluke, until about six years later when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that is also considered to be “rare.”  It is a mouthful to say–antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS).  It’s main risk is hypercoagulability, and its treatment involves lifelong warfarin (brand name Coumadin), which people mostly call a “blood thinner,” although it doesn’t really act that way.

I feel somehow more than lucky to have two fairly uncommon, fairly complicated conditions with fairly scarey treatment options.  I feel like I need a Fairy Goddoctor to be able to properly manage my surgery and treatment, because of the risks associated with drug interactions with the warfarin, the higher risk of clotting that I already have from the APS, which is apparently compounded by Cushing’s, and my understanding that I’m not supposed to be mixing hormones, including steroids, with the warfarin.  Nevertheless, it was good to know so quickly after the MRI that the result was that I flunked that test as well as I had flunked all the others previously.  I thought I was going to have to stress over that for the entire long weekend, but no.  Instead, I pretty much put it out of my mind until tonight, and now you’re getting the Reader’s Digest version of the last 12 years of my medical experience.

The doctors have exhausted my resilience with all of their certainty, which over the years I relied upon to conclude that I was just clumsy and that my weight struggles with those extra 25 pounds that could pack on in a couple of months, especially when I was recuperating from a fracture, without really changing my diet much, were probably associated with my inconsistent sleep and the fact that I will reach for pizza when I am feeling particularly low.  So when I read here and there about the recovery process after surgery and how difficullt and complicated it can be, I have to admit that my first reaction was that I should quit work, take a year off, spend all my money on travel or whatever I would feel like doing, and then just commit suicide and be done with the whole thing.  And that still has a sense of comfort associated with it when I remind myself of what I’m in for for the next maybe couple of years or more in recovery . . . and possible relapse . . .

But I have a 82 year old mother, and I”m her baby, and I witnessed her sorrow when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident about 18 months ago, and I wouldn’t put her through that again.  Instead, it’s my intention to take as much time off work as possible after surgery to let myself gather my emotional resources and get over the angry, bruised feeling that I have from both diagnostic processes that have lasted over a decade.  I appreciate that this space is here for newbies like myself to say out loud what most of my friends and family either can’t or don’t want to hear.  It doesn’t really matter so much that anyone is listening; I just need to say it.

Cheers!

Laree (who actually has Cushing’s disease, not Laree Martin’s syndrome)

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Andrea L, Pituitary Bio

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A Golden Oldie

I first noticed something abnormal about my health in the summer of 2009, at age 23. I suddenly developed severe acne when I had had clear skin since I was a teenager, and I noticed more hair on my face and body than I was used to. In retrospect I realize that I’d also had bouts of weight gain, a buffalo hump and excessive sweating during my adolescent years, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Around the same time I noticed the acne and hair growth, I also started putting on weight. I’d been on the thicker side for my height since childhood, so I decided to join Weight Watchers. Even though I was hungry a lot of the time, I stuck to the plan religiously and lost about a half pound per week. It was slow, but I was moving in the right direction so I stuck with it. I had bouts of fatigue throughout the process, but I would just assume that I needed to tinker with my diet – more protein, less protein, more fruit, less fruit, whatever. I tried a lot of different things, always focusing on getting adequate nutrition, but never had the energy that my Weight Watchers buddies seemed to have.

About six months later I finally went to my mom’s endocrinologist when I was visiting my parents in Texas. I was concerned that the acne and hair growth meant I had PCOS. All those tests came back normal, so the doctor gave me a 24 hour UFC just in case. It came back elevated, and she said I ought to follow up with an endocrinologist in New York where I live.

My next menstrual period didn’t come until 4 months later, and then they stopped completely.

My new endocrinologist in New York ordered more tests (you all know the drill). Over the next six months or so the 24 hour UFCs kept coming back high, salivary cortisols were normal or high, and one dexamethasone suppression test was kind of ambiguous. The doctor said that my urine volume was really high and might be screwing up the results, so I retested after limiting my fluid intake. That UFC came back normal, so I was instructed to follow up in six months.

As if on cue, the months following my normal UFC were great. For some reason I finally felt like I was bursting with energy. Beyond that, I had lost weight and even landed my dream job. At the time I assumed that the energy was from finally finding the right balance in my diet. The acne and hair growth were still there, but as far as I was concerned it was nothing that couldn’t be solved with some tweezers and makeup. Later I noticed in photos that even though I had lost weight, my face was much rounder than it had been before.

The nightmare began in January of 2011. I started feeling more anxious than usual. I began to cut more and more things out of my schedule because I didn’t feel like I had the mental energy to handle my normal workload. I had to take a Benadryl most nights to sleep. I started suffering from regular constipation for the first time in my life. My appetite increased markedly; I kept feeling less and less satisfied with my normal diet. I gave in and started rapidly gaining weight again.

After a particularly stressful week in February, I asked my mother to stay with me in New York for a little while, admitting that I had been feeling out of sorts. I figured I’d take a week off from work and just do fun stuff and I would be right back to normal.

…Wrong.

The bouts of fatigue returned, this time so crushing that I didn’t even have the energy to make my own meals. I’ll never forget the day I attempted to go out for my morning jog, trying to convince myself that it was all “in my head,” and despite having plenty of cardiovascular and muscular strength, I could barely take a single step. I felt like the world had gotten bigger somehow, like I drank the shrinking potion from Alice in Wonderland.

At the same time, my appetite became so ravenous that I felt like I could gnaw my arm off 24/7. I also started feeling scatterbrained and having difficulty focusing. These were the beginnings of the cognitive symptoms that would prove to be the most debilitating of all.

My mother, god bless her eternally, suggested that the odd change in my mental state might have something to do with all those abnormal hormone levels from the prior year’s tests. I followed up with the endocrinologist again and had a very high 24 hour UFC. He ordered an MRI. My symptoms were getting worse, but my mom fatefully broke her foot and had to return to her home in Texas.

By the time March arrived I was so scatterbrained that I constantly felt drunk. Going to work was petrifying. My appetite was still insatiable.

Finally, the mood swings came. By “mood swings,” I don’t mean irritability. I mean that I became an ultra-ultra-rapidly cycling manic depressive. I would wake up at 3:30 in the morning giddy with energy, writing long, rambling e-mails to everyone I know, trying to go for a jog only to have to stop and dance to the music on my MP3 player in the middle of the Bronx. Then I would feel horrendously depressed mere hours later.

I could spend a lifetime attempting to describe the pain of bipolar depression. It is beyond despair. Take the icky feeling you might get with a cold or a flu and multiply it by a thousand. I was so distressed I felt like my brain was on fire. Like I had been poisoned. It would get so bad that I couldn’t speak. I vomited just from the discomfort. Once I went to the ER, desperate for relief. All my vitals were normal. They just let me ride it out, like I was having a bad drug trip. Later, I described these feelings to my roommate, who said she felt that exact feeling while going through narcotics withdrawal.

One of the most interesting aspects of this experience was that every time I got a migraine headache (which I’ve had periodically for most of my life), my depression would lift or I would get more manic. Note that if I had a choice, I would take a migraine every day of my life over the pain of severe depression.

I went to a psychiatrist, and much to my dismay, he told me I was not crazy. He gave me totally ineffective herbal mood-lifters and told me to go back to the endocrinologist. I started taking huge doses of caffeine in an attempt to take the edge off the low moods. It worked temporarily, but the feeling always returned. I ended up back in the ER after experiencing a lovely phenomenon called “sleep paralysis” (Google it) for two hours straight, which understandably gave me a panic attack. I was put on benzodiazepines, which prevented another panic attack but did nothing to make me more comfortable.

Some interminable time later, my endocrinologist called to inform me that I had a 5mm adenoma on my pituitary gland. I wept with relief and my family made immediate arrangements to take me to MD Anderson for surgery.

Maybe if I had read some of the bios on this site I would have anticipated what was to come. Cushing’s patients never have it that easy. In my scatter-brained, benzo-doped, manic-depressive stupor, I showed up at MD Anderson for…more tests. There, both a 24 hour UFC and dex/CRH test came back normal. A few things about the dex/CRH test were not administered as planned, but the in-house testing results combined with my still-normal bodyweight convinced MD Anderson that I did not have Cushing’s, and was simply a total nut case. They sent me on my way.

Finally I returned to my mom’s endocrinologist, the same woman who had had the foresight to give me my first 24 hour UFC. She ordered another round of tests and sent me to a wonderful psychiatrist who promised to do her best to make me feel better while we waited for a diagnosis. A litany of psychiatric medicines (mood stabilizers, sleeping pills, stimulants, antidepressants) would each work for a few days or a week and then wear off. Eventually the mood swings turned into a persistent, mind-numbing depression.

In retrospect, the benefit of having my mood fluctuate so violently earlier in my illness was that the depression didn’t have time to take hold of my thoughts. It was painful, yes, but I was able to fight the feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred with logic and positive self-talk. Later on I was not only completely miserable, but also came to believe that my misery would never end. I’m amazed I lived to tell the tale.

By midsummer I had a few more elevated 24 hour UFCs under my belt and had gained enough weight to look more “cushingoid.” This time I went to Methodist Hospital in Houston. The surgeon there agreed with my endocrinologists that I had pituitary Cushing’s, but disagreed that my MRI showed a defined adenoma. Again, Cushing’s patients never have it that easy. Luckily this surgeon was caring and proactive enough to order an IPSS and schedule me for surgery, though he warned me that it may not cure my depression. I asked for the surgeon to remove my entire pituitary gland in the event that he didn’t find a tumor.

August 23rd, 2011 was the day of my rebirth. I can attribute my euphoria in the week after the surgery to the strong pain meds I was on for the CSF drain, but by the time they were out of my system I was astounded to find that my mood and thinking were absolutely 100% normal. I can once again think, laugh, smile, sleep, taste, and enjoy the company of others. Within three weeks I had enough mental energy to resume working from home.

No tumor was found, so my entire gland was removed. No amount of hormone replacement in my future can dampen the joy of having my self back, permanently, with no fear of relapse. I’m not even fully recovered from surgery and I’m feeling better than I have in quite a long time. Even the constipation and acne are gone!

It’s disorienting and traumatic to have essentially lived with a temporary form of bipolar disorder, only to be cured of it as suddenly as it began. I fancied myself knowledgeable about mental illness before this, but I know now that you just do not fully understand it until you feel it first-hand. Luckily it all feels like a distant memory now. There must be a natural sort of psychological distancing that occurs with a traumatic experience like that.

As I posted on the forums shortly after my surgery, for those of you who may have given up hope, keep fighting! Take it from me that there are better times ahead.

Note: Email Andrea or add comments to this bio below.

Andrea was interviewed on the BlogTalkRadio Cushing’s Program on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Listen live at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2011/10/19/andrea-l-pituitary-success-story

This interview is archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/CushingsHelp and iTunes podcasts at http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/cushingshelp-cushie-chats/id350591438

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Susan W, Pituitary Bio

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A Golden Oldie

After 2.5 yrs of testing, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s (which was un-diagnosed for over 20 yrs).  My Pituitary Tumor was removed on 10/20/11.

My surgeon has recommended Radiation/Gamma Knife treatment which will be discussed at my post srgery checkup 1/10/12.  I also have noduals on both my adrenals.

Other symptoms:  obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, muscle weakness, sleep apnea, fatigue and depression.


Susan submitted a second version of her bio.

My testing -> diagnosis -> surgery journey took 2.5 years.  I have always had a weight problem.  All my Doctors ever asked if I was interested in a liquid diet, liposuction, gastro bypass or go to Weight Watchers, and eat less.  But when I reached 375 lbs I knew something had to be done.  Things were way out of control.  I could no longer handle this by myself, I needed HELP.

I had seen comercials on TV which talked about excess Cortisol leading to excess belly fat .   So, I asked my Primary Care Doctor if she could test my Cortisol level.  She just laughed and said I would have to go to an Endocrinologist (Endo).  She did not even provide a referral.  Through my insurance company I found an Endo.  On 7/3/09,  my first appointment with the Endo, she agreed to test me but felt I just had a fatty liver.

When the test results came back, they showing excess Cortisol.  This started a series of saliva, blood test, 24 hr urine, MRI, and CAT Scan tests.  Then I was referred to another Endo Dr Findling in WI (I live in IL) for another opinion and the IPSS test..  (Dr Findling said I looked like I had Cushings for over 10 yrs.)  This was followed by Ostrascam and PET Scan.  Armed with the diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease we were off to get a surgeon.  The first doctor I seen in IL was a bust.  Then I was referred to Dr Oldfield in VA, who performed my surgery on 10/20/11.

Now in recovery, I still get weak, tired and sleep a lot.  I have been using a walker and cane to get around.  Interesting to see that other Cushings also have problems with mobility, aches and pains.  I hope this gets better.  I have follow-up appointment 12/21/11 and 1/11/12 with the Endo and surgeon.  I am off my High Blood Pressure and 2 of the 3 Diabetes meds.  I have lost 30 lbs in the 7 wks since surgery.   I can;t wait, 1 more wk before I can start swimming again.

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Alex, Pituitary Bio

2 Comments

After long and tiring process was diagnosed with Cushing disease in June 2011.

Had a surgery to remove pituitary tumor in July 2011.

Remained on the cortizol for 18 months.

If you live in New York metropolitan area and have a pituitary tumor and would like to ask some questions or need suggestions, please email me.

I have seen the worst of this disease, but was able to make it through. I was lucky to have right doctors (neuroendocrenologist and surgeon).

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Jessica, Undiagnosed Bio

1 Comment

First of all – I have to excuse my language – I’m Swedish, and will not always be able to find the right words.

After several years of increasing symtoms some of which worsened severely a couple of months ago, I finally found “Cushings disease” and recognised most of the symtoms. I’ve suffered from severe depression and thereafter adrenal burnout, and have explained most of my problems from this point of view. It’s “only” stress related, I’ve thought to myself.

I’ve always been slender, but gained weight using antidepressives. After ending SSRI I managed to loose weight again (I love running, and exercised a lot!) But my face stayed round and my belly stayed big. (Today BMI 21 and look 7 months pregnant)

I’m very easily bruised since several years.

I wake up several times each night and it’s often very hard for my to fall asleep again.

I get easily exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve got lowered simultan capacity, am sensitive to impressions (sounds and vision)

My skin is very dry and thin and looks like paper on the back of my hands and on my lower legs.

My cheeks are always red, as well as the front of my neck.

I’ve always had extremely low blood pressure, and now it was high (in the lower region)

Inflammations won’t heal. I’ve had stressfractures in my left foot twice the last couple of years.

My legs always hurt.

The last two months my strength has decreased a lot!

I’m always thirsty and pee a lot.

I live extremely healthy (Exercise, eat good, hardly any sugar, exercise bodyscan/meditation, minimum of alcohol – my day ends extremely early) – all in order to manage my part time job, and my two children who are in great need of me.

And now we’ve found that my cortisol is high (urine and blood), ACTH is high and I’ve been a patient for a couple of days for several bloodtests, another urinetest and dexamethasone-test. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for an MRI, and next week I’ll see a doctor to get the results.

It seems that I’ve got Cushings – and my first feeling was a sense of relief. All this suffering all these years, and I’ve always thought that I wasn’t trying hard enough. And the explanation was that something was growing in my head that they would be able to cut away. And the tumour is almost always benign.

But having read some stories on the internet I’m suddenly scared. I realize that you are in deeper need of writing if you don’t get well, but still I’m suddenly very scared.

If anyone out there is a “success” (when it comes to getting well again) please respond. I desperately need hope.

Jessica

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