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Tess, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi. I am looking for any advice I can get. I am 47 year old female. I have been very healthy my whole life. Until about 5 years ago. I tried to have a second child (first was conceived with no problems 6 years earlier) and could not get pregnant so started fertility treatments. Had fertility tests done, blood tests etc. and everything came back fine. Did multiple ivf etc but nothing worked. Had a bunch of natural pregnancies but all ended in miscarriages.

During this time I gained 40 lbs all in one year. I thought it was from the fertility medication or pregnancy weight gain. Could not lose the weight no matter how hard I tried. I have been thin my whole life until now.

Thought I had a sugar issue so begged my dr. to send me for sugar test for 2 years. He would not because he said I have a normal fasting sugar level. I finally went to see an endo on my own. She tested me and said I have full blown diabetes. Again still have a normal fasting blood sugar level. She mentioned cushiness at the time and sent me home with a 24 hour urine test. That came back normal. I take metformin for the diabetes and have lost a little weight but not in the mid section. My arms and legs are getting thinner only.

I went to a new endo recently and she send me home with a saliva test for 4 days. I am in the process of taking this now. She said a 24 hour urine test is not a good test, the saliva is better. I have a bunch of symptoms that won’t seem to go away but don’t know if they could be from diabetes. When I get up in the morning it is very hard to walk. My legs are so stiff and it is painful. I have a really bad pain on the top of my right foot at the base of my second toe. Sometimes the toe actually swells almost like a ring around the toe. I have the buffalo hump. My husband has actually been telling me I have one for a few years, we just thought it was because I gained weight. I also have a full feeling in my head on one side. Almost like there is fluid there. The ear on that side feels clogged all the time. I also get headaches and when I do it is always on that side, above the ear.

I know I should wait for the test but I am so freaked out, so scared it could be a tumor and also afraid if it is not cushiness we then have no answer. I am so sick of complaining and listening to my own story and I feel like a hypochondriac. I also feel like if I have lost some weight maybe it can be something else.

Is there something else that can cause the buffalo hump? I have no stretch marks at all and no redness in the face. My face is also much less round since I lost the weight. No acne, no extra hair growth. As a matter of fact I think I have lost some body hair. I noticed recently I no longer have hair on my arms.

Can someone please let me know what they think?

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Andrea P, Steroid-Induced Cushing’s

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What can you do when the cure might be worse than the disease?

“Have you thought of losing some weight? This would most likely take care of the many complaints you have.” The all too eager yet condescending young intern continued despite my blank stare, “Have you had a sleep study done?”

How many times had I been in this situation? Change the doctor, but keep me there, in the crazy patient’s chair. “Well, the patient has five children, a long history of miscarriages, a fairly recent history of a traumatic abdominal hysterectomy… couple these with the recent death of her father to cancer and basically all normal testing… clearly she’s a depressed, middle aged woman hitting the Ben and Jerry’s a little too much and addicted to Lifetime movies.” Or something like that.

What’s worse than the tiny intern with a huge ego, was the troll under the bridge. I still had to face my PCP who listened to me a little less than a mother who’s heard “Mommy, mommy!” for the hundredth time in an hour, from her 3 year old.

For the better part of two years, I’d seen her for so many things. Each time I’d ask her why my bones were breaking so easily. I told her I was shrinking, to which she replied “It’s impossible to shrink an inch and a half in a year.” Then laughter. I’d ask her why the nausea & vomiting, low oxygen, and migraines were there… all of this was ignored and off to another specialist I’d go (for a similar experience), with more Prednisone in hand. When she didn’t see hardcore proof (i.e. a lab tests or a specialist’s report confirming the symptoms in front of her) the things simply did not exist, despite glaring symptoms.

Another specialist I’d seen did care and did see the disturbing, rapid transformation and accumulation of symptoms, so he sent me to my PCP for testing. I later found out that this specialist feared all along what I had. He had been warning me that Prednisone was dangerous and he hated it. I didn’t. I loved it. It was the only thing that relieved my severe neuropathy pain, the nausea, vomiting and migraines. Without it, I was in the E.R. at least once a week.

I suppose I could cut the PCP some slack and say that every doctor, when they themselves are the young intern, dream about the day when they can show off their seniority and knowledge (let’s not forget power) in front of another young intern. I could say this, but I won’t. Not when I know there are the most wise, sympathetic, world renowned and respected doctors, who’ve been practicing medicine longer than most interns have graced this earth, yet they treat the interns (and patients) as equals. They remain humble.

No, this PCP had no excuse for demeaning me for twenty minutes in front of this man. Alas! She did finally do her job and gave me an exam. It took her less than thirty seconds to blurt out “OMG Andrea! You have Cushing’s Syndrome!” All of the cool was gone. She fumbled with her papers, stuttered, murmured to herself… She was a mess.

andrea-fShe left the room for ten minutes and returned more composed and more… herself. “Andrea, I’m sure you’ve read about Cushing’s Syndrome on the internet.” This sentence was delivered with the same tone and sarcasm as a Disney villain about to pounce on an unsuspecting bunny (or other furry creature… did I mention the “fur” I had sprouted?). She continued, “You have every symptom of Cushing’s Syndrome. The buffalo hump is huge and classic.” She went on about my symptoms. All of which I’d been begging her to look at before this appointment.

By the end of the appointment, she had decided that she’d need to talk to my then rheumatologist; I’d need all sorts of testing, and foremost, “You HAVE to get off of that Prednisone Andrea!” Certainly she knew I wasn’t convinced that her prescriptions of Prednisone were somehow my fault, however the wee intern might have sucked that one up. Perhaps he believed it was my rheumatologist that prescribed all of it; he did do his part as well. They were both in it together.

I left the office miffed and confused. “Well,” I thought, “Let’s go home and see what this Cushing’s is, on the Internet. Probably some sort of psychosomatic disease where you think yourself into the side effects of Prednisone.”

At the point where I began my Internet search, I had changed from an active, really attractive (I can toot my horn, ’cause it ain’t so now) about to be 40 year-old, homeschooling mom of five beautiful children. I was in bed for 3 weeks prior to my PCP appointment. I found out later that my family thought that this was it, I was dying. Indeed, I was close to death and it’s a miracle that I didn’t die.

I had gained 40 lbs. for which easily 10 of it rested on the top of my back. The Buffalo Hump. The rest was hanging out in strange pockets of fat all over my middle and face. I was disoriented and in cold sweats all of the time. Everything hurt.

On the evening of that fateful Friday after my PCP appointment, I joined a Cushing’s support group online. It took me three weeks to compose my introduction post because I had not the energy, nor the wherewithal to finish it. In the meantime however, I found out enough about Steroid Induced Cushing’s Syndrome to know that I was in big trouble.

Every bad side effect one can get from steroid use, I am getting or have. What’s worse is, my adrenal glands have atrophied. They won’t wake up and naturally produce cortisol that our bodies vitally need. Every organ and gland in our body relies on the production of cortisol. When you have Cushing’s, you’re in a real pickle Fred.

With me, I’m continually in either Cushing’s mode or Addison’s mode. Two opposite diseases. You’d be surprised at how many people in the medical field do not understand this. Most disturbing is how many endocrinologists don’t understand it. My body is used to high levels of cortisol so when I try to wean off and my body gets stressed, sick, injured, needs surgery, etc., I go into adrenal insufficiency with the chance of adrenal crisis.

Ahh, adrenal crisis! My nemesis! Is it? Isn’t it? Hospital? Just a Prednisone Boost? These are questions I ask myself daily. I was very near dying during those few weeks before I saw my PCP, because my body was literally shutting down. Again, I’m still amazed that I didn’t die.

Right. I realized for me, a person with autoimmune disease, with all sorts of crazy symptoms, weaning down to a healthy level of cortisol was going to take another miracle. Those message boards? Every time I went to send a personal message to a member that I could relate to in experience, they were dead. Dead. Young women, neglected by so many doctors who thought that they too, were fat and depressed.

Monday came and I called my PCP as scheduled. When she answered the phone she acted as if she didn’t know why I was calling. Before a minute was up, I realized she was getting as far away from admitting I had Cushing’s Syndrome as she could. Both she and my rheumatologist had been prescribing me prednisone without any solid diagnosis (at that point). Basically the Prednisone was completely unwarranted. She told me to wean off of the Prednisone and “Um okay?” then let the silence hang there. I was speechless (and as you’re well aware of at this point, is pretty darn near an oxymoron).

I took it upon myself to see an endocrinologist, who I owe my life to. He ordered a bone density test, a bunch of labs, told me to get a medical alert bracelet ASAP and a whole lot more. He was shocked that none of this had been done.

The bone density test showed that my PCP was half right, I didn’t lose an inch and half off of my stature in less than a year, I had lost two and a half inches. I began a strong osteoporosis medication. A little later, I was put on 5 liters of oxygen at night and as needed during the day, a bi-pap machine and I learned more about cortisol stress doses and began searching for new doctors.

For the next year and a half, I would see a total of 3 more rheumatologists, 5 neurologists and 2 new PCP’s. I was admitted to the hospital too many times to count. I saw 5 more specialists, wasted tons of money, precious time and was demeaned further than I could have ever imagined coming from people who are supposed to “Do no harm.” at one of those big name clinics. Same thing: fat and CrAzY. At the end of it all, I had given up hope. I was on more Prednisone than when I had first seen my endocrinologist.

My teeth had begun rotting because of the calcium loss and my Sjogren’s Syndrome did not help matters there. I had 6 extractions in 3 months and was never able to get back down to the 10 mg. of Prednisone I had begun with. Stress, illness and then having to let the beautiful eyes of our children watch it all…too much.

I saw my endocrinologist for a checkup and he yelled at me. I yelled at him. We both yelled together and then he picked up the phone in front of me and called a few specialists (the most-awesome-est specialists the world has to offer) and made me appointments with them. These doctors graciously took me on as their patient and began working as a team with my endocrinologist to get me off of this Prednisone.

Well, it’s been 8 months since that loud, intense “time of fellowship” with my endocrinologist. Despite the fact that my teeth have deteriorated to the point where I will have them all extracted on Jan. 2, 2014 (Happy New Year!)… and I found out I have both thyroiditis and hyperparathyroidism and well, a bunch of other … stuff. I’m due to wean down to 9 mg. of Prednisone on Thanksgiving day! I’ve lost a little weight. There’s so much to be thankful for!

I have lost much, but what I’ve gained in return, I would never, ever give up. My faith and that of my family’s, has grown in ways that would never have happened had I not gotten this dreadful disease. I found many things. I have found that my husband really means it when he says that I’m beautiful. My children mean it… I have what many have deemed, “The Ugly Disease” yet I feel more beautiful than I ever have. I feel more blessed than I ever have. Most importantly, I remembered and again found my hope, through faith.

Faith is the essence of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. When those of us with serious and chronic illness, have no faith in a Hope, we are dead persons walking. Had my endocrinologist not been divinely appointed to verbally kick my butt, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would not be here trying to type this story of mine.

I can’t write nor say a thing without a moral. So the moral of my story is this: know who and what your hope is in. Know what the unseen things are and have fat faith. Take your illness and use it. Use your life! It’s beautiful!

Article reposted with consent of the author from Have Faith: Cushing’s Syndrome

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Mallissa F, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

Hi all:)

I am in a pickle, and i feel its time to take my head out of the sand and get this Cortisol thing sorted. So here goes.. My son is 7 – i breastfed for 2 weeks as only a tiny drop would come out and we just could not get it to work…. But 7 years on i still have white/milk like discharge from right breast, and clear from left. Mainly right breast. I informed my doctor for the last 7 years everytime i went that it was odd it was still coming out- and that i was literally tired ALL the time. I was also depressed – so i was put on medication for this, and each time i mentioned this, it was always put down to depression. Or how is your diet? etc. I grew tired of this old answer because life was good- i had nothing to be depressed about- and my lifestyle and eating habits are really good.

So the doctor ordered several blood test, a full looking over. And scan for my breasts- which were normal. But the blood test came back with high cortisol.
I do bruise easily yes, lower back pain, sever fatigue- but the doctor said bec i didnt not have the swelling etc it could not be cushings.

Next test was 24 hour urine collection and dex suppression (not sure if thats spelt right) test.

Still cortisol came back high. but prolactin was not high?

My doctor then refered me to a endo – which gave me an appointment almost 9 months away- (major shortage in endos where i lived- and i was not considered a risk)

IN this time i seperated from my partner and just got stuck into work- put my head in the sand and when i wasnt working or looking after my son i slept. Not normal.

I went back to the doctor again finally a year later – ready to sort this out- breast scan again- still fine. Blood test- cortisol still high, little higher than last two tests she said, but not alarmingly high.

I cant take any contraceptive pill etc as they make me crazy. Something is up with my hormones. I had a miscarrige 2 months ago, followed with severe abdo pain- for a month and a half. I am not one to make a fuss and very high pain tolerence so no ultra sound was given at first just antibiotics and assumption it would cure it.

I lived with it for one more month- then went to doctor again- scan done- ovary bleeding and other in wrong place- shrugged off and told come back in 8 weeks to see if on going problem.
Arhhhh

And now i have to get back into Endo and be placed in another waiting list to be seen. Because i am 28 – i think they do not see me as a person who needs help the quickest. Its just i dont carry on about my symptoms and moan- i get on with it, i have to, i am a mum- i am so frustrated now tho- something is not right.

Any advice. I dont know- any reassurance or explanation – help anything would be appreciated greatly.

I feel like i am some kind of person to the doctor who is one of those ones who is looking  for an illness. But i am looking for an answer to my symptoms.

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Laura (Loves2Cruise), Adrenal Bio

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The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys.

The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was diagnosed with Cushings over 14 years ago and really thought it was over and done with. After seeing several doctors while starting in high school and into college, primarily to explain why my cycle had completely stopped, I was given various responses from the typical, “oh, it’s probably just stress” to “let’s just put her on birth control and it will start right back up.” And while the latter may have been true, it certainly didn’t explain the weight gain round my midsection, especially when I was eating so little while in college because I just couldn’t figure out why my pants wouldn’t fit anymore. It also didn’t explain the “buffalo hump” at the base of my neck, or why my hair seemed to be falling out. Or why my blood pressure was high all the time. Or why I had constant headaches. So only after my mom refused to accept “stress” as an answer, she turned to Dr. Google, and started looking up my symptoms. She finally convinced a doctor to test my cortisol levels, which were off the charts.

Luckily, I went to college in Milwaukee, and saw Dr. Findling who immediately diagnosed me with Cushings. After dealing with this for several years, Dr. Findiling diagnosed the disease, located the tumor (left adrenal gland), had it removed, and was on my way to recovery in a matter of a few months. By the time I returned to college in the fall, after having the turmor removed over spring break, people did not even recognize me, my appearance had changed so drastically.

Well, fast forward to today, and I am wondering if the one adrenal gland could have anything to do with what my husband and I have dealt with for the past 2 years. We conceived 2 children easily with no problems who were born in 2006 and 2009. When we tried to have baby #3, two years ago, something was different. We practice natural family planning, so I was very aware of my cycles. But after a surgery and terrible cold, things changed. No longer could we get pregant. I saw several different doctors who all said again, “it’s stress” or “there’s nothing wrong with you.” One even gave me a brochure on how to have a baby. Really! Anyway, I started myself on an “adrenal fatigue” diet last fall, started taking Maca root (because I read it was good for adrenal health), and we got pregnant last November after trying for over a year and a half.

Unforunately, at a 13 week ultrasound, we discovered that the baby stopped growing at 9 weeks. We figured we were just a statistic, and 1 in 3 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. We did not have any testing done because we figured we were just one of the odds. We conceived again in May, only to find out at 12 weeks that our little peanut stopped growing at 11 weeks. We opted for testing this time and are awaiting the results to determine whether or not there was a chromosomal abnormality. Although I am sure it happens, to lose 2 babies, after confirming heartbeats multiple times, seeing it move around, and find out it has passed is devestating. I won’t forgive myself if this happens a third time without ruling out the role my one adrenal gland may have played in this.

One doctor did test my thyroid during our efforts to get pregnant, and my RT3 was very high, especially in relation to my T3. He just put me on T3 and said I was “stressed.” I am now wondering if yes, I was stressed, but my one remaining adrenal could not handle the necessary work required to sustain a pregnancy. Or affected our efforts to even conceive. I have read (though don’t completely understand) the relationship between the RT3 and adrenal glands. I am going to return to Milwaukee to have my remaining gland tested to see if it is indeed working at an optimal level.

I guess my point in joining this board is to not only share my story with Cushings, but also to see how patients have fared after the Cushings was resolved. Has anyone had any long-term affects from only having one adrenal glad? Specifically as it relates to fertility? Curious to hear from others who have gone through this experience. I know there are not many of us. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “wow. I have never met a cushings patient before” from various doctors. But I am glad to find others who have shared this experience.

 

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Erin, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi. My name is Erin and I’m 28 years old. The first time I ever heard of Cushing’s was a couple weeks ago while doing a search for hormonal imbalance. I’ll explain why later. I am currently doing a 24 hour urine cortisol test, and thought that in between peeing in the large container, I’d share what little story I have.ufc

I have always been a normal weight and healthy, well, up until about 5 years ago. I mean, obesity was NEVER a word that had to be used to describe my weight. I’m 5’8″ and lingered around 140 lbs my entire life. I was quite the drinker, too. I started gaining weight when I was about 22 or 23, and started taking Adderol to get the weight down, and it worked like a charm. (I am currently a recovering alcoholic and have been in recovery for over a year now.)

When I started trying to get sober, I noticed little things, but mainly the weight gain. I have always had larger hips and thighs and a smaller waist, so when I began to look 6 months pregnant, I thought it was odd (and embarrasing). I have bruised very easy every since I was a teenager, but in the past few years the bruises come easier and are quite large. My acne will just not quit, and I started sprouting these thick hairs on my face, chest, and abdomen. My face has ballooned out like a pumpkin, and I don’t hardly recognize myself anymore.

In May 2012 I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. During the pregnancy I started getting these purple stretch marks all over my thighs and hips, and since I had neve been pregnant before, decided this was normal. Before then I was having trouble getting pregnant, but just chalked it up to bad timing. After the miscarriage, I noticed my menstrual cycles were different. They had shortened from 26-27 days to 22 days, and just didn’t seem right. I started seeing my gynecologist every month, but kept getting dismissed because it hadn’t been a full year since the loss, and my hormones were probably still imbalanced. I did get them to test for PCOS, and everything came back normal, including an ultrasound, which just made me seem crazy.  I switched gyns and eventually had a hormonal blood test, which revealed very low estrogen and progesterone, and I was referred to a fertility specialist. Another blood test there revealed my ovaries are not responding very well and not secreating enough of the AMH hormone.

About a month and a half ago I decided to battle the bulge, and joined a gym and changed my diet. After 2 weeks of cardio and strenth training almost every day, I hadn’t lost a pound. Then at week 3, I finally noticed a 2 pound weight loss, but that’s when the knee pain started. For no reason at all, my knees became VERY sore, swollen, and were bruising from the inside of the joint. I saw an orthopedic who couldn’t find any evidence of injury, gave me a cortisone shot in each knee, and sent me on my way. I should also mention that a week before that I had a cortisone injection in my back for a herniated disc that was causing sciatic nerve pain.

A few days after the last set of injections in my knees, I started feeling very ill and run down. I had also just missed a period for the first time in my reproductive history, and after a negative blood pregnancy test, was told my hormones were too low for my period to start on its own. I thought I was feeling under the weather because of the missed period, so that’s when I started looking up hormonal imbalances online. When I came across the word Cushing’s, I couldn’t stop reading about it. I thought, oh my god, these people are me! They look like me! Thinking back over the years, all of these individual symptoms could be explained away due to stress, inactivity, lifestyle change, etc. But collectively, I started to see the bigger picture.

So, I am currently testing with my PCP. I am selfishly hoping that I get a quick diagnosis, or if it isn’t Cushing’s, that they find some other reason for all of these symptoms. But from what I’ve read this is going to be a long process.

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