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In Memory: Liz Raftery, March 2012

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A Golden Oldie

We sadly learned that Liz died in March 2012 at the age of 45. She was an active member of the Cushing’s Help Message Boards.  She had a photo gallery there.  The photo below is from that gallery.

Liz in 2002The image at left is from 2002.

Liz wrote in her bio:

Hello, I’m from Hampton, just outside London. Same old story – at least 6 years of various illnesses, including four operations for various crap (kidney stones, gallbladder removal, and 2 cysts on my coccyx)

I then went from being very skinny (even after childbirth) to very fat in about a year (from 7.5 stones to 13 stones). You could roll me down our local hill! I wear maternity clothes as my tum is so disproportionate to my legs & arms (size 26 vs size 12!). My face, chest, neck and back look like someone’s put padding in, and my nice red glow brings all sort of compliments about how healthy i look, grr! I’ll post some photos later.

So far, a left adrenal tumor has turned up, but I have abnormally high ACTH (60) with a highish cortisol of about 600. This apparently implies a pituitary source – but the pituitary MRI was clear. I’m waiting on a second one with gadolinium this time, but here in London MRIs take AGES. The wait at our local hospital is currently 10 months.

In the meantime, I’m frustrated and feeling lousy and v tired. I have to work full time (luckily I’m an accountant, not something overly physical) as I’m a single mum to a lovely 8 year old girl who does not deserve all this. The guilt eats me up, but she is thankfully not the outward bound type!

Walking is a struggle as my legs seem to suddenly buckle on me, and sitting up without support at say the hairdressers or a restaurant is really difficult. So my (thinning) hair’s a mess and I don’t eat out much! I veer about – someone at work told my boss I couldn’t walk in a straight line! Highly amusing as I haven’t touched a drop in ages!

Other symptoms that have developed more recently include interimittently high blood sugar, intermittently high blood pressure, have to shave every day, horrid night and day sweats, red marks up my arms, but none on my body, intermittently rotten swollen ankles and feet, recurrently horrid kidney stones, and of course, an attractive buffalo hump (moo). And the final insult – can’t get into any of my shoes any more so shuffle about at work in my oversize carpet slippers. Very popular amongst my grey accountant colleagues.

As so many of the symptoms are intermittent, the endo says he is convinced it is cushing’s, but cylical, due to (again) interimittent high blood cortisol and ACTH, and non suppression on three low dose dex tests. Then the first 24 hr ufc came back normal which was very frustrating. I’m not particularly religious but i pray he won’t give up on me as it is a long journey compared to the diagnosis of other equally horrid diseases.

Feel quite isolated from my mates and lovely mum, although they are trying hard to be supportive – I’m surprised my mood swings haven’t frightened them all off lately. It’s so difficult to explain how rough it feels to take part in normal activities, especially when every symptom is something most people consider they have in everyday life to some degree. As well as the physical exhaustion/pain/weakness, my body image distresses me enormously. Recurrent kidney stones are pretty painful too (but not as bad as childbirth as a lot of men claim!).

Hope to be there soon. Great to read all your stories and know that so many of you know how it all feels – and have felt it for umpteen years too.

All the best.
Liz

Update April 21, 2005.

Following dex/CRH test, which even included a dexamethasone assay to make sure the levels were adequate (took forever to come back from the lab), my endo confirmed cushings. The bad news is I need the IPSS which will be in May. My ACTHs are between 80-100 so it is most likely a pituitary cause despite my adrenals showing a small adenoma – a red herring!

It’s a very odd feeling after waiting so long, knowing something was very wrong, but not knowing what, and thinking i would go on for ever in misery. So to all you guys out there feeling like this, and i know you’re out there(!), don’t give up!!

Wish me luck …

Posts in Liz’s memory:

Terry: Oh no, that is terribly sad.

Jenny: Oh no, what happened, did he say? 😦

Beth: omg, I felt sick reading this. I knew of her, but never got to know her. I’m so sorry. 😦

Regina: How tragic! :/

Liz: This is just so sad !! And yet he reaches out to us in his time of sadness, please forward to him my deepest sympathies

Nancy: Oh no!!” This makes my physically ill! I’m fighting tears.PLEASE get details so we can try to learn about what happened and prevent any other Cushie from loosing their life..  Hugs and prayers to Liz’s family!

MaryO: He didn’t say – I just responded to his email and we’ll see if he has any more to say.  I hate when Cushies die 😦

Sandra: Omg liz was my friend! We used to chat on the phone when I was seriously ill too! Omg I cannot belkieve it! Mary cud u pm his email add pls xxx

Liz: Me too Mary me too, just brings everything to a scary place for all of us !!

Trisha: I am so sorry to hear this. I remember Liz from the boards.

Sandra: Have just spoken to ciara lizs daughter who said it was a massive heart attack in the end! Her funeral is on thursday! God bless u my friend xxxxx

Lisa: God bless her family..so sad 😦

Kim: So sad

Jennyfer: Oh no no more cushies down please send my love

Judy: So sad. Does anyone know how old she was, I had never figured that out.

Mary: Oh no! I loved our Lizzy girl and have been thinking of her recently. I hadn’t heard from her in awhile. So very sad. Please pass along my deepest condolences.

Linda: No! Not Liz! No no no

MaryO: She was 45. On the C-H boards, her name was Lizr007

Shauna: News like this breaks my heart over and over again. Mary, please let him know that her Cushie family mourns her loss deeply.

Linda: Please do tell Liz’s brother how much she was loved. I can’t believe she is gone….

Judy: Thanks, Mary. I sometimes haven’t converted who they were on the boards to their real life name. I know who she was. That is so young.

Adrienne: so sorry, so sad!!!

Linda: Please let Liz’s brother know that I adored her. She was one of the first people I met on the Cushings boards many years ago, and she was one of my “rocks”. She was such a supportive, loving person with a great sense of humor. I am heartbroken that she is gone.

Stephanie: How tragic!! Thoughts and Prayers for her family and friends.

Lisa: Poor Liz. My heart breaks for her family. I remember her struggles Mary: You have my permission to send my condolences.

Grace: This is such sad news! Prayers and hugs for Liz’s family. How sad that we lose even one of us to the complications of this disease.

Sandra:  RIP liz u were such a wonderful person and a dear friend! I’m sure suziQ was waiting for u along with all our other cushies that have past over! God bless u huni I will miss u! Xx

Joanne: Im so sorry to hear another precious life taken by this illness, prayers for her and her family..

Anne : Oh not Liz!! She was an awesome person! She had such a great spirit. How horribly awful.

Janelle: So sad.. Please let us know what the complications were.. 😦

Alicia: So sad. We are losing way too many people to this disease. Praying for her family.

Robin: Oh, this breaks my heart. Please tell Liz’s brother we will miss her terribly.

Heather: I’m so sorry. I loved Liz. Her spirit and sense of humor were amazing. I was actually thinking about her the other day as well. Please feel free to convey my condolences to her family.

Melissa: As soon as I saw her name — Liz Rafferty — I started to cry. Liz was part of our group there on the Cushing’s- Help message boards. She posted over 2000 times. When you posted her screen name, I could see her avatar in my mind. I am so sad to hear that she is not with us, her family or friends. I am so upset as I wonder why this has to happened to her, to us, to our community. Please send my condolences along to Liz’ brother, and make sure they know that she was caring and supportive of many as well as loved by many. I will miss her.

And Mary, please be sure to tell him she was part of our group, too. I bet he would want to make a donation to you and Cushing’s-Help if he knew how extensively she participated in our group.

Hugging all of you a little tighter today.

— Melissa, TX

Beth: Another person with my disease has passed. I didn’t know her personally, but the hurt is still there.. As is the fear. RIP Liz R.

Chanelle: Omg!! Ugh my head hurts :((

Sandra: Beth she was a dear friend and such a sweet sweet girl! Even at her worst she was cheerful and lovely ! She has left behind her daughter and her mum god bless em x

Christina: 😦 so sad to hear this, RIP to her.

Mary: I loved Liz. She was so funny and upbeat and helpful. RIP old friend.

Linda: Rest in peace, Liz. You were very loved and and I’m thankful to have met you on my Cushings journey.

Susan: Thanks for posting this, MaryO. My sympathies to Liz’s family for their loss. As a member of this community, we will miss you.

missaf: My heart goes out to her family. I’m glad she started to feel better for a little while and got to smile more in life. Damn Cushing’s.

Sherry: Not another Cushie:( I am so sad to hear this news, Liz was well known on the boards and she will be greatly missed. I just hate this. My deepest sympathies go out to her family.

Elizabeth: Deepest sympathy & many prayers. This is so heartbreaking.

Dawn: I did not know her, but her passing has affected me. I am sorry that the world has lost her and I’m sad that it was a result of this horrible disease. It always hits close to the heart. My condolences to her family and friends.

Ami: I am completely heartbroken. She was a dear. Please include my condolences to her brother. I too would very much like to hear what the cause of death was.

Kristin: I’m so upset about this, all I can say is I’m sorry for her family. Leaving a 16 yo without her mommy is so terrible. Somehow the medical community needs to realize how many of our group are not making it needlessly… Prayers for her family. Very nice of her brother to let us know.

Melanie: OMG! I feel ill. I loved Liz dearly, she helped me keep my sanity when I first arrived on the biards and gave me such great support – we had some great laughs together and spoke on the phone for hours at a time. I cannot believe another one of us has gone. This damn disease is so bloody unfair.

Just read it was a heart attack (Thanks Sandra).  – heartbreaking.

Gumdrop: So sad to hear this. I pray her family is comforted.

Sandra: If I find any more info out I will post

Mary: She and I had SIADH in common and the continuing electrolyte issues afterwards, too. I think when I was hospitalized with it, she was the only other person on the boards who’d experienced it at that time.

Bernadette: I didn’t know her, but am so saddened by her much-too-early death. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, and with all the rest of you who knew her.

Ami: I know she and I exchanged posts on the boards. I wish I remembered more about her…

Shelley: I’m sorry to hear about her passing. She and her family and loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mary: oh no! devastating news. so sorry and saddened to hear. 😦

Amy: I am so broken hearted. 😦 Liz was one of the very first people to make friends with me on the cushings website. So sweet and funny, what a wonderful person she was. I have just cried and cried ever since learning of her passing. She really struggled to get her BLA for a long time. May God rest her soul. She truly was “one of a kind”

Dacia: Please send my love, my thoughts and prayers to all…

AuntSha: Condolences to her family…. My prayers and thoughts are with them. She certainly has been taken too young and much too soon :-(!!!

Diane: My beautiful, funny, smart dear friend Liz. You carried me through my journey and held my hand through some of the worst times I can remember. You were my rock, you were my shoulder. Words cannot express how I feel right now. I am heartbroken. I am so sad. The heavens are blessed with another beautiful soul. Love to you my dear friend xx

The last time we saw each other was when you had your adrenal operation. I was so thrilled to finally see you in the flesh after spending months posting to each other here and emailing and chatting on the phone. I met Liz at Cromwell Hospital in London where she was recovering from her adrenal operation. I bought her a massive bunch of stocks that filled her hospital room with a glorious heady scent and I bought along a few things to pamper her with. We spent the afternoon chatting non-stop and I remember giving her Mum a big hug. Those memories will stay with me and that is how I remember Liz. A happy smile and a big heart.

Rest in peace lovely lady….

Your Cushy friend, always,

Diane

x

Ellen: My deepest condolences to her family. This is such a stark reminder of how cruel this disease is.

Monica:  Oh Liz. I’ll miss her, she was such a good person and gave support to us all even while fighting her own battle.

Melly: So tragic! May God welcome Liz and bless her family with peace and strength during this horrible time. Such a reminder that each day I breathe is a gift.

love,

melly

3v3:  I am new here so I am not familiar with Liz, but I am so sorry to read this. Condolences to her friends and family. I was trying to find her bio info/old posts and it seemed like she was cured or at least recovering? 😦

Judy:  Mine too. It’s just so sad. I pray for the family.

Beth: Such a tragic loss.. I wish her family and friends strength and peace. 😦

Sandra: Have spoken to aLex woore who was also a cushie friend wiv liz and apparantly she had a bla smtime ago but they cudnt get her sodium n potassium levels right so whether that had anything to do with it I dnt knw but have left my no wiv ciara and her nan so if they call I will let u all knw! X

Karen: Please send my condolences also, such sad news . This disease is awful, we are losing so many amazing people to it. Many prayers,

Monica: Thinking of Liz tonight. I pray for comfort for her family, especially her 16 year old daughter. Far too many friends lost to this disease over the years.

Stanley : I’m sorry to hear that.

Melissa: This makes me cry all over again.

Mary, could you offer our services in helping to decipher what could have led to Liz’s death? For example, we could guide the family on getting copies of her hospital, doctor, surgical, and lab records.

Susan: I am just devastated by this news. Liz was so kind and caring. So tragic to lose someone so young.

Rissa: This is so sad. Praying for Liz and her family tonight.

Ikho: This news makes me so sad. My condolences to her family.

Lorrie: I am so sorry. My prayers go out to her family. 45 years old….such a young woman. God Bless them.

Amy: I’m still just in shock. Thinking back I can remember that sweet pic she had of her cat playing with something. I never could figure out what that cat was doing though. LOL This is just surreal to me . . . 😦

Jenny: Please pass on my condolences, her family will be in my prayers. Just so unbelievably sad. 😥

Jo: cant believe it.  very sad, god bless our dear friend Liz.taken far too soon.

Jenny: The Cushings community has lost yet another dear member. Liz was only 45, please pray for her family and friends. 😦

Lisa: One of our fellow “cushies” (Cushings patient) sadly passed away.  Liz was a wonderful 45 yr old mother of a 16 yr old and a friend to us that got so many through this. She was an inspiration and someone that kept her chin up and a smile on her face and ours on our message board. She will be missed.

Mary R:  We’ve lost another Cushing’s Warrior from complications of this rotten disease. Her name is Liz and leaves behind a 16 yr old daughter. This is the 3rd Cushie in 8 months!!! It doesn’t have to be this way! Just because it’s rare, doesn’t mean that the Dr.s should doubt us and our biochemical/imaging evidence. Please say a prayer for Liz’s daughter and family.

PLEASE promise me that if this disease takes me from my family at a young age, that you will bring Cushing’s awareness & education to others on my behalf.

Jen: I remember Liz well and I am so sorry to hear that she has passed. My condolences to her family.

Diane: It’s been a day since I found out and I am still numb with shock. There are moments in your life when things happen that change your whole outlook on things. Cushings was that something for me. However with all the difficulties of coping with such a terrible disease I managed to find many special friendships and was given support by such a special group of ladies that I will treasure in my heart forever. Liz was one of those special people. We had a giggle, we had a moan about the whole NHS process and testing, we shared some of our most painful moments going through this disease. I will miss you so much Liz. Shine a bright light in heaven lovely lady xxx Mary – you certainly have my permission xx Thank you for creating a place where I had an opportunity to meet someone like Liz xx

Amy: I was so very fond of Liz and my heart is still broken in two. 😦

Diane:  I’ve just been reading some of Liz’s old posts on the site…more tears are flowing but with a big smile on my face. I forgot just how much of a laugh we had despite the fact we were going through hell…I particularly like the fact that alot of people didn’t understand Liz and my British sense of humour. It just reminded that some great bonds were forged during hours of such need and loneliness, stress and depression, and a fight to get heard and a struggle to get diagnosed.

Jo: do you remember when her endo put her in the priory, & she met Ronnie Wood ? Liz Thought she looked better than he did.I cant count how many times K didn’t get his dinner because we were too busy on the phone.Still cant believe it.

Sally: I am so sad to read this. Liz, myself and a few others had said we needed to get together in Bermuda (half way) when we were all finally healthy to celebrate our 40th birthdays. I don’t know if any of us managed to hit that milestone healthy, I know I didn’t and I know Liz didn’t. I’m heartbroken, it’s so very sad.

betseebee: Such devastating news! Liz’s bio was one of the first I read when I joined the boards. I also distinctly remember her kitty avatar and that I could relate to things in her bio, like being grateful that my daughter was also not an outward bound type, which made it a little easier to be at home so much. My most heartfelt condolences to her beautiful daughter, Ciara, as well as the rest of her family.

Liz, may you rest in peace, and dance among the angels.

Sherry: My deepest sympaties go out to her family. This disease is awful, Liz was a wonderful person, she and I joined around the same time, I am very sad to hear of this disease taking another precoius life. RIP Liz.

Diane:  That is so funny Jo, I did not know that. I think Liz would have had no problem looking better than Ronnie!! Have you seen his program on SkyArts right now?!! Sally – I am 40 in June and this has just brought home to me how precious life is and. Not sure I’ll get to Bermuda, maybe Bognor…!! xx

Sandra: Sally I remember that convo ! I was one of them then, and yes I made my 40 th prob the healthiest I’m ever going to b now despite battling fibro still! And diane I knw what u mean about the british sense of humour! So not only did we laugh about the joke we cracked up with the fall out of being misunderstood (in a goodway) of course! Lol …..I thought about her sooo much yesterday and poor ciara bless her! Just stil can’t beleve it x

Jean: Im soo sorry to hear abt this ;( Really shows how this disease is serious n deadly, if not treated properly or from complications from surgery…my condolences to her family n all who knew her.

Dave: Liz, we never got to share that coffee. You were so helpful to me in researching my various problems and I know that there are many many friends who don’t come here any more but we will all miss you. Sincere sympathies to all your loved ones.

Sheila: A tragic loss at such a young age. Sad to know that death happens with Cushing’s when we are in the year of 2012.  Hopefully more doctors will take an interest in this little known disease of Cushing’s Syndrome.

Tanya: 😦 OMG rest in peace Liz. I’ve heard “I wish cancer would get cancer and die.” Well ‘I wish cushing’s would get cushing’s and die.’

In Memory: Barbara “Cookie” Rothenberg ~ Oct 11, 2003

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Saturday, Oct 11, 2003

The One and Only Cookie, photo taken by Erin
Columbus CUSH meeting, Saturday, October 26, 2002

From the posts on the message boards:

My heartfelt prayers and sympathy goes out to Cookie’s family, I never really had gotten to know Cookie Like many of you, but during a few chats, I saw how she helped many, answering questions, ect… and always willing to help out. My heart is sad to hear of her passing.


What I learned from Cookie was that she loved people and wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from Cushing’s. She touched many hearts, I know she touched mine….


Cookie was an inspiration to many of us. She gave her all for Cushing’s awareness, and I will always remember that the last time I saw her, she was singing…
Shalom, my friend.


Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.


I was lucky to have gotten to meet Cookie. She is such a fun person and she could always cheer you up.


Cookie, gees, what can you say. She was dynamic, committed, determined, exasperating, poetic, driven, electric, comedic, funny, supportive, strong, loving, loved, and not to repeat, but a driving force in creating CUSH and helping those who needed it. She was wonderful with fundraising. She was involved in so many activies that were for the benefit of others. She has dealt with many challenges in her life and continued to passed the point that many could not.

She will be sorely missed by all who knew and knew of her.


She was just an incredible, delightful person. I really think this world is a little dimmer today without her light from within. I know a lot of us are missing her already. I remember talking to her about the upcoming conference and her enthuisiasm was contagious. I’m just so very, very sorry to hear she’s passed. I hope her next life is one without pain, where she can sing and write poems to her heart’s content. Cooke will be sorely missed.


My family and I met Cookie at the UVA Cushings Conference Fall 2002. She was so helpful and caring. She told my father, sister, and I her “Cushings Story.” She was so, well, there is no better word to describe her, “bubbly.” She was so happy to be there, teaching, learning, and helping with CUSH. She left an impression on my family and I. She had such a great personality. She was one of the very first “Cushies” I met…and she made me re-think my attitude about being sick. She was going through so much, yet she had such a wonderful attitude towards it all. She was amazing!


Cookie touched a lot of lives. I remember back on the “old board”–before any of us had met any of the others in real life–I would get these perky, cheerful and witty emails from Cookie. She had a signature that was some kind of rhyme including “Lookie, lookie,…Cookie.” Her little dollop of cheer in my “inbox” always made me smile.

It is terrible to lose her. She has left such a legacy, though, that she will go on touching lives for many years to come.


I think this fits Cookie perfectly:

Some People …
Some people come into our lives and quickly go
Some people move our souls to dance
They awaken us to new understanding
With the passing whisper of their wisdom
Some people make the sky more beautiful
To gaze upon
They stay in our lives for a while
Leave footprints in our hearts …
And we are never the same

— Anonymous

~~~

Cookie shared this poem  to show how she felt…

It was an awful state that I was in
Hair was growing on my chin
My moods were swinging from low to high
All I did was cry “let me die!”

The hair kept growing down my neck, chest and bod
Would some dr not think this was a little odd
Sometimes I was up day after day
Then I’d want to sleep all the time to chase my troubles away

Rather I’d eat nothing, something, or very little at all
It seemed getting fatter and fatter was my call
I had every symptom of menopause
Too young they said, it’s in your head, there is no cause

I sing so when I said “I have another octave that is below”
They said pack your bags, to the loony bin you go
My periods were off the dr’s. were lazy
After running tests they said I was crazy

Nine years passed, symptoms got worse and I got fatter
My arms and legs were thin, please help me, what’s the matter
I was beginning to think maybe they are right
Maybe I am just a wee bit up tight

But my husband would say find another dr. it has to be
You are not the girl who married me.
Our children were afraid to them I was so mean
I’d see myself doing and yelling and to myself I would scream
“What is wrong with you! stop it” as if I was in a bad dream

Then I went to a dermatologist for a rash I had
He took a look and and asked “What else to you is bad”
I poured out my heart, I cried and I said
I can’t take any more, I wish I was dead

He asked who I had seen and I gave him the list
And I could see on his face, he really was pissed
He got me to the Cleveland Clinic and the best dr. there
Who listened to me, and checked out the arms, legs and hair

The mood swings, personality changes, the ups and the downs
Voice lower and periods, and face and body so round
One thing he did was run the same tests
Over and over as the results were not the best

Nothing was the same result and so he knew
Surgery was what they had to do
Something is very wrong in my body he said
Let us take a look now or you will be dead

We think you have Cushing’s Syndrome or Nelson’s Syndrome, too
But we will do our best to help you
Let us open you up and we will explore
Then we will know rather we do less or more

As it turned out the x-rays did not know
What they would see and how much would have to go
My female organs had tumors, fibroids and all
They called this syndrome Stein-Leventhal

A complete hysterectomy is what was done
How I had children not one of them knew, not one
Upon seeing that problem to the adrenals they flew
And things were so bad they removed two

The adrenals, 13 times their normal size and had twisted so
On the x-ray they looked fine, but they both had to go
After that they knew and to me they said
There is a pituitary tumor in your head

But until it grows there is nothing we will do
And 15 years later is when it grew
By then CAT scans and MRI’s were everywhere
So even I could see the tumor there

And no more cutting open the persons head
Up the nose they went instead
Well here we go again, lucky me
The tumor was wrapped around an artery

We can’t take it all out but we will do our best and try
If we sever the artery, you will die
5 years later I was back and then
They took the tumor out again

I opted for radiation to kill my friend in my head
I got tired of the Cleveland Clinic saving me a bed
I had other surgeries and emotional problems but day by day
I was going back to the female way

You see I was very slowly turning into a male but how
Will I be come a women now
The next 8 years were very bad
Almost worse than the first 9 years had

I lost some weight, most of the hair went away
With Nelson’s Syndrome some of the Cushing would stay
I woke up one day and the sun was shining
I was no longer bitching, no longer crying

I was almost me except for the pounds
And the thin arms and legs and the body so round
I was accepting me my life was changing
All I needed was a little more rearranging

I was out in public, I was acting and singing again
Working, volunteering, how did this happen, when!
I still get little bouts of depression but then
I know why, I’m not scared, I feel them coming and when

So hang in there and I promise you
You’ll be doing the things you used to do
Maybe a little slower, maybe not as long
Things will brighten up, I know I am not wrong

Keep on looking the right doctor is there
I know what you are going through, I really do care
I am here for anyone to help with what I can do
We all are rooting and praying for you.

 

1955 and 1962 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

1980-81, 3 years old, 2000 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

2000 and 1998 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

 

From the message boards thread about Cookie:

When Sue left a message on my answering machine this afternoon (October 11, 2003), I knew that something was terribly wrong. It never occurred to me that it could Cookie, our Cookie. Always so positive, cheery, full of life. Even though she was as sick as she was, again, I really thought that she’d pull through, one more time. How could she not? She’d survived pituitary surgeries way back, adrenal surgery, Nelson’s, Cushing’s, more than any one person should have to endure.

Throughout her too-short life, she’s been far too sick, yet she’s carried it all off with grace and enthusiasm.

First diagnosed with PCOS, Cookie had an hysterectomy years ago. During the hysterectomy, they realized that her adrenal glands were greatly enlarged. Cookie had Cushing’s disease and in 1974, Cookie had her adrenal glands removed, in 1989 she had her first pituitary surgery and in 1994 her pituitary was removed completely. Then radiation. Since these are the major glands that run the body, she has been on major hormone replacement for a long, long time, pills and daily injections. Because she had both adrenals and pituitary gland removed, she was also saddled with Nelson’s syndrome…and more medications. Because of her Cushing’s experiences, she helped to found the international CUSH organization to promote awareness of Cushing’s disease/syndrome and served as it’s treasurer and fundraiser.

In November, 2002 she had surgery for E.Coli in her sinuses, of all places (she told the doctor that she wasn’t snorting hamburg!) and in December she had a pacemaker put in.

In Feb, 2003 Cookie suffered a Code Blue. Her heart stopped and she stopped breathing. There were 15 people working on her to bring her back. She couldn’t feel her feet, then her hands were cold, then every little thing imaginable was happening with her. Then cardiac care, a heart attack. Cookie went on permanent dialysis. Her hands suffered permanent damage, Raynaud’s Disease. Her fingers turned purple and she had to wear white gloves all the time. She was bleeding internally again and her platelets were down.

I talked to Cookie after this last assault on her body and she was as cheery as ever. She wasn’t really ready to go home, but she walked 60 feet at the nursing home in several tries and if she could walk a total of 60 feet then her insurance would pay any longer. Her dialysis times were terrible. Tu, Th and Sa 8-11 PM. But her main complaint was that she couldn’t go out of state to be at the birth of a new grandchild.

Then the recent surgery to install a dialysis shunt, infections, complications…

How much can one woman take? No wonder she was tired of it all 😦

No matter how sick she was, she was always ready with a joke, a little song. On the recorder where people leave messages for the toll-free number, Cookie left a message May 17, 2002. I’ve always left it in the answering machine, so I could get a lift by hearing Cookie sing one of her inimitable parodies. If you’d like to listen, you can hear Cookie singing and laughing, one more time [file is missing – I’ll try to find it again].

I just cannot believe this. I truly thought of Cookie as a wonder woman who could do it all, and she could pull through this, too.

I guess she got tired of dealing with illness after illness, medications, surgeries, injections, dialysis, everything. I know I get tired just thinking about dealing with any one of these. Cookie put up a very valiant front through everything. She did more to get the word out than almost anyone I know.

Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

Many thanks to Erin for this last look…


We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.

In Memory of Barbara “Cookie” Rothenberg, Oct 11, 2003

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Saturday, Oct 11, 2003

The One and Only Cookie, photo taken by Erin
Columbus CUSH meeting, Saturday, October 26, 2002

From the posts on the message boards:

My heartfelt prayers and sympathy goes out to Cookie’s family, I never really had gotten to know Cookie Like many of you, but during a few chats, I saw how she helped many, answering questions, ect… and always willing to help out. My heart is sad to hear of her passing.


What I learned from Cookie was that she loved people and wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from Cushing’s. She touched many hearts, I know she touched mine….


Cookie was an inspiration to many of us. She gave her all for Cushing’s awareness, and I will always remember that the last time I saw her, she was singing…
Shalom, my friend.


Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.


I was lucky to have gotten to meet Cookie. She is such a fun person and she could always cheer you up.


Cookie, gees, what can you say. She was dynamic, committed, determined, exasperating, poetic, driven, electric, comedic, funny, supportive, strong, loving, loved, and not to repeat, but a driving force in creating CUSH and helping those who needed it. She was wonderful with fundraising. She was involved in so many activies that were for the benefit of others. She has dealt with many challenges in her life and continued to passed the point that many could not.

She will be sorely missed by all who knew and knew of her.


She was just an incredible, delightful person. I really think this world is a little dimmer today without her light from within. I know a lot of us are missing her already. I remember talking to her about the upcoming conference and her enthuisiasm was contagious. I’m just so very, very sorry to hear she’s passed. I hope her next life is one without pain, where she can sing and write poems to her heart’s content. Cooke will be sorely missed.


My family and I met Cookie at the UVA Cushings Conference Fall 2002. She was so helpful and caring. She told my father, sister, and I her “Cushings Story.” She was so, well, there is no better word to describe her, “bubbly.” She was so happy to be there, teaching, learning, and helping with CUSH. She left an impression on my family and I. She had such a great personality. She was one of the very first “Cushies” I met…and she made me re-think my attitude about being sick. She was going through so much, yet she had such a wonderful attitude towards it all. She was amazing!


Cookie touched a lot of lives. I remember back on the “old board”–before any of us had met any of the others in real life–I would get these perky, cheerful and witty emails from Cookie. She had a signature that was some kind of rhyme including “Lookie, lookie,…Cookie.” Her little dollop of cheer in my “inbox” always made me smile.

It is terrible to lose her. She has left such a legacy, though, that she will go on touching lives for many years to come.


I think this fits Cookie perfectly:

Some People …
Some people come into our lives and quickly go
Some people move our souls to dance
They awaken us to new understanding
With the passing whisper of their wisdom
Some people make the sky more beautiful
To gaze upon
They stay in our lives for a while
Leave footprints in our hearts …
And we are never the same

— Anonymous

~~~

Cookie shared this poem  to show how she felt…

It was an awful state that I was in
Hair was growing on my chin
My moods were swinging from low to high
All I did was cry “let me die!”

The hair kept growing down my neck, chest and bod
Would some dr not think this was a little odd
Sometimes I was up day after day
Then I’d want to sleep all the time to chase my troubles away

Rather I’d eat nothing, something, or very little at all
It seemed getting fatter and fatter was my call
I had every symptom of menopause
Too young they said, it’s in your head, there is no cause

I sing so when I said “I have another octave that is below”
They said pack your bags, to the loony bin you go
My periods were off the dr’s. were lazy
After running tests they said I was crazy

Nine years passed, symptoms got worse and I got fatter
My arms and legs were thin, please help me, what’s the matter
I was beginning to think maybe they are right
Maybe I am just a wee bit up tight

But my husband would say find another dr. it has to be
You are not the girl who married me.
Our children were afraid to them I was so mean
I’d see myself doing and yelling and to myself I would scream
“What is wrong with you! stop it” as if I was in a bad dream

Then I went to a dermatologist for a rash I had
He took a look and and asked “What else to you is bad”
I poured out my heart, I cried and I said
I can’t take any more, I wish I was dead

He asked who I had seen and I gave him the list
And I could see on his face, he really was pissed
He got me to the Cleveland Clinic and the best dr. there
Who listened to me, and checked out the arms, legs and hair

The mood swings, personality changes, the ups and the downs
Voice lower and periods, and face and body so round
One thing he did was run the same tests
Over and over as the results were not the best

Nothing was the same result and so he knew
Surgery was what they had to do
Something is very wrong in my body he said
Let us take a look now or you will be dead

We think you have Cushing’s Syndrome or Nelson’s Syndrome, too
But we will do our best to help you
Let us open you up and we will explore
Then we will know rather we do less or more

As it turned out the x-rays did not know
What they would see and how much would have to go
My female organs had tumors, fibroids and all
They called this syndrome Stein-Leventhal

A complete hysterectomy is what was done
How I had children not one of them knew, not one
Upon seeing that problem to the adrenals they flew
And things were so bad they removed two

The adrenals, 13 times their normal size and had twisted so
On the x-ray they looked fine, but they both had to go
After that they knew and to me they said
There is a pituitary tumor in your head

But until it grows there is nothing we will do
And 15 years later is when it grew
By then CAT scans and MRI’s were everywhere
So even I could see the tumor there

And no more cutting open the persons head
Up the nose they went instead
Well here we go again, lucky me
The tumor was wrapped around an artery

We can’t take it all out but we will do our best and try
If we sever the artery, you will die
5 years later I was back and then
They took the tumor out again

I opted for radiation to kill my friend in my head
I got tired of the Cleveland Clinic saving me a bed
I had other surgeries and emotional problems but day by day
I was going back to the female way

You see I was very slowly turning into a male but how
Will I be come a women now
The next 8 years were very bad
Almost worse than the first 9 years had

I lost some weight, most of the hair went away
With Nelson’s Syndrome some of the Cushing would stay
I woke up one day and the sun was shining
I was no longer bitching, no longer crying

I was almost me except for the pounds
And the thin arms and legs and the body so round
I was accepting me my life was changing
All I needed was a little more rearranging

I was out in public, I was acting and singing again
Working, volunteering, how did this happen, when!
I still get little bouts of depression but then
I know why, I’m not scared, I feel them coming and when

So hang in there and I promise you
You’ll be doing the things you used to do
Maybe a little slower, maybe not as long
Things will brighten up, I know I am not wrong

Keep on looking the right doctor is there
I know what you are going through, I really do care
I am here for anyone to help with what I can do
We all are rooting and praying for you.

 

1955 and 1962 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

1980-81, 3 years old, 2000 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

2000 and 1998 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

 

From the message boards thread about Cookie:

When Sue left a message on my answering machine this afternoon (October 11, 2003), I knew that something was terribly wrong. It never occurred to me that it could Cookie, our Cookie. Always so positive, cheery, full of life. Even though she was as sick as she was, again, I really thought that she’d pull through, one more time. How could she not? She’d survived pituitary surgeries way back, adrenal surgery, Nelson’s, Cushing’s, more than any one person should have to endure.

Throughout her too-short life, she’s been far too sick, yet she’s carried it all off with grace and enthusiasm.

First diagnosed with PCOS, Cookie had an hysterectomy years ago. During the hysterectomy, they realized that her adrenal glands were greatly enlarged. Cookie had Cushing’s disease and in 1974, Cookie had her adrenal glands removed, in 1989 she had her first pituitary surgery and in 1994 her pituitary was removed completely. Then radiation. Since these are the major glands that run the body, she has been on major hormone replacement for a long, long time, pills and daily injections. Because she had both adrenals and pituitary gland removed, she was also saddled with Nelson’s syndrome…and more medications. Because of her Cushing’s experiences, she helped to found the international CUSH organization to promote awareness of Cushing’s disease/syndrome and served as it’s treasurer and fundraiser.

In November, 2002 she had surgery for E.Coli in her sinuses, of all places (she told the doctor that she wasn’t snorting hamburg!) and in December she had a pacemaker put in.

In Feb, 2003 Cookie suffered a Code Blue. Her heart stopped and she stopped breathing. There were 15 people working on her to bring her back. She couldn’t feel her feet, then her hands were cold, then every little thing imaginable was happening with her. Then cardiac care, a heart attack. Cookie went on permanent dialysis. Her hands suffered permanent damage, Raynaud’s Disease. Her fingers turned purple and she had to wear white gloves all the time. She was bleeding internally again and her platelets were down.

I talked to Cookie after this last assault on her body and she was as cheery as ever. She wasn’t really ready to go home, but she walked 60 feet at the nursing home in several tries and if she could walk a total of 60 feet then her insurance would pay any longer. Her dialysis times were terrible. Tu, Th and Sa 8-11 PM. But her main complaint was that she couldn’t go out of state to be at the birth of a new grandchild.

Then the recent surgery to install a dialysis shunt, infections, complications…

How much can one woman take? No wonder she was tired of it all 😦

No matter how sick she was, she was always ready with a joke, a little song. On the recorder where people leave messages for the toll-free number, Cookie left a message May 17, 2002. I’ve always left it in the answering machine, so I could get a lift by hearing Cookie sing one of her inimitable parodies. If you’d like to listen, you can hear Cookie singing and laughing, one more time [file is missing – I’ll try to find it again].

I just cannot believe this. I truly thought of Cookie as a wonder woman who could do it all, and she could pull through this, too.

I guess she got tired of dealing with illness after illness, medications, surgeries, injections, dialysis, everything. I know I get tired just thinking about dealing with any one of these. Cookie put up a very valiant front through everything. She did more to get the word out than almost anyone I know.

Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

Many thanks to Erin for this last look…


We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.

Laura, In The Media

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After years, mystery ills diagnosed

April 3, 2005
By JANET MARSHALL

On the day her life changed for the better, Laura Zastrow was exhausted. So much so that she almost didn’t go to the Quantico commissary, as she’d planned.

For years, Zastrow had felt run down without knowing why. One doctor chalked it up to depression. But that afternoon at Quantico, a stranger offered another diagnosis: Cushing’s disease.

Rare and often misdiagnosed, Cushing’s causes fatigue, weight gain, hair growth, mood swings, high blood pressure and other ills, all familiar to Zastrow.

The stranger, Jayne Kerns, recognized her own puffy face and hairy arms in Zastrow.

“I said, ‘I feel like I’m looking in the mirror,'” Kerns said.

Kerns encouraged Zastrow to check out a Cushing’s Web site, which Zastrow did. Every symptom listed matched her condition. Her doctor ran some tests, and the results confirmed Zastrow had Cushing’s, a hormonal disorder often brought on by a tumor.

The chance meeting in September 2003 transformed Zastrow’s life. In the months since, she’s had surgery to remove a large tumor on her pituitary gland and rediscovered her old, healthier self.

“My energy is coming back,” said Zastrow, of Locust Grove. “I’ve lost a lot of weight. I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m in a fog anymore.”

Kerns, of Spotsylvania County, has made it a mission to raise as much awareness as possible of Cushing’s since being diagnosed with the disease in 2000. She’s written President Bush asking him to declare a National Cushing’s Awareness Day in April.

Her meeting with Zastrow was first described in a Free Lance-Star profile of Kerns in 2004. At the time, nobody yet knew just how life-altering that meeting would be.

It emboldened Kerns to keep reaching out to people she thinks have the disease. And it gave Zastrow hope for a healthier, more energetic future.

“I was at the point where I was deteriorating so fast that if Jayne wouldn’t have approached me, I honestly don’t know what would have happened,” Zastrow said recently. “Obviously, I didn’t know anything about [Cushing’s], and neither did my doctors.”

For those with the disease, April 8 is the unofficial day to recognize it and the man–Dr. Harvey Cushing–who first put a name to it.

People with Cushing’s suffer from excessive levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. The condition can be caused by long-term use of certain drugs, such as prednisone for asthma.

Often, Cushing’s stems from an overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands. The pituitary gland sometimes over-stimulates the adrenals, triggering the problem. Tumors on the adrenal or pituitary often are at the root of the problem, and treatment can involve removing the glands.

Kerns’ diagnosis followed months of maddening efforts to pinpoint why her body deteriorated, and never recovered, after childbirth.

She said she was misdiagnosed many times, and that one doctor, frustrated by her recurrent problems, told her he no longer had time to listen to her and referred her to another physician.

Kerns ultimately had her adrenal glands removed.

Each year, 10 to 15 people out of every million are thought to be affected by Cushing’s, making it highly uncommon.

“Doctors think that Cushing’s is too rare for people to have it,” Kerns said. “And I truly believe that it is not as rare as people think.”

Another local woman, Jennifer Belokon of Fredericksburg, has Cushing’s. She was serving in the Army in Iraq when she began feeling weak and gaining weight, adding 60 pounds in three months.

The Army flew her out of Iraq and sent her to Walter Reed Medical Center. After being diagnosed with Cushing’s, she had her adrenal glands removed.

“Now, I have no adrenaline, no steroids or anything that will help me produce that second wind when doing anything,” Belokon wrote in an e-mail.

Yet she’s resumed exercising and is training to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon in Virginia Beach in September. She ran a 10-mile race a few months ago.

“My time was nothing big,” Belokon wrote. “But I was proud of myself for finishing.”

Getting treated for Cushing’s is life-altering, all three women said. Just finding out what’s wrong is profound because a diagnosis often follows months or years of mysterious and unsettling ailments.

“It changes people’s lives when they figure out what’s going on,” Kerns said. “It’s kind of like discovering that you have diabetes, and then you get insulin. You find something that’s going to make you feel better.”

For more information on the disease and its symptoms, which include purple stretch marks, check out cushings-help.com

To reach JANET MARSHALL: 540/374-5527 jmarshall@freelancestar.com
Copyright 2005 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.


JAYNE KERNS IS A MEMBER OF THE CUSHING’S HELP AND SUPPORT MESSAGE BOARDS.

Jayne answered questions in an online Voice Chat January 31, 2008 at 6:30 PM eastern. Archives are available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

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J Stone (J Stone), Pituitary Bio

1 Comment

 

Hi. I’ve been diagnosed with Cushings Disease since 2010.

My journey started in 2009: weight gain, headaches,high blood pressure, mood changes, insomnia every symptom except stretch marks.

I was in nursing school at the time, worked full time as well. I just started to feel “not right” I knew something was wrong, even mentioned all my symptoms to my nursing instructor and she said “ do you have Cushings?” Those words changed my life.

I started researching Everthing! I became obsessed. I started to visit my GP. The answer “you’re old and fat and need to diet” I was 42. Then it became “you’re premenopausal and fat” eat less, exercise more. I had been eating very well and was as active as I could be. He kept telling me the same thing for the 6months I kept going back to the MD office.

After all my research and reading I became convinced Cushings is what I possibly could have. I went to his office, sat down and told him I wasn’t leaving until I had an order for a 24 hr urine and serum cortisol. He laughed but gave me an order. Took the tests and what do you know,high levels. He promptly referred me to an Endo.

I will never forget the words she said to me on my first visit “ I’m very afraid for you” as all my tests were very high. She referred me to a specialist in Cushings which is in an other state. I traveled to see her and she confirmed and diagnosed me with Cushings disease. And then it became a whirlwind of tests and surgery. She told me I had a very advanced case and probably had Cushings for at least 5 years before seeing her.

It is now 2010, a year after I had first started to see my GP. I had my first Pituitary surgery in Nov. 2010. They removed the tumor and a bit of my pituitary. I recovered 2011. It took a very long time for my adrenal glands to wake up. I was on hydrocortisone for over a year before I @could taper off completely. I was back at work, loosing weight, getting my strength back and feeling hopeful this was the end.

Not so lucky. I had about 2 years of doing pretty good, but in 2014 I started to have all the signs again. Weight gain, pain, insomnia. My lab work had started to show all the Cushings signs again. MRI’s showed tumors, more of them are back. I tried the drugs available, all of them, none worked.

I had my second surgery June 2015. After surgery I was told it was unsuccessful plus I had even more tumors. One which is on my carotid artery. So I continued on trying the meds available, still no improvement. 2017: my symptoms getting worse, feeling terrible. Gaining weight. My tolerance to activity has greatly decreased and the headaches are constant. All the symptoms are back. I have been told I can not have any more pituitary surgeries because the tumor is on the carotid. I have altered my work, I now can only do a desk job and not work on the floor taking care of patients as it is too difficult for me.

I now have terrible high blood pressure, increased diabetes, osteoporosis with significant bone loss, weight gain, headaches constantly, insomnia etc. so the next step, I am seeing my provider who I have to travel across state lines to see and plan on discussing a BLA as I feel this is my last option to provide me relief and move on with life.

I will have to see what happens.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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Paul M (Paul), Pituitary Bio

1 Comment

 

Hi All,
I was diagnosed 4 years ago. I had extreme weight gain despite a very physically active life style. I would require less than 2 hours a night of sleep. Eat less than 1,000 calories per day and exercise 3-5 hours a day. I had the emotional swings as well. I would bruise or cut very easily. Doctor suspected Cushings after I displaced my knee cap for the second time due to Patella Tendonitis.

Months of testing resulted in what the doctors considered a low likelihood for positive outcome, the surgeon (supposed to be one of the best) agreed to remove the tumor either way. It was filling the Sella to the point it was pushing on my pituitary. It was wrapped around my optical nerve and would probably cause problems with my eyesight.

I was told that I would be back to work in 3 weeks.

Post Surgery my Cortisol levels never rebounded. The doc gave me 10mg of cortisol with no affect. Then they gave me 40mg and I could get up to go to the bathroom. Within an hour levels were back down to 3 (whatever).

They put me on 80/40mg of Cortisol for morning and noon each day. I still was basically unable to move. After 1 year. I was off cortisol and passed the suppression test. And still wasn’t losing weight, felt sick all the time.

It appears my anterior pituitary gland has not recovered. I don’t make enough TSH or the hormone to induce Testosterone. I took the Gel for testosterone with poor results. My thyroid tests are considered inconclusive. I try to feel out my thyroid dosage. Now I get testosterone implants. They seem better.

Basically put, four years later I feel almost as bad most days as before the surgery. Weight gain is still an issue. The major differences are, I sleep really well. I don’t bleed at the touch. My feet are very week, I could sleep 15 hours a day.

 

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Suzanne (Suzanna), Undiagnosed Bio

1 Comment

Hi all,
Looking for some knowledge as I feel like my GP had been really unhelpful over this.

So I went to see him for some infected bites a few weeks ago. It’s really difficult to get an appointment with him so while I was there I figured I would mention my water retention. I’ve suffered with this on and off all my life (I’m 35) but lately it’s been a lot worse. I suspect my contraceptive pill, it’s called Yasmin (Yaz) and I’ve only been taking this particular one for about 18 months.

He sent me for a full blood MOT (vintamns, full blood count, liver function, thyroid, iron, etc etc, there were about 10 altogether).
The results of these came back and all were fine except the Cortisol level. I knew what this was because I’m a dog trainer/behaviourist and in dogs, Cortisol is referred to as the stress hormone. GP said a normal morning level was between about 166-507….mine came back as 1023!

He ordered a repeat Cortisol blood test and a 24 hour urine test. I’m still waiting on the results of the urine test but the second bloods came back yesterday at a level of 798. Obviously still very high, although lower than the first time. He says it’s likely I have Cushings. Cue massive panic as Cushings is very common in dogd and I have cared for a lot with it and it really isn’t very pleasant in dogs 😦

GP says it’s caused by a tumour and I will have to have medication and/or an MRI scan and possibly brain surgery. I seriously do not fancy this when my only complaint is water retention!!

I do have quite a busy life, I work as a dog trainer and also run around after a five year old. I’m a naturally stressy person too, and worry excessively about things that don’t really need to be worried about.

My GP, when asked whether this could be caused by my pill, said no. But the other symptoms I get with this pill are occasional heart palpitations, mood swings, a feeling of buzzing sometimes, like adrenaline is coursing through me (I’ve always thought it was the estrogen?!) and increased appetite for sweet things and wanting to eat junk all the time.

My Herbalist is almost certain this pill is causing my hormone problems and is responsible for the high Cortisol levels. So I’ve decided to stop taking it for a couple of months and ask for a repeat test and see if it has made any difference. My Herbalist has also recommended Hemaplex and something called Ashwanganda.

My GP’s current plan of action is ‘wait for the 24 hour urine test results and then refer to one hormone specialist or another’.
Does anyone have a similar experience that could help me? Many thanks in advance 🙂

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Mae, Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted Sunday, October 26, 2008

I am now 34 years old and have recently moved to a new state. I really don’t know when I started to show the signs. I have had migraines since I was in junior high. I used to have dark stretch marks and major mood swings in high school. My periods were so very painful and heavy I would bleed through a sanitary napkin every hour and a half. Once I graduated I went to the health department and asked to be placed on BC pills. I was eighteen, planning on having sex, and wanting to be safe about it. Within the next three months I put on about 60 pounds.

When I first moved to Virginia I was weighing about 135 pounds on a 5’6″ frame ever so happy in a size 8. By the following January I was almost 200 pounds and in a size 20. I went from wearing form fitting clothes to wearing sweat pants and t-shirts as large as I could find them. When I asked the health department about this, I was told that you have to expect to gain weight when you first start on the birth control pills. I was an active 18 year old, I didn’t over eat, and I was a personal nanny to a very active child. I took her on walks daily for at least an hour.

Things happen, as they always do. My fiance and I broke up, I moved to another part of the state, and pretty much ate only enough to make sure I was getting some nutrients into me. Depression set in, and my whole being seemed to change. I went from being an outgoing, happy center of attention to an brooding and depressed loner. I didn’t even want to be around my family (whom I lived with at the time). I went to the doctor again. I wasn’t planning on doing anything, so I stopped taking the birth control. When I asked the doctor about the weight loss, I was told it would fade within time as long as I worked at it.

Two years go by and I worked at it, and 20 pounds went on their way. The depression was starting to ease, I felt some of my old self returning. I decided to move it along and branch back out on my own again. I vowed to take back two years of my life. I was out going again, I WAS ME! I was eating healthy, only getting fast food at the most, once a week. Eating more salads than anything, and county line danceing three to four hours (non-stop) about four times a week (one day a week was for a demonstration team). I wasn’t loosing any weight. As a matter of fact, I had started to slowly gain it again. I also had my first bout with kidney stones. I met my soon to be husband almost two years to the day of vowing to get back my lost years.

Since My husband I have married (9.5 years now), my weight has been a large roller coaster ride. I have never been back down to the 180 I was when we first met. I haven’t been below 200 since then. I have maxed out at 260 so far. Each time I feel almost like my old self, I pick up the hard dieting and working out 4-5 days a week. I love weight training. Not the body building kind, but the lean muscle building kind. I will start out loosing weight and I will keep it up. I will loose about 10 pounds before the gain starts. Then I will tell myself that the gain is muscle and it is to be expected. 20 pounds later, when I am 10 pounds more than when I started, the depression starts to set in. I keep working at it with tears in my eyes and I no longer enjoy it. Finally, when the next 5 pounds hit, I just give up. All of this takes place over about a 4 month period. The only time there was a repreve was when I was pregnant with my daughter. I went back to feeling like myself again when I was pregnant. I also lost 25 pounds while I was pregnant. I was pregnant for 6 months (she was 12 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia).

Kidney stones started happening more frequently. UTI’s (which I had never had before being pregnant) started happening about every 6 months. I had been diagnosed with endometreosis, and the ovarian cycst I had been diagnosed with at 17 had come back. I was diagnosed with depression, and was always being told by the doctor that I needed to loose weight. No matter now many times I told him that I tried only to gain it, it was like he never heard me.

My break through came about a year and a half ago. I was reading one of my mother’s Reader’s Digest’s she had left at my house. I was shocked. It was almost like reading my own story. That night I hopped on line and came to this website. There was a diagram hand drawn of what a body could look like with Cushings. While I was reading the symptoms, my husband walked in. He asked when I had posed for the drawing. I broke down in tears. My wonderful husband came over and held me while I cried it out. Then listened as I explained it to him. I still didn’t have the courage to ask my doctor about it.

The following month, the recurring UTI’s started. I was getting one every two -three weeks. Then my mind started to go. Like one of the bio’s I have read here, it felt like there was an alien in my head. I could see myself acting in ways that weren’t me. I couldn’t even interact with my daughter without having flashes of anger. The depression medication pretty much stopped working, and there were times I couldn’t even stand myself. I finally found the courage.

I made an appointment to see my PCP. Since there was nothing ‘wrong’, the earliest they could see me was a month away, I agreed. I nearly called back to cancel the appointment at least three times. I kept it. He wasn’t very supportive. I was overweight and fat people like us have to find a way to loose it was pretty much what he said. But he would order and 24 hour UFC test. and we would go from there. Guess what? It was high. He refered me to an Endo. Wonderful Endo. I hated leaving him.

I went to see Dr. Barnes and he listened to me. I took pictures of me for every year since I was 18(which took a while to gather since I haven’t really had any pictures taken of me for the last 8 years). He asked me questions. He listened to me. He made me feel as if what I had to say was important and needed to be heard. Then we did the exam. He talked, measured, asked, and explained the whole time. He looked at the hair loss, the hair that was growing where it shouldn’t, even the stretch marks that have long since faded to white (but once in a while flair red). He ordered a dexa test. Then he put me on blood pressure medication (my blood pressure had been creeping up for about a year), started me on Fortamet to help ease some of the symptoms, and ordered me back in two weeks. The test came back only slightly elevated. Enough to be over the norm, but not eoungh to confirm a diagnosis. He ordered a midnight cortisol test (it was now about almost 2 months since I first saw him). The results were on the high side of normal. He wanted to keep an eye on me. He couldn’t diagnose me, but he felt that my concern was warrented. He wanted to keep on eye on me. I was to see him every three months. If my symptoms were to come back, then I was to call him immidiately.

Four months ago I had to say good-bye to Dr. Barnes. I moved with my husband when he retired from the military. I am now back to the drawing board. I have a wonderful PCP now (which I didn’t before). She listened to me and refered me to an Endo. I left the new Endo’s office very exasperated. She walked into the appointment and didn’t even shake my hand. Strike one. Next came the physical exam. She felt my thyriod, one point in her favor. That was all she checked, strike two. Then, right there told me that I was diabetic (go figure that the last blood test I got said my sugar levels were excellent) and I had PCOS. The woman had only known me for ten minutes, if that, and was diagnosing me without seeing blookwork results or anything else. Third and final strike. I am still so put off by this experience, I haven’t gotten the nerve to go back to my PCP and ask for another referal. The Endo did do a dexa test, and said that according to that test, there was no way that I could have Cushing’s and that was the end of it.

Since then, I have had my gall bladder removed after having a gall stone pains for the last 4 years that no one could find. I also have two new kidney stones. One of them about a half an inch in diameter (again). The fatigue has returned. Insomnia is hitting again. Depression is setting in. My temper is starting to flare for the slightest wrong. My concentration is failing. When I changed the chanel and found the Mystery Diagnosis on about Cushing’s, I felt that was God’s way of pushing me. So, when the week starts, I will be calling my PCP and see if there is another Endo she can refer me to. As the song goes, ‘Here I go again on my own”.

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Amee (Amee), Adrenal / Pituitary Bio

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adrenal_glands
Hmmm, where to start? “Hello” to one & all, & how I wish I had discovered this friendly & helpful site 3 years ago. Ah well, better late, than never, eh?

Anyway, back to me : in a nutshell – 47 year old single female, 87kg, 5’4″, Post Cushings Syndrome through Adrenal tumour & subsequent unilateral Adrenalectomy I’m now Hydrocortisone (HC) dependent , Hypothyroid (just switched to NDT & T3 combo from synthetic T4 & T3), Pituitary microadenoma.

Now for the details…..are you siting comfortably? I’ll try to keep to the plot ! Suffered with bouts of fatigue & depression since my early 20’s. Spells on different types of anti-depressants which didn’t help me much.

Skip to 2004,weight going up despite no change in eating/excercise habits (those intermittent years were filled with seeming to pick up every bug & cold that was going around & weirdly taking longer than others to get over illness) prescribed Zoladex implant to relieve very painful & intolerably heavy periods, along with severe mood swings.

Tiredness is now just an unwelcome fact of life for me, weight still increasing gradually. Developed Psoriasis.

June 2012 diagnosed Hypothyroid after completely breaking down in GP’s surgery & being referred to Endocrinologist. Signed off work for foreseeable future. Prescribed Levothyroxine, Zolpidem & Ramipril, weight goes up more. More investigations pinpointed extremely high cortisol levels, (I have all the physical signs of Cushings at this point – but Endo has not even mentioned the condition to me!)

Meanwhile referred to Neurologist for my now weekly migraines, prescribed Propranolol & he & Endo agree on cranial MRI scan to help both of their cases with me. Full body scan also booked. In the same week I learnt that I had both a tumour on my right Adrenal & also a Pituitary micro-adenoma. More tests which determine that it is the Adrenal tumour causing my Cushings (oh, & I had to ask Endo if what I had was Cushings – as he had still not even uttered it’s name to me! )

Unilateral Adrenalectomy performed Aug 2013 (had to fly 200 miles to have it done – alone – haven’t told my family who live 300 miles away about either tumour).

Post op weaned down from 40 mg to 17.5mg HC per day, over few months. Feb 2014 went into adrenal crisis & rushed to hospital – remaining adrenal obviously not working yet.

Since then, have had 9am bloods every 2 months & follows up with Endo & still no sign of life in Adrenal. Have lost only about 4kg max since the op – still obese & unable to loose weight & still have the classic Cushings apple shape.

In Aug 2015 returned to work full time, in a downgraded role, & have to up dose to 20mg HC just to get me through working day. Begged Endo for T3 to try alongside the Levo & was granted in Nov 2015 . Slight improvement at first, but short lived. Also i asked to come off Zoladex implant, to see If that side of things are any better yet. No period yet. Shattered & aching, have no social life or energy & spend weekends resting in lieu of working week & in prep for the next one, waning to be alone.

Grasping at straws to feel better so am now (since mid April 2016) self medicating on NDT & T3 as Endo does not support prescribing it. Endo does not want to see me now until Sept 2016 , when I am due an MRI again to check on the Pituitary tumour size/growth & have next 9am bloods.

That’s about it medically………quite enough for me, thanks ! P.s I have bad brain fog (& also Sinusitis at the mo) so may well have missed something & will probably remember it in about 3 days or so !!

Thanks for reading & welcome to my world : /

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In Memory: Barbara “Cookie” Rothenberg, Oct 11, 2003

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Saturday, Oct 11, 2003

The One and Only Cookie, photo taken by Erin
Columbus CUSH meeting, Saturday, October 26, 2002

From the posts on the message boards:

My heartfelt prayers and sympathy goes out to Cookie’s family, I never really had gotten to know Cookie Like many of you, but during a few chats, I saw how she helped many, answering questions, ect… and always willing to help out. My heart is sad to hear of her passing.


What I learned from Cookie was that she loved people and wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from Cushing’s. She touched many hearts, I know she touched mine….


Cookie was an inspiration to many of us. She gave her all for Cushing’s awareness, and I will always remember that the last time I saw her, she was singing…
Shalom, my friend.


Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.


I was lucky to have gotten to meet Cookie. She is such a fun person and she could always cheer you up.


Cookie, gees, what can you say. She was dynamic, committed, determined, exasperating, poetic, driven, electric, comedic, funny, supportive, strong, loving, loved, and not to repeat, but a driving force in creating CUSH and helping those who needed it. She was wonderful with fundraising. She was involved in so many activies that were for the benefit of others. She has dealt with many challenges in her life and continued to passed the point that many could not.

She will be sorely missed by all who knew and knew of her.


She was just an incredible, delightful person. I really think this world is a little dimmer today without her light from within. I know a lot of us are missing her already. I remember talking to her about the upcoming conference and her enthuisiasm was contagious. I’m just so very, very sorry to hear she’s passed. I hope her next life is one without pain, where she can sing and write poems to her heart’s content. Cooke will be sorely missed.


My family and I met Cookie at the UVA Cushings Conference Fall 2002. She was so helpful and caring. She told my father, sister, and I her “Cushings Story.” She was so, well, there is no better word to describe her, “bubbly.” She was so happy to be there, teaching, learning, and helping with CUSH. She left an impression on my family and I. She had such a great personality. She was one of the very first “Cushies” I met…and she made me re-think my attitude about being sick. She was going through so much, yet she had such a wonderful attitude towards it all. She was amazing!


Cookie touched a lot of lives. I remember back on the “old board”–before any of us had met any of the others in real life–I would get these perky, cheerful and witty emails from Cookie. She had a signature that was some kind of rhyme including “Lookie, lookie,…Cookie.” Her little dollop of cheer in my “inbox” always made me smile.

It is terrible to lose her. She has left such a legacy, though, that she will go on touching lives for many years to come.


I think this fits Cookie perfectly:

Some People …
Some people come into our lives and quickly go
Some people move our souls to dance
They awaken us to new understanding
With the passing whisper of their wisdom
Some people make the sky more beautiful
To gaze upon
They stay in our lives for a while
Leave footprints in our hearts …
And we are never the same

— Anonymous

~~~

Cookie shared this poem  to show how she felt…

It was an awful state that I was in
Hair was growing on my chin
My moods were swinging from low to high
All I did was cry “let me die!”

The hair kept growing down my neck, chest and bod
Would some dr not think this was a little odd
Sometimes I was up day after day
Then I’d want to sleep all the time to chase my troubles away

Rather I’d eat nothing, something, or very little at all
It seemed getting fatter and fatter was my call
I had every symptom of menopause
Too young they said, it’s in your head, there is no cause

I sing so when I said “I have another octave that is below”
They said pack your bags, to the loony bin you go
My periods were off the dr’s. were lazy
After running tests they said I was crazy

Nine years passed, symptoms got worse and I got fatter
My arms and legs were thin, please help me, what’s the matter
I was beginning to think maybe they are right
Maybe I am just a wee bit up tight

But my husband would say find another dr. it has to be
You are not the girl who married me.
Our children were afraid to them I was so mean
I’d see myself doing and yelling and to myself I would scream
“What is wrong with you! stop it” as if I was in a bad dream

Then I went to a dermatologist for a rash I had
He took a look and and asked “What else to you is bad”
I poured out my heart, I cried and I said
I can’t take any more, I wish I was dead

He asked who I had seen and I gave him the list
And I could see on his face, he really was pissed
He got me to the Cleveland Clinic and the best dr. there
Who listened to me, and checked out the arms, legs and hair

The mood swings, personality changes, the ups and the downs
Voice lower and periods, and face and body so round
One thing he did was run the same tests
Over and over as the results were not the best

Nothing was the same result and so he knew
Surgery was what they had to do
Something is very wrong in my body he said
Let us take a look now or you will be dead

We think you have Cushing’s Syndrome or Nelson’s Syndrome, too
But we will do our best to help you
Let us open you up and we will explore
Then we will know rather we do less or more

As it turned out the x-rays did not know
What they would see and how much would have to go
My female organs had tumors, fibroids and all
They called this syndrome Stein-Leventhal

A complete hysterectomy is what was done
How I had children not one of them knew, not one
Upon seeing that problem to the adrenals they flew
And things were so bad they removed two

The adrenals, 13 times their normal size and had twisted so
On the x-ray they looked fine, but they both had to go
After that they knew and to me they said
There is a pituitary tumor in your head

But until it grows there is nothing we will do
And 15 years later is when it grew
By then CAT scans and MRI’s were everywhere
So even I could see the tumor there

And no more cutting open the persons head
Up the nose they went instead
Well here we go again, lucky me
The tumor was wrapped around an artery

We can’t take it all out but we will do our best and try
If we sever the artery, you will die
5 years later I was back and then
They took the tumor out again

I opted for radiation to kill my friend in my head
I got tired of the Cleveland Clinic saving me a bed
I had other surgeries and emotional problems but day by day
I was going back to the female way

You see I was very slowly turning into a male but how
Will I be come a women now
The next 8 years were very bad
Almost worse than the first 9 years had

I lost some weight, most of the hair went away
With Nelson’s Syndrome some of the Cushing would stay
I woke up one day and the sun was shining
I was no longer bitching, no longer crying

I was almost me except for the pounds
And the thin arms and legs and the body so round
I was accepting me my life was changing
All I needed was a little more rearranging

I was out in public, I was acting and singing again
Working, volunteering, how did this happen, when!
I still get little bouts of depression but then
I know why, I’m not scared, I feel them coming and when

So hang in there and I promise you
You’ll be doing the things you used to do
Maybe a little slower, maybe not as long
Things will brighten up, I know I am not wrong

Keep on looking the right doctor is there
I know what you are going through, I really do care
I am here for anyone to help with what I can do
We all are rooting and praying for you.

 

1955 and 1962 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

1980-81, 3 years old, 2000 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

2000 and 1998 [Photographer: Cookie’s family]

 

From the message boards thread about Cookie:

When Sue left a message on my answering machine this afternoon (October 11, 2003), I knew that something was terribly wrong. It never occurred to me that it could Cookie, our Cookie. Always so positive, cheery, full of life. Even though she was as sick as she was, again, I really thought that she’d pull through, one more time. How could she not? She’d survived pituitary surgeries way back, adrenal surgery, Nelson’s, Cushing’s, more than any one person should have to endure.

Throughout her too-short life, she’s been far too sick, yet she’s carried it all off with grace and enthusiasm.

First diagnosed with PCOS, Cookie had an hysterectomy years ago. During the hysterectomy, they realized that her adrenal glands were greatly enlarged. Cookie had Cushing’s disease and in 1974, Cookie had her adrenal glands removed, in 1989 she had her first pituitary surgery and in 1994 her pituitary was removed completely. Then radiation. Since these are the major glands that run the body, she has been on major hormone replacement for a long, long time, pills and daily injections. Because she had both adrenals and pituitary gland removed, she was also saddled with Nelson’s syndrome…and more medications. Because of her Cushing’s experiences, she helped to found the international CUSH organization to promote awareness of Cushing’s disease/syndrome and served as it’s treasurer and fundraiser.

In November, 2002 she had surgery for E.Coli in her sinuses, of all places (she told the doctor that she wasn’t snorting hamburg!) and in December she had a pacemaker put in.

In Feb, 2003 Cookie suffered a Code Blue. Her heart stopped and she stopped breathing. There were 15 people working on her to bring her back. She couldn’t feel her feet, then her hands were cold, then every little thing imaginable was happening with her. Then cardiac care, a heart attack. Cookie went on permanent dialysis. Her hands suffered permanent damage, Raynaud’s Disease. Her fingers turned purple and she had to wear white gloves all the time. She was bleeding internally again and her platelets were down.

I talked to Cookie after this last assault on her body and she was as cheery as ever. She wasn’t really ready to go home, but she walked 60 feet at the nursing home in several tries and if she could walk a total of 60 feet then her insurance would pay any longer. Her dialysis times were terrible. Tu, Th and Sa 8-11 PM. But her main complaint was that she couldn’t go out of state to be at the birth of a new grandchild.

Then the recent surgery to install a dialysis shunt, infections, complications…

How much can one woman take? No wonder she was tired of it all 😦

No matter how sick she was, she was always ready with a joke, a little song. On the recorder where people leave messages for the toll-free number, Cookie left a message May 17, 2002. I’ve always left it in the answering machine, so I could get a lift by hearing Cookie sing one of her inimitable parodies. If you’d like to listen, you can hear Cookie singing and laughing, one more time [file is missing – I’ll try to find it again].

I just cannot believe this. I truly thought of Cookie as a wonder woman who could do it all, and she could pull through this, too.

I guess she got tired of dealing with illness after illness, medications, surgeries, injections, dialysis, everything. I know I get tired just thinking about dealing with any one of these. Cookie put up a very valiant front through everything. She did more to get the word out than almost anyone I know.

Rest in peace, Dear Cookie. I know that right now you’re organizing angels into working teams who will get heaven straightened out, with fun and laughter all the way. I guess G-d needs you now more than we do.

Many thanks to Erin for this last look…


We’ll miss you so much, Sweetie.

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