In February 2013 I was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease.
Over the previous 6 years, I have suffered from a variety of problems including Deep Vein Thrombosis and a Pulmonary Embolism, compressed fracture of the spine, torn achilles (right leg), ruptured achilles (left leg), several ulcers in my left leg and one in my right, hypertension, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation. Lesser injuries included a number of torn hamstrings and groins. Prior to that, I had no significant medical problems.
I also put on 14kg (30 pound) in weight. Up to 1997, I was a little overweight but very fit, taking part in distance running including a half marathon. My training routine lessened and I put on weight. The injuries I was having limited my ability to train.
My legs become very weak and have that ache that you get from working out – something which I have had to discontinue due to the weakness. Climbing stairs in particular was difficult. I have stenosis of the spine which causes sciatica which is very painful. I have lost strength in my arms as well as my legs.
When I was diagnosed with possible Cushings, I had never heard of the disease and of course got busy on the internet and read about the symptoms, causes and cures. I found myself hoping to have the disease which is bizarre given the seriousness of the condition and the havoc it causes on the body. The fact that it is not only curable but most of the problems are reversible offers me a quality of life that I thought I could never have again. (since then it has become apparent only some of the problems are likely to reverse)
I underwent testing to confirm I had Cushing’s syndrome and the particular form I had (turned out to be Cushing’s disease). I had extremely high levels of cortisol and a combination of the cortisol and dexamethasone used for testing sent me into a manic state. I had turns where I couldn’t speak. These lasted for about a minute and I had many of them.
I went by ambulance to hospital by ambulance and was admitted. I remained in hospital for 9 weeks, the first 5 of which I was in a manic state. I can’t remember much about that but from all reports I was a very difficult patient. The medical staff tried a variety of treatments until they finally found one which worked.
While was happening, I had several MRI scans on my pituitary gland which failed to find the tumour.
Since then I have had the MRI’s repeated on two occasional but to no avail. This is a common problem with the disease because the tumour is very small
My spell in hospital weakened me to the stage where I was in a wheelchair. I took on rehabilitation and am now walking unaided, albeit with a limp. The pace I can walk is slow but gradually improving. All in all my health has improved dramatically.’
My doctors have decided that they could not operate on me due to my poor health and the fact that they could not find the tumour. As a temporary measure I am taking ketoconozole to control my cortisol levels. That is working well and I am being to show signs that the symptoms of Cushing’s are reversing (loss of weight and, moon face going and strength returning). However, my cortisol levels are at the high end of normal and this appears to be limiting the pace of my recovery.
Ketoconozole is not a drug which should be taken for long periods, and we are hoping that the tumour shows in future scans. An added complication is that the original manufacturer has ceased manufacture and I am reliant on a generic I am importing from India.
I have returned to playing golf generally twice a week. I have been attending a specialised gym which works on strengthening my back. The pain is becoming less frequent and less in intensity.
I do suffer from excessive swelling in my legs, particularly the left leg where I had the DVT. My vascular surgeon operated on this to improve blood flow. He believes that the current swelling is due to poor circulation and has prescribed full length stockings to be worn during waking hours. He also recommends a targeted exercise program to improve the blood flow in my leg.
I have recently started working with a physio and this seems to be helping.
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