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Shon (Shon), Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Two months before my 31st birthday, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I was really shocked considering no other family member (maternal or paternal) had this disease.

Well, as the months followed, so did other diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. Each diagnosis brought more shock because I felt great and could keep up with any 20 year old out there. Within the next two years I had gain 70 pounds and looked like an apple with popsicle sticks for legs. I also seemed to have more symptoms which seemed to be dismissed by the doctors because it was also a symptom of one of my other diseases.

In the past 8 1/2 years, I’ve had 3 doctors, 3 endocrinologists, a hemotologist, a nuerologist, and 2 cardiologists that just keep attaching my symptoms to one of the labels that has already been given to me. Now, at the age of 40, I feel like I have the body of an 80 y/o. I can hardly walk because of the clots in my legs (have 2 stints), can’t stand for long and bending just kills my back because of the crack in my L5 S1 vertebrae, and among other things, can’t seem to do anything because of the extreme fatigue I have. I have no doubt that I have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, clotting problems with my arteries, and everything else they want to label me with, but it seems to me that after only 8 1/2 years, my health shouldn’t have gone down hill so fast. I also take 16 pills a day because each doctor wants to give me a medication for each symptom.

For a few years, I’ve been searching the internet for an answer. I would spend hours and seem to hit a brick wall each time. Still, I wasn’t going to give up. No one gets so sick that quickly from any of the diseases I’ve been diagnosed with. Just the other day, I was watching Mystery Diagnosis . I don’t even remember what it was about, but it did prompt me to start my internet search again. I did something different this time. I didn’t research all of my “diseases”. I simply typed in the search field: “Do any diseases mimic diabetes”. Guess what popped up all over my screen. Yep, Cushing’s Disease. I went to article after article and website after website. I was amazed to find that many of my symptoms were linked to Cushing’s Disease. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My “diseases” could actually be a symptom of a bigger disease which would explain a lot to me. Now I have another endo which I’ve made an appointment with (a month away, yuk) and I’m going to ask to be tested specifically for Cushing’s Disease.

Below I’ll list my symptoms.

Round “Moon” Face, Fat Lump on Back of Neck, Low Potassium, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, High Blood Sugar, Glucose Intolerance, Insulin Resistant, Muscle Weakness, Fatigue, Anxiety, Irritability, Depression, Decreased Fertility, Decreased Libido, Acne-like Rash, Backaches, Excess Facial or Chin Hair, Slow Healing Cuts or Scratches, Large Abdomen, Insomnia, Irregular Periods, Edema, Scalp Hair Loss, Excess Sweating, Memory Problems, Dizziness, Low Growth Hormone.

I also have a chronically high platelet and white blood cell count. The Hematologist couldn’t even figure it out (Yes, cancer has been ruled out with a bone marrow biopsy). I’m not sure if that has anything to do with Cushing’s or not, but unfortunately I have that as well.

Sometimes we tend to forget that many doctors only spend 7-10 minutes a visit speaking with us and forget about us about 7-10 minutes after leaving the room, and they certainly don’t lay awake at night thinking of us. It is much easier for them to treat a symptom that has already been issued a label rather than find a bigger cause for it, so we sometimes have to take matters into our own hands and help ourselves.

I’m thankful to have found this sight. If I find out that I do not have Cushing’s, I will continue my search, but it is nice to know that I will find an answer someday.

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Jill (Jillleesmith), Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-glands

 

Cushing’s Syndrome
Addison’s Disease

After I had my daughter in 1995, I started gaining weight. I went from 110 pounds to over 200 pounds in a year. I had so many symptoms and was told to quit eating. My family wondered what happened to me. I never ate much. I was always the smallest one. One doctor even wrote me a prescription to get a dog. Over the course of 10 years, I was told I had possible MS, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, severe depression resulting in several suicide attempts, hallucinations, declining vision, stress, severe fatigue, inability to work, divorce, personality disorder, inability to walk the stairs or walk for that matter and numerous others.
I went undiagnosed for 10 years. I was home sick one day on September 9, 2006. I was watching Mysterious Diagnosis and saw a woman with my symptoms. She had Cushing’s Disease. She turned out to be Sharmyn McGraw, a friend and mentor. I made an appointment for the next day. I asked my doc to test me for Cushing’s. I was diagnosed with multiple tumors in each adrenal gland called Cushing’s Syndrome. I was literally on my death bed. I was unable to care for all my kids and had given my cousin custody of my oldest son and my ex was given full custody of my daughter. I did manage to care for my son Gavin, who actually took care of me. Riding his bike home from school to make sure I was ok and riding his bike home right after school to take care of me.

I went through many different testing including vein catheterization to see which adrenal needed to come out first. I begged my endo to just take them both but with that it would mean I would have to be on steroid replacement everyday for the rest of my life in order to sustain life. I had surgery on November 14, 2006 to remove my left adrenal gland. I lost 45 pounds in 1 month but all of a sudden I was gaining weight once again. It was found that the other tumor riddled adrenal gland needed to come out.

On February 14, 2008, I had my right adrenalectomy. This was an even more difficult recovery. I was hospitalized for 15 days. Resulting in Addison’s Disease, I am unable to work. I lost my home, my kids, my animals, my car, my life. I have not been able to return to work and am on disability. I am just surviving.

The reason for this letter???? First, I want to bring awareness to these very rare life-threatening diseases, Cushing’s Syndrome and Addison’s Disease. My body has never recovered from the extreme weight gain and weight loss. The overproduction of cortisol for 12 years, has caused irreversible damage to my body. I have lost 40 pounds. My stomach hangs and gets in the way. I could never be intimate with anyone because of how my body looks.

Steroids everyday for the rest of my life is a hard pill to swallow. Forgive the pun. Lol

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Erica (Ericaop), Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

I am 33 years old and at the age of 17 I had a sudden onset of weight gain during my senior year of high school. I was a size 8 and graduated wearing a size 18. My weight was mainly in my face and my stomach. My legs were small so my pants would be big in the leg but I needed a large waistline. I began taking birth control & thought it was a side effect from that.

I stopped having my period completely when I went to college & doctors said it was stress & I just needed to diet & excercise. I never ate alot and was a normal active teen. over the last 15 years I have been treated for blood pressure, water retention, high cholesterol and symptoms of PCOS.

In 2003 I was sent to an endocrinologist for suspected metabollic syndrome (syndrome X) that was ruled out & after an ultrasound of my thyroid I was told I had an enlarged thyroid & was treated for hypothyroidism. I quit my job & moved to another city to return to college loosing my health insurance & so I was back at the University health center. Blood tests showed my TSH levels & malehormone levels to be fine so they would not continue to treat me for the thyroid issue. Just cholesterol & sent me to a nutritionist.

After graduating & moving to GA, I went to see a new doctor and went through my history to be told the same, my levels are normal. Because my insurance does not require a referral & knowing I had a previous diagnosis of hypothyroidism I scheduled an appointment with an endocrinologist. My firstvisit wasn’t with him but with his PA in which I went over my long drawn out history. Blood work was done & upon seeing him on the second visit I was told the same, my levels are normal & I havehigh cholesterol so he treated me for that. It wasn’t until I stressed to him that I had been on cholesterol medication until the previous endocrinolgist did the ultrasound and took me off of it & said the thyroid medication would take care of it that he said he would send me for an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed small nodules, that were not there in 2003, but he says are too smallto be concerned with & he will check them in 6 months to see if they have grown, other than that I’m fine. I know this is not the case. I watch what I eat, I excercise for 2 hours 5 to 6 days a week & cannot loose any weight. I am frustrated & am noticing increases bouts of depression where I can’t control my emotions one day & the next I’m fine. I am always exhausted, and after excercising I need a nap, I thought excercise was supposed to give you energy.

I was just about to give up & begin to reconcile that its just me & I’m crazy as the doctors want me to think until two weeks ago I saw an episode of TLC’s Mystery Diagnosis where this woman was basically telling my story of the sudden weight gain & other symptoms & how she basically self diagnosed herself with Cushing’s Syndrome & went to an endocrinologist who confirmed it & she had surgery to remove a tumor. When I heard this, I knew this had to be it, but am wondering why my endocrinologist never mentioned this disease or tested me for it. I really do not like his lack of concern and care so I called another office to schedule an appointment which I cannot get until September 1st.

After doing further research I decided I really want to see someone who is knowledgeable about Cushing’s so I found the Pituitary center at Emory University hospital in Atlanta. I called today for an appointment & was asked my diagnosis. I told her I don’t have one yet, I was seeking a consultation for a diagnosis of suspected Cushings. She asked who my doctor was and about MRI results. I told her I haven’t had an MRI and that my doctor never did a cortisol test or any urine tests just only non fasting blood work. She told me to have my labs sent to them & that they would review them & call me to schedule an appointment. I faxed both my regular doctor & my endocrinologist a request for my records to be sent to this lady’s attention. I am scared that my labs will not show anything to warrant an appointment & I don’t know where to go from here.

I don’t have the money or time I feel to continue to wait months for an appointment to get an accurate diagnosis.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions on what I should do?

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Interview May 14 with Rebecca D (Rebecca D), Pituitary Patient

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Hi Ladies and Gents, my fellow Cushies!

I am a currently mid 20s student living in Toronto, ON, CAN, with big dreams and a big heart. I have been part of this network for a while now and although I’m not always active on the site, I am always eager to spread the word, the love, the support for any of you!!! Just contact me, anytime!

As for myself, I began gaining weight and not being able to control it when I was in my late teens/early 20s.

In 2007/2008 I began trying to figure out what was going on with my current family Doctor with no success. My mother (xoxox) was the smart cookie who saw an episode of “mystery diagnosis” and said “THAT’S MY LITTLE GIRL IN A NUTSHELL!”

Ironically, my family MD at the time AND the one after that said that was a ridiculous idea and it couldn’t be that and simply DID NOT TEST ME.

Luckily, in 2009 when I moved to Toronto for my new degree, I met with a new Doctor who is an admitted “over tester”, however she did help steer me to my Endocrinologist for the diagnosis. It took nearly 2 years of testing, Dex-suppression tests, IPSS, vials of blood gone, MRI’s, CT’s, and too many jugs of 24-hour urine tests we had it narrowed to a pituitary cause but could not locate it on imagine or by approximate location (right, left, etc).

So the wait began as I was referred to my neurosurgeon and the Pituitary Clinic and their hospital until the day came and I went under!

After 6 months of excruciatingly long and painful recovery (which I know any of us who have gone, are going through, or are awaiting to go through where they mess with our signalling organs can understand) I was finally feeling back to myself, my cortisol was in its normal range after tapering off of oral hydrocortisone (oh the irony) and have been feeling pretty great since, Some weight has come off, my stripes have faded (don’t worry, if you look hard enough you can still see them) and I hope to stay on a positive road of recovery! *knock on wood*

I must say, I never expected to the one in a million… and it wasn’t the “one in a million” I expected to be…  You can’t change the past but you can make the best of your future. I’m proud to be a Cushie, I’m grateful to have you all as my “family”, and you are all “one in a million” as well 🙂

Be Proud, Be Strong, Be Fierce… but most importantly, Be Happy

Stay Beautiful xoxox

If you   have questions for our guest, the call-in number is (347) 843-4703
Archives will be available at this same link after the interview and in the Cushie Podcast at http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/cushingshelp-cushie-chats/id350591438

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Rebecca D (Rebecca D), Pituitary Bio

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Hi Ladies and Gents, my fellow Cushies!

I am a currently mid 20s student living in Toronto, ON, CAN, with big dreams and a big heart. I have been part of this network for a while now and although I’m not always active on the site, I am always eager to spread the word, the love, the support for any of you!!! Just contact me, anytime!

As for myself, I began gaining weight and not being able to control it when I was in my late teens/early 20s.

In 2007/2008 I began trying to figure out what was going on with my current family Doctor with no success. My mother (xoxox) was the smart cookie who saw an episode of “mystery diagnosis” and said “THAT’S MY LITTLE GIRL IN A NUTSHELL!”

Ironically, my family MD at the time AND the one after that said that was a ridiculous idea and it couldn’t be that and simply DID NOT TEST ME.

Luckily, in 2009 when I moved to Toronto for my new degree, I met with a new Doctor who is an admitted “over tester”, however she did help steer me to my Endocrinologist for the diagnosis. It took nearly 2 years of testing, Dex-suppression tests, IPSS, vials of blood gone, MRI’s, CT’s, and too many jugs of 24-hour urine tests we had it narrowed to a pituitary cause but could not locate it on imagine or by approximate location (right, left, etc).

So the wait began as I was referred to my neurosurgeon and the Pituitary Clinic and their hospital until the day came and I went under!

After 6 months of excruciatingly long and painful recovery (which I know any of us who have gone, are going through, or are awaiting to go through where they mess with our signalling organs can understand) I was finally feeling back to myself, my cortisol was in its normal range after tapering off of oral hydrocortisone (oh the irony) and have been feeling pretty great since, Some weight has come off, my stripes have faded (don’t worry, if you look hard enough you can still see them) and I hope to stay on a positive road of recovery! *knock on wood*

I must say, I never expected to the one in a million… and it wasn’t the “one in a million” I expected to be…  You can’t change the past but you can make the best of your future. I’m proud to be a Cushie, I’m grateful to have you all as my “family”, and you are all “one in a million” as well 🙂

Be Proud, Be Strong, Be Fierce… but most importantly, Be Happy

Stay Beautiful xoxox

Update:  Rebecca is writing blog.  Find it at http://thecurvycushie.blogspot.ca/

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Angela Marie (Angela M), Undiagnosed Bio

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Growing up I’d always been anywhere from underweight to average with a couple chubby phases in my pre-teens and teens. I actually got into modeling work for nearly 10 years and I found myself having to take time off in 2008..At least I thought it would just be little while. Between anxiety, being fairly active and a high metabolism, I never had trouble losing weight until In 2007 out of nowhere, I found myself rapidly gaining a lot of weight. All together I had gained about 60-70 lbs in well under a year without my diet or lifestyle ever changing and I’d always been a light, picky eater. I went from a usual size 5-7 to 15 or S/M to XL/XXL. I got back into yoga, pilates and even bought a Total Gym. Working out and dieting even I wasn’t losing even so much as water wieght. I was notiing a whole host of new symptoms. From purple stretch marks, gaining weight, my fingers, toes and palms of hands constantly bright red. Weight gain/appearing swollen only in my torso and upper body, to even my features changing. Adema, constantly craving and eating ice. My once heart shaped face was now completely round and full starting from the top of my ears. I appeared more swollen than anything.

My first endo diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. He was the first to suggest Cushings and my first 24 UFC was 4 times higher than normal and the next was slightly above normal. The rest after that were in the normal ranges. Eventually hypothyroidism was ruled out after routine tests came back normal without taking the Synthroid and telling my doctor I was. Once I admitted it, he was so angry I proved him wrong that he dismissed me as a patient.

I was sent to another Endo and a specialist he referred me to. The next endocrinologist ended up being the most arrogant, rude person I’ve ever met and the few appointments I had with him ended up being mostly arguments or me breaking down into full blown panic attacks. The specialist I seen and his fellow who are supposed to be the best in my state initially believed I have Cushings once they went over my symptoms, medical history and photos documenting my physical changes. The specialist and my past endocrinologists even had grand round meetings on my case and still blew me off!

In 2008 I started having fluid/discharge from my right breast and after tons of testing to rule out breast cancer I was sent to surgery to remove the ducts. After this traumatic surgery, I still have fluid and from both breasts now that’s been ongoing for 6 years. Even after expalaining my situation and medical issues, I’m just told to lose weight. I went from completely normal sugar levels to borderline diabetic to “full blown” diabetic within a matter of months at the age of 26. I’ve seen numerous dieticians, nutrition and diabetic classes and no one can figure out why I’m not losing weight doing everything right. I was prescribed Metformin and lost a little over 20 lbs, but it was such a high dose it had to be lowered and I stopped losing any more weight.

Since everything started in 2007 it seems I’m adding more and more symptoms almost monthly to my already too long list with no answers as to why or what is causing them. I’ve done more research than some would consider humanly possible and probably more than some doctors I’ve seen! Reading blogs, forums, bio’s, etc. I can’t believe how many of the same symptoms I have as other patients. Mystery Diagnosis anymore is hard to watch relating so much to the stories I break down crying. The only symptoms I seem to be lacking is the constantly high cortisol, pronounced buffalo hump and thinning skin. Other than that I seem to have every single one, even the rarest or some I’ve never even seen associated. I’ve been offered so many possible diagnosis’, but nothing definitive. Everything from metabolic syndrome and PCOS to auto immune, parathyroid and that’s just your body!

I’ve seen or been pushed off on just about every specialist there is. At least my primary doctor admits there is something serious going on, but it’s over his head. Every single one of my other doctors, PA’s, surgeons or specialists believe I have Cushings, but I need an Endocrinologist to agree.

6 years later I still with labs all over the place, a list of literally 30+ symptoms and health problems because of this mystery disease that’s yet to be diagnosed. My Cortisol tests seem to be back and forth, but mostly showing low. My testosterone, ACTH and Insulin Like Growth Factor are all elevated. My vitamin D and iron are extremely low even with prescription strength vitamins. My white cell count is high enough to be sent to a cancer center to rule out different types of cancer. I was dagnosed with fattly liver disease and no answers as to why. Hair growth on my face and body, acne breakouts worse than I ever had in my teens. Chronic reoccuring skin, bacterial and viral infections.Dark pigmentation under my arms. Excessive sweating to the point my hair is soaked or sweat drips from my face in cool weather or shopping. Severe intolerance to heat. Growths or polyps on different organs without any further testing and more abnormal labs and symptoms than I can keep track of. I’m just at that point where I’m not sure if I give up and let it take me out or just keep searching for that one possible doctor who will listen and order the right tests.

All I know is I’ve lost so much of my life being so sick and disabled. Not working, not even modeling work on the side, no college to work with animals and be a veterinary tech, turning 30 and still not being able to get pregnant, going out and having fun like I should or even recognizing myself in the mirror. Loving swimming and summer, but can’t stand looking at myself or being engaged for over 5 years and pushing off a wedding because I don’t want to walk down the isle like this and look at my wedding photos remembering this time in my life.

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Jackie (samsmom), Adrenal Bio

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Jackie (samsmom) first started dealing with Cushing’s in her family when her youngest child was born in 1999.

Jackie has appeared on the Discovery Health tv show pilot, Mystery Diagnosis, discussing her fight for a cure for her younger daughter, as well. 
Download from amazon.com: Mystery Diagnosis

Later at the NIH, the gene (PDE11A) responsible for Sam’s illness was found. Her father carried the gene as did her two sisters.

Sam’s doctor at NIH, Dr Stratakis has written several papers on Sam’s case including one that was published in April, 2008. For more on PDE11A or iMad, please see A cAMP-specific phosphodiesterase (PDE8B) that is mutated in adrenal hyperplasia is expressed widely in human and mouse tissues: a novel PDE8B isoform in human adrenal cortex.

Jordan, Jackie’s oldest daughter, has recently had her adrenals removed. She had one removed laparoscopically and the other was an open adrenalectomy.

Listen to Archived Interview from May 15, 2008

Jackie last updated her bio 10/12/2009.  This is another Golden Oldie.

~~~~~~

On march 22nd 1999 Sam was born 5 weeks prematurely, weighing in at 5 lbs 11 oz after a difficult pregnancy and delivery. Sam didn’t ever ‘look’ right to me. I had had two daughters prior to Sam and never felt such a feeling of unrest and anxiety about a baby. The doctors assured me there was nothing wrong with Sam. She had enormous chipmunk cheeks and was bright red. She was very agitated and struggled with feeding due to the size of her cheeks. It was determined within the first 24 hours of life that Sam had “breathing difficulty” and trouble keeping her tempeture up. She was sent to the NICU the evening of her birth.

Around day three… Sam’s ‘pediatrician’ told me that Sam was having high blood pressure readings. A neonatologist was called in to observe her. Her pressures remained high and she was immediatly prescribed high bp meds. After weeks of increasing and adding additional doses Sam still had high bp. On day 18 she was transfered via ambulance to Seattle Children’s hospital.

She was catherized and given a 24 hour urine free cortisol test. She had necrosis so bad in her diaper area she almost lost concousness when her diaper was changed. Her bum was so raw and bloody it bleed through her plastic diapers down her leg. They lay her under a heat lamp and managed to make contact with the bulb to her skin. She got a 3rd degree burn. The 24 hour urine test was botched in the lab. Her hematicrit was 18. They sent us … home. On two different kinds of bp meds and a tube of desitin.

Sam was better off at home. We had a bp machine and monitered her every 4 hours. She was losing weight due to her feeding difficulties and she vomited anything she did manage to get down. Her bp slowly came down. We went to see an endo at about 4 weeks old who wanted to take blood out of her juglar vein for a blood test. All sam’s veins had collapsed at this point. I told him I would take Sam and jump out the window with her before I would allow the jugular blood draw. I left the building.

Over the course of the next month we realized we were on our own. Bill and I noticed that the bp was coming down so we slowly weaned her off the bp med and antibioltics(for the necrosis). Sam was rarely awake at this point and very frail and pale. We felt the meds were doing her more harm than good. We saw countless doctors who all came to the same brilliant conclusion; all these odd symptoms were simply due to her prematurity. Her serum cortisol at this point was 45. The so called doctors said she was under a great deal of stress, and dismissed the idea of Cushings syndrome. Because babies (even children) don’t get Cushing’s… after all.

At about 3 months Sam’s features started to normalize. The puffiness went slowly away… she began to feed better and the necrosis healed. Slowly she started growing but still vomitted most of her feeds. She screamed relentlessly and slept infrequently and for short bits… I sleep upright in a chair with Sam on my chest the first 9 months of her life. Sam awakened hysterically ever 2 hours on the dot. This continued until she was four years old.

Sam was slow to walk, speak, roll… she was small and thin and very crabby all the time. We trudged on… my other two daughters nearly invisible due to the needs of Sam. I knew Sam was sick. I knew there was something wrong. My husband diagreed with me. He told me to trust the experts. So reluctently, I did. Sort of.

At 19 months of age Sam, still waking every two hours, would be drenched with urine from literally head to toe. This was very strange. I ended up putting towels under her because I ran out of sheets. I slept in a cot in her room. With 10 days… Sam had gained 10 lbs. She was BRIGHT red and agitated. Her bp went back up… her appetite was vorocious. The only thing that soothed her was me rocking her back and forth and patting her back. She fell asleep to Ryan Adams “Stars go Blue”…she would scream until I repeated the song over and over and over…. She would hold her head and cry and cry… finally to sleep for two hours… the repeat.

We brought her to a new endo who thought she had prader wili syndrome. I explained she had gained 10 lbs in 10 days. He might as well have laughed at me. He said she was obese and had behavior problems. He told me it would take 5 weeks to get the PW test results back. When we did it was negetive. Though her cortisol was 49. Stress, he said, stress. By then Sam had shrank back down to her present weight and her chipmunk cheeks were gone. SHe still woke up every two hours and demanded ‘her song’ to get to sleep.

When she was well enough, I flew Sam to Arizona Childrens Hospital and visited with an endocrinologist in Scottsdale. This is the first I heard about cyclical Cushing’s syndrome. No tests were ordered as Sam was asymptomatic at that time. She remained Cushing’s free for about 6 more months.

At around 31/2 years… Sam went into a particularly bad cycle. She was so sick she couldn’t stand up. She sat and cried and cried and cried. Nothing could console her but that damned Ryan Adams song and her black cat Max. She gained 15 lbs in as many days. She got a face full of acne and stretch marks on her stomach. She rocked and cried and held her head.

About this time I posted my first post on this board. I was desperate, angry, terrified and sick with grief. I KNEW Sam was going to die. My posting was answered by the angels that are here… all agreed Sam had Cushing’s, all gave me strength and validated me… all were rooting for Sam. At the doctor the next day she had a urine test that showed protein in the urine. i was told to go to Children’s Hospital immediatly; Sam was diabetic. Huh?

I went in to the hospital raging. I demanded the endo on call…. I shouted at the fellow. I snapped at the nurse…. I kicked the bed out of my way….. and in walked Dr. Dan Gunther. Sam was screaming, I was screaming… he was calm. He sat down. He listened… he nodded…. I went on and on about Cushing’s and the board and the high bp and the acne and the necrosis and no one caring…. and the ‘Stars go blue’… for 2 solid hours. He took notes. I showed him pictures… I showed him what she had looked like 5 days prior…and 10…. He ordered an immediate ultrasound of her adrenals and sent us home with 3 jugs for 24 hour urine cortisols.

Dr. Gunther called me the next day (Thanksgiving) to see how she was. He told me he would help her. He told me he would help me. He told me “no one is going to die.”

Sam and I went to war with the urine tests. She was a champion. She was excessivley urinating at this point (and not night trained anyhow) so I woke her every hour to pee in a little bed pan. Soon Sam was standing up on her little bed, peeing in her sleep and hitting the repeat on her trusty CD player so she drift back off to her song.

Sam’s first 24 hour urine came in a 2900. Dr. Gunther admitted her for testing. He contacted Dr. Stratakis at NIH and followed the testing protocal recommended by him. All of Sam’s tests reveiled a Cushing’s diagnosis. On day 3 Dr. Dan told me there was some suspicion among the hospital that Sam had been given mega doses of steroids and was being posioned. I looked at him as though he had gone mad. He said that some docs felt I was giving her steroids. They thought I had Munchausen by proxy. I assaulted Dr. Dan verbally and he took it. Then he told me that he disagreed with them and kept Sam another day to prove that Sam’s adrenals were the ones making the steroids, not Sam’s mother.

The tests showed that Sam’s adrenals were in fact making the cortisol. I was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Dr. Dan sent us to NIH in February of 2003. Sam was not in a cycle at that time. Sam still tested positive for Cushing’s throughout 2 grueling weeks of testing. On the way home on the plane… Sam started shouting for her song… then she started eating all her food…. then my food…. then tried to get the guy’s next to me food…. I turned on “Stars Go Blue” and just ***knew*** she was starting a new cycle.

Within 10 days of arriving home and 3 more 24 hour urines it was determined that Sam was in a cycle. She gained 12 lbs. Dr. Stratakis told me via phone that she would need to have the bilateral adrenalectomy as she had tested positive for PPNAD. But first she would need to show high numbers AT NIH. They could only schedule us back the end of March… for the first time I prayed that Sam would STAY in the Cushing’s cycle…. Sam turned 4 on March 22, 2003. She got a guniea pig, a pony and twin kittens. She was too sick to care.

On March 28th we arrived back at NIH. Sam was coming OUT of the cycle rapidly, however Dr. S was very startled by the difference in her appearence.. I was insane with anxiety that she would have low numbers and be denied surgery. But my Sam pulled if off…. her 24 hour urines were around 500…. a little lower each day. Dr. S could actually WATCH Sam could out of her cycle.

Sam had a BLA on April 8 2003 (Harvey Cushings b-day and Cushing’s awareness day). Her surgery was successful. She stayed in the ICU for 16 days. 3 of those on an epidural for pain management. She was brave and strong and happy. She was all bubbles and smiles…. and didn’t have so much as a tylenol when the epi came out.

In Summer of 2005 the Discovery Health channel contacted me regarding a new show they were producing called “Mystery Diagnosis”. I agreed to tell Sam’s story along with Dr. Dan who had become one of our closest friends. Our show aired in November 2005.

In September 2006 Dr, Stratkis contacted us and told us he had found the gene responsible for Sam’s illness. Her father carried the gene as did her two sisters. I did not. Both of Sam’s sisters went back east for testing. Each were negative for active Cushing’s Syndrome.

In April of 2007, my eldest, Jordan (15 then) was back at NIH. She had had a 60 lbs weight gain during the school year. I knew what was happening. Dr. S’s tests confirmed it. Jordan had her left adrenal gland removed in October of 2007. There were complications and only one gland could be taken at that time. She recovered from that surgery within 2 weeks and we arrived home October 11, 2007. I recieved the devestating news that Dr. Dan Gunther had passed away. His death ruled a suicide.

During Christmas break Jordan began to get sick again. Her weight increased and her bp and sugars rose. I took it upon myself to find an endocrinologist and surgeon at Stanford University Advanced Cancer Center willing to preform her unilateral adrenalectomy. Dr. Jeff Norton preformed an open procedure and Jordan has recovered nicely. She has had little relief from Cushing’s symptoms and is still unable to go to school. Every day is a baby step for all of us. My life is a maze of pills 3 times a day for 2 kids at 3 different times. Forever.

Jordan and I will travel to NIH the last week of May 2008 for post op/6month testing. I am praying she does not have an active Cushing’s tumor on her pituitary.

I often wonder what happened in my other lives that dealt me such a tragic hand… whatever it was I hope it was fun. Sometimes I pretend I am a character in a Robin Cook novel… it isn’t that far of a stretch.

I miss my friend Dr. Dan everyday. My heart still aches whenever I think of him. I may never get over his death.

As I type this Jordan has just come in from a pedicure with her middle sister and Sam is watching Scooby doo… I can hear Sam’s CD still playing upstairs where she left it on… I swear to God it’s playing Ryan Adams “Stars Go Blue”.

 


Jackie and Jordan were the subjects of a Live Interview in the Cushing’s Help Voice Chat / Podcast series May 15, 7:30 The topic was Cushing’s in young people, the fight to diagnose, the amazing gift of a GOOD endocrinologist.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

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