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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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Woman with hump on her neck diagnosed herself with Cushing’s disease

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Jennifer Trujillo, 33, noticed she was mysteriously gaining weight and losing muscle despite training for an athletic event in 2012

A woman who lived with unexplained weight gain and debilitating symptoms is finally getting her life back after diagnosing herself with a rare hormonal condition.

Jennifer Trujillo, 33, noticed she was mysteriously gaining weight and losing muscle despite training for an athletic event in 2012. She consulted doctors, but they were unable to identify the cause.

As time went on, the music consultant and video director,from Santa Fe, New Mexico, noticed that her hair was falling out, her skin bruised to the touch, her face was increasingly round, and her bones were becoming more fragile, with her foot breaking unexpectedly.

Her anxiety increased, and Jennifer, who also suffered from debilitating migraines, consulted her doctors again. Experts told her she might have a thyroid problem, bad genes or the start of osteoporosis.

‘I was training for an athletic event and started noticing that I was gaining weight, not losing it. I was losing muscle, not gaining it,’ Jennifer said, recounting her symptoms. ‘Shortly after that my blood pressure shot up through the roof.

‘My face was taking on a moon shape, very round and chubby. My anxiety was so high. Unbelievable migraines. I’d explain all these things to doctors for years and nobody would listen to me.

‘They said I may have a thyroid problem, or I may be getting osteoporosis, or I just had bad family genes and I would have to struggle to stay a good weight. But none of it made sense. I was even referred to a therapist because they said I was making up too many symptoms to make sense.’

To Jennifer, none of these explanations seemed plausible because she was working out twice a day and eating a vegan diet.

It wasn’t until she noticed a hump growing on the back of her neck, known as buffalo neck, that she googled her symptoms and found they matched those of Cushing’s disease.

Jennifer had always thought the bump was due to her ‘terrible posture’, but she discovered the hump was in fact a symptom of the condition.

‘One night I was looking at it and I was so disgusted so I googled the words “fat on back of neck”, and this thing called buffalo neck came up,’ she said. ‘From there, everything unfolded. I found Cushing’s disease and it was every symptom I had to a T, everything down to my foot breaking out of nowhere.

‘I took this information to my doctor and he was the only one who listened to me. He helped me and the rest is history. He himself was amazed I diagnosed myself with such a rare disease.

‘In my best description I would say Cushing’s slowly attacks different areas of your body. You literally experience pain and symptoms from head to toe, and it felt like each week I was waking up to something new.

‘I was able to maintain a somewhat tolerable weight before this because I became obsessed with working out and eating healthy because all this time I just thought I couldn’t lose weight. My doctors mentioned that if I hadn’t done all of this activity then I would have been in much worse shape. I’d easily be over 200 pounds, may have diabetes, osteoporosis, the list goes on.’

Cushing’s disease develops when the body makes too much cortisol. The condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions, but can also develop as a result of a tumor inside one of the body’s glands.

The main treatment is to stop taking the medication causing it or to remove the tumor. If left untreated, the condition can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It affects about one in 50,000 people.

Jennifer found out she had a tumor on her pituitary gland that caused the body to overproduce cortisol.

Thanks to her active lifestyle, Jennifer’s weight gain, which saw her going from 105 pounds to 145 pounds was not as significant as it could have been.

Jennifer had surgery in August last year to remove the tumor on her pituitary gland and has been rebuilding her life ever since.

For Jennifer, recovery has been more difficult than living with the condition itself. She sometimes struggles to get out of bed as her body adjusts to producing less cortisol, meaning she feels less energetic.

However, her symptoms started to disappear almost instantly after the operation.

‘After surgery my symptoms quickly started to disappear like rapid fire. It was crazy,’ she said. ‘My weight dropped. I stopped bruising. The hump on my neck went down. My bones healed. My hair grew back. My face returned to its normal shape, and the best part, my blood pressure returned to normal.

‘My friends and family are amazed. Every time I see someone new they say I look like a completely different person.

‘Recovery is hard. I’m still going through it. Believe it or not it’s been harder than the actual disease. When your body is used to producing so much cortisol to all the sudden be producing nothing, your body crashes.

‘Some days it’s hard for me to get out of bed and move, I’m tired all the time and have zero energy. I’m only able to walk at the gym maybe two days a week. I’m currently on cortisol replacements so that my body levels out. Every two weeks I reduce my medication because the goal is to be completely off it and have a normal functioning pituitary gland.

‘However, every time I reduce my body crashes all over again, so it’s like a never-ending cycle. But I know that someday it will get better so I’m getting through it.’

Jennifer, who has been charting her progress on Instagram, shared her advice to others who might be suffering from similar conditions.

‘Never give up trying to find an answer and push your doctors to listen to you,’ she said.

‘If I hadn’t discovered this on my own I’d probably still be suffering.’

Read more:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5450135/Woman-diagnoses-rare-hormonal-condition.html

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A New Newspaper Article on Jordy

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Today’s article: Father-of-two, 42, who was scared of heights now skydives from 17,000ft with NO FEAR after surgeons removed his ADRENELIN gland

Mr Cernik suffers from ultra-rare Cushing’s syndrome which causes high levels of the hormone Cortisol – a steroid that regulates the metabolism and immune system.

In just three years, former Territorial Army recruit Mr Cernik, who is 5ft 8in tall, ballooned from 11st 5lb to almost 17st.

To treat the condition, Mr Cernik underwent a series of brain operations and two procedures to remove his adrenal glands, which also produce adrenalin….

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4418714/Father-two-42-no-fear-operation.html#ixzz4ebhHkMsI

Read more about Jordy.

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