Home

Ren, Undiagnosed Bio

3 Comments

 

Hi there. 27 year old female, never had kids. It’s been an awfully long couple years and I’ve been researching and reading all you lovely people’s bios on pituitary tumours, Cushing’s disease and Acromegaly for about that long.

My symptoms onset at a time where my lifestyle was out of control. I was drinking heavily, using drugs and didn’t have a care in the world. Or so I thought. At the time of my heaviest use (cocaine) I started having strange laundry list of symptoms.

Pressure headaches
Pain in my abdomen
Acid Reflux
Excess hair growth (abdominal, face)
Purple stretch marks on my abdomen
Weight gain of approximately 30lbs in a month (distributed in only my trunk/abdomen)
Swelling of arms, face (around eyes too) sore jaw, enlarged tongue (ridges on the sides, from my teeth)
Swelling of hands, feet & legs (increased foot size from size 7 to 8)
Exhaustion
Hair loss on scalp
Itchy, sensitive skin that looks very thin (see-through almost, blue veins very prominent all over body) skin redness as well, large pores. Dull eyes.
Fatty deposit on the back of my neck
Collar bones no longer visible
Diagnosed with anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD
Memory loss, brain fog
Irregular menstrual cycles and increased pain
Tunnel vision at times and blurred vision. Sensitivity to sunlight.

At the time, I was so messed up my perception of reality was pretty skewed. The combination of my lifestyle and all the symptoms mentioned above motivated me to get clean (a year and a half so far woohoo!) I knew something was wrong and I needed to figure out my baseline without substance abuse to get to the bottom of it. At my lowest point I met up with my parents who I hadn’t seen in a month and they commented on how different I looked. One of my friends from narcotics anonymous hooked me up with a great physician as I didn’t have a family doctor. I was determined to get to the bottom of all this.

When meeting with my new family doctor (after getting sober) all of the focus was put onto my recovery and mental health. Seeing as she didn’t know me beforehand she didn’t know the petite, energetic person I used to be. I voiced my concern about my physical changes as well as my mental ones. I was referred to a psychologist. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety and prescribed meds for all of the above. The interesting thing is I didn’t have these problems before the physical symptoms onset. This was followed by countless ER visits for panic attacks, being dismissed countless times for strange physical symptoms that every medical professional attributed to my history of drug use and mental health. I believed them at the time. I was also diagnosed with TMJ disfunction and started seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist with no improvement.

The year that followed was the most challenging of my life. I thought I was going crazy. I tried eating an extremely healthy dairy free, wheat free, exercising constantly with no change. Seeing various doctors, explaining my symptoms only to get basic bloodwork done and sent on my way. It wasn’t until I decided to get off my psychiatric meds and focus on finding a diagnosis for my physical ailments that things started to change. I visited the ER and the doctor on call actually listened, he referred me to a rapid assessment internist. To date I have had a thyroid panel, hormone panel, all basic bloodwork, thyroid ultrasound, abdominal and pelvic ultrasound, cortisol 8am test, 24 hour urinary cortisol- all came back within normal range. I have been tested for angioedema, (neg) referred to an allergist, dermatologist and endocrinologist.

When I saw the endocrinologist he basically said “I see people with your symptoms all the time and there is never a diagnosis, so you’ll probably have to live with this” I was instantly worried and heartbroken with that response. He ordered some tests, ACTH, another 24 hour urine, T3 T4, DHEA-SO4. I’m waiting on these results now. Saw my internist again after the endocrinologist as he also ordered a prolactin and ACTH test which I hadn’t obtained the results from yet. ACTH was slightly elevated as well as prolactin. (High) not by very much. He ordered a CT scan of my head which I have to wait a month for (he said possible hyper prolactinoma of the pituitary). I’ve asked to have my growth hormone (IGF-1) levels checked, endo says “nope you don’t have Acromegaly”

I am trying to stay strong but I’m on the verge of losing home based my business as I’m a hairstylist and am starting to develop tremors in my hands, I can barely get up in the morning, I feel as though no one understands what I’m going through. I have a sense of urgency within me to find a diagnosis, my body is screaming at me that something is very wrong. My symptoms above increase in severity by the day. Have any of you diagnosed with Cushings out there experienced only slightly elevated ACTH results or prolatcin? I was also curious if anyone has an enlarged/ swollen tongue as a form an ACTH secreting tumour, I’ve tried to find information on it but only points to an acromegalic symptom. Something inside of me is telling me this is either pituitary or adrenal related. I can’t help but wonder if my drug use somehow stimulated my pituitary.

My personal life is non existent, I have isolated myself from my friends who no longer reach out or accept me (even though I have attempted to confide in them). I feel as though everyone but my family thinks I’m completely out to lunch. Just want to thank everyone on this site for sharing their stories, when I’m feeling hopeless and at a dead end, reading your bios are the only thing that is keeping me going and pushing for a diagnosis!

 

HOME | Sitemap | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio | Add Your Doctor | MemberMap | CushieWiki

Kali, Undiagnosed Bio

2 Comments

undiagnosed3

 

Hi Everyone,

My name is Kali, I’m 20 years old and I’ve been on this journey for a year and a half now. Before this all started I was petite 5’3″ and 123lbs at my heaviest, I was incredibly active, I played multiple sports including soccer, ringette and swimming and I worked out 4-6 times a week. I stumbled across this wonderful website last night after becoming so frustrated with the way I have been treated and bounced around from doctor to doctor. Honestly reading some of your stories is like reading my own. I’m hoping someone will be able to reach out and send some advice my way.

This all started last year when I noticed all of a sudden my regular work out routine had become extremely difficult my legs fatigued quickly and my heart started racing just walking. I went to my GP who said I was having panic attacks while walking around. I of course said this wasn’t possible and left discouraged. 3 days later I ended up in the ER due to a racing heart rate at over 180bpm while lying down.

Now fast forward 6 months, 7 rounds of blood work and 5 appointments with 2 cardiologists and everything came back normal. I was fed up. I now couldn’t even walk up a set of stairs without becoming fatigued and working out was no longer in the picture at all. I even found getting out of bed in the morning difficult. The doctors all said it was in my head, it was anxiety, I needed to push through and everything would get better. Funny thing was I used exercise to deal with my anxiety for many years and I knew this wasn’t anxiety.

I honestly ended up no where and sort of gave up. Some doctors thought it was hyperthyroidism, 1 thought Wolff-Parkinsons White but everything came back normal and they all settled on a diagnoses of anxiety and I was prescribed multiple different anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications which my stubborn self refused to take. I accepted that I couldn’t work out or run or be who I used to be and I focused on school and tried yoga, light jogging and small sessions of weight lifting instead of intense gym work outs.

Now we fast forward another 2 months or so. I started craving sugary foods, I had never had a sweet tooth before I never even used to like chocolate and all of a sudden it was all I wanted. I developed a lot of back pain between my shoulder blades and I just assumed this was all because of upcoming exams, bad posture and just life. I really shouldn’t have.

4 more months go by and I went home after school finished. My mom immediately said I had gained weight. I mean I had noticed some of my clothes were tighter but I figure I just accidentally put them in the dryer. 2 weeks later. Nothing fit. I had outgrown all of my clothes in just over a month. When I stepped on the scale I thought it was broken. I had gained over 30 pounds in less than a month. 123 – 156lbs. My face was puffy and red with acne, I had a huge hump between my shoulders. My breasts doubled in size, my stomach was huge but my arms and legs were normal. I immediately went to a new doctor recommended by a friend and she agreed something wasn’t right and sent me straight out for some bloodwork. But of course…. everything came back normal. I even did a dexamethasone suppression test which too came back normal.

I have all the trademark signs of cushings syndrome. Round red face, buffalo hump, bruising easily, unexplained weight gain primarily in the face and abdomen, purple stretch marks on breasts and thighs, muscle weakness, tired all the time, heart palpitations, increased thirst and sweating. But I cannot get a positive diagnoses to save my life. I don’t know what to do. Not 1 doctor has been able to make 2 + 2 = 4 and I’m so upset. I hate looking in the mirror, I hate waking up with 0 energy and no clothes to wear everyday. I’ve seen 3 doctors, 2 cardiologists a nurse practitioner, an endocrinologist who didn’t even give me the time of day with my normal results and I’m scheduled to see an Internist in about a week. Should I just ask him to send me for an MRI? I feel like that is my only option left.

If anyone has any suggestions of what direction I should pursue that would be much appreciated. It’s hard to fight for yourself when you’re the only one on your side.

HOME | Sitemap | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio | Add Your Doctor | MemberMap | CushieWiki

Heather (HeatherKY), Pituitary Bio

Leave a comment

golden-oldie

 

From Monday, February 2, 2009

Greetings! This is Heather from KY. I finally am sitting down to type out my bio to try to help others should they recognize their own symptoms in my story.

I am 33 years old and I was never someone who was overly sick. I had my occasional bouts with the flu and at least one sinus infection a year, but overall was extremely healthy. I am a former semi-professional dancer and maintained a weight of around 120 lbs. I was blessed with super metabolism and never had to diet, but all that changed around 2002.

In 2002, I developed a case of Bell’s Palsy. It came on over the course of about 5 days affecting the right side of my face. My PCP placed me on a 70 mg daily dose of prednisone to be tapered after 1 week. I felt the effects of the steroid immediately, both good and bad. I was wired every night, up at 2 to 3 o’clock for hours. And the intense hunger about drove me over the edge. Additionally, I experienced a weakness in my jaws and neck that was quite disturbing. Eventually though, after tapering off the prednisone, those symptoms went away and I began to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and lost around 23 pounds, even becoming a lifetime member.

Life went along well for a while, I’d lost weight, had a good job and a great boyfriend. But then things started to change. I underwent a personality change that caused me to be moody and upset and pick fights with my boyfriend for no reason. My arms started going numb and I developed a fierce neck and shoulder pain. Even though I was still following my WW eating habits and going to the gym, the weight started to creep back on.

Along about this point in time the panic attacks began. I would go to bed, sleep for 2 or three hours and then suddenly wake up with a racing heart and feeling like I might die if I didn’t release some pent up energy. I literally would jump out of the bed with this horrific feeling that could best be described as “impending doom”. It was such a miserable feeling that I made an appointment with my PCP who thought it odd that I would have panic attacks in the middle of the night, so he began treating me for asthma.

I began to withdraw socially. I didn’t want to be around other people when I was feeling so poorly. My boyfriend decided to move on to a more sociable person, and I slipped into a deep depression. I felt like I was losing my mind and completely losing control. I finally began to consider that I was truly mentally ill. I researched mental illness and found that I had characteristics, but nothing truly fit the bill. I identified with some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder as I experienced wild swings in mood. But I also realized that my problems were not just psychological. I started to gain even more weight. Working out became extremely uncomfortable because of the crushing fatigue and feeling of not being able to breathe.

Trips to my primary care doc were not giving me the answers I needed. No one was looking at the aggregate of my symptoms, only the individual instances. I emerged from each visit a little more depressed than when I went in. I was given anti-depressants and a variety of herbs and natural combinations to try. Literally nothing helped. A small dose of thyroid alleviated a portion of the fatigue, but I still felt I was not getting to where I needed to be.

Oddly, the thought that kept popping into my head during this time was that I felt as if I was on steroids again. But that did not make sense as I had not taken a dose of steroid in several years.

Ultimately, my grandmother gave me an article about a woman whose story was eerily similar to mine. She was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. I’ve been involved with companion animals and animal rescues for a number of years and was familiar with Cushing’s in dogs…but had no earthly idea that a human could get it! I remember having such a strange mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I was scared for what may lie ahead, but at the same time I was excited and hopeful to be able to put a name to what had caused me to lose so much of the life I knew. An appointment with my primary care doc and superstar nurse practitioner brought excited concurrence from both.

I was referred to an endocrinologist who then literally laughed in my face when I mentioned Cushing’s. He then proceeded to tell me I was taking too much thyroid hormone and lowered my dosage. Yikes!! Never one to blindly accept the established order, I decided to do my very own research and seek a second opinion. And then a third opinion. All were in agreement on one point: I look “cushingoid”. But some of my tests came back with normal and even low(!) results. Hence I was sent on my way with the proverbial pat-on-the-head…and a recommendation for Weight Watchers.

Fast forward several frustrating months, and I entered into an intensive testing phase for a version of Cushing’s called “cyclical” or “episodic” Cushing’s after seeking the help of an expert in the disease. With cyclical Cushing’s, your cortisol levels fluctuate from high to low and then back to high, producing erratic results and further complicating an already complex disease.

My list of symptoms is fairly typical of Cushing’s:
• A 90 lb weight gain, concentrated around my stomach, that does not respond to diet and exercise
• A round, red face (moon face, facial plethora)
• Acne, much of it on not just my face, but also my neck, shoulders and chest
• Muscle weakness, making it difficult to squat or climb stairs
• Cuts and insect bites are slower to heal and my skin easily bruises
• Severe hair loss

In December 2008, after many years of feeling hopeless and alone, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease caused by a pituitary tumor. Transphenoidal pituitary surgery has been scheduled for February 2009.

If you are just starting your journey, please listen to what your body is telling you. If you are unsatisfied with the answers you are receiving from your doctors, take matters into your own hands. Research and learn as much as possible and do not be afraid to fire a doctor that is not helping. And, most importantly, never give up hope. I’m so glad I didn’t.

HOME | Sitemap | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio | Add Your Doctor | MemberMap | CushieWiki

Melissa (Melissa), Suspected Pituitary Bio

Leave a comment

The pituitary gland

The pituitary gland

At only 19, I have been through a lot medically. I went through puberty at the young age of 8 and by age 15 was diagnosed with osteoporosis after breaking 20 bones within a year’s time. I had always had hormone problems and was put on birth control pills in hope to help.

This January I stopped the pill and within a few days started to feel crazy. After an allergic reaction to nuts I went to the hospital and was put on prednisone. Within a few days I was miserable and ended up on suicide watch. I knew my hormones were wacky and I had panic attacks, depression and anxiety all of which I never had before.

Over the next two months I gained 40+ Lbs all in my stomach and got “moon face” with a slight buffalo hump. I was exhausted all the time. I bruised easily and was afraid to talk to doctors for fear they would put me in a mental ward for my anxiety and depression. I could barely sleep through the night becuase of nightmares. I had no libido and started growing a lot of facial and body hair…

When I came home from freshman year, I finally went to the doctors. Urologists, cardiologists, endocrinologist, gynogylogists you name it. Most wrote me off. The endocrinologist diagnosed me with PCOS and hypothyroidism after blood work and becuase of my symptoms. However I kept having headaches and would be freezing and rapid rate heart even when laying down. I finally perseuded the doctor to do a brain MRI. I got the results last week and there is a suspected 3mm pituitary microadenoma. Of course my endocrinologist left for a month vacation and I go back to school next week.

Right now I’m in the process of figuring out where to go and what to do but I feel like this would be the closest thing to what I have… Hopefully answers will come soon

HOME | Sitemap | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio

Sandi J, Undiagnosed Bio

Leave a comment

Recently I had a kidney stone. I went to the ER where they did a CT scan. The confirmed the stone and gave me pain pills to tough it out. A couple of weeks later I got a letter describing all of the CT findings. I had to look up all of them to figure out what they meant. One of them was adrenal adenoma. When I started reading about this one it was like reading my medical history. Weight gain in the belly, hump on my shoulders, high blood pressure, high sugar, high triglycerides, fatigue, depression, serious panic attacks, aching muscles…

I didn’t have a regular doctor because I just moved to Phoenix and was fed up with the VA. I’m a disabled vet due to a back injury in my first year of enlistment. So I got an internal doctor and showed her my CT findings, she wasn’t worried but upon insistence I got her to test more. She called me a few days later to tell me that it was a functioning adenoma. She is sending me to an endocrinologist because it might be part of a bigger autoimmune disease, I’m guessing Cushings.

I told her I knew exactly when it started, in 2003. That was shortly after finishing Hepatitic C treatment and when I had my first panic attack. I had no idea what was happening and called 911 and took an ambulance ride to the ER. They found nothing physical, so continued my life of being treated as a hypochondriac. Oh yes, prior to the Hep C diagnosis I was treated as a mental patient, depression got stamped on my forehead for over a year…

Now here I am 11 years later, 60 pounds over weight, can barely go up stairs without getting out of breath and starting a panic attack. Doctors have been riding me about my weight, and not exercising… Finally they hear me!

Now I have found this board and have lots of reading to do.

HOME | Contents | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio

Miriam, Undiagnosed Bio

Leave a comment

golden-oldie

Hi. I am M and I have had healthy problems for as long as I can remember.

It started when I was 10 with severe anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Luckily, I don’t remember most of the details, but I remember being under the care of a child psychiatrist and a psychologist. I was on a cocktail of medications for about a year. As some point, my mother read a bunch about the dangers of these medications and somehow weaned me off of them. I remained under the care of my psychologist for a year or two after that.

I think we hoped at that point that things would go back to normal, or something like that, but sadly, we were very wrong. A couple of months (possibly a year) later, I was diagnosed with diabetes, shortly before my 12th birthday. This was 12 years ago, when type two diabetes wasn’t often (if at all) diagnosed in kids that age. It took the doctors a while to determine if I was type two or type one, but they eventually settled on type two. In reality, it barely made a difference, as I was on insulin and oral medication- in essence being treated for both types.

Again, I wish I could say that this was the end of my health problems, but it wasn’t. For starters, my insulin resistance was (and still is) so bad that I am on enormous doses of insulin just to maintain a non-dangerous blood sugar level. I have  been plagued by nasty skin (bacterial, yeast and abcess) infections since high school requiring hospitalization from time to time, and anti-biotics terribly frequently.

I was diagnosed with PCOS at some point, having all of the typical symptoms: facial har (I actually bought myself a hot wax pot to avoid the cost and nuisance of going to get it all removed every week or two!). My period has never been regular. I have gone as many as six months without it, but it can be more frequent also. Obviously, I am quite heavy and have struggled with weight my entire life. Dieting is a horrible situation, as it takes extreme effort for me just to maintain my weight.

About two years ago I had terrible gallstones attacks, finally having my gallbladder removed after a week in the hospital with a gallbladder infection. I also have problems with nausea and heartburn which can be very severe at times. About 10 months ago I was diagnosed with an ulcer.

At some point my endocrinologist (whom I see for the diabetes) asked about my family history at length, and then concluded that it simply didn’t all add up. I do have a family histoty of obesity and type two diabetes on both sides of my family, but nobody has ever had a problem before 45-50, other than gestational diabetes. My siblings are on the heavy side, but not obese like I am. I don’t eat differently than they do, I don’t live differently than they do. He ordered a 24 hour urine test, assuring me that he is sure it is nothing but he wants to be thorough. I pressed him for details and he admitted he is testing my cortisol levels as he suspects they may be high and causing some of my problems.

I left the doctor’s office and (against my better judgement!) googled cortisol levels. I stumbled upon cushings disease and lists of symptoms and it all just clicked. I started crying, half in fear but also half in relief. As scary as cushing sounds, I promise it can’t be worse than everything I have endured. The idea that we might be able to treat the root cause of all of my health problems sounded dreamy and amazing.

Then I got back the results of the 24 hour urine test, and it was on the high side, but still within the normal range. The doctor is completely unconcerned, but something in the back of my head can’t let this go so easily (especially reading here and on other sites about the inacuracy of that test in diagnosing cushings).

I am facing this alone, am not a good advocate for myself, and am overwhelmed already, so I let it go. But now I have a new symptom, and when googling it (again, bad idea) I came across cushings again. And now I just can’t let it go. A couple of months ago I started experiencing severe pain deep in my legs (it feels like it’s the bone) when I walk. At first, I ignored it and started to cut down my walking. Eventually it got so bad that a walk down the block brought me to tears from pain. I finally went to my GP, who sent me for an MRI of my lower back. It turns out that I have a herniated disc in my back, but the doctor explained that he doesn’t think that actually explains the matching pain in both legs, as it is only on my right side.

He checked my vitamin D level, and said it was so low it is undectable. He sent me to an orthopedist, but I am still waiting to see that doctor. I am at my wits end right now. I am not yet 24 years old, and my body is in shambles. I can’t walk a block without pain, and when I push myself to walk and stand on my feet the pain gets so bad that I have to spend a couple of days in bed recovering. My friends talk about doing all kinds of things like going on hikes or visiting the statue of liberty, and I make excuses because I know there’s no way I could physically do something like that.

Right now I am so torn. On the one hand, I have a family history of obesity and diabetes, and have been clinicly diagnosed with that. On the other hand, I read through the list of symptoms thinking “check, check, check…” I am quite large around the middle, but have super skinny wrists, ankles, fingers, etc. I don’t want to be diagnosed with cushings (or any other scary disease) but I can’t stop thinking that nobody’s luck is as bad as mine!

What do you think? Does it sound like I have cushings? If so, how should I proceed? Remeber, I am completely alone in this, I have limited resources and money, and I am timid and terrible at standing up for myself. I hope that someone here can help, because I have never felt so alone and desperate in my life.

Thank you in advance,

M

HOME | Contents | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio

Melissa F, Pituitary Bio

Leave a comment

golden-oldie

Melissa F was interviewed on BlogTalk Radio November 3, 2010. She has had pituitary surgery. Archives are available on BlogTalk Radio and on iTunes podcasts.

From the Clutches of Cushing’s

A journey through Hell… with a happy ending
by Melissa Fine

The most insidious aspect of Cushing’s Disease is, while it is attacking you physically, it is destroying your self-esteem, your peace of mind, your very spirit. That more doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, drug, alcohol and weight-loss counselors (and the list goes on) don’t know how to recognize something that, in retrospect, seems so blatantly obvious is appalling—and not only tragic, it is, in my opinion, criminal. I often wonder how many Cushing’s victims we lose to suicide because they were not able to get a diagnosis before they lost the will to live… simply because no one thought to look for the definitive answer in their blood, urine or saliva. I am certain that Cushing’s isn’t nearly as rare as the doctors believe it is. What is rare is their ability to recognize it.

This is my story…

First, you need to know that I was always a pretty happy girl (though PMS- related mood swings have always plagued me). I come from a very close family, always had a lot of support, had a group of true friends I could count on, and was always very driven to accomplish my goals. I moved to Las Vegas from Southern California in 1994, right after graduating from UCLA, to move in with the guy who would become my 1st husband (Rat Bastard!). My goal in life was to be a writer, and within a month, I landed a job with a magazine publishing company and was getting paid to do what I love. You should also know I was always way too skinny. No matter what I ate (and I was a picky eater, but what I did like, I ate as much as I wanted of it), I was lucky to keep my weight above 100 pounds. I was happy if I could maintain 105 pounds, so I didn’t look so gaunt…

In 1995, I started noticing something wasn’t right with me. I had every reason to be thrilled with my life, but I was constantly blue. Down. Not tragically depressed—that would come later—but I just never seemed to feel happy. I also found myself complaining of body aches and fatigue all the time. And I kept noticing big, unexplained bruises on my arms, buttocks, and thighs.

In July 1995, I was covering the opening of a new casino/spa in Mesquite, NV. I came out of some exotic acupressure chakra-cleansing massage with one thought: I WANT BEEF! Now, the mere smell of steak would always nauseate me, but I was starving and steak was the only thing on my mind. I ate a 16 oz. New York Strip plus a ½-pound of crab for dinner. Woke up the next morning STARVING and ordered another steak to go with my eggs, hash browns, toast and pancakes, and devoured it all.

That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

Over the next five or so years, I went to many doctors with seemingly vague, unrelated symptoms. I was always famished, so by this time, I was 145 pounds. The depression was also heavier, but at the same time, I felt a constant sense of anticipatory anxiety, like something was about to happen. In less than 10 minutes, a psychiatrist labeled me with “bi-polar 2” and I was thrown on mega- doses of serious anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. I caught every cold, was always bone-tired, constantly in pain, and was finding it more and more difficult to focus on anything. I went on and off various anti-depressants, none of which seemed to work for any length of time. The consensus among the many medical minds was that I needed to diet and exercise.

2000 brought a lot of change—and not the good kind. I found yet another new “family” doctor. This guy, though, actually tried. He noticed, after running a blood panel and looking at my many bruises, that my red blood cells were “abnormal” looking and that my white blood count was up. Up enough that, just to be safe, he wanted me to see a specialist. He told me not to be worried that “oncology” was on the specialist’s wall… he was just really good with blood.

By late August, I was in the oncologist’s office. After looking at more lab results, he promptly scheduled me for a bone-marrow test—which, in his opinion, was just a formality. He told Rat Bastard and me that I definitely had leukemia. My soon-to-be ex-husband asked him flat out: “Is there any chance that this could be something other than leukemia.” The good doctor said, “No. She has leukemia. We just need to find out which kind.”

Bone marrow tests take six weeks to come back. Six days before (and about two weeks from my 30th birthday) the results that would tell me which kind of leukemia I definitely had came back, Rat Bastard decided he “didn’t feel the same way about me anymore” and walked out.

Imagine my surprise when the good oncologist didn’t find the “Philadelphia” chromosome he was expecting to see. Still, he stuck to his guns and was really, really sure I had leukemia. He then took a job at MD Anderson in Houston, TX, but insisted I see his other good oncologist every six weeks or so to keep looking and monitoring my white blood count and my screwy red blood cells. After many months passed and my condition worsened with no explanation, the second good oncologist told me, “You are a ticking time bomb.”

Not helpful.

So, my wonderful boss (who was also a good friend, and, as it turned out, was the guy I was supposed to marry!), paid to send my mom and me to MD Anderson to speak again with the first good oncologist, who was now heading up a leukemia department of his very own. Time for bone-marrow tap Number Two, because he was positive that pesky Philadelphia chromosome was there somewhere.

It wasn’t.

I was back to square one. Only now body parts were starting to break. I fractured my foot by stepping out of bed the wrong way. I tore my meniscus— an injury I was told is usually found in professional tennis players—by doing a single jumping jack in a futile attempt to exercise. A new specialist ran a bone density test that showed I had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. Another specialist discovered I had insignificant, benign tumors on my adrenal glands—something, he told me, I had in common with approximately 25% of the population. But those revelations were the least of my concerns. The depression turned into an all-consuming black hole. For the next three years, not one day went by that I didn’t sob uncontrollably. I couldn’t do my work, because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to edit a simple story. I couldn’t read a book or even sit through a half-hour sit-com. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. Even worse, old friends and even my own cousin—people I hadn’t seen in a few years—didn’t recognize me either. They literally walked by me as though I were a stranger. My physical appearance was that dramatically different. I would wake up at 5 a.m., ravenous, and I would FORCE myself to wait until 6 a.m. before I would allow myself about a third of a box of Cheerios with non-fat milk. It was the only time of the entire day that I would actually feel “full.” It only lasted for about two hours, tops… but for that brief window, I found relief from constant hunger pains.

Alone, I no longer knew my own mind. I hid away in my craft room and started endless scrapbooking projects that I never finished. The pretty paper and nifty hole-punches somehow made me smile a little. Like many, I would imagine, I started to self-medicate. Prescribed painkillers.

Thankfully, mercifully, my family bonds were stronger than ever. My parents even moved to Las Vegas to be near me. And that guy, my boss, Glenn… though he met me in my 20s, when I weighed 100 pounds, married me in my 30s, knowing I was truly sick, not knowing what illness I had, and at my heaviest. I was 188 pounds on my wedding day, and he made me feel like a beautiful princess.

At some point around 2003, I had yet another new family doctor. Overall, his diagnostic skills were, at best, questionable. He knew just enough to send me to other specialists. But he was generous with his prescription pad, so I continued to see him. I do, however, owe this particular doctor a huge debt of gratitude. He was the first to mention the word “endocrinologist.” I didn’t know there was such a thing.

Many lab tests later, the endocrinologist told me I had too much of something called “cortisol.” She became annoyed when I asked her what that meant. She faxed her notes back to my family doctor. I noticed she had scrawled the word “Cushing’s” with a question mark after it. I told my doc I didn’t know what

Cushing’s was. His exact words were: “Well, I do know what it is, and you don’t have it.”

The endo disagreed, I guess. She had me scheduled to have my adrenal glands removed. Somehow, 10 days before my surgery, my many questions and stubborn attempts to understand why I was going under the knife really pissed her off. I received a certified letter informing me that, due to my “abusive and indignant attitude,” I was “fired.”

Meanwhile, my mom started Googling. She read the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease as though it were a page from my diary. It was a perfect fit. Except that, according to what she had learned, the lab results weren’t making sense. They were pointing to my pituitary gland, not my adrenals. I cancelled the date with the surgeon and headed back to the family doc’s office. He was quite pleased with himself, claiming he knew it was Cushing’s all along. (He still takes great pride in that epiphany. Why let the facts stand in the way of a good story, right?)

Family doc told me it was great news that my pituitary gland was the culprit: All I would need is a highly focused beam of radiation and some salt pills, and I’d be as good as new. He filled my prescription and sent me to another endocrinologist.

This guy was clever. He actually sent me for an MRI. Unfortunately, the MRI showed nothing. He was, however, in agreement with the previous, previous, previous doctor who told me the adrenal tumors were nothing to worry about. I trusted him, because he dropped the name of a renowned neurosurgeon at USC in Pasadena: Dr. Martin Weiss. I did some research. Dr. Weiss was the real deal—a graduate of Dartmouth and Cornell and a professor of neurological surgery. Finally… an honest-to-goodness expert.

Husband and I packed our bags and were off to Pasadena for a venous sampling. Who knew there was such a test? I found myself in the bizarre position of praying with all my might that I had a brain tumor.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Dr. Weiss confirmed that the MRIs did not show the tumor, but he did point to a microscopic something-or-other at the base of my pituitary gland that was tilted ever-so-slightly. He explained that he had, at best, a 50–50 chance of finding the tumor and removing it. He also told me that salt pills weren’t going to do the trick.

In December 2004, Dr. Weiss successfully removed the tumor from my pituitary gland.

This is the part of the story where I’d like to say I dramatically awoke with remarkable bravery and perfect hair to a room filled with calla lilies. Instead, my eyes opened to four or five post-op nurses, I was hooked via a tangle of cords to various machines, my mouth was so dry my tongue was stuck to my palate, and I was frantic to find a toilet. Bedpans just don’t work for me and my bladder was going to explode. After much arguing and cursing, the nurses decided unhooking me was safer than allowing my blood pressure to go any higher. They rolled over a porta-potty, I went forever, and no sooner did they re-hook me than I had to go again.

Learned a new term: diabetes insipidus.

The morning after being released from the hospital (prescription for diabetes insipidus filled and at arm’s length), I remember that, for the first time in nearly a decade, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. I was full.

I’d love to end it with that perfect tagline, but…

Back in Vegas, the brilliant endocrinologist put me on the whopping dose of 20 mgs of hydrocortisone a day. Anxious to “jump start” my adrenals, he quickly lowered the dose to 10 mgs.

After more than a year of seeing a cardiologist for my racing heart; a (mis) diagnosis of panic attacks because it felt like I had an SUV parked on my chest; repeated bouts of nausea and dizzy spells; low blood pressure; increased joint and muscle pain; more depression; and a complete neurological work-up for symptoms too similar to MS for comfort; my incredibly insightful endocrinologist told me to stop coming to his office, go home, and praise God because I was “cured.” In what can only be called a surreal segue, he then added that I should also praise God for my inability to get pregnant, because children are so selfish and self-centered that they only degrade your quality of life. Not surprisingly, he retired from medicine shortly thereafter.

It was at this point that I found the Cushing’s Help and Support boards and verified that I was not, in fact, insane.

One doctor’s name was repeatedly touted: Dr. William Ludlam. He sounded like the savior of all endocrine-challenged souls. I was astounded when he, personally, actually took my call. After listening patiently to my story, he informed me that I was not yet his patient, and therefore, he could not and would not offer me any medical advice or instruction over the telephone. He then told me a story of a hypothetical situation in which certain familiar-sounding symptoms would, to a trained hypothetical specialist, be immediately recognized as the brink of full-blown adrenal failure. I took the hypothetical hint, did some quick online research—and (following only my own hunch, rather than immediately seeing a local doctor as I should have done) took a significantly higher dose of Cortef. Within an hour, I felt human—a feeling I hadn’t known in more than 10 years.

Dr. Ludlam made room in his schedule and, the following week, off we went, at last down the road to recovery.

I celebrated my 40th birthday last month. As 2011 rapidly approaches, I can finally say that my adrenal glands are now functioning on their own. I have not had the need for Cortef in more than a year. I have battled the addiction to pain killers and am emerging as the victor. My size 4 jeans once again fit, and while I still fight depression, it is no longer my primary state of mind. Slowly, I’m regaining energy and enthusiasm. My thoughts are clear, my will is strong, my creativity is restored.

I live.

—–#—–

If you or a loved one is suffering with Cushing’s or Addison’s or you believe you might be, and you need to talk, please feel free to contact me with any questions or simply for an understanding ear. I can be reached at mfine@casinocenter.com (please put “Cushing’s” or “Addison’s” in the subject line) or follow me on Twitter @SinCityTweeter. My thanks and ever-lasting gratitude to MaryO, www.cushings-help.com , and all the fellow Cushies who helped me along the way.

HOME | Contents | Adrenal Crisis! | Abbreviations | Glossary | Forums | Donate | Bios | Add Your Bio

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: