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Teresa G (HB), Pituitary Bio

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I am a 47 year old woman diagnosed with Cushings Disease June 2014. I have always been one of those girls who was curvy, but was a yo-yo in the weight department.

About 1o years ago I was diagnosed with PCOS. I had extra facial hair, extra weight, irregular periods, infertility problems. Boy did I feel good about knowing what was wrong with me!

Then a couple of years after that I had a stress fracture in my right foot. I seemed to take forever to heal, but finally did. I had several uneventful years. I did have pain in my pelvic area for quite sometime before deciding something had to be done. Four years ago, after visiting my gyno, it was decided that I should have a hysterectomy due to fibroids. That is when the fun really started for me.

I really didn’t noticed, but sometime after that my skin became really oily, I had acne (for the first time in my life), and the weight had come on. My hair became quite wavy. And the stress factures started.

First my left foot, the 2nd metatarsal, then the 3rd metatarsal. All in all I have had four different instances of stress fractures in my feet, and one on my ankle. What got everyone’s attention though, was when my hip broke.

I had been seeing a chiropractor for back problems I figured were due to wearing a boot for my fractures on and off for years. My back did not seem to be getting any better. As a matter of fact my hip area seemed to hurt worse. Then, early the morning of January 8, 2014, I was trying to make my way to the bathroom, when I heard this awful noise, felt an even worse pain and down I went. Later the doctors figured I had had a stress fracture that had started to heal in the femoral neck of my hip, but broke.

All of my doctors were scratching their heads. But that was about all. My PCP ran some blood and urine tests, but really did not find anything out. I FINALLY asked every one of my doctors, since they did not know what was wrong, where did they suggest I turn. Each one said and endocrinologist. Of course my next question was “What is an endocrinologist?”.

That was in February 2014. I was referred to Dr. Ferries, one of the few endos in Wyoming. It took a while to hear from her, but when I did, I was disappointed to hear that the soonest I could get in to see her was in June.

In the meantime, I had refractured my ankle. April 1, 2014 I had the ankle repaired. April 7, 2014 I passed my first kidney stone. I let Dr. Ferris know about it. Shortly after that my appointment got moved to May.

My appointment with Dr. Ferries last about 2 hours. After asking all the questions, listening to my story and an exam, she told us she thought it may be Cushings, but needed to do several tests. She let us know that it was something that would take some time.

I did the urine tests, the blood tests, and an MRI. My cortisol levels were way out of the norm. The MRI showed a 6mm microadenoma on my pituitary. I was ecstatic! After deciding to have my little friend removed in Denver, Co, Dr. Ferries sent my referral to Dr. Lillehei at University Colorado Hospital.

I took a few days, but they called to make an appointment. July 31, 2014 was my appointment with the brain surgeon. I was so happy to be on my way to feeling better! I had to tell my story again to Dr. Lillehei, the brain surgeon. He did not see the tumor, so he wanted me to see his endocrinologist. Then I had to tell my story yet again to Dr. Wierman. She told me she was not impressed by my previous tests and MRI. She would like me to do them all again. She told us they had their protocols, and when they did not follow them, they usually got bit. I was disappointed, but understood.

Those results of those tests were inconclusive. My cortisol was not nearly as high. So the next step was IPSS. The petrosal was scheduled for August 18, 2014. The results of the that test were quite definitive. There was an ACTH secreting tumor on the right side of my pituitary. Hooray!! My surgery was scheduled for September 5, 2014.

The surgery went off without a hitch. Colin, Dr. Lillehei’s PA, then informed me that the surgery was the easiest part. He said I would pretty much feel like sh@%. He was right. I am feeling better and better. My skin is not a grease pit any more. I am loosing weight. My appetite sucks and sweets make me even more nauseated. I can manage to make it to aquacise several times a week, though. I am looking forward to the days when I have energy!

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Kirsty (kirstymnz), Ectopic Adrenal Bio

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Another Golden Oldie, Kirsty’s bio was last updated 08/18/2009.

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I don’t really remember when it first started. It was probably about a year ago when I think about it.

I found myself becoming easily tired all the time. I went from being a social butterfly and life of the party to an ‘old nana’ who stayed home all the time and went to bed early. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it; I just put it down to working hard and not sleeping well. I often had disturbed sleeps because I regularly (3 or 4 times a night) got up during the night to go to the bathroom and once I was awake, it sometimes took up to 2 hours to get back to sleep.

As the year progressed, I rapidly began to gain weight. Putting it down to ‘eating to many chocolate biscuits’ and not enough exercise, I began going to the gym 4-5 times per week and basically eating ‘rabbit food’.

The obsessive cleaning habit probably began around the same time as the weight gain; it got to the point where I couldn’t possibly think about doing anything else until I had cleaned every nook and cranny.

Throughout all of this, I was having very sporadic periods, which were very painful. I never imagined they could possibly be linked. I decided to visit my GP, who sent me off for numerous tests including an ultrasound, which resulted in a diagnosis of polycystic ovaries.

My GP referred me to an endocrinologist who then requested more tests, including a 24 hour urine collection (something I became very accustomed to during the course of my illness, eventually having to do them weekly). I heard nothing as a result of the tests, so I assumed all was fine.

As the months passed, my weight continued to raise, as it did, my self esteem fell. I also began to notice bright red stretch marks appearing on my stomach.

I reached the stage where my self esteem was so low that I decided to return to my GP. The first thing she said to me when I walked into her practice was “your face looks very cushingoid.” Having no idea what she meant, I sat down as she looked through my file. As she came across my test results that had been requested by the endocrinologist, her face dropped. The level of cortisol (stress hormone) in my urine was over 2000mg (the average person needs around 30mg per day). She instantly picked up the phone in a desperate bid to contact the endocrinologist, but was unable to get hold of him. Having left a number of messages, she told me she would be in touch once she had heard back, and so I left. I wasn’t really too concerned as at this stage, I had no idea just how important cortisol really was.

The next day at work, a phone call came through for me. It was the endocrinologist. He said I desperately needed to come in to see him. I left work straight away. When I arrived, he advised me I had Cushing’s syndrome. He spent the next few minutes telling me what this was, although it all went in one ear and out the other once he told me that it is 99% of the time caused by a pituitary tumor; all I could think of once he said tumor was ‘cancer’.

The following Monday, I was admitted to hospital for 10 days of tests (including 4 hourly blood tests)during which time my food obsession began (this obsession progressed to be the worst of them and became all I could think about). These tests concluded that I did indeed have Cushing’s.

The months that followed proved to be the hardest that I have ever faced. MRI scans, CT scans, numerous X rays. The hardest of all these was what they call a petrusal vein sampling (this is where they insert a catheter into the groin through the femoral vein which goes up to the base of the brain to look at the pituitary, they do this while awake – I could actually feel them moving around in my head.)

This test concluded that my Cushing’s was being caused by a tumor somewhere other than the pituitary (this only happens in 1% of cases, and there is about a 1 in 10 million chance of getting it). The question now was “where is the tumor?” I happened to be at one of my regular appointments at the same time as the Endocrinologist was to attend a meeting with the head of CT.

lungsTogether they looked at a CT scan I had previously had of my lungs, on which they spotted a small nodule which they believed could be the cause. Numerous more tests were to follow, including one where radioactive liquid (which I had to wait for over a month for to arrive from Australia) was injected into a vein in my arm, with the purpose of highlighting any tumors on a CT scan.

After such a long wait, this test proved a waste of time as it showed nothing (it turns out it only works 50% of the time anyway). Around the same time, I started having severe anxiety attacks, brought on by several major stresses. I decided the only way to ease the anxiety was to remove all the stresses possible; I did this by moving home to my parents.

The next week, another CT scan was required to see if the nodule had grown, it hadn’t. Feeling completely stumped, the endocrinologist decided to take a risk and remove the part of my lung that the nodule was on. Because it was so small, the surgeon required a hook wire to be placed in it in order to see where it was. This procedure was incredibly painful and one of the worst things during the whole illness that I’ve faced.

Disappointingly, this surgery was a failure, leaving me in the high dependency unit for 6 days and in immense pain.

The next step which was seen as a definite cure was to remove the adrenal glands (this really was a last resort, as once these are removed; hydrocortisone replacement is required for life in order to stay alive).

After this surgery, I spent another 6 days in the hospital, during which time, I experienced mood swings, dizziness, nausea and much more while my body adjusted to lower cortisol levels. I was sent home on morphine as I was still in so much pain from the surgery, however when I went in for a checkup 5 days after being discharged, the endocrinologist couldn’t believe I was still on it. In total I had been on it for 6 weeks, resulting in severe withdrawals when I stopped taking it (why anyone would voluntarily take drugs I will never know after going through this).

I am now 5 weeks down the track. I am not going back to normal as quickly as I had expected, physically; I am constantly tired and am still in pain from the lung operation which was 2 months ago, I’m told this could last up to year.

However, on a positive note, I have lost around 5 of the 15 kgs gained during the illness. I am also mostly back to normal mentally.

My Cushing’s disease is cured now, however I am now labeled as being a sufferer of Addison’s disease (where there are no adrenals, or the adrenals don’t work).

There is a long road ahead still, including reconstructive surgery of my legs, arms and torso, but I sure am glad to be out the other side of the worst of it.

Anthony G, Pituitary Bio

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The opening in a GE Signa MRI machine

The opening in a GE Signa MRI machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

58 year old male.

In 2009 was in excellent health. Have suspected something wrong with me for two years. Just was not feeling like my old self.

Diagnosed with Cushings October 8th, 2012. Developed symptoms of: Stomach extension (looked like I was pregnant), round face, skin easily bruses and tears, edema on feet and legs, high blood pressure, depression, brittle hair and hair loss, lack of concentration, & blury vision. Cat scan and MRI were negative, IPSS proved positive for Cushings.

Pituitary surgery performed on December 4th, 2012. Two microedenomas identified and removed.

Recovery pending.

Coleen (EyeRishGrl), Pituitary Bio

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Mid-2004, at age 24 and halfway through planning my wedding, I started gaining weight. Hair started growing on my chin. Unexplained bruises started appearing on my legs. The wedding dress I had ordered in January didn’t fit, and the salon had to rush-order an extra four yards of fabric, so the seamstress could insert an extra panel in the bodice.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t lose the weight. My face became round and red, and while I had never completely outgrown my teenage acne, it got 10 times worse. Even the strongest acne drug on the market, Accutane, couldn’t make it go away. I had been taking oral birth control pills to ease PMS cramps, but when I accidentally skipped a few pills in early 2006, my period never came. My gynecologist referred me to an reproductive endocrinologist who diagnosed me with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. My blood sugar tested high; I was pre-diabetic. Unbeknownst to me, they tested my steroid levels. They were elevated, but out of the range of normal.

In September 2006, my father was watching a local NBC news (which was a bit unusual; he normally always watched the local ABC news). The health segment was on, which he normally ignores. They were profiling a woman with a rare disease called Cushing’s. The woman had the same round, red face, and distended stomach. He called for me to come see the TV. “I think that’s what you have.”

I found a general practitioner, as I didn’t have one at the time. Prior to my first appointment, I wrote out my health history. I attached pictures of myself as I used to be (prior to getting sick, I was about 130 pounds). I listed my complaints (always tired, bruising, no period, acne, high blood sugar, depression). I brought everything with me. His response? “You don’t have that; it’s too rare.” Instead he told me I had high blood pressure (another Cushing’s symptom), gave me a prescription and told me to come back in two weeks.

He bullied me into enrolling in a study on depression and anxiety through a local teaching hospital. In order to enroll, I needed to submit a urine test. The urine test showed above-normal steroid levels, but he continued to insist I did not have Cushing’s. The study weaned me off my anti-depressant and onto an anti-psychotic. I was to slowly increase my dosage, stay there for a month, then wean off. In the meantime, I was going back to the general practitioner every two weeks for a blood pressure check (paying a co-pay every time). The general practitioner continued to diagnose me with everything ELSE under the sun, even referring me to a neurologist to rule out early-onset Parkinson’s disease. The neurologist told me that my general practitioner was an “idiot” (his words) and said, “Get thyself to a endocrinologist.” I called for an appointment, but they couldn’t fit me in for two months.

In the meantime, the anxiety/depression study had me wean off the anti-psychotic, and I relapsed so deeply into depression, I contemplated but never attempted suicide.

I brought the same health history, photos and complaints to the endocrinologist in January 2007. I didn’t even finish my “presentation” when he said, “You have the most classic case of Cushing’s I’ve ever seen.” He explained what it was, and the different causes. He explained that I was most likely facing surgery, and I would need to contact an endocrinologist at one of two hospitals in the city. I went to the one that was able to give me the earlier appointment, which turned out to be the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

My first appointment was very disappointing. They wanted to run their own battery of tests, the same tests I had already completed. To be honest, I broke down and cried on the exam table. But I did their tests. I got an MRI. They were concerned that my tests showed symptoms of Cushing’s, but there was no tumor visible on the MRI. They recommended I undergo a procedure called Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It happened in May 2007. I was sedated, and a catheter was inserted into the vein near my groin. Tubes were threaded up to my brain. I was given an injection of steroids, and my body’s reaction was measured. Results indicated the tumor was on the right side. Surgery was scheduled for the end of July 2007.

On July 3rd, after coming home from a meeting with a realtor where my then-husband and I put in an offer and good-faith deposit on our first home, I passed out and fell down the stairs. My family called 9-1-1, and the EMTs transported me to a local hospital’s emergency room. They tried 12 times to take blood, but were unsuccessful. They told me I was dehydrated, and to stop taking my blood pressure medication.

Two days later, I met with the ear, nose and throat doctor who would assist in the surgery. He explained his role, and the risks of the surgery, which included death. I asked how many have died from the surgery. He said that in the years he had been assisting the neurosurgeon who’d be doing my surgery, the only patient they’d ever lost on the table had undiagnosed blood clots in his lungs.

Three days later, while at work at a university in New Jersey, I collapsed again while standing at the copy machine. I was taken to a different hospital. My family arrived and explained my condition to them. They were unfamiliar with it, and asked for my endocrinologist’s phone number to consult with him. He directed them to check my lungs for clots. Sure enough, a CT scan showed massive blood clots on both lungs — they were 80% blocked. I was admitted to the ICU. I couldn’t even roll over in bed without gasping for breath. My surgery was cancelled.

I spent 5 days in the ICU while they did ultrasounds, CT scans and other tests. They wanted to give me Tissue Plasminogin Activator, a scary clot-busting drug that carries a risk of causing internal bleeding. I requested a transfer to the hospital where I was being treated for Cushing’s. I spent another five days in the hospital there, getting more ultrasounds and CT scans. They recommended a “wait and see” approach, and I was discharged on blood thinning medication.

Several months of doctor visits followed. I saw the endocrinologist, the neurosurgeon, the pulmonologist, and the hematologist. The first two argued with the second two about when surgery would be safe. I finally got word that my surgery would occur mid-December 2007.

The surgery itself was uneventful, and a suspicious mass was removed. My steroid levels plummeted (my pituitary had stopped producing steroids while the tumor made them) and I supplemented with hydrocortisone pills. At a follow-up appointment four months later, my endocrinologist was concerned that my pituitary had not “woken up” and started producing steroids on its own again. I had to wear a Medic Alert bracelet, because my body wouldn’t be able to cope with a major injury or illness.

It took almost a year for any steroids to be detected through blood tests. But in the meantime, the weight nearly melted off. My acne went away. My period returned. My blood pressure and blood sugar returned to normal. My depression eased. My hair thickened. I was able to sleep at night without a sleep aid. I stopped the blood thinners. Once my coritsol levels returned to normal, I only went back every six months, and later once a year, for follow-ups. My endocrinologist proclaimed me cured.

I am now 32 years old. My marriage did not survive Cushing’s disease, but I’m with someone new, and we have a healthy, happy baby boy. Part of the clots calcified in my lungs, and I will always be about 10% blocked (which means I’ll never run a marathon, but hey! I never planned to, haha). As the years pass, the struggle with Cushing’s feels like it happened to someone else.

Jarryd (Medboy), Pituitary Bio

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I’m a 19 year old male student with Cushing’s syndrome. Basically had accelerated weight gain since late 2011, despite frequent exercise and heavy dieting.

Started to feel a lot more irritable and tired, lost strength at the gym, developed big unsightly purple stretch marks across my abdomen

Initially my doctor just told me that I was getting fat and should do more cardio/eat less. She even commented on how it showed quickly in my face (mild moon facies)

It was entirely reasonable for her to think this, but when the stretch marks didn’t fade as they normally would i did a google search and returned.

Urine test, blood ACTH and cortisol test, repeat urine test. Soon I was sent to an endocrinologist who confirmed Cushing’s syndrome.

I just had an MRI of my pituitary after the ACTH signs pointed to a pituitary source. The Endocrinologist said it appeared to have a 3mm lesion, but it was not 100% conclusive so I am to undergo petrosal sinus sampling for confirmation within the month. Hopefully that will confirm the adenoma with surgery ideally soon after that.

I’m happy to have got it reasonably early; most of my symptoms are still relatively mild, but it really does make you put other things on hold until you can fix it, which means i’m sort of stuck in a lull until its all fixed. I would appreciate any advice for things to do in the mean time to help me feel like i’m doing something positive rather than just waiting.

Location of the pituitary gland in the human brain

Location of the pituitary gland in the human brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rebecca D (RebeccaD), Pituitary Bio

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Hi all!

I am a 24 year old little miss you was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease in Spring 2010.

I did a ton of tests, including pretosal sinus sampling and MRI’s, and although images and direct location of the tumor were not possible, my doctors were able to confirm a pituitary origin for my cushings.

I had my first transphenoidal surgery in June 2011 and was finally off replacement cortisol by mid november 2011.

In august, as I began to tapper off my medications, I was FINALLY able to loose some weight, loosing 30lbs between August and December.

I stopped losing weight and began another downfall in my stupids between february 2012 until april, at which time my monitoring tests showed my cortisol levels to be again up around the same levels pre-surgery 🙁 so sadly I’m looking again into what my life entails with this Cushing’s having resurfaced 🙁

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