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Stephanie (Steph), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi. My name Steph, and this has been a long journey for me so far, and I see a long road ahead. Hopefully their will be a rainbow once all these clouds have melted away.

I just turned 33 years old (this month) and have been dealing with symptoms of Cushing’s since I was a pre-teen without even knowing it. I was diagnosed (or possibly mis-diagnosed) with PCOS when I was about 11. That’s when the irregular (to almost non-existent) menstrual cycles, hirutism (chin, upper lip, upper and lower thighs, fingers, toes, basically everywhere) and weight problems began. I was immediately put on birth control to regulate my periods, which only made my life a living nightmare. They forced on a fake (non-ovulating) period and made my moods a disaster. I went on to be on birth control until from the age of 11 until about 3 years ago when I just couldn’t take it anymore, and took myself off. I’ve been using herbal supplements for menstrual regulalation since then, and feel MUCH better.

Over the years I’ve always felt like there was something “more than PCOS” wrong with me. From the extreme inability to lose weight normally, and the ease to gain it, to the weak legs, vitamen d insuffeciency, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, extreme irritability, now non-existent cycle, shortness of breath (just from walking up 1 flight of stairs), slow healing, hoarse voice, high testosterone, male pattern baldness, blurry vision, EXTREME brain fog etc….. It has been very, very, very tough and emotional over the years. It has taken a toll on my personality, emotions, and those around me….

The way that I found out about cushing’s is rather unique. I was on a popular PCOS message board site called “soul cysters”, and I have always been EXTREMELY self conscience of my round puffy face, and was wondering if it could be a side effect of PCOS. So I searched Puffy face on the message board to see if others on the board had experienced it, and sure enough Cushing’s came up, and a suprising number of women either had both (cushing’s and PCOS) or had been mis-diagnosed, which apparently is very common with cushing’s. it was like a gigantic light bulb went off in my head when I started googling cushings symptoms. All these things that I have been experiencing almost my entire life started coming together. I’m really not crazy!! Everything is possibly related. Im almost 100% sure that this is it!!! I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, as I see that cushing’s is curable in most cases, but it is also scary, and diagnosing it seems like hell!!

I have began my -already slow- journey to diagnosis. And, the the Dr.’s don’t seem to be all that well informed. However, I am DETERMINED. I am excited at the thought of possibly being able to get my life back through surgery or meds. I went to a well respected Endo in my area, and she is gonna test all of my hormones, including my cortisol level. Though she didn’t seem to be too informed on Cushing’s when I brought it up, along with my “dead ringer” symptoms. I’m going to a pulmonologist on the 29th as suggested by my GP (who also thinks I have cushings, but admits he’s not well informed enough or equipped to diagnose). I’m also going to an OBGYN soon (tried going to one today, and had to walk out because it was such a bad experience). But I am determined to get 2nd, 3rd, and however many opinions are needed until I am satisfied.

Also, on a side note, possibly having cushing’s, along with having PCOS, has made me look at the doctors and the medical profession as a whole in a different light. I feel like if you find a genuinely good doctor who listens, cares, takes you seriously, and is willing to test you without question, and work with you, your levels, and your symptoms, you are blessed!! I have had so many doctors try to push meds down my throat (for their own pockets/greed obviously) when it wasn’t needed or necessary without hesitation or question. And, then when I tell them that the medicine is affecting me adversely, they just tell me to keep taking it! It’s sad and ridiculous. I’ve had to learn to do my own research, know my own body well, and trust my own judgement…..

I will be praying for myself and everyone on this message board who has had to deal with this horrific symptoms over the years.

Updates coming…..

interview

Stephanie was our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, April 29 at 6:00 PM eastern.

The archived interview is available now through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 82 other past interviews to listen to!

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Interview with Stacy ~ June 11, 2014

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Stacy writes in her bio

MacKenna is my daughter.  I am in desperate need of assistance regarding her weight.

She is 6 years old and weighs about 95 pounds.  At four, she was normal to underweight.

First clue – she gained 10 pounds in three months.  Of course doctor’s wanted a food log …. however, as her parent, I knew something was wrong.

So much to say, I NEED to help my baby and am hoping someone on this board can point me to a good pedi endo (I am currently on my second).  I have pictures to show the progression of her changes.  Her growth pattern is abnormal as she does not gain height while she gains weight and vice versa.

I believe it is cyclical cushings.  And if it isn’t, I still need help as this is going to kill her – her little frame cannot hold much more.

 

McKenna’s mom will be interviewed June 11 at 6:00 pm eastern in BlogTalkRadio.  Archives will be available later in the Cushing’s Podcast.

Archived Interview with Kathy C, Pituitary Patient

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Kathy was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor in 1991.

At the time the only symptom she was aware of was a severe headache. She had a transsphenoidal resection followed by radiation therapy for 23 days. They said they could not remove all of the tumor.  She is now on Signifor and Cabergoline.

Read Kathy’s entire bio at http://cushingsbios.com/2014/04/27/interview-may-7-with-kathy-c-pituitary-patient/

Listen to Kathy’s Interview here.

Kathy’s Interview is also on the CushingsHelp Podcast

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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Melissa F, Pituitary Bio

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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.

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Interview with Robyn Y (2ndtimecushie), Recurrent Pituitary Patient, June 15

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A Golden Oldie

Robyn was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease in 2004 and had 2/3 of her pituitary removed.  This was after 8 years of going from doctor to doctor and thinking she was going to go crazy.

She writes: “Anyway, after my surgery in February of 2004 I had probably a good three years and then I slowly started feeling bad again.  I am now going through what I did 8yrs ago.  My endocrinologist doesn’t think that the Cushing’s is back because of my tests being borderline.  He told me that he thinks I am obese and I need to have stomach surgery.  I seriously cried for days and told him that I disagreed and I wasn’t going to give up…I need support in following through with the tests that I need to.  Like I said I have been putting them off because subconsiously I am so worried that they will tell me that I don’t have the Cushing’s back and I will have to live like this the rest of my life.  Tired of being so heavy and uncomfortably large, sweating to the point of dripping, aching all over and not having any desire or motivation to do anything.

I’m praying the tests come back showing that the tumor is back and they will go in and take the rest of the pituitary out.”

<!– Read Robyn’s complete bio –>

This interview was archived and available through  BlogTalkRadio, or through iTunes Podcasts

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Leiana, Adrenal Bio

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Hello and Good Morning!!  First i want to say that this is a great website..very informative and hopefully I can find some help here.

I was diagnosed with autoimmune adrenal insuffiency back in 2009 and put on 30mg of Cortef for the rest of my life. He said my cortisol levels were below normal of -1.    Then in spring of 2010 this endocrinologist raised it to 60 mg cause i was having dizzy spells.  I got suspious of this high dosage and told my primary dr and he sent me to an university hosp. and another endo. The new endo said that the cortiso levels were normal and that the first dr was wrong.  Now since 2010 the new dr has been trying to wean me off the steroids with no success.  I am now on only 15 mg a day.

Here are my lab results from the first dr.  Hopefully someone here can tell me if they think they are normal or not.

This is a acth stim test::  july 2009

Cortisol am 10:45=  11.6

cortisol am  11:15=  25.0

cortisol am   11:45= 9.8

cortisol am   12:15= 26.9

acth 10:15    8

acth  10:45  6

acth  11:15  35

acth  11:45  28

hgh  10:15  15.6

hgh  10:45   4.9

hgh  11;15  3.2

hgh  11;45  2.3

hgh  12;15  4.9

somatomedin c was 117.

fsh 99.6

tsh 1.34

t4 free 1.10

As I said the second dr has been trying to wean me off the steroids.  i did have a 3.9 andenoma on the right adrenal gland removed in Sept 2010 and waiting for the left adrenal gland to kick in which it has not according to the last acth test done last December 2011 with a cortisol level of .5 which is suboptimal i was told.  This dr. also said if I went off the steroids now I would die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.   I dont know who to beleive.

I am extremely skinny and bony and eat around 3000 to 4000 calories a day.  I was referred to Mary O a year ago thru Power-Surge forums and wrote her and never heard a reply.  I lost 30 pounds without trying and went froma size 12 to a size 4,  bmi is 15.  tried to sue the first dr but was told it was over the statues of limitations and tried for an extension of this but no lawyer will touch it cause they said the judges would throw it out of court.  My arms and legs are like twigs and bones are sticking out…trying to hang on.  Please someone help.  Thank you

 

Leiana was interviewed in our Podcast Series.  Listen here

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