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Moxie G, MoxieGarrett, Pituitary Bio

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August 1, 2017:

It’s been 3 months since my surgery. I’m still trying to piece my story together.

I think it begins with the pregnancy and birth of my last child in 2012. After 3 exemplary pregnancies and home births, I never expected the cholestasis, a 36-week breech & manual turn, or a retained placenta and near fatal delivery. After successfully nursing 3 children, I struggled to produce enough milk and gave up after 3 months. I was ashamed of my inability to have a healthy pregnancy and nurse my baby. I tucked it away.

Normally a very thin and “bounce back” kinda person (5″8/130lbs), I was unable to entirely lose my baby weight and then noticed a gradual weight gain. My wedding rings no longer fit and when I went to get them resized, I was told my finger had changed by 2.5 sizes. I was embarrassed. I took them off.

My once angular face became puffy & round. I developed acne on my back and arms. Nothing healed. I started noticing dark facial and body hair on my blonde body. Normally a pink person, I didn’t really notice when my skin turned red. Normally easy to bruise, my new ones didn’t alarm me. Having not escaped my pregnancies without some stretch marks, I didn’t think much about the excess ones I was sporting. Always complaining of feeling cold, I now felt like I was overheating and wanted to rip my clothes off. My cuticles cracked and bled and I chalked it up to winters in Canada. Two of my teeth broke and I figured they were just weak… it runs in the family. My newly prescribed glasses made everything look fuzzier… oh well, I’ve always had poor vision. I attributed my alarming hair loss to post-pregnancy normalcy. I figured the continuing lactation was just a left-over indignity. Pretty sexy stuff.

People asked me on a regular basis when I was due. My abdomen was completely rounded, my breasts were huge, but I still had comically thin limbs. It felt like my body was open to judgement and commentary. I was ashamed of my new appearance. I made light of it.

I stopped attending social functions because I hated the way I looked. I couldn’t bear going through the process of trying to find something flattering to wear and then having to field questions about my uncharacteristic weight gain. I felt like I always had to explain myself. It was humiliating. I withdrew.

I had a pathological, insatiable thirst. Normally not a large beverage consumer, I was pounding can after can of whatever I could get my hands on. I planned every excursion around knowing where there were restrooms and where I could buy my next beverage. My sleep was interrupted hourly. It became a joke among my family & friends. I limited where I would go and who I would be around.

I oscillated between having super-human energy (16-18 hour self-imposed workdays) to being so bone-weary that I would fall asleep sitting up at my computer, mouse still in hand. When my symptoms began, I was working in senior positions in advertising agencies. It was a demanding & high-paced lifestyle. Also during this time, I left my career to open my own business. In the 5 years I was sick, I launched a successful childrens’ retail store. I assumed my exhaustion was a natural by-product of my workaholism. All working moms are this tired, right?

I couldn’t understand… I was functioning at a high level… 4 happy kids, a great marriage, a clean house, a successful business, I was even freelancing as a strategist on the side. Why didn’t I feel like myself? What was going on with my body? I surely couldn’t be ill. I was doing just fine. Look. See? I should just try harder.

I often said to my GP that I thought my hormones were outta whack. Nothing was severe enough to warrant a doctor’s visit or alarm. Everything was manageable but there were so many small, strange things happening that I was sure something was off. Eventually, she ordered blood tests. I carried the requisition around for almost a year. I thought I was overacting and wasting people’s time. In June 2016, I had a severe sinus infection and went to my doctor. Sheepishly, I promised to attend to the blood work I had been avoiding.

A week later, my doctor’s office called and told me to walk myself to the hospital emergency room. My sugars were 34 (Normal is 4-6, Coma is 16+). I didn’t know what this meant but was assured it was severe. I called my husband and we went out for dinner. I sent him and my daughter home and walked to the hospital.

I started to get an idea of how serious it was when the hospital staff rushed me in and started giving me insulin shots. No-one could understand why my sugars were so high and how my body was tolerating it without shutting down into a coma. They tried unsuccessfully for 24 hours to bring my sugars down to acceptable levels. With no history of family or gestational Diabetes, I was diagnosed with Type 2.

Dealing with this diagnosis was hard. It was my belief that only fat, lazy people with horrible lifestyles developed this disease. I went home and had to learn how to live like a Diabetic. I cut sugar completely out of my diet. We had to relearn how to grocery shop and cook. I had to start reading and understanding food labels. My husband made me disgusting quinoa muffins. Being a Diabetic became a full-time hobby. And the medications wreaked havoc on my digestive system.

The road to finding out what was causing the resistant Diabetes was in full throttle. I met dozens of doctors, nurses, technicians, and specialists. I had CTs, MRIs, X-rays, diabetes management & dietician appointments, urine tests, blood tests, hormone tests, pre-op & pre-admitting appointments, visual tests, Neuro-opthamology appointments, ENT consults, Endrocrinology reviews… It was constant and exhausting. I developed a deep hatred for medical tape.
So, Diabetes symptoms led to a Cushings Disease diagnosis, which eventually led to a pituitary tumour diagnosis. I had a 9mm Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing tumour. Surgery was booked. Jokes were made. All of a sudden, I needed everything about as much as I needed a hole in the head (They really did drill a hole in my skull. It’s held back together with glue!). But being diagnosed with a brain tumour was a relief. Something beyond my control was responsible for my current condition. I didn’t do this to myself because I was incompetent, lazy, or deserving. This was done to me and now we could try to fix it.

My surgery was booked at St. Michael’s Hospital with Dr. Cusimano here in Toronto for April 21. Due to a hospital error, my surgery was cancelled at the last minute and re-booked for May 1. After my family travelling here to be with me, getting my house in order, making arrangements for my store, childcare, packing my bags, saying cryptic goodbyes to my loved ones just in case, and even shaving my legs, I was crushed. I had mentally prepared and now I had to wait another 9 days and do it all over again.

Getting prepped for surgery was terrifying. I was in surgery for just over 3 hours and in intensive care for 3 days. I slept a lot during my immediate recovery. I had a bout of Diabetes Insipidus. But the good news? My cortisol crashed immediately. This assured everyone that the tumour was gone. The bad news? I felt like absolute garbage. My mom, my husband, my brother, and my best friend were there with me. I let them take care of me. I let them take care of everything.
Surgical recovery is manageable. Getting the stitches & stints removed from my nose was absolutely horrible and I had what I thought was a panic attack directly after the procedure. It really scared me (I now know it was my adrenalin crashing. My surgery has left me with an adrenal insufficiency which means my body cannot handle any stress, illness or injury.). Scar tissue has formed around one of my nostrils. It is affectionately known as “Mini Nostril”. And I can tell you that not blowing your nose for 3 months is one of the most annoying things in the universe. I went back to work 8 days after surgery. I shouldn’t have, but I’m a show-off. Everybody that sees me is stunned at the transformation thus far. My skin is a normal colour and I have lost nearly 30 lbs. People that knew me before I got sick say, “Welcome Back”. People that didn’t know me previously ask me if I am ok or don’t even recognize me.

Chemical recovery is terrible. My sugars are behaving more normally and I’ve been able to discontinue one of my three medications. I started my hormone weaning a few weeks ago and it is so hard. My latest blood tests show that my body is still not producing it. Every muscle and joint aches. I barely eat anything. I have headaches. It takes me hours to fall asleep. I’m dizzy. I’m weak. I’m exhausted. I’m not sure my digestive system will ever be right. I’m so tired of complaining. This will be my reality for at least a year.

But, I am hopeful. I know that I will heal. And most of all, I am grateful… for the love of my friends & family, the health of my children, the healthcare system of my country, and the chance to reset my life. I put my wedding rings back on yesterday. They fit.

(And what of that fucking tumour? The hospital adopted him. I had to sign papers and everything. You’re welcome, science.)

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Melissa (SweetMelisa), Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-glands

Hello everyone,

First, thank you all for sharing your stories. While I am not thrilled to me joining the group, it is nice not feeling alone in this journey anymore. My thoughts and prayers to all of you who have traveled this path and continue to do so.

My case is rather complex. It seems I have a myriad of problems going on and I am still navigating toward a diagnosis. I am a 41 year old who is 5’5 and last I checked, idling at 184 lbs despite a daily calorie intake of around 1200.

In brief, I have battled weight issues since puberty despite being a relatively healthy eater and involved in sports until I was 16. Other than weight issues I have had a relatively healthy life until I decided to start having kids in 2004 (age 28).

First pregnancy: diagnosed with “borderline” gestational diabetes. Monitored with finger sticks before meals and controlled by diet. Despite healthy eating, I gained over 60lbs with my first pregnancy and gave birth to a nearly 10 lb baby via c-section. My cycles became horrible thereafter.

Second pregnancy: experienced secondary infertility issues (it took us 13 months to conceive). I was diagnosed with low Progesterone and put on a supplement into the beginning of my second trimester. Delivered a healthy baby, nearly 9lbs, via c-section. I gained 35-40lbs with that pregnancy.

About a year or a little less after my second pregnancy (around 2010) I was diagnosed with hypertension after my readings stayed in the 140-150s/80s-mid 90s. I was placed on a hypertension medication but I discontinued it after about 6 months because of the development of a chronic cough (and thinking I could change my lifestyle a bit and the BP issue would follow suit). I was also experiencing pretty bad fluid retention in my feet and ankles but nothing was done about that.

During 2011 to the end of 2014 I lost my health insurance and therefore did not seek any medical care. In 2015 I regained it and changed PCPs to an internist since I was approaching 40 and knew the next phase of life could bring on major health changes. Boy did I plan that right.

Feb 2015 I had a routine workup done with my new doctor. The labs showed elevated triglycerides, a BP of 182/128 (yikes), continued fluid retention (so bad at times I can’t fit into anything other than slide on shoes) and a very low Vitamin D level. My new doctor placed my on a BP med with a diuretic, ordered me to go on the Atkins diet, watch my sodium intake and to take 5000mg of Vitamin D a day. Then follow up in 6 months.

At the 6 month follow up, my triglycerides barely decreased, instead of losing weight on Atkins, I gained 6 lbs and despite the diuretic, I was still having fluid retention (though not consistent). (They did not believe that I had changed my eating habits by the way). I was told I needed to really focus on eating better and I was scheduled for a 3 month follow up and if I didn’t lose weight then we would have to have a more serious talk (I was 172lbs at my first appointment). I missed the 3 month follow up because I am also a caregiver to a chronically ill parent.

Fast forward to March 2016 (late March), I developed an upper respiratory infection. I typically get them every April but this one was very different. The fatigue was debilitating. It hit me like a ton of bricks at the checkout counter of a drug store and it took every single remaining ounce of energy for me to walk to my car, a mere 100′ away. I was diagnosed as having a bad viral bug but………..they also found a new heart murmur and I had informed them about a couple episodes of shortness of breath and waking up with a racing heartbeat (110 beats per minute). They put me on a steroid and had me follow up in a week or so.

April 2016 I followed up and while there, pointed out a palpable mass just above my navel and slightly to the right. I told them about a weird abdominal “catching” type pain I had been experiencing since last Fall and maybe it was adhesions from c-sections or a hernia. And so began the unfolding of many many tests and findings ever since……….

During the journey to figure out the hernia (which was finally picked up by a 2nd surgeon at a teaching hospital) I began experiencing relentless right upper quadrant pain which led to a lot more tests, several specialists (a GI doc, 2 surgeons, 1 OB Nurse Practitioner, 1 OBGYN and my PCP).

Findings:
Gallbladder normal on ultrasound, normal on CT with contrast and normal on MRI but HIDA Scan shows an ejection fraction rate of 18% (Cholecystectomy recommended). The 24/7 pain has subsided but I do have pain daily though oddly enough, it is triggered by not eating as well as eating (and more often by healthy food than fatty ones).

CT with contrast showed bilateral adrenal adenomas. An in phase/outphase MRI was ordered. MRI result: 2.6cm adenoma on right adrenal, 1.7cm adenoma on left adrenal 3 lesions (cystic type) on my liver. (I asked my PCP if I should be concerned about these, He said no “They’re incidentalomas”. I don’t think they have anything to do with what is going on with you.” I told him I had read the Endocrinology Society recommended a workup to see if they are functioning or nonfunctioning and that I was concerned about my weight gain (difficulty losing it over the years), increasingly bad blood pressure and fluid retention issues. He said he would to the 1mg dexamethasone suppression test but to wait to have it done after I had other workups done). I could tell he was only ordering the test to appease me. More on that in a minute.

GI specialist did an endoscopy and colonoscopy: Endo fine, colonoscopy discovered 3 polyps (2 benign, 1 precancerous adenomatous) and a diagnosis of mild diverticulosis

OB visit led to 3 vaginal ultrasounds and the discovery and tracking of a suspicious, large ovarian cyst (turned out to be hemorrhagic) and a thickened endometrium. Endometrial biopsy done – negative for hyperplasia and cancer.

After all of my other testing sessions slowed down, I went in to have the 1mg dexamethasone suppression test done (July). My AM cortisol came back with a result of 5.9 (my PCP is calling this borderline). He ordered the 2 day test per endo protocol…..the AM cortisol came back 7.1 and my ACTH came back undetectable. I sent him a journal from the Endo Society with a bunch of hi-lighting and that I wondered if we needed to check for Aldosterone issues because of the fluid retention. He ordered an Aldosterone/Renin Ratio and 1 other lab test. Thursday will be 2 weeks and I have still not received the results. I do have an appointment to meet with him next week for him to “discuss” all of these findings. I am suspecting at this point, that I have sub-clinical cushings or something of that nature.

I have been delaying my cholecystectomy and hernia repair surgery pending these tests. Now I am concerned that I will be adding at least, a unilateral adrenalectomy to the list, if not bilateral which frankly, scares me quite a bit. I will be requesting a referral to Johns Hopkins or Duke to see an Endocrinologist. I asked my PCP early on when the adrenal adenomas were found if I should be referred to one and he said he didn’t think it was necessary. I am losing quick confidence in my PCP though he is well respected by other patients that I know.

Anyway, thus is my story…….and I know more is to come.

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Mae, Undiagnosed Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted Sunday, October 26, 2008

I am now 34 years old and have recently moved to a new state. I really don’t know when I started to show the signs. I have had migraines since I was in junior high. I used to have dark stretch marks and major mood swings in high school. My periods were so very painful and heavy I would bleed through a sanitary napkin every hour and a half. Once I graduated I went to the health department and asked to be placed on BC pills. I was eighteen, planning on having sex, and wanting to be safe about it. Within the next three months I put on about 60 pounds.

When I first moved to Virginia I was weighing about 135 pounds on a 5’6″ frame ever so happy in a size 8. By the following January I was almost 200 pounds and in a size 20. I went from wearing form fitting clothes to wearing sweat pants and t-shirts as large as I could find them. When I asked the health department about this, I was told that you have to expect to gain weight when you first start on the birth control pills. I was an active 18 year old, I didn’t over eat, and I was a personal nanny to a very active child. I took her on walks daily for at least an hour.

Things happen, as they always do. My fiance and I broke up, I moved to another part of the state, and pretty much ate only enough to make sure I was getting some nutrients into me. Depression set in, and my whole being seemed to change. I went from being an outgoing, happy center of attention to an brooding and depressed loner. I didn’t even want to be around my family (whom I lived with at the time). I went to the doctor again. I wasn’t planning on doing anything, so I stopped taking the birth control. When I asked the doctor about the weight loss, I was told it would fade within time as long as I worked at it.

Two years go by and I worked at it, and 20 pounds went on their way. The depression was starting to ease, I felt some of my old self returning. I decided to move it along and branch back out on my own again. I vowed to take back two years of my life. I was out going again, I WAS ME! I was eating healthy, only getting fast food at the most, once a week. Eating more salads than anything, and county line danceing three to four hours (non-stop) about four times a week (one day a week was for a demonstration team). I wasn’t loosing any weight. As a matter of fact, I had started to slowly gain it again. I also had my first bout with kidney stones. I met my soon to be husband almost two years to the day of vowing to get back my lost years.

Since My husband I have married (9.5 years now), my weight has been a large roller coaster ride. I have never been back down to the 180 I was when we first met. I haven’t been below 200 since then. I have maxed out at 260 so far. Each time I feel almost like my old self, I pick up the hard dieting and working out 4-5 days a week. I love weight training. Not the body building kind, but the lean muscle building kind. I will start out loosing weight and I will keep it up. I will loose about 10 pounds before the gain starts. Then I will tell myself that the gain is muscle and it is to be expected. 20 pounds later, when I am 10 pounds more than when I started, the depression starts to set in. I keep working at it with tears in my eyes and I no longer enjoy it. Finally, when the next 5 pounds hit, I just give up. All of this takes place over about a 4 month period. The only time there was a repreve was when I was pregnant with my daughter. I went back to feeling like myself again when I was pregnant. I also lost 25 pounds while I was pregnant. I was pregnant for 6 months (she was 12 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia).

Kidney stones started happening more frequently. UTI’s (which I had never had before being pregnant) started happening about every 6 months. I had been diagnosed with endometreosis, and the ovarian cycst I had been diagnosed with at 17 had come back. I was diagnosed with depression, and was always being told by the doctor that I needed to loose weight. No matter now many times I told him that I tried only to gain it, it was like he never heard me.

My break through came about a year and a half ago. I was reading one of my mother’s Reader’s Digest’s she had left at my house. I was shocked. It was almost like reading my own story. That night I hopped on line and came to this website. There was a diagram hand drawn of what a body could look like with Cushings. While I was reading the symptoms, my husband walked in. He asked when I had posed for the drawing. I broke down in tears. My wonderful husband came over and held me while I cried it out. Then listened as I explained it to him. I still didn’t have the courage to ask my doctor about it.

The following month, the recurring UTI’s started. I was getting one every two -three weeks. Then my mind started to go. Like one of the bio’s I have read here, it felt like there was an alien in my head. I could see myself acting in ways that weren’t me. I couldn’t even interact with my daughter without having flashes of anger. The depression medication pretty much stopped working, and there were times I couldn’t even stand myself. I finally found the courage.

I made an appointment to see my PCP. Since there was nothing ‘wrong’, the earliest they could see me was a month away, I agreed. I nearly called back to cancel the appointment at least three times. I kept it. He wasn’t very supportive. I was overweight and fat people like us have to find a way to loose it was pretty much what he said. But he would order and 24 hour UFC test. and we would go from there. Guess what? It was high. He refered me to an Endo. Wonderful Endo. I hated leaving him.

I went to see Dr. Barnes and he listened to me. I took pictures of me for every year since I was 18(which took a while to gather since I haven’t really had any pictures taken of me for the last 8 years). He asked me questions. He listened to me. He made me feel as if what I had to say was important and needed to be heard. Then we did the exam. He talked, measured, asked, and explained the whole time. He looked at the hair loss, the hair that was growing where it shouldn’t, even the stretch marks that have long since faded to white (but once in a while flair red). He ordered a dexa test. Then he put me on blood pressure medication (my blood pressure had been creeping up for about a year), started me on Fortamet to help ease some of the symptoms, and ordered me back in two weeks. The test came back only slightly elevated. Enough to be over the norm, but not eoungh to confirm a diagnosis. He ordered a midnight cortisol test (it was now about almost 2 months since I first saw him). The results were on the high side of normal. He wanted to keep an eye on me. He couldn’t diagnose me, but he felt that my concern was warrented. He wanted to keep on eye on me. I was to see him every three months. If my symptoms were to come back, then I was to call him immidiately.

Four months ago I had to say good-bye to Dr. Barnes. I moved with my husband when he retired from the military. I am now back to the drawing board. I have a wonderful PCP now (which I didn’t before). She listened to me and refered me to an Endo. I left the new Endo’s office very exasperated. She walked into the appointment and didn’t even shake my hand. Strike one. Next came the physical exam. She felt my thyriod, one point in her favor. That was all she checked, strike two. Then, right there told me that I was diabetic (go figure that the last blood test I got said my sugar levels were excellent) and I had PCOS. The woman had only known me for ten minutes, if that, and was diagnosing me without seeing blookwork results or anything else. Third and final strike. I am still so put off by this experience, I haven’t gotten the nerve to go back to my PCP and ask for another referal. The Endo did do a dexa test, and said that according to that test, there was no way that I could have Cushing’s and that was the end of it.

Since then, I have had my gall bladder removed after having a gall stone pains for the last 4 years that no one could find. I also have two new kidney stones. One of them about a half an inch in diameter (again). The fatigue has returned. Insomnia is hitting again. Depression is setting in. My temper is starting to flare for the slightest wrong. My concentration is failing. When I changed the chanel and found the Mystery Diagnosis on about Cushing’s, I felt that was God’s way of pushing me. So, when the week starts, I will be calling my PCP and see if there is another Endo she can refer me to. As the song goes, ‘Here I go again on my own”.

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In Memory: Janice, Tuesday, September 4, 2001

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in-memory

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Double click to see these ribbons
used in Janice’s memory.

On the message boards, Lorrie wrote: Our dear friend, Janice died this past Tuesday, September 4, 2001. I received an IM from her best friend Janine, tonight. Janine had been reading the boards, as Janice had told her about this site, and she came upon my name and decided to IM me. I am grateful that she did. She said that she knew that Janice would want all of us to know that she didn’t just stop posting.

For all of the newcomers to the board that did not know Janice, she was a very caring individual. She always had something positive to say. Janice was 36 years old, was married and had no children. She had a miscarriage in December and began to have symptoms of Cushing’s during that pregnancy. After the pregnancy, she continued to have symptoms. When discussing this with her doctor, she was told that her symptoms were just related to her D&C. She did not buy this and continued until she received the accurate diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome (adrenal) in March of 2001. Tragically, Janice’s tumor was cancerous, a very rare form of Cushing’s.

Janice then had her tumor and adrenal gland removed by open adrenalectomy, a few months ago. She then began chemotherapy. She was very brave through this even though she experienced severe side effects, including weakness and dizziness. She continued to post on this board at times and even though she was going through so much, she continued with a positive attitude. She even gave me a referral to a doctor a few weeks ago. She was my inspiration. Whenever I thought I had it bad, I thought of what she was dealing with, and I gained more perspective.

Janice was having difficulty with low potassium levels and difficulty breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, a CT scan was done and showed tumor metastasis to the lungs. She then was begun on a more aggressive regimen of chemo. She was discharged and apparently seemed to be doing well.

The potassium then began to drop again, she spiked a temp and she was again admitted to the hospital. She improved and was set to be discharged and then she threw a blood clot into her lungs. She was required to be put on a ventilator. She apparently was at high risk for a heart attack. Her husband did not want her to suffer anymore and did not want her to suffer the pain of a heart attack and so chose for the doctors to discontinue the ventilator on Tuesday. She died shortly thereafter.

Funeral services will be on Tuesday.

Janice was our friend. She was a Cushie sister. I will always remember her. Janine asked me to let her know when we get the Cushing’s ribbons made as she and the rest of Janice’s family would like to wear them in her memory. She said that Janice would want to do anything she could to make others more aware of Cushing’s.


A Poem written in Janice’s Memory:

JANICE’s POEM

When I Am Done
When the leaves settle
Among the earths soil
Then will I find peace
For all my work and toil.

Know not I when it will be
But of its happening, it’s a certainty
For once sick in body
Though healed in time
Can never be wiped clean
Of the illnesses grime.

The stamp of death
Left upon this soul
Will never have reason to fear
It’s pearly gates that have come, for some
But for me only when I am done.

~Adrienne Lilley

Written in Janice’s memory, may she rest in peace always.

One thing about Cushings—I no longer fear death. But I sure do embrace life.

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Catherine B, Pituitary Bio

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I’ve had random symptoms off and on for years (almost two decades now, from about the age of 15) but didn’t realize they were related to illness, or that I had one overarching disease causing them all.

Looking back, the onset of my disease was in my teen years.  I gained more than 60lbs in roughly a year’s time without changing diet or activity level.  I developed stretch marks that ran from my knees to my elbows (and everywhere in between!).  I started losing my once-thick hair.  I developed horrible acne.  I went from being an early morning riser to staying up late at night because I was wide awake, and waking often throughout the night.  I went from being happy overall to being anxious and depressed for no apparently reason (and medication had no effect on either).  I was told it was either all in my head or all my fault (by varying people, some directly, some implied) and I internalized that and just assumed I was too lazy and had bad genetics…  I TRIED to exercise but would feel so sick afterwards that I couldn’t make any gains, I joined a gym and put myself on a diet in high school but none of it made any difference.  When I brought up my symptoms to doctors, they could never put it together, often blamed me for them (Just diet and exercise and it’ll go away), and sometimes treated me like I was just plain crazy.  I still don’t go to doctors unless I have to because of those experiences.

After getting married, I had had some complicated pregnancies…but it was more than that.  I would get flank pain and drop into “lows” that I didn’t understand, complete with feeling cold, diarrhea, weakness, exhaustion, nausea, loss of appetite, and extreme weight loss (muscle loss, more like it).  I had high cardiac output but low blood pressure and a high pulse rate.  I’d go into tachycardia (140 bpm +) for NO apparent reason and had all kinds of cardiac monitoring done.  My blood pressure was labile, but usually low, and still I’d end up with severe complications. Breastfeeding wasn’t going well despite the “mechanics” and flow being there…my babies were never satisfied and I always felt sickly.  The differences were drastic (but a bit graphic to share here publicly).  I seemed to get pregnant at the drop of a hat (opposite of the norm for Cushie women), but my body seemed unable to deliver on it’s own.  My body just didn’t react like it should to anything.  I even once had an episode post-partum that now I know was likely some mixture of adrenal insufficiency and/or my hypoaldosteronism.  I was left alone to sleep it off (just thinking about it now scares me), but I didn’t know any better at the time.

Then about 3-4 years ago I hit this point where I just had the feeling that if I didn’t get whatever was going on under control, I’d end up with something more permanent and dangerous (like cancer or diabetes).  I still got seemingly random symptoms but I had too many of them, and they were getting worse.  I also started to notice that my good days and bad days seemed to come in cycles.  3 days, 3 weeks…I’d be good for a while, then worse for a while, then good for a while.  I had already eaten “clean” and kept myself active, so I decided to try “nutritional balancing therapy” and started taking a karate class multiple times a week (burns TONS of calories, fyi).  They ran some tests for various vitamins/minerals, and said I had adrenal insufficiency.  The diet I was put on was a higher fat (good fat), higher protein, TONS of veggies diet (basically we just cut out my grains/starches and added in more fat) but between the diet and the exercise, I became so ill I couldn’t get off the couch for about 4 weeks.  I had to give up both and it took some time to recover, but I never got back to where I had been, not even close.

I started studying the natural healing term “adrenal fatigue” and came to the realization that I had done everything to correct AF but was still going downhill.  I had tried supplements, diet (years of it), everything.  I became pregnant unexpectedly and was active, even tap-dancing with a major part in a musical at 20 weeks pregnant.  I would have these ups and downs that seemed random, but when I finished the musical, I hit a new low and never seemed to come back from it.  I just became more and more exhausted.  To the point that certain days I could *feel* the energy it took to hold my head up to watch a movie with my kids.  The CNM and OB both said I was just depressed and upped my dose of Vitamin D.  They wanted me to go on antidepressants, and I refused.  I knew the difference between not wanting to do things and not being able to do them. I called a doctor that specialized in Adrenal Fatigue in California after having read through his website, and he basically said that I would continue to get worse, but that he wouldn’t treat me because of my pregnancy.  No help, no suggestions, he told me “come see me if you make it out alive.”  I obviously needed outside help from a true expert.

I had joined an Addison’s support group online about this time, and they helped me learn a lot about AI and Addison’s, about symptoms, testing, about Hashimoto’s, etc.  I am SO grateful to these women who supported me and taught me much.  They never questioned if I was just depressed or if I was really sick, and they were so kind they WERE the sanity that I needed so desperately.  I was getting nowhere with local doctors, my husband believed me and was as helpful as he could be, but it was taking a big toll on us, and when we asked for help from our local church leaders with cleaning our home because I no longer could do it (and my husband was so overwhelmed doing everything by himself), we were threatened as a family and refused help.   I was desperate; I was hurting.  My whole family was struggling because of this disease and the treatment (and lack thereof) we’d received from doctors and so-called friends.

These Addisonians had been talking a lot about one specific endocrinologist that specializes in pituitary disorders (who also happens to be in California).  In complete desperation, I emailed him, knowing the chances that he’d take me or that I could even get in to see him before delivery (due to travel restriction based on gestation) was unlikely.  But I was scared of what a delivery with untreated Addison’s might bring (I knew the stats and knew I didn’t trust the local OB), so I emailed explaining my situation and sent my current lab work (I had to go to my GP because my OB wouldn’t even test my thyroid or iron!).  I knew it sometimes took weeks to get a response or get in to see this doctor 3 states away, but I sent the email on February 8th, and heard back via email that same night from his office lady.  She was sure he could help me, and suggested I schedule an appointment right away, and was waiting to hear back from him directly.  He responded that he did see something amiss in my lab work, and I was scheduled for an appointment and buying plane tickets.  My appointment was on Valentine’s evening and a friend flew with me because I was too weak to do it alone, and because my brain was too foggy to feel comfortable understanding and responding to everything in the appointment, not to mention I was super pregnant with my 6th child!

I went in SURE I had Addison’s Disease, or at least a form of adrenal insufficiency, and even tried to argue that fact.  I came out with a LOT of testing for Cushing’s Disease.  It was, in fact, the low cortisol periods that I was noticing, but it was being caused by periods of high cortisol.  You see, the cortisol takes a big toll on your body and overrides the normal feedback system of your pituitary and adrenal glands.  While the tumor is actively pumping out ACTH, it can shut down your own pituitary’s normal production because the pituitary feedback says there is already too much cortisol in your system.  Then, if/when the tumor “kicks off” (who knows why they do this), your pituitary is in a lazy state from not having been working and it can take a while for it to kick back in.  This can bring life-threatening lows, but generally it just brings low-cortisol symptoms which are still uncomfortable.

I was unprepared for the change in direction at my appointment.  I had the right system and hormones, but I was looking at it backwards, and the more I learned about cyclic Cushing’s Disease, the more sense it made, the more things clicked together, and the more I understood about my past and present symptoms.  I have cyclic Cushing’s Disease.  I had read up a little on this about 10 years prior, when my mother-in-law had died from untreated Cushing’s (she refused treatment and was a stubborn, intelligent women who got her way).  I had read through some information with my husband at that time.  We had concluded that it was a possibility, but I didn’t have enough of the symptoms (maybe half?) and decided that I wasn’t nearly sick enough for that to be the problem.  How wrong we were!  I certainly wasn’t as bad as many, but I found that the downhill turns were often sudden and drastic, especially in the more recent years.

At my appointment I was also told I had hypothyroidism.  He ordered more of those tests (to get a trend) and an antibody test.  It was found I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid disease) and was put on thyroid medication.  My ferritin level (stored iron) was so low it was in single digits (he wants it around 60) and he said that had I not been flying home the next morning, he’d have had me in the hospital for IV iron infusions.  Needless to say, I was put on iron –lots of it.  My vitamin D was still lower than he’d like despite having been on treatment, so he switched me to 50K iu’s of D3 weekly (My OB had chastised me repeatedly for taking D3 instead of D2; Ha ha!).

I had to wait for a while after my pregnancy to allow my body to normalize before doing my Cushing’s testing.  I first tested by date (randomly, basically) and got a few marginal highs, but mostly normal test results.  My pituitary MRI was read clean.  Dr. F told me he didn’t know what was wrong, but that it didn’t look like it was Cushing’s because of the testing.  I was not prepared for that, and just ended the conversation in an emotional mess.  I was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted and didn’t plead my case.  I didn’t have insurance or the money to test more, even though I was pretty sure I needed it.  And looking back, had I asked, he probably would have obliged.

I decided to again try natural healing methods.  Nothing worked, and some things (extended juice fasting, for instance) actually made me much worse.  Every time I hit another “low”, it seemed to become my new normal…and that was scary.  I kept losing more energy and strength, more of my mental ability, and each time I couldn’t imagine it getting worse, yet it always did.  (I still haven’t learned this lesson!)

About a year later, after a lot of prayer and thinking, after I’d exhausted most natural treatment methodologies I felt willing to try, I realized I did indeed need to go back and push for further testing, and test by symptoms.  Mentally and emotionally I was in a much better place, and while I had recovered a bit after my delivery, I had started to again slide downhill despite my best efforts.  I came up with a game plan, and the hope of it made the effort required seem possible.

I emailed Dr. F to ask about further testing, this time by symptoms, and there was no pushing or arguing necessary!  He gave me more sensitive testing this go round, and told me to test as much as it took.  He believed me!  It was as if the way just opened up for me this time.  I was uninsured, but I applied for the Cushing’s Assistance program through NORD (The National Organization for Rare Disorders) and was accepted.  They offered to cover the costs of testing, doctor’s appointments, and travel needed for the same, that would lead to a diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease.  I was in public when my husband called and read me the letter, and I started bawling right then and there in the shopping isle.  It was an answer to a prayer I didn’t even think to voice.  I then called to share the news with family and friends and bawled again, scaring yet more customers!  Having no insurance, this made everything possible.

Tracking my symptoms wasn’t a very easy task.  I went totally OCD on them, and still I was only somewhat successful in my efforts. I could get the overall trend, but the day-to-day was confusing as all-get-out.  My testing was also complicated by living in Alaska.  I could only turn in tests 4 days a week because they had to fly out to the labs in Seattle, WA and beyond.  It took about a month to get each result back.  Add to that a head cold that killed my cortisol levels for 6 weeks, and it took me a few months to get sufficient high labs even with my 2-page-wide spreadsheet of symptom data.

In that time, I also made friends on the Cushing’s-Help website and Facebook groups.  I learned a LOT of things from them, and one friend in particular likes to “read” pituitary MRI’s the way I like to “read” fetal ultrasounds.  She looked at my previously “clean” MRI and said that in her lay opinion, it was anything BUT normal.  As a favor, her neuro-radiologist also took a look at my MRI, and was so kind as to send back pictures with ARROWS of pituitary adenoma’s and suspicious areas on my MRI to forward on to my endocrinologist.  As it turns out, my doctor hadn’t read the disc himself and had just read the radiologist’s report.  He looked at the disc and agreed it was not normal, then sent me a message stating I needed a new MRI (it had been over a year at this point and my previous MRI still had some of that post-partum “rainbow” shape to the pituitary) and that it should be read by a neurosurgeon this time around.  JOY OF JOYS!  This brought me even more hope!  He said SURGEON, not just himself…that meant I was getting so close to that diagnosis and surgery clearance –to getting help.

I scheduled my MRI trip (can’t do a 3T dynamic here), and decided to schedule a face-to-face with my endocrinologist again while in the same city.  NORD paid for the flights, reimbursed me for the cost of my doctor’s appointment, paid for the MRI, and paid for my hotel room.  My husband came with me this time, and it was the best doctor’s appointment I’ve had in my life.  I was still nervous that somehow it wasn’t enough, or that the MRI done the day before my appointment would miraculously have become normal again.  That was not the case.  My MRI showed two possible adenomas on opposite sides of my pituitary amongst other things, and my 7+ diagnostic-level high labs were sufficient…and it felt AMAZING!

Who knew we’d be so excited to hear I was diagnosed with a deadly disease?  That we’d shout for joy and clap our hands at finding multiple tumors in my head?  I had a smile that wouldn’t go away.  The medical student shadowing my endocrinologist hadn’t seen the diagnosis side, where patients are so relieved to have an end in sight, to finally be getting help and have a chance at getting better, that they are happy!  I also wore my “Does my pituitary gland make me look fat?” shirt to this appointment, so we were joking, taking pictures, and having a grand old time.  He gave me permission to share the picture of us, and without prompting pointed to my head for the next picture saying, “It’s right HERE!”  My endocrinologist is generally stoic, quiet, caring yet professional, dealing with very ill people with a very serious disease and he is often their last hope at life…so I feel myself privileged to have had the opportunity to see him in-person for my diagnosis appointment, and to see this other side of him.  I hope he felt our gratitude as well.

The “pick whose going to cut into your head” decision took a while.  I was offered 100% coverage through a quality hospital and with a quality neurosurgeon for anything done at their facility, but the endocrinologist there wanted me to start my testing process ALL over again with them, at my cost at home.  I was not willing to start over after all that hard work and with as quickly as I was deteriorating, so I decided to wait till January when the new health coverage laws were in effect and I could again get insurance without preexisting conditions clauses.  I was able to be referred to my first-choice of neurosurgeon’s and placed on Ketoconazole to help lower my cortisol while I waited.

I had pituitary surgery on February 5,2014 (I am writing this 4 months post-op).  They were able to find and remove the more obvious of tumors on my MRI, and explored the rest of my gland, finding no more tumor tissue.  My pathology report came back as “hyperplasia”, meaning I had a bunch of individual scattered cells that were a tad overgrown instead of a solid, encapsulated tumor.  This kind of tumor has a very low success rate, since the entire gland can be diseased, but it can be impossible to see and remove every one of the scattered cells.  We knew early on that it didn’t look like remission based on my symptoms and post-operative lab results.  I was off my replacement hormones within a month, had to wait for my cycles to normalize a bit (I guess all that pituitary fileting was noticed by my pituitary even if I wasn’t cured! lol) and then I could begin retesting for re-diagnosis.

In April I had a post-op MRI and follow-up with my neurosurgeon, who said I did not have a visible target on MRI, and with pathology report of “hyperplasia,” I am not a candidate for repeat pituitary surgery or radiation therapy.  We now know that a bilateral adrenalectomy (BLA, the surgical removal of both adrenal glands) is in my near future…but I need a multitude of lab tests to prove I need it, and give a surgeon enough reasoning to permanently remove two very vital little organs and put me on life-sustaining medication instead.  It is a drastic surgery for a drastic disease, but it is my best chance at a lasting cure with the least amount of hormone replacement and further damage to my other organs.

During this same trip, I was able to attend the Magic Foundation’s adult convention just a few hours from my follow-up appointment.  What an amazing event.  I learned many things, but perhaps more important to me, I was able to meet other people who had my disease, who understood what I was going through, had been there themselves, etc.  They just knew!  I felt at home.  I consider it quite telling that they switched the schedule of the conference to part-days to accommodate our fatigue…  The trip was hard on me, but I am SO glad that I went.

In May I started testing in earnest for my re-diagnosis.  After intensive testing one week, and hit/miss testing the next (I was cycling lower and thus stopped testing), I now have 5 diagnostic-level high lab results.  Because of the severity and permanency of this next surgery, my endocrinologist has asked me to continue testing.  I will start testing again during my next high cortisol cycle in the hopes of doubling the number of diagnostic-level highs that I have and move on to the surgeon referral process.  It’ll take a couple of weeks to get my lab results back (Oh, the agony!), and another couple of weeks to get my endocrinologist appointment and surgical referral if I do indeed have sufficient highs.  I’m *really* hoping he won’t want me to go on medication prior to surgery as I’d like to move forward towards a permanent cure and health!  Not to mention, my deductible is met for the year, so this year would REALLY be nice on my already broken budget.

With the new goal in sight, and some diagnostic testing that proves I’m still ill, we are hopeful.   I’m now nearly bedridden due to the physical exhaustion, but I’m starting to allow myself to plan for a near-future in which I am somewhat functional and active again.  I can’t wait!  Once again, it sounds silly to be so excited and wishful about having surgery to give me Addison’s disease, just as it was to be thrilled to be told I had a tumor, dreaded disease, and needed brain surgery.  But, I’ve been sick for so long and becoming more and more debilitated and sick the longer this has gone on that I am excited at the prospect of any semblance of improvement, health and normalcy!  (Okay, within reason…I am well educated and using logic, etc on this, but…YAY!)  I can feel it is within my reach again.  I’m on the path and moving forward.

———————————————————————

Here is Magic’s video of me: 

And the picture I spoke of in my story is attached (Dr. Friedman did give me verbal permission in-person to share it online –facebook, etc.  I imagine he’d be fine with it published in an email?)

I will include a before/after onset collage of pictures as well.  Use whatever you like.

Catherine blogs at http://muskegfarm.blogspot.com

catherine2

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Brenda B (BeBop), PCOS Bio

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I recently read an article in the NY Times magazine about Cushings, and a light bulb went off. I have an appt with an endocrinologist in March, but I’ve been to a renowned large clinic near my home in the early 1990s and was diagnosed with PCOS yet had no cysts on ovaries. I had abdominal striae, rapid wt gain in belly only, facial hair. They also found I had hypertriglyceridema – 1000+ when fasting. They could not put me on estrogen for the PCOS because of the lipid disorder, which they figured was genetic tho I never had any tests to find out why. So I went on Lopid, went on to grad school, shaved and plucked, wondered when the period would come.

I’m 53 now, got married in the mid 90s and we tried for years to have children, finally got pregnant in late 1998 and had a son in 99. Then I got hit with a terrible insomnia, sweating and anxiety and was treated for post partum depression. I did not feel depressed, just could not sleep despite my 9.9 baby sleeping through the night almost immediately. Didn’t sleep the two nights I was in the hospital after delivery. I stopped breastfeeding at 3 weeks and began a tragi-comedy of errors of regular health/mental health treatment, finally Zoloft did the trick as well as Valerian root instead of Ambien (which never worked for me) for sleep. The toughest point was when I hadn’t slept at all for 3 days. But that is another story. Anyway to make this already bad story worse, at 4 months postpartum, my mom died of stage 4 leiomyosarcoma, which she’d had in 1995 in her leg and it had metasticized to her lungs. She was a tough old bird and I think maybe had Cushings come to think back. (And thinking of my family history there may be something there with genetics, ie., MEN, with a sister with uterine fibroids, and two brothers with neurofibroma on their foreheads that were removed). Anyway, she refused all medical treatment after the leg surgery and elected to only have radiation in the leg area and never went to get checked out after that.

My son is now 14 and I’m apparently in menopause. I’ve had the return of the awful insomnia and the rapid heart rate at night. So I’m  back on Zoloft and valerian root immediately and made this endo appt today after reading about cushings here for two weeks.  My other conditions are hypertriglyceridemia (never determined if primary or secondary) for which I take Lovaza and Niacin and it’s down to about 300-400, which is not good. I tried Pravastatin but makes my muscle aches and constantnback aches worse.

In 2005 I had a terrible loose cough that the renowned clinic diagnosed as GERD after being misdiagnosed as asthma for 2 years by the community clinic. I can’t tolerate steroids as they make me an angry insomniac but took them as prescribed when they thought it was asthma. The big clinic diagnosed that as GERD (aciphex immediately worked on the cough) and I was also found to have NAFL (fatty liver), an enlarged spleen, and stil the high triglycerides.

In 2011 I had an uterine polyp (removed) and endometrial hyperplasia for which I get checked every year because I don’t want to/can’t take the progesterone. I would really prefer a hysterectomy to end that but obgyn is reluctant.

This year I’ve had a number of new symptoms: lactose intolerance, all over tendinitis (phy ther prescribed), incontinence and needing to go alot, leg and feet cramps, horrible back aches (member at the massage place), super fatique and muscle weakness (couldn’t even snap down the buckle on my ski boots last weekend and only lasted a couple of hours on the hill, and I love to ski) and blurred vision, eipscleris and early cataracts. I also have suffered from what is diagnosed as vasomotor rhinitis for YEARS, I keep lotion tissue companies in business. It’s been so bad this winter that I went to the doctor this week and was prescribed a steroid. Then I didn’t sleep last night. Oh and if I drink alcohol I get the same rapid heart beat and insomnia too, to add insult to injury. I still have the facial hair despite oh maybe a dozen laser treatments.

Oh, and since my 20s when this all started I’ve always considered myself “round shouldered” which looks to be a buffalo hump. :0

In reading all these stories I am worried that I’ve had Cushings my *entire* life not unlike some other folks here. I don’t trust doctors all that much becuase I had so a horrible time with “postpartum depression” treatrment. I was so angry after that that I spent several years on the board of a women’s reproductive mental health organization fighting to get the Melanie Stokes Act passed. I am too old and tired to do advocacy again but thanks for doing it and being here. I am reading about all you folk fighting for a diagnosis and I fear that I’ll be in the same boat. God bless you and hugs for all. Hang in there. I have. Sometimes barely.

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Woman who couldn’t lose weight diagnosed with a hidden adrenal tumor

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  • Naomi Benton, 34, baffled doctors for more than a decade
  • She continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2008
  • Tests finally revealed an orange-sized tumour on her adrenal gland
  • After having it removed she now only weighs 14st, but has 4st of excess skin

By ANNA HODGEKISS

A woman who weighed 32 stone has told how her excessive weight was due to a hidden tumour.

Naomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone at age 20 to more than 32 stone.

Naomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgeryNaomi Benton baffled doctors for over a decade as she continued to pile on the pounds despite following an 800 calorie-a-day diet and undergoing gastric bypass surgery

The mother-of-two failed to drop any weight after her bypass surgery in 2008 and medical staff assumed her huge frame was due to secret snacking.

But when she was hospitalised after a bad fall the following year and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed the hidden deadly mass.

Further blood tests showed she was suffering from Cushing’s syndrome – a collection of symptoms that develop in the body due to high levels of a hormone called cortisol.

The tumour, which had developed on her adrenal gland located on top of the kidneys, had grown to the size of an orange and Ms Benton underwent an eight-hour emergency operation.

Ms Benton, who now weighs 14 stone, needs plastic surgery to remove four stone of excess skin.

She said: ‘I was always fit and healthy but when I hit 20 I started to dramatically put on weight.

The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone (pictured) at age 20 to over 32 stone
The 34-year-old from Haddington, East Lothian, pleaded with doctors for help after she ballooned from a healthy 10 stone (pictured) at age 20 to over 32 stone

When she was hospitalised after a bad fall and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed a tumour on her adrenal gland. She is pictured in hospital after having the tumour removedWhen she was hospitalised after a bad fall and her weight continued to balloon, she underwent tests which revealed a tumour on her adrenal gland. She is pictured in hospital after having the tumour removed

‘Just after my first pregnancy I managed to put on over five stone despite not changing my diet and just couldn’t drop the weight.

‘I went to the doctors numerous times about the dramatic gain but no-one believed that my weight wasn’t just down to a very unhealthy diet.

‘It was so frustrating, no-one was listening to me when I told them I wasn’t stuffing my face.

‘I was sent to see a dietitian who helped monitor my 800-calorie-a-day diet. Every day I was weak and tired, but still hadn’t lost any weight.

Naomi Benton
Naomi Benton

Ms Benton lost weight quickly after her tumour was removed and now weighs 14 stone. She needs plastic surgery to remove four stone of excess skin (left). She is pictured (right) before her weight loss

‘Even my friends and family were convinced I was eating in secret and complete strangers would tell me I needed to go on a diet.

‘Finally I signed up for a gastric bypass but after the op still didn’t lose anywhere near the kind of weight that was expected.

‘The breakthrough came after I was laid up in hospital for eight months after breaking both arms and legs in a nasty fall.

‘A junior doctor stopped by and asked if he could take run some new tests which finally showed what was wrong.

Ms Benton said: 'Now I'm just glad the tumour was discovered, as I'd hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer'Ms Benton said: ‘Now I’m just glad the tumour was discovered, as I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer’

‘The tests revealed I had Cushing’s syndrome and a large tumour on my right side.’

Just weeks after having emergency surgery, the weight began to fall off her.

Ms Benton said: ‘Now I’m just glad it was discovered, as I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had gone on for longer.’

She has now shrunk down to a dress size 16 and but hopes to reach a size 12 and weigh 10 stone.

She added: ‘I’m a work in progress and I’m taking it in baby steps. I can’t wait to look and feel like my old self again.’

WHAT IS CUSHING’S SYNDROME?

Cushing’s syndrome is a collection of symptoms that develop due to very high levels of a hormone called cortisol.

The symptoms include weight gain, thinning skin, stretch marks and decreased interested in sex.

The condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions.

It can also develop as a result of a tumour inside one of the body’s glands.

The main treatment is to stop taking the medication that is causing it or to remove the tumour.

If these options are not available, medication can be used to counter the effects of high cortisol levels.

If left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

It affects about one in 50,000 people.

Source: NHS Choices

From: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2510680/32st-woman-lose-weight-diagnosed-hidden-TUMOUR.html

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