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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.

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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

Laura (Loves2Cruise), Adrenal Bio

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The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys.

The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was diagnosed with Cushings over 14 years ago and really thought it was over and done with. After seeing several doctors while starting in high school and into college, primarily to explain why my cycle had completely stopped, I was given various responses from the typical, “oh, it’s probably just stress” to “let’s just put her on birth control and it will start right back up.” And while the latter may have been true, it certainly didn’t explain the weight gain round my midsection, especially when I was eating so little while in college because I just couldn’t figure out why my pants wouldn’t fit anymore. It also didn’t explain the “buffalo hump” at the base of my neck, or why my hair seemed to be falling out. Or why my blood pressure was high all the time. Or why I had constant headaches. So only after my mom refused to accept “stress” as an answer, she turned to Dr. Google, and started looking up my symptoms. She finally convinced a doctor to test my cortisol levels, which were off the charts.

Luckily, I went to college in Milwaukee, and saw Dr. Findling who immediately diagnosed me with Cushings. After dealing with this for several years, Dr. Findiling diagnosed the disease, located the tumor (left adrenal gland), had it removed, and was on my way to recovery in a matter of a few months. By the time I returned to college in the fall, after having the turmor removed over spring break, people did not even recognize me, my appearance had changed so drastically.

Well, fast forward to today, and I am wondering if the one adrenal gland could have anything to do with what my husband and I have dealt with for the past 2 years. We conceived 2 children easily with no problems who were born in 2006 and 2009. When we tried to have baby #3, two years ago, something was different. We practice natural family planning, so I was very aware of my cycles. But after a surgery and terrible cold, things changed. No longer could we get pregant. I saw several different doctors who all said again, “it’s stress” or “there’s nothing wrong with you.” One even gave me a brochure on how to have a baby. Really! Anyway, I started myself on an “adrenal fatigue” diet last fall, started taking Maca root (because I read it was good for adrenal health), and we got pregnant last November after trying for over a year and a half.

Unforunately, at a 13 week ultrasound, we discovered that the baby stopped growing at 9 weeks. We figured we were just a statistic, and 1 in 3 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. We did not have any testing done because we figured we were just one of the odds. We conceived again in May, only to find out at 12 weeks that our little peanut stopped growing at 11 weeks. We opted for testing this time and are awaiting the results to determine whether or not there was a chromosomal abnormality. Although I am sure it happens, to lose 2 babies, after confirming heartbeats multiple times, seeing it move around, and find out it has passed is devestating. I won’t forgive myself if this happens a third time without ruling out the role my one adrenal gland may have played in this.

One doctor did test my thyroid during our efforts to get pregnant, and my RT3 was very high, especially in relation to my T3. He just put me on T3 and said I was “stressed.” I am now wondering if yes, I was stressed, but my one remaining adrenal could not handle the necessary work required to sustain a pregnancy. Or affected our efforts to even conceive. I have read (though don’t completely understand) the relationship between the RT3 and adrenal glands. I am going to return to Milwaukee to have my remaining gland tested to see if it is indeed working at an optimal level.

I guess my point in joining this board is to not only share my story with Cushings, but also to see how patients have fared after the Cushings was resolved. Has anyone had any long-term affects from only having one adrenal glad? Specifically as it relates to fertility? Curious to hear from others who have gone through this experience. I know there are not many of us. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “wow. I have never met a cushings patient before” from various doctors. But I am glad to find others who have shared this experience.

 

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Kristi (kingskid), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi my name is Kristi and I’m seeking any help or advice on Cushings.

I had always been active growing up into sports, running, weight lifting and horseback riding.

27 Yrs ago I gave birth to a beautiful healthy daughter. I was a size 10 and had only gained 25 LBS during prignancy.  Less then a year later I was carrying my second daughter.  I had no appetite and could barely eat but was gaining 10 pds every other day.  My blood pressure soared and I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.  I have been sick ever since I gave birth.

In the past 20yrs I have put on over 150 lbs and I can’t get it off.  I was told I had a fatty liver and my cholesterol and triglicerites are off the chart.  I began having memory trouble even forgetting my daughters name, hair loss, blurred vision (even typing this is slow going so forgive any mistakes) I started falling, loosing bladder and bowel control, walk into walls, tables and door frames/   I’ve had bouts of blndness and layered viion (Multiple Sclerosis has been ruled out) chronic body and nerve pain, horrible mood swings from happy, depressed, anger, intolerance (it’s like a daily rollar coaster ride) SEVERE salt cravings, low body temp, heaviness in legs, bruising, infections, trouble healing, brain lesions., trouble sleeping.  Get cyst on my breast, head, ears and pubic area.  Have little hard bumps on pubic area that never go away.  No sex drive left for husband and even when we are active it’s very painful..  Major swelling in face, neck, legs and feet, backaches, headaches.  When I stand up I feel like I get a head rush or lightheaded and I flap my arms to stay up or I fall back into bed or chair.  I sweat even in winter.  I do have the buffalo hump, the stretch marks, the moon face, brain lesions and the discolored skin under breast,  behind neck and arm pits.

Dec. 6th I had a carbuncle which had develped staff and mrsa removed from my armpit.  My whole armpit had to be removed and a couple weeks later I developed an abcess and had to go back to surgery.  It has been 5 months and I still can’t heal.  Have been packing the wound every day and seeing the surgeon every 2 wks.  Now I have a carbuncle on the other side and I’m facing more painful surgery after this side heals.

Today I recieved a call that the urine test I took for cushings came back with normal levels.  Needless to say I sat down and sobbed.  I am 46 yrs old and I have been sick for half my life.  I have seen so may doctors, been through so many surgeries and painful testings.  I have been told over and over that there is something wrong but the Doctors can’t find it.  I thought cushings was the answer and that I could finally get treatment and get better.  I look in the mirror and I don’t recogize this person I see….How will I start over again on this long search for answers?  Where will I get the strength?

Erin, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi. My name is Erin and I’m 28 years old. The first time I ever heard of Cushing’s was a couple weeks ago while doing a search for hormonal imbalance. I’ll explain why later. I am currently doing a 24 hour urine cortisol test, and thought that in between peeing in the large container, I’d share what little story I have.ufc

I have always been a normal weight and healthy, well, up until about 5 years ago. I mean, obesity was NEVER a word that had to be used to describe my weight. I’m 5’8″ and lingered around 140 lbs my entire life. I was quite the drinker, too. I started gaining weight when I was about 22 or 23, and started taking Adderol to get the weight down, and it worked like a charm. (I am currently a recovering alcoholic and have been in recovery for over a year now.)

When I started trying to get sober, I noticed little things, but mainly the weight gain. I have always had larger hips and thighs and a smaller waist, so when I began to look 6 months pregnant, I thought it was odd (and embarrasing). I have bruised very easy every since I was a teenager, but in the past few years the bruises come easier and are quite large. My acne will just not quit, and I started sprouting these thick hairs on my face, chest, and abdomen. My face has ballooned out like a pumpkin, and I don’t hardly recognize myself anymore.

In May 2012 I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. During the pregnancy I started getting these purple stretch marks all over my thighs and hips, and since I had neve been pregnant before, decided this was normal. Before then I was having trouble getting pregnant, but just chalked it up to bad timing. After the miscarriage, I noticed my menstrual cycles were different. They had shortened from 26-27 days to 22 days, and just didn’t seem right. I started seeing my gynecologist every month, but kept getting dismissed because it hadn’t been a full year since the loss, and my hormones were probably still imbalanced. I did get them to test for PCOS, and everything came back normal, including an ultrasound, which just made me seem crazy.  I switched gyns and eventually had a hormonal blood test, which revealed very low estrogen and progesterone, and I was referred to a fertility specialist. Another blood test there revealed my ovaries are not responding very well and not secreating enough of the AMH hormone.

About a month and a half ago I decided to battle the bulge, and joined a gym and changed my diet. After 2 weeks of cardio and strenth training almost every day, I hadn’t lost a pound. Then at week 3, I finally noticed a 2 pound weight loss, but that’s when the knee pain started. For no reason at all, my knees became VERY sore, swollen, and were bruising from the inside of the joint. I saw an orthopedic who couldn’t find any evidence of injury, gave me a cortisone shot in each knee, and sent me on my way. I should also mention that a week before that I had a cortisone injection in my back for a herniated disc that was causing sciatic nerve pain.

A few days after the last set of injections in my knees, I started feeling very ill and run down. I had also just missed a period for the first time in my reproductive history, and after a negative blood pregnancy test, was told my hormones were too low for my period to start on its own. I thought I was feeling under the weather because of the missed period, so that’s when I started looking up hormonal imbalances online. When I came across the word Cushing’s, I couldn’t stop reading about it. I thought, oh my god, these people are me! They look like me! Thinking back over the years, all of these individual symptoms could be explained away due to stress, inactivity, lifestyle change, etc. But collectively, I started to see the bigger picture.

So, I am currently testing with my PCP. I am selfishly hoping that I get a quick diagnosis, or if it isn’t Cushing’s, that they find some other reason for all of these symptoms. But from what I’ve read this is going to be a long process.

Lavane V (lvowell), Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

The pituitary gland

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease in September 2012.  I started my search for a diagnosis back in March.

So here is how my story goes… in January of 2012, I decided that i was going to change my diet and exercise.  I had weight to lose from a previous pregnancy.  I began working with a nutrionist and personal trainer.  I spent a lot of time working out and logging everything that went into my mouth.  I even tracked my water intake. It became very obvious that for a hard as I was working that something was wrong.  i was gaining weight instead of losing.  I was also feeling very run down.  I had also started noticing that I did not have very many patience for much of anything and I felt very uptight about silly stuff.  I decided to go have my hormones checked.

At first the doctor told me that I was extremely deficiet on vitamin D and needed to drink a lot more water.  He said we need to run more tests.  He did a salivary test and some bloodwork to check my corisol levels.  On my follow up with him he said that i had very high cortisol levels and wanted to run more test.  He then went on vacation for a few weeks.  I was unable to get answers from his nurse and then he was so behind when he came back that i could never get an appointment.

I started researching on the interenet about high cortisol levels.  Everything that I was reading sounded like me.  Weight gain (i had gained 100 lb), exhaustion, stretch marks, blurred vision, high blood pressure, water retention, etc.  I found another endocrinologist and made an appointment.  I told him all my symptoms and what I felt was wrong with me.  He asked me what i wanted him to do.  I suggested some of the tests that  I had read about because I thought i might have cushings and he said, “ok, let’s get started but, cushings is very rare and I doubt that is what is going on”.

After running blood work, 24 urine test, plus many more test, he told me that I had Cushing’s Syndrome.  He indicated that this was very rare and that he had not seen but one case before.  He ordered an MRI.  The radiologist that read my MRI said that he did not see a tumor.  However, he did say that he saw “sinus disease”.  Now I have never hear of that so i questioned it.  I was told that I would need to go to a ENT doctor for learn more about that.

The endo doc wanted to proceed with the IPSS test.  I keep studying on the interenet about the disease and all the testing.  I even watched a few pituitary surgeries.  I just felt like I need to know everything possible besides, I could not sleep so this was a great way to spend hours.   I also kept reading all that I could on this site as well. I met with a local neurosurgeon and he scheduled the IPSS test.  I asked him about how we would proceed if my test results showed positive for a pit tumor. I was basically told since no tumor was seen in my MRI that the IPSS test would help them to decided which side of my pit they would take.  I was totally not comfortable with just losing part of my master gland.  I kept my scheduled test but started to research experts in cushing’s.  Then I researched which were covered by my insurance.

In the meantime, I kept the appointment for the IPSS since I didnt want to lose any time.  I checked into the hospital and got prepped for my test only to have the doctor come in to tell me that we would not be doing the procedure because the company that made the medications used for testing no longer was making the mediation.  Now then, how do you not know this before you prep someone for the procedure?!?!  I told the doctor that there were other hospital that were treating cushing patients and were performing this test.  I had been reading about them on the boards.  He told me that there was not anyone in the US that had the meds.  That was when I really knew that I was going to have to leave my state to get treatment.

I called my endo and explained what had happend and asked for a referral to MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  I also went online and did a self referral.  I just kept following up with them.  They have a pituitary tumor board that reviews cases.  My case was approved and I had my first appointment in Sept 2011.  I spent on day running tests, having an MRI and meeting with the a new endo.

Within 48 hours, he confirmed that I did have cushing’s disease and showed me the tumor on my pituitary.  In November 2011, I underwent transphenoidal pit surgery.  An 8mm tumor was removed.  There was some concern because the tumor was right up against my cavernous sinus cavity.  This is where your carotid artery is and the surgeon did not want to get close to this artery.

Unfortunalely, I did not experince a “crash” after surgery.  My levels did indicate they were in the normal range so the doctors sent me home with a perscription of hydrocortisone.

English: Cavernous sinus

English: Cavernous sinus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

for me.  He is going to confer with my endocrinologist and then I will go from there.

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