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Kendra D, Adrenal Bio

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My journey to writing this bio started in 2014, 34 years old.  I ended up in an emergency room in Denver while travelling with severe and unknown abdominal pain.  It came on rapidly during a lunch and I was taken to hospital via ambulance from my hotel room.  Luckily, in Denver, you get a CT scan when there is something wrong with you.  The source of the abdominal pain was never determined, however, the attending physician gave me a CD of the CT, letting me know they had observed a small tumor on the left adrenal gland and even though likely benign, I should discuss with my family physician in Canada.

Back home, I did let my family doctor know and they dismissed it.  Over the next year, I struggled with weight gain and depression, since a surgery the year prior to treat WPW (Wolf Parkinson Whyte syndrome).  It’s an extra electrical pathway in the heart that produced rapid heartbeat (SVT), starting in 2011.  3 years and several physicians later, I underwent and electrocardiogram catheter ablation after a trip to the emergency room with a heartbeat of over 200 BPM’s for approx. 5 hours.  Luckily the emerg room physician was also a cardiologist.  He recognized a small irregularity on my ECG.  I was admitted that night and had the procedure done in 5 days.  After that procedure, I noticed a decline in my energy.  Started gaining weight and just didn’t feel like I had.  I chalked it up to the rapid heart rate accounting for all the gusto I used to have not being a medical professional and that being the only real change in my life to date.

I went to see a naturopath to discuss my symptoms and try to find some answers.  I was ‘diagnosed’ with adrenal fatigue syndrome which I’m sure many of you have heard of.  And you also know how much the mainstream medical community thinks of the ‘condition’.  Not much.  But the books I’d read fit my situation and I went down the road of hormone replacement therapy.  Months of hard to find prescription pills and creams that are not covered by insurance became the bain of my existence and I wasn’t seeing measurable improvements.  I became frustrated and started cleansing, diets, supplements, and working out regularly.  Between strict diet control and working out hardcore daily (crossfit, running, weights), I started to feel pretty good.  I also started taking antidepressants, which really pushed my energy levels up, especially in the initial 6 months.  Then they would plateau, so I would try something different.  Same thing over and over.

That was the last 3 years of my life.  Trying a new drug.  A new routine.  A new relationship.  A long yo yo of up’s and down’s.  If I gained weight and felt lousy, I attributed it to the pills not working anymore.  A relationship that wasn’t working.  Stress.  Work.  Being a single parent.  If I changed something up, I could lose the weight.  If I looked good, I felt good.  That was the litmus test – never mind the depression and anxiety that was ever present.

In 2018, I began to put on weight.  I began to suffer from unmanageable anxiety/depression.  I was so tired, I completely stopped going to the gym.  I went to see the doctor about a new antidepressant.  In the clinic, they noticed my blood pressure was unusually high and started to monitor.  I was prescribed a high blood pressure medication as well as a new antidepressant.  The antidepressant was intense.  I started reading up and what I read scared me.  In conjunction with high blood pressure, I started to really consider that I’m possibly doing more harm than good.  Plus, I was not feeling better like I had in the past.

I quit both the antidepressant and the HBP meds.  Started up with the more natural approach – CBD.  Supplements.  Giving myself a break from hard core exercise.  And reading.  Everything.  In 6 months, I had gained approx. 40 lbs and weighed as much as I had the day I gave birth to my son.  My depression was unmanageable.  I was going through a lot of work/relationship stress as well.  I had tried the ‘chill out’ approach and it simply was not working.  I went back to the doctor, who referred me to an endocrinologist.  I remember bawling in her office bc I felt like a failure and a total loser.  Admitting how my weight had spiraled out of control and how I could not manage my mental health and I’d stopped taking my prescription for HBP – I felt crazy.  She looked me in the eyes and promised to do everything she could to figure out what was wrong.  In that moment, I felt like maybe there was something wrong, maybe I wasn’t crazy.  TBD.

So we spent the next year doing all of the tests.  High cortisol being the constant result.  I started back on a HBP med that acts also a diuretic – which at least helped with water weight.  At the end of all the testing, my endo revealed that she suspected cushing’s syndrome and since we knew there was an adrenal tumor from way back, we re scanned and determined it had doubled in size.  Good chance it could be the culprit, especially if increased in size, it’s a good indication that it is active.  She referred me to one of the best endo surgeons in Calgary and let me know that if her diagnosis did not make me a candidate for an adrenalectomy, the surgeon would not perform it.

I’ve spent the last several months not knowing what to expect.  I think many of you can relate to living in a state of being thankful for an answer but still in disbelief.  I still battle in my head with ‘did I cause this’, ‘is this actually what’s making me sick’, ‘what if I remove my adrenal gland and I never feel good again’, ‘what if the tumor isn’t the culprit’.  I have one last CT scan upcoming Aug 7, prior to setting a surgery date and suspect it will fall within a few weeks of the scan.  I’m looking forward to getting it over with one minute and then feeling really scared the next.

I know I can’t live my life in my current state so I have to proceed with whatever solutions are being offered to me.  That rationale promotes a positive mindset.  But it’s one day at a time.  Some days I feel great, some days I can’t get out of bed.  Still living a yo yo life.  My work keeps me pre-occupied and gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  My therapist helps keep me sane.  No antidepressants.  My family has been a great support.  Most people have never heard of Cushing’s so I just stopped telling people. It is isolating.  People assume I’ve gained weight bc people get fat.  And I have to just embrace where I’m at and not let that affect me so negatively.  This is a rare disease.  I’m excited to share more of this journey on the other side.  These bios have given me such peace of mind over the last several months.  Thank you for listening.

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Elizabeth C (Moonface1561), Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

The pituitary gland

High schoolvl senior, I was finally diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. Extreme leg pain, rapid heart rate and overall sick feeling drove this 17 year old nuts. Huge moonface, buffalo hump and torn skin on torso, stomach, thighs and arms did not help.

By the Grace of God, a brilliant pediatric endocrinologist found me and sent me to UCSF for transphenodal surgery. There, other genius pediatric physicians gawked at my monster appearance. The famous Dr. Charles Wilson went into action.

Six years later, my tumor grew back with a vengeance. My cortisol levels reached 3000 as a ferocious candida infection spread all over my body.

My second operation was followed with radiation treatments. I lost my baby shortly thereafter. Years later, childless and fatigued, I was informed that the radiation therapy caused the remainder of my pituitary gland to disintegrate.

I now have secondary Addison’s disease and nearly died one month ago from an acute adrenal crisis. I am lucky to be alive…..swollen and all.

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