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Nicole, Undiagnosed Bio

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My name is Nicole, currently 19 years old. I’m a student at The Juilliard School in New York studying Dance. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to reach out to this community, I have certainly been stalking and researching this disease for months now… I guess I’m ready now to share my own story, especially since I feel more hopeless and alone than ever before.

July 2015— It all started about two years ago. I was only 17 and very much in peak-performance shape. I looked and felt like an athlete training to be a professional ballet dancer. I prided myself for my toned body, which is very very important in the dance world. I think I weighed about 103 lbs at a height of 5’4″.

But that summer I noticed it became increasingly difficult for me to fall sleep at night. I would sometimes stay up until 3 or 4 AM when I knew I had to be up at 6 or 7 AM for a full 8 hour day of dancing. I started to stress eat a lot as well and by the end of summer I blamed myself when I had gained back all the weight I had worked to lose the previous year, plus some. I think I was about 114 lbs by the end of August.

Around this time I also sought out a Naturopathic doctor for the first time at the suggestion from a friend to help me treat an underlying anxiety disorder. I was given supplements, and for a while my health improved considerably. I felt more calm and sane than ever before in my entire life. But that didn’t last long. I continued to steadily gain weight during my senior year, always going on extreme fad diets to try to maintain. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not.

March 2016– By the time Spring rolled around I was really starting to notice a difference in my appearance. My face had begun to swell and I began to wonder if maybe my weight was out of my control. Maybe there was an explanation for my struggles and failed efforts. So I began researching hypothyroidism, since it runs in my family, and I went to my primary care doctor to ask for the first tests. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a long and defeating marathon.

My doctor initially treated me like I was crazy. Saying that if anything I was still underweight and that I should be concerned about my primary amenorrhea (I had still never had a period). But he did the tests and the results came back suggesting hyperthyroidism. I was confused because all my symptoms suggested otherwise. Nevertheless I was shipped off to an endocrinologist who was of little help to me throughout the summer while I continued to dance and went away for a summer intensive in Chicago.

June 2016– While in Chicago my weight just ballooned even more. I admit I did gain muscle but that was thanks to the rigorous amount of training I was doing at the time. I definitely didn’t look right though. My muscles were buried under a layer of fat, no tone was visible, and my puffy face made me look like a stranger to friends when I returned home. I tried various thyroid replacement hormones at low doses, desperate to get my body back.

August 2016– I had returned to my Naturopath in the hopes she could finally diagnose me with hypothyroidism. She did, and in fact she discovered I have Hashimoto’s, which explained the fluctuating levels. She put me on NaturThroid before saying goodbye as I departed for my Freshman year of college at The Juilliard School.

September 2016– My health improved a short while. I lost some of the puffiness on my face, dropped some weight, but settled around 117 lbs. This only lasted about a month.

October 2016– By October things turned for the worst. I felt only weaker the more I pushed myself each day. My muscles weren’t allowing me to dance at the same capacity as I once had, I was embarrassed by my short comings, especially being surrounded by so many talented individuals. My weight started rapidly increasing now. I regained the puffiness around my face and neck, and my weight went from 117 to 126 in a matter of a month.

I was referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist who thought I had PCOS and put me on metformin. To her credit, I did fit the profile. I complained of rapid weight gain, I had slightly elevated testosterone, and I had a few small cysts on my ovaries. But there were also things that didn’t fit the bill. Like my apparent lack of Estrogen, which is usually elevated in PCOS. And that I had never had a period before. I also showed no signs of pre-diabetes.

January 2017– After winter break I really could no longer put a stop to my weight gain. No matter what, it just went up. I tried cutting carbs, sugar, and calories to below 1,200 a day, all while dancing 6-8 hours a day and my weight only went up.
Metformin didn’t work. Repro. Endo. put me on estrogen and progesterone for a while, but I stopped seeing her eventually because she didn’t listen to me and ignored my qualms about weight.

I also grew very very depressed around this time and began to wonder if this was the end of my dance career. I was starting to look like a joke in classes. I mourned my body. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

May 2017– After months of research I began to wonder if I might have Cushing’s disease. I had the stretch marks on my butt and thighs, the filling in of fat around the collar bone, neck and jawline. Rapid weight gain, fatigue, depression, angry outbursts, and flushed cheeks. I do not have central obesity, but my weight has always tended to go to my butt and thighs. Though for the first time ever I begin to form a muffin top and fat on my arms. Cellulite appeared everywhere when I stretched my skin even a little bit, very odd to see cellulite on your knees! I had swollen legs too.
I now weighed 135+ lbs.

June 2017– When I got home for summer break my mom and I saw Neuro Endocrinologist Dr. Kevin Yuen at Swedish Pituitary Center. He listens to me, the first doctor to really listen! And he began testing.
Four 24/hr urine, 4 midnight salivary cortisol, 1 dexamethasone suppression test, 1 dex-CRH test, 1 Pituitary MRI.

July 2017– (current weight = 147 lbs) After a visit with Dr. Yuen and weeks of speculation he concludes there is only a 50/50 chance I have Cushing’s. Test results are as follows:
-2 mildly elevated 24/hr urines
-2 normal 24/hr urines
-3 elevated midnight salivary cortisols
-1 completely normal midnight salivary cortisol
-normal response (suppressed) after low dose dexamethasone
-normal response to Dex-CRH
-normal MRI

I’m disappointed to say the least that there is not more resounding evidence that I have this disease. I feel so certain that I have it. My body and mind are changing so rapidly I just want to cry every day. It’s so bad I don’t think I can return to school in the fall. I may have to take a year off of dance if I don’t get my body back in shape by the fall. And a year off of training could ruin me!!

Dr. Yuen suggests doing a hospital stay at Swedish to conduct further testing, particularly midnight serum cortisol, to see if more positive results might outweigh the normal results. I guess he wonders if I did something to mess up the cortisol response in some of the tests, though I don’t see how I could have! I’ve barely done anything this summer, definitely nothing exciting. I’m home-bound because I feel so depressed.

I don’t go to ballet classes anymore because it’s too painful to see myself in the mirror and try to dance in a fat suit. None of my clothes fit anymore. I just don’t feel like a young attractive woman like I used to. Not to mention my energy is out the window.

I haven’t quite given up yet! I eat a very limited paleo diet that omits grains and sugar (except those naturally occurring). I try to swim at least every other day and keep up with my pilates and stretching. It’s not the same though.

I might give up if after the hospital stay, the tests come back normal and I’m told I do not have Cushing’s, when I don’t see how it could be anything else!

I just want my life back.

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Matthew C, Pituitary Bio

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pituitary-location
Hello,
I am retired from the United States Army and currently work as a dispatcher for the Blue Springs School District. A few years ago I started to have extreme anxiety. Of course, I went to a psychiatrist and was prescribed an anti-depressants. After a few months the anxiety would resolve. Unfortunately, over the years it would come and go and last for many months each time.

During the summer of 2015, the anxiety returned with a vengeance. I went to a new psychiatrist and was again prescribed an anti-depressant. However, this time it did not work. So, we went through a number of them without success. I researched to see what physical manifestation may be making me feel the gut wrenching anxiety and insomnia. I discovered the wonderful hormone called – YES YOU GUESSED IT – cortisol.

I then learned that cortisol came from the small, but powerful adrenal glands. That lead me to Cushing’s Syndrome/Disease. However, every site that I went to said that Cushing’s was very rear and effected women more than men. After, many more months of suffering and failing at the anti-depressant experiment, I went to my primary doctor and requested a blood test to determine my cortisol levels. The test indicated I did have high morning plasma cortisol.

My doctor referred me to an endocrinologist. I made a crucial mistake when I went to see him. He asked me my history and I told him about the severe anxiety. That planted a seed in his brain that I was just suffering from a psychiatric disorder. Nevertheless, he did order the test (Plasma cortisol, saliva cortisol and 24-hour urine free cortisol). All the test came back with higher than normal cortisol, but he kept saying that I was having “false positives.”

This went on for a number of months and then he basically fired me as a patient. So, I go back to my primary doctor and he refers me to my second endocrinologist. Guess what the story turned out to go the same way. I was fired again as a patient.

Before I go on let me add a little to the story: I do not have any of the physical signs of high cortisol. Basically, I suffer from anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, cognitive impairment and constipation. So, in their defense I don’t look the part of a person suffering from Cushing’s.

My next attempt was with the Veterans Administration. My endocrinologist there did the same test and was convinced something was wrong. She ordered a Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. Finally, a test that did confirm that I had Cushing’s Disease.

The surgery to remove the tumor was accomplished on 9 August, 2016. However, the surgery failed. The worst part is that my current endocrinologist feels that my test results are “false positives.” I must say the entire process has been frustrating at best.

I do have a radical plan in place with a endocrinologist overseas who has agreed to do the surgery that will cure my Cushing’s Disease once and for all. I call this the final solution. Yes, this is extreme but my symptoms are getting worse and I don’t feel like playing the game anymore.

In addition, my symptoms are getting worse as my blood pressure is getting higher and higher.

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Sheara (sbailey), Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

A Golden Oldie originally from Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I started back in Jan 08 with a heart arrythmia that ultimately put me through weeks of cardio testing. All cardio came up negative, including passing the stress test at 110% for my age. I went back to my PCP and she was deadended with answers.

I started to advocate for myself asking if it could be endocrine since I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease(a type of Hypothroidism) in 2002. In particular I asked her if she thought my adrenal system was the culprit. My doc said well let’s check cortisol levels. I did a salivary cortisol test that, according to the endocrinologist my doc spoke with said, was the highest he had seen.

They ordered up an MRI and confirmed a Pituitary Tumor on June 27th. My doc reacted quickly and had me go for an emergency eye exam that day to check visual fields…they were fine. Then my doc had me do urine and dexamethasone testing to see if cortisol levels could be duplicated.

Early July I had a phone call from my doc stating that since the other tests for cortisol came back normal they felt I had a non-functioning tumor but still wanted me to meet with a neurosurgeon. Finally on Aug 5th I met with the surgeon.

In the meantime I had been reading whatever I could get my hands on. I was prepared with many questions to the surgeon. Before I was in the room talking with him for 15 min. he mentioned Cyclic Cushing’s as a possibility. He had me repeat the salivary testing for 5 days…all came back normal. So the opinion remained that I may have Cyclic Cushings or can watch the tumor and symtoms or I could have the tumor removed for peace of mind.

I opted to have the surgery. to remove the tumor. Last Mon. Sept 29th I had Transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor. On Fri. Oct 3rd the neurosurgeon called with the pathology report results being that it was an ACTH(aka Cortisol) and Prolactin Tumor. He was vague to make a formal statement to agree that it was Cyclic Cushings.

So I am home on the mend 1 week post op…glad I made the decision to go forward with tumor removal. The medical system is curious though how they appeared almost afraid to make any formal opinions. Although the surgeon did state that Cyclic Cushings is difficult to diagnose. In my opinion, the evidence is in the pathology report!

Maybe it is my imagination, but I already feel like my “old self” back 10 yrs. ago. The other bit of history for me is that after my hypothroidism was diagnosed and I was stabilized on Synthroid and Cytomel I could never get weight off and in less than 6 months in 2005 I gained 40+lbs. No matter what I tried to do for weight loss I could not budge more than 5 lbs. I am now anxiouis to see how I do. I meet with the neurosurgeon in 5 weeks. He and possibly an endocrinologist will be following my health. Time will tell but I do feel I am on the right track.

Thanks for listening!

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lyebye0, Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

The pituitary gland

 

I am stuck in the same doctor visit, testing, referral, waiting cycle that many of us find ourselves in and in the meanwhile my symptoms continue to worsen. I suddenly have developed high blood pressure and have high serum glucose. My TSH is also recently elevated for the first time ever, despite my Hashimoto’s. An MRI revealed a pituitary tumor.

I did two midnight salivary tests with one coming back high (but only slightly above the utmost limit) and the other fell in the normal range. The doctor believes that this is something to be “watched.” This mentality is so frustrating. I am planning on getting a referral to a local neurosurgeon. I no longer care what doctors’ opinions are. I will find someone who knows more about this than a regular endocrinologist.

These boards and support groups are life saving. When I read over and over again other people’s stories that are the same as mine, I feel affirmed. And affirmation is hard to come by with this disease.

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Jeanne, Pituitary Cushing’s and Acromegaly Bio (Golden Oldie)

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golden-oldie

 

During the summer of 1999 I was a trim and fit 130 pound woman. I was very athletic and worked out all the time. At that time I had also been taking Tae Kwon Do. I was able to eat anything that I wanted and not gain weight. I wore size 8 pants.

Fast forward to May of 2000. I developed increasing stomach and bowel problems. I had a spastic colon and serious GERD. Along with that came a poof in my belly. Although I was still wearing the same size my stomach started to look “pregnant”. I was referred to a gastroenterologist who began treating my myriad of health issues. He really couldn’t find a reason for all of it but said he could treat it. For awhile I managed okay on the drugs and diet that I was treated with. Everything went in cycles.

During the summer of 2001 my naturally light blonde hair began to change color. It got black and mousy looking at the roots. At the same time it started thinning, the texture was horrible and no longer shiny and baby soft. I developed heat intolerance. I was uncomfortable in 80 degree weather. I also developed strange rashes and red dots on my skin. Later that fall my neck and face started to turn beet red. It stayed that way.

I could no longer fit in my wedding rings and my shoe size went from a size 7 ½ to and 8 1/2. Doctors didn’t find this impressive. My neck went from 13 inches around to 16. I gained 12 pounds in 1 week alone. I started getting real fat in my stomach and armpits, and I could no longer wear normal bras. I also started getting a lot of fat on my upper back. I grew hair in places that women should not grow hair. My face was huge with strange acne outbreaks. I also got acne in weird spots.

At the time I had put on about 20 pounds all in my stomach. When I would try other clothing it wouldn’t work because the next size bigger fit in the waist but the butt and legs were huge. I gave up on real pants and started to wear stretch clothes all the time. At this time I could no longer exercise to my peak performance. I was tired all the time and never felt well and I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. I thought that I was getting old.

January of 2002 my bowel and stomach troubles peaked. I was in and out of the hospital. Although I was following the healthy eating plan and exercising no doctors believed me. My PCP did a TSH test and it came back at 27.48. I was hypothyroid, at that time my estradiol levels were also non-existent. So off I was sent to an Endocrinologist. I was given replacements for both yet nothing improved.

This started an intense year of doctors. I was diagnosed with anything and everything at this point. I was started on the Atkins diet plan. I followed this religiously and walked for up to 2 hours a day and continued to gain weight. By this time I was 165 pounds. Finally realizing that something horrible was wrong with me I started seeking out Endo’s on my own. It led me to one who thought he should do a few 24 UFC’s. One came back high, 2 others came back high normal (33.4 and 33.9 with a range of 2.9-34). They then did serum cortisols which came back below normal. I was frustrated.

It was November by now and I was getting no where fast. At this point I had seen 11 different doctors. The last of which told me that there was no way I was eating healthy and not losing. He even suggested that my fresh sliced berry snack was making me fat. By now I’ developed high blood pressure and high blood sugars. My fasting blood glucose came in at 170.

By this time I was so exhausted and developed such horrid bone pain that I could not even exercise anymore. I remember waking up late one morning and crying. I went downstairs and told my hubby I was sure my back was breaking. It was horrible. I weighed 196 pounds and looked 9 months pregnant with triplets.

I came home and looked the tests up on the internet. I started reading everything that I could find. I knew then that I had Cushing’s. I found the Cushing’s help site. The trouble was that some tests were normal and some were abnormal. Finally in January of 2003 I went to see Dr. Friedman after another patient emailed me. Dr. Friedman tested my 17-Hydroxysteroids and 17- Ketosteroids which came back elevated. He also did some additional salivary cortisols testing. He finally figured out that I not only had Cyclic Cushing’s but also Acromegaly.

After many more tests and some MRI’s my tumors were found. I had pituitary surgery to remove them. I was devastated that I was not cured from the Cushing’s. After much consulting I decided to proceed with a Bilateral Adrenalectomy to cure it once and for all. I am recovering slowly but surely.

I am now 4 months post-op.

Click any thumbnail to view the larger image.

Before Cushing’s [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

In the kitchen [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Jinxie [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

Jinxie [Photographer: Jeanne’s family]

 

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Emily B-C (EmilyBC), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed3

 

Hi.  I am a 40 year old female who has been feeling “not quite right” for almost 10 years.  I have been tested on and off for many different things and have been diagnosed with Epstein Barr, Adrenal fatigue, and h.pylori during these years.  I continually have vitamin D deficiency issues.  I have a rash on my lower legs that never really heals even with the most powerful of steroid creams.

This year, I started feeling worse than usual.  I have zero energy and my brain is in a perpetual fog.  My muscles and body ache, my face is round, and I have gained 40+ lbs over the years.  There are days that I physically cannot get out of bed.  I have fainting spells and a racing heartbeat at times.  I crave carbs and salt.  There is not enough water in the world to drink and I have to run to the bathroom frequently.  No matter how hard I try the weight will not come off.  When I get massages my therapist tells me that my adrenal glands are swollen and I feel very nauseous every time she runs her hands over that spot.

I was an avid equestrian- 3 day eventer.  I was riding and showing no less than 3 times a week.  I was getting fit.  Now I am just a useless blob that can’t do anything.  I have been pushing to go to the barn to just groom and be with my horse as much as I can.  

My doctor found that I have an unusually high blood cell count a couple of months ago.  I was sent to a hematologist to find out why.  We did so many tests I quit counting.  The conclusion was that I am not sick enough to be sick.  So many tests were coming back normal or high normal.  No lupus, no leukemia, no answers.  I finally asked about Cushing’s because I have a majority of the symptoms listed.  My doctor was skeptical, but agreed to let me do a 24 hour urine test.  It came back high.  This has allowed me to move to an endocrinologist.  I also have high levels of reverse T3.

So far I feel like a complete lab rat.  I have now done 2 salivary Cortisol tests and have another urine test this week.  One of the 2 saliva tests came back very high.  My doctor said we have to do yet another saliva test to test the last results.  After all of this we will do a dex suppression test.   

At this point I am very depressed that I am unable to live my life.  Riding is not an option because I just get “floppy” and risk falling off.  I was studying to get my vet tech license, but the brain fog prevents me from remembering anything I read.  

I am so lucky to have a doctor that believes my symptoms are real.  She does not gloss over the fact that it may take a long to diagnose what is going on, but she wants answers as much as I do.  For now, I am just a good lab rat.

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Kelsey G (kelcann44), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi there! I am a 24 year old female from New Zealand. I am curently awaiting my last test to prove 100% if I have cyclical cushing syndrome or not.

I went from crazy happy boucing sport ,dance and hunting crazy tom boy to at age 12 have 8months solid of tonsitis once i got them out i never recoverd propley and turns out i had galandular fever which effected me really badly they belive it is where my chronic fatuige comes from and other things.

From 2008 to may 2011 i was living your normal teenage dream making up for being so sick in highschool i could makeup for that and build some.special groups of friends amd plan partys and holidays….untill may 2011, I was standing behind the counter at work and there was a niggle at my side going down my legs and that soon turned into full blown cramping that had me colapse amd feeling like i was being kicked woth boots. They rushed me to hospital and with pain medication it became a very sharp.niggly pain and with pain came vommiting ( i am not also diagnosed woth cyclical vommoiting syndrome
After a week they xrayed my side and said i was very constipated but they tried and tried to clear it amd they couldmt…..this episode lasted 8 weeks and i tend to have them every 6months of so ranging from 8weeks to 16weeks eventually i have been picked up by an endicrine professor who has done some tests with abnormal results the last one being they 30day salivitoryswab test

I next have the urinary test but i canot have that untill im out of pain and having bowel motions ( this had been week 5) just wondering if anyone else has had bowel troubles with theirs. The endicrine man is shocked that i have been missed for soo long when i have 99% of side effects ( i mever knew i just thought i was gettimg fatter and my chubby cheeks had decided to fatten my whole face and my old size 16 pants and 16 top. Has now turned into 16pants and size 24 top!

I wish i had a answer because the life i am living is killing me i am a hollow shell of the person i was i have no life dreams or ambitions its one day at a time or getting sick again will ruin it (and i beyond love traveling ended up in ireland hospitala and laid up 2weeks bedrest for sinus infection and pnemona and a close to bursting drum…i camt plan holidays now as i cant save the money my bugets blow away when im out of work for 16weeks !

Luckily my mum.andndad are there for me but i see how me being so ill is breaking their hearts and puting them under so much stress along with my brothers.and my neices and nephews . My big boy 4 year old nephew breaks down everytime he sees me in hospital and the needles in the hand must.hurt me and that the hospitals turned aunty telsey into a quiet ghost who dosnt love me and play with me….smashes my heart into a million peices hearing that but it is true and when im good im.rediculous i party like a rockstar and bugger the health because im done with living the shadow ghost of.me!! 💖

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