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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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Renee (rmaxwell), Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally posted December 5, 2008

My symptoms began when I was about 21 years old. At the time I worked as a Martial Art instructor so I was very physical and in good shape, weighing about 120lbs. Suddenly, and I do mean SUDDENLY, I gained about 60lbs or so. It was as if my clothes fit one night and then didn’t fit in the morning. The weight is mostly in the middle area. My face shape changed and I developed a second chin almost.

I also started getting some whiskers on my chin and neck. Not a lot, just a few, but it was strange.

I was under great stress at the time because I had lost both of my parents in the same year, to two different medical things. So as you can imagine, it was very difficult for me. I developed extreme fatigue, and anxiety attacks. Friends were sure all my physical and mental symptoms must be from depression over losing my folks. One friend advised I see a psychiatrist, so considering everything it sounded reasonable, and I did.

I was placed on Paxil, which caused me to gain even more weight. Since then I’ve tried so many antidepressants I can’t even begin to name them. I went through many SSRI’s, then SNRI’s, then tricyclic, and most recently as a last resort an MAOI.
But in spite of this, over the years my depression has only gotten worse. I’ve had two suicide attempts and been hospitialized a few times. My depression seems to follow a pattern or cycle, two weeks of barely being able to function, followed by a week of doing a little better, then a day or two of feeling good, then back to two weeks of misery, etc. I am not bipolar or anything like that.

I continued to gain weight, developed stretch marks on my belly and arms, got a lot of dark hair all over my belly, and the few whiskers that appeared on my chin and neck have become like a beard. I developed insulin-resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I can seldom sleep at night. I experience such deep depression and fatigue that I haven’t been able to keep a job or finish collage, I barely function.

For many years I just thought I had really bad depression and continued trying whatever psych meds I was prescribed. I thought all my physical symptoms were my fault for being so depressed and not getting enough excercise, etc. And most of the time, I was on so much medication I didn’t really care, I was so out of it.

Finally I found a great psychiatrist who truly cares about me and wants to see me happy. After having little or no success treating my depression, fatigue, and panic attacks, she did some research and told me not long ago that she felt I must have something biological going on with me that wasn’t any type of clinical depression. She said she had tried hitting all the different receptors in my brain (seretonin, norephinepherine, dopamine, etc..) and I should have responded to something. She suggested I might have Cushing’s Syndrome. I went online to find out about Cushing’s and I was like “Wow I really match a LOT of these things!”

Now I am on quest for getting tested. It’s difficult as I do not have any health insurance. But I am making a little progress and hope I start to get some answers soon.

I either have Cushing’s syndrome, some other endocrine problem, or the most treatment-resistant depression ever.

That’s my story, thanks for reading. I’m open to any comments or advice.

-Renee

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Cushing’s Disease and how a brain tumour made me fat

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In September 2011 I’d been running and blacked out. Through the rest of the year even though I was careful about what I ate, was swimming 80 lengths of the pool everyday and running pretty regularly I was still gaining weight. It’s weird that I found it hard to climb the stairs at work because my thighs felt so weak but could still swim a couple of km. I found it difficult to sleep and bruised pretty easily.

It was a bit of a shock to be told I might have a very rare brain tumour releasing the hormone cortisol that affects 10 in a Million people. Things went downhill and Cushing’s Disease really started breaking apart my body. My muscles wasted and I carried on putting on fat. Joints skin and feet were all affected. I’ve heard Cushing’s Disease called the ugly disease so yep not great.

Read the entire article at: Cushing’s Disease and how a brain tumour made me fat. – Skeptical Artist

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TONIGHT! Interview with Fabiana

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interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 88 other past interviews to listen to!

~~~

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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Margaret S (Maggierose), Possible Adrenal Bio

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undiagnosed 5

Hi

I’m new to cushings and just looking for some insight into this disease. I’m 67 yrs and for the last 15 yrs I have not felt good and problems getting worse with no explanations in the past. After discussing problems with my Dr I was tested twice for thyroid but tests came back normal.

I do have other problems due to surgeries in the past, I have adhesions, scar tissue etc. I am now type 2 diabetic since last 5 yrs.

I was admitted to hospital because of stomach pain in July this year, I had a cat scan which showed I had tumours on my adrenal glands. The left being the largest. I am waiting to see the endo surgeon in November but have just finished some tests I’ve blood, 12 hr and 24 hr urine specimen. No results as yet.

My symptoms are as follows.

Sweating mainly evening time around 9pm

Can’t sleep until 3am, but could easily sleep on afternoon if I allowed myself.

Changes in face. When I look in mirror I often think this does not look like me.

I have put weight on but not a lot. I have been noticing a lot of facial hair on my face.

I had very, very thick hair and it’s now extremely thin. I have a type of rash on my face which has got worse over the years. It seems like my legs and arms are much thinner than they used to be but my abdomen is getting larger, mainly my upper abdomen. I don’t have any stria but have similar marks on my legs especially around my knees. My skin marks easily. I also seem to have a small buffalo hump on my back. Seem to have brain fog but usually put that down to age. Feel tired all the time.

Some things I can maybe put down to age.

I would appreciate any comments from members. I will let you know when I get results.

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Rita (Rita), Steroid-Induced Bio

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Hello to those who are frustrated & suffering!

My real search for a diagnosis began vigilantly just over 2 years ago. I was extremely hot,exhausted,weight gain (unexplained) and not sleeping well and sleeping all the time but extremely fatigued!!! My face became very round and my facial & body skin was a nightmare.

My husband kept saying that he thought it was systemic but I wasn’t sure. And, this sounds so sill but completely true, I was watching an episode of Doc Martin (UK series) where a woman was having trouble and he told her she had Cushings. Well, I had never heard of this disease so I looked it up on the internet and told my husband that’s what I have. Of course, he said that I was being silly.

I had very upset stomach most of the time to I had an endoscopy & colonoscopy where large cysts had developed. I also had burning and nagging pain in my upper thigh area thinking it was my Lymph nodes. Many more cysts were discovered on my ovaries and all the doctors cold focus on were the cysts and telling me that my blood pressure was too high and that I needed to lose weight.

I few months later I noticed small purple striations on my abdomen and just knew I had Cushings. So, I asked my doctor if he could run cortisol test on me and he said no problem. I had also told him at this time that I was using a steroid cream to control my eczema and he said that would not cause not effect me in such a way to cause such problems.

I had beeen to the emergency room, had 4 CT scans, atleast 7 ultrasounds, 2 MRI’s and so many blood tests that I had lost count.

Another doctor had recommended that I see an Oncologist so I saw 2 of them…..still no idea and 2 more visits to the emergency room.

I sent all my files and tests to the best Endocrinologist I could find and still had to wait 6 months for an initial appointment.

During the 6 months of waiting to see my Endocrinologist, my body had taken a severe turn for the worse. I could barely step up onto a curb and would spend 3 weeks straight in a bed.

I was extremely depressed and felt like I was dying!!!

April of 2014 my long awaited appointment to see THE BEST ENDOCRINOLOGIST in the state finally came!!!!! He took one look at me and said you have Cushings without a doubt!!!! he saw all the other files and tests that the other doctors had done and said they all did the same exact tests and have absolutley no idea what they are doing.

This is the best doctor I have ever been to see in my entire life, he spent over 1 hour with my during my first evaluation. (Please know,that he is not even covered by my insurance but I didn’t care……shelled out $510 and it saved my life.)

He would stop asking me questions until he got to the root of what was causing the Cushings. And it was the cream that I was using to control my eczema!!!!!!! Yes, please know that Cobetasol Proprionate will cause Cushings if used on a long term basis.

I had no warnings or instructions from my Dermatologist. He just said use this on your eczema.

Dr. Neil Breit saved my life!!!! He said that I was hands down, the worse case he had ever seen!!! And he said that I would have definitely been dead in 1 or 2years at best.

If you live in the Northeast, please seek out this doctor. He is the best and very passionate & loves his work. He truly cares and brings lots of smiles with his treatment!!!!j

Dr. Breit still spends 1 hour with me on every office there. And I still pay full price but do not mind, because he saved my life!!!

Also, right before my diagnosis, I discovered GERSON THERAPY. Regardless of whatever is wrong or just being healthy, juicing helps me immensely with energy and just feeling better as a whole!!!

Thank you for enduring my long story!!!!! Keep fighting for your diagnosis and don’t stop till you get one!!!

Thank you kindly for reading my story,
Rita in New Jersey

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Survivor’s parents organize charity bike ride for Children’s Hospital neurosurgery

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La Cañada resident Taylor Winter was just 12 when she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a condition caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland that affects everything from organ function and sleep to hormone levels and body growth.

Although she’d likely lived with the ailment for years, once it was discovered by an endocrinologist, Taylor’s family had to act fast to remove the tumor. That’s when they were referred to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles’ neurosurgery division, according to mom Gaia Winter.

“We met with neurosurgeons to see what her options were, and eight days later she was in surgery,” Winter said, recalling the two surgeries it took to remove Taylor’s tumor.

Today, Taylor is an 18-year-old freshman studying theater arts at North Carolina’s High Point University. Her life may not be perfect (she still endures complications from her condition and surgeries) but she knows it’s better than it would have been had the tumor gone unchecked.

“I was not in a happy place before I got treatment, and I think it would still be that way today if I had gone undiagnosed,” she said in an email interview.

This Saturday at 11:30 a.m., Gaia and husband Wade Winter are hosting a charity bike ride at the indoor cycling studio SoulCycle in Pasadena to raise money for Children’s Hospital’s Neurosurgery Ambassadors group. The group comprises former brain surgery patients and their families who wish to “pay it forward” by raising funds for the neurosurgery division.

For a $75 donation, participants can reserve a bike and take a 45-minute stationary bike group ride, although cycling is not mandatory, Gaia Winter said. The money raised will help sponsor neurosurgery fellow Dr. Judith Wong, who will take her training to a town where skilled neurosurgeons are few.

Michael Sampiano, director of the hospital’s Ambassador groups, worked with the Winters and another family to create the program in 2012. So far, the neurosurgery division has received $14,000 from the efforts of that group. Both Taylor and twin sister Alissa are junior ambassadors in the program.

“The money this group raises covers the training and living expenses of our pediatric neurosurgery fellow (and) it gives our neurosurgery division the financial backing to continue its work,” Sampiano said, encouraging locals to join in Saturday’s ride. “It is indeed an investment in the community and for kids in the future who might be in need of this life-saving work.”

Taylor says she was lucky to have such a skilled facility so close to home and recalls her time spent at Children’s Hospital positively.

“Even though I was in pain or discomfort for the majority of my stays, the hospital staff and various volunteer groups… helped create such a fun and caring environment that I didn’t want to leave,” Taylor said.

The Winters, along with other patient families, hope to raise $100,000 this year for the neurosurgery division through the Ambassadors group. It’s the least they can do to give back, after being given so much, Gaia Winter says.

“They gave her the ability to be a normal kid,” she said. “We just feel passionate about giving back to them. The amount of work they do and the lives they touch is tremendous.”

 

What: Charity Ride for the Division of Neurosurgery

Where: SoulCycle, 140 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena.

When: Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m.

Admission: A bike reservation cost $75 but all donations will be accepted.

More info: Visit http://support.chla.org/pages/thewinterfamily or email NeuroAmb@gmail.com

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