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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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Lisa (Lisa), Pituitary Bio

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I was diagnosed with Cushings in Feb 2011 at the age of 30, after 6 months of inconclusive testing to find out what was going on with me.  Bone marrow biopsy, CT scans, MRI’s, urinalysis, bloodwork, you name it, it was done.  The first symptom I noticed was my left foot swelling (edema) after a workout injury.  The swelling remained long after it should have, and I thought I damaged my lymphatic system.  A trip to the endocrinologist and a CT scan proved that untrue, but he did notice I had an enlarged spleen and a high red blood cell count.  He didn’t seem to think that was a concern, but around that time I also began to experience a constant pain in my right flank.  So I went to a gastroentrologist.  Then a hemotologist, then a cardiologist, etc.  My final diagnosis came after my hemotologist ran a urine sample and noticed a highish level of cortisol.  She sent me back to my endocrinologist.  Before I went, I started a heavy Google search for what high levels of cortisol could mean, and came across Cushing’s.  I knew that was what I had.  I had been diagnosed with a prolactinoma 4 years prior (which I had told every doctor I had seen) and no one made the connection.  I demanded my endo test me.  He didn’t want to, telling me that I hadn’t gained weight and that people who had Cushing’s were really sick.  I demanded, and he gave me a supression pill to take the night before I came in for bloodwork.  He called me with the results a couple of days later, accusing me of not taking the pill.  Of course I took the pill, I said.  He said that the pill hadn’t suppressed my levels as it should have, but he didn’t believe it, and wanted me to then do a 24hr cortisol urinalysis.  I agreed, but also scheduled an appt with a neurosurgeon.  The neurosurgeon had the same hesistation, but also did the 24hr test.  A week later, the tests came back in.  My cortisol levels were 8 times what they should have been.  I definitely had Cushing’s.

I had transsphenoidal surgery a month and a half later.  I spent a week in the hospital that can only be described as hell.  My body crashed hard and every part of me ached.  The next four months proved equally as challenging, my energy being non-existent and my replacement dosage being difficult to keep correct.  But a year and four months later I’m very close to being off the replacement dosage, and feeling back to normal.  Thank goodness for Cedars Sinai pituitary center for their attentiveness and care.

The biggest lesson I learned was to trust yourself.  I did not gain weight when I was sick.  I did begin to develop a moon face and a small tummy, but my weight remained constant.  I was waking up at 3 in the morning every day, my blood pressure spiked, my muscles weakened, I bruised easily, I lost hair on my head, my skin became mottled and thin.  I don’t know if the weight gain would have happened eventually or not, but I truly believe I wouldn’t have stayed alive long enough for that to happen… the change from healthy to sick happened so rapidly in my case that if it kept up I doubt I would have lived much longer that a year or so.  I worry about recurrence every day, and have had numerous visits to the ER since surgery due to adrenal crisis, but at least I know what to do when that happens and can take care immediately.  And as I’m sure most of you would agree, I treasure every healthy day.

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