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Jordiyn (Jordiyn), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

Hello my name is Jordiyn and i have not been definitively diagnosed with Cushing as of yet. Im not really quite sure where to start so ill start at the beginning.

At the age of 19 i started to notice that I was gaining weight very rapidly for no reason. I was very active and I weighed about 120 and then within about 6 months I gained 60 pounds. Then from there I started to gain more weight every month/year. All in all iv gain over 100 pounds in the last 4 years even though i eat pretty healthy and exercise.

With the excessive weight gain I started to notice these pinkish/purplish stretch marks on my hips, stomach,arms and thighs. Plus I gained a lot of weight in my face and my upper back. And then I started to notice that I was so tired and weak all the time.

I think the worst part has been the back pain and that I always feel like I need a nap even though I have a very hard time sleeping. My moods started to change dramatically. I get irritated very fast and I can just start crying and the most random things, I also have really bad anxiety so much so its crippling. My depression is threw the roof.

Last year in October I even tried to kill myself and then 4 months later I tried again. I do have Bipolar and i’m on medication but it feels like none of the medication are working. My psychiatrist just has no idea what is going on with me but he did tell me he thinks there’s something going on that doesn’t relate to my bipolar.

Then last year in October I stopped having my period and this lasted until june of this year so about 9 months. In those 9 months I gain 25 pounds, I literally thought that I was pregnant but every test was negative. After tons of tests and blood work It later turned out that I have PSOD. While I was at my Gynecologist he told me that I look like someone who has Cushing’s and that i needed to talking to my primary care doctor and talk to her about it.

So as of now im waiting for my doctor to send me to an Endocrinologist. I am very nervous that I have Cushing’s. Last year while I was doing some research about all out my symptoms Cushing’s popped up and so I talked with my old doctor about it and all she did was dismiss it. So after I couldn’t get any doctor to listen to me I gave up. Then a doctor finally says to me you may have it and i feel like it a sign from God telling me that I maybe i do have Cushing’s.

I would love to make some friends and actually have someone to talk to about this. Ill keep everyone updated and I’ll also post some pictures too.

I hope to hear from all of you soon.

Jordiyn

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Surviving Cushing’s: Area woman hit by rare disease

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Gina Gregoire Helton is certain if she had a dollar for every time she has heard the word “rare,” she’d be a rich woman.

She has a lot to be thankful for. She’s been married to Sean, the love of her life, since 2011. She has a warm, gregarious family consisting of eight sisters, three brothers, over 30 nieces and nephews and two loving parents, Charles and Denise Gregoire of DeWitt.

But in April 2012, Helton started to experience disturbing symptoms. She had sudden-onset hip pain. A few months later, she had unexplained hair loss and breakage. Deep, red and purple stretch marks, also known as striae, started appearing on her skin.

They were painful and she credits them for essentially saving her life.

“They were the ‘red flag’ that something was definitely not right,” Helton says.

She went to see her doctor, Dr. Jennifer Bell at Genesis Health Group in DeWitt, who admitted she was stumped. Yet, based on the presence of the striae, Bell wanted to test one more thing – Helton’s cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a life-sustaining adrenal hormone that influences, regulates or modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Those changes include blood sugar (glucose) levels, fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism to maintain blood glucose; immune responses; and anti-inflammatory actions.

As it turned out, her levels were abnormally high. Bell referred her to a specialist in the endocrinology department at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City. Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, but further testing showed Helton’s levels consistently remained extremely elevated.

That was the first time she had ever heard of Cushing’s disease.

Helton had nearly every single symptom of the disease that affects less than 200,000 people in the United States.

In addition to hip and back pain, hair breakage and stretch marks, she suffered from moon face, frequent bruising, depression and anxiety, weight gain, frequent urination, high blood pressure and muscle atrophy.

“I was extremely relieved to have a diagnosis,” Helton says. “At the same time, I was scared as I started to learn more about Cushing’s disease and what it can do to your body. There are people dying from this because of improper diagnosis. I was blessed my doctor at UIHC was educated on the disease.”

Most individuals diagnosed with Cushing’s have a tumor on their pituitary or adrenal glands.

Helton’s tumor, however, was located on her lung. Fortunately, her doctor decided to scan that area of her body and discovered the tumor.

In November, Helton underwent surgery to remove the tumor in her chest. However, during the procedure, some microscopic-sized tissue was left behind. So, in January, she found herself in the operating room once again. However, in order to get rid of the remaining tissue, the surgeons’ only option was to remove Helton’s entire left lung.

The situation went from bad to worse when it was discovered the tumor was malignant. It was a very rare tumor called a carcinoid tumor. These tumors are slow-growing cancers that typically start in the lining of the digestive tract or lungs.

After they took her lung, doctors noticed the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Members of the oncology department recommended chemotherapy and radiation as treatment.

Because her particular condition is so rare, doctors cannot say definitively what Helton’s prognosis is. Living with only one lung, her physical activity is restricted. Yet, Helton is partaking in water exercise to help ease the pain in her hips and keep her muscles strong. While climbing the stairs is a major obstacle, she intends to participate in the next Fight for Air Climb in Des Moines sponsored by the American Lung Association.

It may take her longer to reach the top than most, but she has made it her goal to finish.

Helton also plans to become an advocate for the Cushing’s disease community. She has yet to meet anyone else in person who suffers from the condition, but has connected with hundreds of them through social media.

In particular, Helton has made contact with Dr. Karen Thames from Chicago. She has been diagnosed with Cushing’s and is working on a documentary called “The War to Survive Cushing’s Disease.”

Helton says the experience has dramatically changed her attitude and outlook on life. She no longer “sweats the small stuff” and her relationships with her loved ones have become stronger.

As for people who are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with Cushing’s, Helton encourages them to seek help.

Even if there are no immediate answers, don’t give up.

“If you are experiencing something with your body that doesn’t seem right, keep seeking help. There is a doctor out there somewhere that will help you. We all know our bodies and when something is wrong.

“My faith and relationship with God has grown tremendously. I count my blessings daily. That is the silver lining. My favorite quote is, ‘Everyone you meet may be fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.'”

via Surviving Cushing’s: Area woman hit by rare disease.

Don S (Don S), Undiagnosed Bio

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My name is Don.  I am 35and I am a career firefighter with 14 years on the job.

10 years ago I was injured badly at a fire and almost immediately noticed a change.  My skin began peeling off and I began gaining weight.

I knew about cortisol and its effect on the body because my mother passed away from Cushings at 46 after years of taking steroids for respiratory problems.  My doctors dismissed my issues as stress following the trauma.  My accident happened in March and by July, I had gained  80lbs.  I was constantly fatigued and developed acne all over my body.

A year or so later, I began having stomach issues.  Nausea and Reflux were with me everyday.   I continued to have high serum cortisol throughout the past 10 years but each time, it suppressed to just below the 1.8 threshold with dexamethasone so my doctors just dismissed it as stress.

In 2012, the dizziness and blurry vision began.  My spine is weak and my joints hurt constantly.  My legs are so skinny and weak, they shake when I stand and my heart races from any exertion.  I managed to continue working until a year ago when I accepted that I was putting myself and others at risk.

For the past year I have been paying guys to work for me in order to keep my job and insurance.  I worked hard for this career and promotions and I will not give it up without a diagnosis and confirmation that I can no longer do the job.

I have a new Endo now and she ordered a Urinary Cortisol.  It came back 4X higher than the upper limit.  She is convinced I have Cushings and it isnt just stress.  I have the following symptoms.  Weight gain of over 100lbs, Long purple stretch marks on my flank, side, and groin, Blurry vision, tachycardia, weak limbs, tremors, anxiety, puffy face, dizziness, stomach issues.

I am hoping after 10years of suffering, I may finally have my answer and that I can begin getting my life back.  I have a wife and 3 year old that really count on me and all I have been doing is letting them down.  Our lives are on hold because we do not know what the future will bring.

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Elizabeth (ToxicNudibranch), PCOS Bio

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This has been a difficult road to even get to a tentative diagnosis, and I know it’s going to be even more difficult going forward, but it’s better than nothing, eh?

I was a pretty healthy kid. I didn’t eat that well, I wasn’t that active, but I was always strong and fairly lean. When I was 19 that all changed. I’m 27 now, and have just barely found an Endo who was willing to order the obvious tests for my obvious signs. It’s been frustrating. To wit:

*2006 I move to the dorms and put on what I assume are the Freshman 25 within the first semester, even though I’m much more active and eating markedly more healthfully than I was ever raised to. 190lbs
*2007-2008 Job prospects are not great, so I’m dead broke. I end up leaving college for the time being. I’m walking everywhere since I can’t afford a car and public transport is not adequate, and eating less than I should. Weight stabilizes at 195lbs
*2009-2012 I’m not eating much more, just better (lean meats and leafy veg instead of rice and beans for every damn meal!), but my weight starts piling on again (30 in 2 months). I begin experiencing migraines, marked fatigue, and anxiety. Fat settles entirely around middle. Face still relatively normal. Continue moderate gains thru weight watchers, south beach, Atkins, etc. Bring concern to PCP, where I am accused of mis-stating caloric intake and asked to track food. I do, and on my follow-up appointment, my PCP just looks at me like I’m lying and and offers stimulant diet pills. I decline. Hirsuitism increases, as does fatigue. OBGYN diagnoses PCOS, I start Metformin 500mg/2x No reduction in weight. 220lbs
*9/2012 I put on another 15lb in 4-5 weeks. Face is getting fatter, gut sticks out like a basketball. I know something is very wrong, and by this point I’ve heard something about Cushing’s and thought “Hey, that looks exactly like me.” I go to see my first Endo. He notes that I have the hump, torsal weight gain, hirsuitism, weak limbs, easy bruising, anxiety, etc. Mild striae. I even show him pictures of myself from 6 months ago. The change in my appearance is enormous. He waves those away and runs a single midnight cortisol (inconclusive) and an8am dex test (kinda supressed) and says that I’m just fat because I’m clearly stuffing myself with chocolate cake on the sly and totally lying about the 5-8 miles *a day* that I’m running by this point. He recommends a more restrictive diet or gastric bypass. And did he mention that he just happens to be able to provide me a referral to a good colleague of his that runs a whole surgical center that will throw in some laser hair removal with Lapband? Asshole. I feel degraded and helpless. 235lbs
*10/2012-5/2013 Continued migraines, increasing sinus pressure and constant sinus infections, eyes very irritated. PCP blames allergies and stress. Could be migraines, could be cluster headaches. I take at least 1600mg of Ibuprophen daily. I can’t run anymore because my ankles and knees are hurting pretty badly, but I start swimming again. Continued creeping weight gain despite increased exercise. 240lbs
*6/2013-10/2013 Migraines increase. Mis-diagnosed with multiple sinus infections. (5/28/13, 6/19/13, 7/2/13, 9/10/13, 10/18/13) The sinus pressure and pain never seem to get any better, so I go see an ENT. He says we may have to roto-rooter my sinus cavity to correct the constant inflamation. However, once he reviews my CAT Scan, he says I have only the mildest of swelling in my sinuses. Whatever it is, it’s not my sinuses.
*11/2013-4/2014 I develop double vision, my right eye stops tracking with my left, both eyes are bugging out (exoplthalmos). ER doctor and Opthamologist diagnose it as Thyroid Eye Disease/Graves. I have no symptoms of hyperthyroidism/Graves, (TSH, Thyroid antibodies all negative/normal) but my main concern is regaining sight, and the course of treatment is the same, regardless. First course of Prednisone. Rapid weight gain of roughly 20 over 3 months. I track and weigh my food obsessively, averaging 1400kc/day, which should be resulting in steady weight loss. In addition to smimming, I adjust my commute so I walk instead of drive and am doing body-weight yoga. Strength is a fraction of what it used to be. My striae get worse, as does my torsal fat distribution, hirsuitism, fatigue, hair loss, hump, mental fogging, etc.  I’ve stopped wearing pants and moved entirely to dresses. 260lbs
*5/2014 I’ve been weaned off Prednisone entirely. My eyes look normal again. I’m still eating well, but I feel so badly and I’m so tired that I can’t exercise much anymore. My heart starts pounding from relatively mild activity. I’m not experiencing migraines anymore, but I just plain don’t feel good. My moon face gets even worse. Everything gets even worse, actually. My weight is the same, but I can’t lean my head back because of the buffalo hump and I can’t even properly snuggle with my fiance because I’m feeling choked by the massive beer cozy o’ fat that surrounds my neck.
*6/2014 My eyes are swelling again. Thyroid levels still normal and I don’t have any markers for Graves specific antibodies. We begin 2nd course of Prednisone.
*8/2014 I’m off Prednisone again. I know something is very wrong. I go to another Endo, Dr. Knecht, who actually listens. He reviews my medical history, looks at my clear physical symptoms, and orders a crapload of labs. The results are pretty clear. It’s Cushings. He thinks there’s a good chance it’s cyclical. Now we start in to determine exactly what kind we’re dealing with.  It’s very likely that all the things I’d been suffering from (the PCOS, the pain/pressure that turned into exoplthalmos, anxiety, migraines) have been directly related to this condition. In Dr. Knecht’s office, I cry from relief. When I get home and tell my partner, I cry because I’m kinda scared.

And then I found you guys. And now I’m really scared. Hopeful, still, but terrified. Because the clinical, dispassionate descriptions about the surgeries that may be needed to “cure” (or at least knock into remission) Cushing’s are very different than yearing about the actual day to day experiences of living with a messed up or woefully inadequate adrenal/endocrine system. I’m confident I’ll get through it, but damn. This is going to be really hard.

I will update more as we get more conclusive answers and I begin treatment.

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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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