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Ashleigh, Pituitary Tumor Bio

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I’m 28 years old. I had a pituitary tumour removed at the start of this year.

My main symptoms were weight gain, bright red stretch marks, joint pains, muscle loss and fatigue.

I was originally diagnosed with PCOS, but when diet and exercise caused no improvement I kept looking. Once the stretch marks appeared I was referred to an endocrinologist who conducted urine and blood tests. My cortisol levels were double the normal level. I was then referred to a surgeon who ordered an MRI and found the tumour.

The tumour was removed.I was in ICU the first night then a week more in hospital. It took me about 3 months to recover from the surgery. I am now recovering from the disease itself which is ongoing.

I do physical rehabilitation 6 days a week as well as regular seeing a dietitian, psychologist, endocrinologist, exercise physiologist and hormone specialist.

I’m hoping to return to work next year, which will be about a year after my surgery. I believe the disease has manifested for many years.

I think the perhaps the hardest part of the disease is the time it takes to get a diagnosis. I hope my story can help others get their answers sooner.

 

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Roberta “Bert” P, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello Everyone,

Like all of you I am in pain, gaining weight, have moon face, etc. I have had Fibromyalgia for over 4 years and am lucky to have a very good doctor for that who is a specialist in his field-Dr. Pelegrino.

However for the last year or so I have had pain that is more than the tender points and general fatigue you get from Fibro. We started giving me cortisone shots every 5 weeks or so for the “bad” areas, but the “bad” areas are worse now and have enveloped my muscles to where I don’t know what to do. My fingers are aching just typing this. Does anyone else experience this? Do you use the thing that you can talk in and it types? I have so many questions but will have to ask more later.

My main question is about this horrible tightness and pain to turn my head-is this a symptom? I have had it for more than 2 weeks it is from the base of my skull to my shoulder blades. Any suggestions to help ease this would be welcome. I take Vicodin now but it is not affecting it and can’t take steroids because I am having the test next Monday to see how high the cortisol is. I had a saliva test and it was pretty high on that so now they are trying this.

I also have elevated blood sugar, lowered thyroid, higher blood pressure and the purple stretch marks on my stomach. My face has officially become “moon” so is this pain from the “hump” forming that I have read about? See how scatterbrained I am-my memory is totally gone-if you tell me something and I have not written it down it is forgotten, which is bad especially for my job.

Thank you in advance for your support and helpful advice.

Bert

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Kim H, Ectopic Bio

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I was diagnosed with Cushing’s in 1986. I had all the symptoms. Weight gain, purple stretch marks, severe acne, hair all over the face, balding on the head, muscle weakness, depression, no periods, moon face, etc.

I had all the blood, urine tests. Scans, x-rays and even petrosal sinus sampling. These were inconclusive as to the source. The MRI of the pituitary showed swelling and near to the optic nerve, so the next step was pituitary surgery which was done in August 1986. However the cortisol levels were still high. I still had Cushing’s. I was then given the choice of long term drug treatment while the source was located or to have an adrenalectomy. I was told that if I became pregnant on the drugs the pregnancy would not be able to continue because the effect of the drugs on a feotus wasn’t known. I felt that at the age of 24 I wanted my health back and the chance to have children if I was lucky enough. So in the October 1986 I had bilateral adrenalectomy through the back.

My Cushing’s was to all intents and purposes cured. Nearly 16 years later the ectopic source has never been found despite many more tests. It is still there because it still produces ACTH. The good side is now that I tan really easily which is amazing considering the British weather. I take hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone. I have never felt that I truly got my health back but am glad to still be here. I went on to have two lovely children, now aged 14 and 12. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis last year after years of back pain which is now being treated. I also had some problems last year and was diagnosed with angina and my steroids had to be increased due to a total lack of energy.

Up till now I have just about managed to hold down a full time job as a merchandiser for Hallmark Cards but have now taken the decision to go part-time which I am able to do with Hallmark. I have been married twice and am again a single parent. The men in my life could not cope with my health problems, so I figure I am better off with being on my own to bring up my kids. I think that’s about all. I would just like to say a huge thank-you to St. Bartolomews Hospital in London for all they have done for me over the years. Without their care and support I probably wouldn’t be here. p.s. I still suffer from depression but the old prozac sure helps.

Update: May, 2007

It is now 2007 and in 2006 they found my ectopic source in my appendix. It looked on the scan like it was in the central blood vessel but when they operated my appendix had flipped itself up and the tumour was sitting on the tip of it. After they tested it it was found to be a carcinoid tumour. Thankfully it was all taken away and the outcome was ok.

For the first time in over 20 years I can honestly say that i am much beter. for 20 years i felt ill and now i feel great. Obviously i still have bad days as I have no adrenal glands. But i will always be greatful for the immense help and support that i have received from professor Grossman and St. Bartholomews hospital in London.

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In Memory: Kalyn Allen, June 28, 2017

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We lost another Cushie sister today. Kalyn Allen’s husband posted this on Facebook:

This afternoon my beautiful wife and mother of my children completed her path in this life so that she may be reborn again into the next. She was surrounded by her children, family, and friends when she transitioned very peacefully. She now is free to be reborn again and continue the cycle of life to hope one day to reach nirvana. While we will morn her passing our attachments to this world of suffering and rebirth are what bring us back over and over. So let us not mourn a loss today but say good luck in the next. For we are full of desire for this world and we will surely meet again.

Yesterday he posted:

Kalyn is in critical condition in the CV-ICU at St. John’s in Tulsa in a medically induced coma due to pulmonary embolisms in her lungs and thrombosis in her legs. She had a procedure last night to install a VC fiter and to remove as many clots as possible in her lungs. They cant use tPA to dissolve the clots without a great risk of bleeds in the previous brain surgery. Today was difficult. Kalyn had a cardiac event and coded for a few minutes this afternoon. They quickly resuscitated her with only 2 sets of chest compressions but at this point we are unsure why it happened. She stabilized very quickly afterwards with good rhythm and pressure. A blood clot may have temporary blocked something. She is still being kept sedated and intubated and they can’t move her yet to to do anymore scans and at this point they would not be able to use contrast due to the stress on her kidneys. At this point we are still just touch and go. Because she is in ICU you can not send flowers and if you would please ask a family member if there is an appropriate time to visit. Instead of flowers we are still in need of funds as the children and I are having to make daily trips into tulsa and back home each night and the cost of meals while we are there so any donations would be helpful. Thank you everyone for your kind words of support.

Kalyn’s story from https://www.youcaring.com/kalynallen-786017:

My name is Kalyn I am 41 years old. I am married and have three children. In Nov ‘16 I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.

My journey began in June ‘16 when I attended a health screening provided by my employer. It was discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high and I was sent to my physician. I was prescribed blood pressure medicine. A couple of weeks later I joined a wellness program to turn around my exercise and eating habits in hopes that it would help me lose weight and lower my blood pressure.

Over the next few months I was seen by my physician numerous times. I was beginning to have strange symptoms. I was easily bruising. Dark purple stretch marks started to appear out of nowhere. I had hair loss on my head but excessive hair growth on my face. My ankles and hands swelled along with a loss of muscle mass in my legs, horrible acne and a shortness of breath. While my physician tried several different medications they were not alleviating my symptoms. At this point I was having trouble getting in and out of my car and the shower. I also started seeing a therapist because the excess hormones in my system were causing uncontrollable mood swings. During this time I was exercising and following the wellness program losing 52 pounds from June until the end of Oct. But there were still issues controlling my blood pressure. It was at this point that my physician referred me to an endocrinologist.

The endocrinologist ordered a multitude of tests to measure my cortisol levels as Cushing’s disease was suspected. To be thorough an MRI was ordered of my brain to see if they could find a tumor on my pituitary gland. This was done at the end of Dec. It was discovered that I had a 3.7 millimeter tumor on my pituitary gland. From there I was referred to a brain surgeon.

My condition continues to deteriorate as I am experiencing extreme fatigue, intense muscle and joint pain while having excruciating headaches almost everyday. Among other agonizing symptoms that complicate the situation.

I now have surgery scheduled for the first week of May ’17 to remove the tumor. I will be in the hospital for 3-7 days and my recovery time will be from 6-8 weeks. I will have to travel hours away to have the surgery and remain there during my stay in the hospital. My parents will be by my side during surgery. But unfortunately my children and husband will not be able to accompany me due to the expense and not being able to leave our farm animals unattended for that long.

During this time away from work I will be on short term disability. My employers short term disability plan only covers 80% of my wages during this time. This will result in my family undergoing a financial hardship as my husband and parents undertake the task of my care during recovery and attempting to cover the missing 20% plus extra expenses such as medicines and doctors appointments.

I am asking for your compassion and support to help my family and I through these trying times. This journey has been a roller coaster of emotions and physical pain for myself and my family. My Mother has been such a rock for me listening to me complain and cry. My Father has also been there for me always willing to talk and making me smile and laugh even if I didn’t feel like it. My Husband has taken over so much responsibility that was mine. And my children are always willing to help me out with the little things. It is frustrating going from being very active and able to do so many things I love to now only being able to go into the office to work several days a week and the rest of the week working from home doing little else because of the pain and the fatigue. I just want to get back to normal.

Update 5/3/17:

Kalyn’s surgery was very successful and the doctors said they where able to see and remove the tumor only taking 40% of her pituitary gland. She is in recovery now and will be in the hospital for the remainder of the week. She would like to thank everyone for their continuing support over the next few months while she recovers.

Update 5/4/17:

We got some bad news today. After removing the tumor along with 40% of Kalyn’s pituitary gland, her cortisol levels are still high, meaning there is still something else causing her cushings. So we are back to square one. Now we wait to see what the surgeons and the endocrinologists came up with. She is still in a lot of pain and exhausted because it is hard to sleep with all the packing in her sinuses. With this news she will probably have to stay in the hospital longer and may have to have another surgery to remove the rest of her pituitary if they can’t find anything else. The Dr’s may order a PET/CT scan to look other places for tumors but that may take up to 48 hours to get access to the machine.

Update 5/8/17:

Kalyn went in for a PET/CT scan this morning at 6:45 to look for any other tumors or cancer that could be causing the Cushing’s disease. Baring the scan finding anything, later this week the surgical team will go back in and remove the remainder of her pituitary gland. This will result in her being required to be on several medications the rest of her life. While removing the pituitary should solve the Cushing’s it opens the door to increased risk of complications and additional heath problems in the future. She will have to stay in the hospital much longer then anticipated and may have a longer recovery time. The children and husband where able go to OKC on Saturday to visited with her in ICU. This was the first time we have been able to see here in a week besides video chats. They spent several hours together and everyone enjoyed the short time with mom. Thank you Bob Eden for driving the family to OKC and for the pizza lunch everyone enjoyed. Kalyn remains optimistic and in high spirits considering the circumstances. She enjoys and appreciates all the kind words and support she has received though this difficult ordeal. The results of the PET/CT scan should come back quickly and we hope to not have to deliver any more bad news. This ordeal has been very stressful for her and the family and we are hoping for a favorable resolution soon. Kalyn and the family thank you for your continuing support and donations.

Update 6/26/17:

Kalyn is in critical condition in the CV-ICU at (hospital ommited) in Tulsa in a medically induced coma due to pulmonary embolisms in her lungs and thrombosis in her legs. She had a procedure last night to install a VC fiter and to remove as many clots as possible in her lungs. They cant use tPA to dissolve the clots without a great risk of bleeds in the previous brain surgery. Today was difficult. Kalyn had a cardiac event and coded for a few minutes this afternoon. They quickly resuscitated her with only 2 sets of chest compressions but at this point we are unsure why it happened. She stabilized very quickly afterwards with good rhythm and pressure. A blood clot may have temporary blocked something. She is still being kept sedated and intubated and they can’t move her yet to to do anymore scans and at this point they would not be able to use contrast due to the stress on her kidneys. At this point we are still just touch and go.Because she is in ICU you can not send flowers and if you would please ask a family member if there is an appropriate time to visit. Instead of flowers we are still in need of funds as the children and husband are having to make daily trips into Tulsa and back home each night and the cost of meals while we are there so any donations would be helpful. Thank you everyone for your kind words of support.

In Memory: Kate Myers ~ June 23, 2014

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kate-fbkate

Kate (Fairley on the Cushing’s Help message boards)  was only 46 when she died on June 23, 2014.  Her board signature read:

After 2 failed pit surgeries and a CSF leak repair,
BLA on Sept. 11, 2008 w/Dr. Fraker at UPenn
Gamma knife radiation at UPenn Oct. 2009
Now disabled and homebound. No pit, no adrenals and radiation damage to my hypothalamus.
My cure is God’s will, and I still have hope and faith!

During her too-short life, she provided help and support to other Cushies.

Her National Geographic video in 2007

Her BlogTalkRadio Interview in 2008: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/07/17/interview-with-kate-fairley

Articles to help others:

Kate’s Family Letter
Kate’s Packing Suggestions For Surgery
Kate’s Pituitary Surgery Observations

Kate’s bio from 2008:

Hi y’all! I will try to make this short, but there is a lot to say.

I stumbled across this board after a google search last night. Yesterday, I finally saw a real endocrinologist. I am 39 years old. I weigh 362. I was diagnosed by a reproductive endocrinologist with PCOS at age 30, but all of my symptoms started at age 22.

At age 22, I was an avid runner, healthy at 140-145 pounds and 5’7″. I got a knee injury and stopped running right around the time that my periods just….stopped. And by stopped, I mean completely disappeared after mostly regular periods since age 12. I was tested by the student health clinic at UGA, and referred to an obgyn for lap exploration for endometriosis, which was ruled out. I remember that they ran some bloodwork and ultimately came back with this frustrating response: We don’t know what it is, but it’s probably stress-related because your cortisol is elevated.

Soon thereafter, I gained 80 pounds in about 6 months, and another 30 the next six months. Suddenly, in one year, I was 110 pounds heavier than my original weight of 140. I recall my mom and sister talking about how fast I was gaining weight. At the time, I blamed myself: I wasn’t eating right, I’d had to stop running due to the knee injury and my metabolism must have been “used” to the running; I was going through some family problems, so it must be that I’m eating for emotional reasons related to depression. You name the self-blame category, and I tried them all on for size.

Whatever the reason, I stopped avoiding mirrors and cameras. The person looking back at me was a stranger, and acquaintances had stopped recognizing me. A bank refused to cash my security deposit refund check from my landlord when I graduated because I no longer looked like my student ID or my driver’s license. I was pulled over for speeding while driving my dad’s Mercedes graduation weekend, and the cop who pulled me over almost arrested me for presenting a false ID. These are some really painful memories, and I wonder if anyone here can relate to the pain of losing your physical identity to the point that you are a stranger to yourself and others?

Speaking of size, from age 24 to 26 I remained around 250, had very irregular periods occuring only a few times a year (some induced), developed cystic acne in weird places, like my chest, shoulders, buttocks (yikes!), found dark, angry purple stretch marks across my abdomen (some of which I thought were so severe that my insides were going to come out through them) which I blamed on the weight gain, the appearance of a pronounced buffalo hump (which actually started at age 22 at the beginning of the weight gain), dark black hairs on my fair Scottish chin (and I’m talking I now have to shave twice daily), a slight darkening of the skin around my neck and a heavy darkening of the skin in my groin area, tiny skin tags on my neck. I was feeling truly lovely by graduation from law school and my wedding to my wonderful DH.

At age 26, I ballooned again, this time up to 280-300, where I stayed until age 32, when I went up to 326. The pretty girl who used to get cat calls when she ran was no more. She had been buried under a mountain of masculined flesh. I still had a pretty, albeit very round, face, though. And I consoled myself that I still have lovely long blonde hair — that is, until it started falling out, breaking off, feeling like straw.

At age 30, I read about PCOS on the internet and referred myself to a reproductive endocrinologist, who confirmed insulin resistance after a glucose tolerance test. I do not know what else he tested for — I believe my testosterone was high. He prescribed Metformin, but after not having great success on it after 5-6 months, I quit taking it, and seeing him. Dumb move.

Two years later, at age 32, I weighed 326. In desperation, I went on Phentermine for 3 months and lost 80 pounds the wrong way, basically starving. I was back down to 240-250, where I remained from age 33-35. After the weight loss, I got my period a few times, and started thinking about trying to have a baby. Many ultrasounds per month over a few months revealed that I just wasn’t ovulating. I decided to put off starting the family when the doctor started talking about IVF, etc. It just seemed risky to me — my body, after all, felt SICK all the time, and I couldn’t imagine carrying a baby and it winding up to be healthy.

At age 35, I ballooned again, this time significantly — from 240 to 320 in the space of 6 months. Another 45 pounds added by age 37, so that’s 125 pounds in two year. I’ve remained between 345-365 for the last two years, depending on how closely I was following my nutritionist’s recommended 1600 calorie per day diet….which was not all the time.

Which takes me to last year. I went for a physical because I wasn’t feeling well, kept getting sick, had a lot of fatigue, weird sweating where my hair would get totally drenched for no reason. At this point, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypothyroism (which has now been modified to Hashimoto’s thyroidis), high cholesterol (although this was present at age 30 when I got the PCOS diagnosis). I went back to my repro-endo, and resolved to make myself stay on Metformin this time. All last year was a series of monthly blood work and attempts to lose weight with an eye toward trying to get pregnant this year. By the end of the year, I was successful in taking off only 20 pounds, and my repro-endo (always with an eye toward fertility and not health), really pushed me to give up on losing weight at that moment and to start taking Clomid. Or else, he said. The words that broke my heart: this may be your last chance.

So, skip forward to January 2006. My ovaries are blown out and they are clear — no blockages. I get cleared to start fertility treatments. My husband undergoes his own embarrassing tests. I think we have an agenda here, but my mind was chewing on serious concerns that I was simply too unhealthy to be considering trying this. That, and I felt it would be a futile effort.

By the way, more than a year on the Metformin with no real changes to anything. Why doesn’t my body respond to it like other people with PCOS?

Then late March, I started experiencing extreme fatigue. And I’m not talking about the kind where you need to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon to gear up for the week ahead (which I’d always considered a nice indulgence, but not a necessity). I’m talking debilitating, life-altering fatigue. It didn’t start out right away to be debilitating — or maybe I just made the usual excuses as I always do relating to my health: I’m still getting over that flu/cold from last month. I just got a promotion at work (though I note a greatly reduced stress and caseload now that I am a managing attorney. My weight is causing it. Whatever.

I let it go on for a full two months before I started to really worry, or admit to myself that my quality life had taken a serious downward turn. You see, despite my weight and my scary appearance, I have always been the “director” type. By that I mean that last year, I worked with two other women to direct 100 volunteers to start a summer camp for inner city kids, and I had enough energy to run this ambitious new project and to film, produce and edit a 30 minute documentary on it by the end of the summer.

In contrast, I had to take a backseat this year. I basically sat in a chair and answered the questions of volunteers, made a few phone calls here and there, and was simply a “presence” in case something major went wrong. Such a major change from the year before, where I was running the whole show 14 hours a day and loving it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. (Is anyone still reading this? I must be narcissitic to think so….yet, I wonder if anyone else has gone through a similar progression….)

Back to May. After two months of this fatigue, I change to a new primary care physician and get a whole workup: blood, urine, thyroid ultrasound, cardiac stress test, liver ultrasound when my enzymes, which had been slightly elevated, were found to have doubled since January. Appointments with a gastroenterologist, and FINALLY….a REAL endocrinologist. Ruled out any serious liver problems (and my levels, surprisingly, dropped back to the slightly elevated level in a space of 3 weeks and no treatment).

Yesterday, I heard a word I’d only heard spoken once before in my life: Cushings. Way back when I was 22 and had started gaining weight so rapidly, I had a boyfriend who worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital. He spent the better part of a non-eventful week of nights pouring over medical books in the library. He excitedly showed me the pages he’d photocopied, which had sketches of a woman with a very rounded face (like mine), striae on her stomach (like mine), abdomenal obesity (like mine) and a pronounced buffalo hump. Although my former boyfriend was just a college student working his way through his music degree by earing some money moonlighting as a hospital security guard, he was the first one to note all of these tell-tale signs.

When I got my diagnosis of PCOS, I remember discounting his amateur diagnosis, and I never thought of it again.

Until yesterday, when my new endo asked me if anyone had ever tested my cortisol or if I’d ever done a 24 hour urine test. I said no, and he started writing out the referral form along with like 15-20 different blood tests. And although we’d started our appointment with him telling me he agreed with my repro-endo’s encouragement to go ahead and try to get pregnant if I can, by the end of the visit, he was telling me not everyone is meant to be a parent, there is always adoption, etc. The only thing that happened during the appointment was that I gave him my basic history of weight gain, described the fatigue, and let him examine my striae, buffalo hump and legs (which were hidden under a long straight skirt). The question about the urine screen and corisol came after this physical exam, during which he was taking lots of notes.

Then the word, which was not spoken directly to me but to his nurse practioner as I was making my two-week appointment in the reception area outside the examining room: “She looks classic Cushings. I’ll be interested to get those results.”

Cushings. Cushings. No– that’s not me. I’m not that weird-shaped, hairy, mannish-looking, round-faced, hump-backed creature my boyfriend had shown me a picture of 16 years earlier. I have PCOS, right? It’s just my fault. I don’t eat right. If I’d just eat better, I wouldn’t be 2.5 times my weight in college. Right?

I quickly came home and did an internet search. Within an hour, I was sitting in front of the computer, reading some bios here and BAWLING, just crying some body-wracking sobs as I looked at the pictures of the people on this board. Here, here (!!!!) is an entire community who has the same, wrenchingly painful picture-proven physical progression that I went through. The same symptoms and signs. Words of encouragement — of….hope. I didn’t feel scared to read about the possibility of a pituitary tumor — last year, I had a brain MRI of the optic nerve because of sudden vision irregularities, headaches and shooting eye pain. The MRI showed nothing, but then again, the image was not that great because I had to go into the lower-resolution open MRI due to my size.

I have no idea whether I have Cushing’s Syndrome or not, but these are my first steps in my journey of finding out. After living my entire adult life with an array of progressive, untreatable, brushed-off symptoms (and years of self-blame for depression, obesity, becoming so unattractive), there was a major “click” as I read this site, and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe, what I have has a name, I’m not crazy/fat/ugly/lazy, the PCOS diagnosis, which has gotten me nowhere is incorrect, and I might have something TREATABLE.

So, without going so far as to say I hope for a diagnosis, I am hopeful for some definitive answers. If my urine tests are inconclusive (and my doctor only ordered one and no serum cortisol tests), I am going to fly out to L.A. and see Dr. Friedman for a full work up.

And, I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for posting your stories, which have encouraged me to advocate for myself in a manner and direction, which this time, may be fruitful.

Be well, my new friends,
Kate

p.s. I will post some pictures this week after I scan some of the “after” one….I try to avoid the camera at all costs. I’m sure you understand just what I’m talking about, and for that, I am truly grateful.

 

Melissa, Pituitary Bio

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I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome about 4 yrs ago at 40 yrs old if my terrible memory serves me right.

I was told it was due to the steriods my Neurologist prescribed for Trigeminal Neuralgia and other severe facial pain. I was 110 lbs before the weight gain which ended up leaving me somewhere over 200lbs.

I had the moon face, buffalo hump, fluid retention, hair loss, blurry vision, thinning skin, confusion, anxiety, depression, terrible back pain, skin eruptions, hot flashes, and exhaustion etc. I struggled to stay awake and would fall asleep mid sentence.

The back and hip pain were so intense I couldn’t walk on my own so I had to use  a walker for over 2 yrs. Sometimes I still have to use it. I needed help getting to the bathroom. I was to weak to stand up in the shower. I was in bed 95% of the time. I was sick for a couple of years before my diagnosis.

Once PROPERLY diagnosed after many Drs made me feel as though this was all in my head. I was finally put on a long steroid taper, potassium and vitamin D. Fast forward 4 years after being told I had Cushing’s I am still debilitated by some of the syptoms.

Though I was told in the ER that my pituitary gland has started working again I am extremely weak and in pain. So much so I rarely get put of bed unless it’s for a Dr’s appointment. I have lost over 50 lbs but am left with purple stretch marks on my upper arms, breasts, stomach and hips. Also the skinny arms and legs with a fatty midsection. I am so frustrated with my body not allowing me to live a normal life.

Hopefully someone here can help me with some way to fight the fatigue, lethargy, libido and hot flashes that still remain.  I am taking  magnesium and vitamin D. and several other medications for a variety of symptoms but nothing in particular for the last symptoms I mentioned.  Is there anything one can do to have more energy? I become out of breath just walking across the room.
Many prayers and blessings to those suffering from Cushing’s.

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Nikki C, Steroid-Induced Bio

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For Dunedin woman Nikki Cockburn, being one in a million is not a compliment.

She is one of the very few New Zealanders with Cushing’s syndrome, a very rare disease caused by excess production of cortisol.

Long afflicted by skin disease psoriasis, she had been prescribed the steroidal cream Dermol.

Over the years that she rubbed the cream on her skin she unknowingly boosted the cortisone levels in her body to the point where the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome began to manifest.

“I was very unwell for a lot of last year. I was getting headaches a lot, my hair was falling out a lot … I had constant diarrhoea and because I have friends in their 30s who had bowel cancer I thought it might be that, but it went away again.

“I had insomnia, overheating, constant sweating, impaired cognitive function, and I was getting big, thick purple stretch marks over about 70 per cent of my body.”

Eventually a friend, who fortunately had heard of Cushing’s syndrome, raised that as a possibility.

“I went and looked it up and went ‘I’ve got that, I’ve got that, I’ve got that’ – it was like ticking everything off of a list.”

An official diagnosis soon followed, but during that consultation came the shocking discovery that all Cockburn’s agony could have been avoided.

She was told that in 2014 her doctor had received a letter from a dermatologist warning Cockburn should stop using Dermol immediately.

“I got offered the chance to meet him [her doctor] just after I was diagnosed but I knew I was so angry and upset that there wouldn’t be a positive outcome, and I’m a forgiving person,” Cockburn said.

“I ended up meeting him last month, took a support person and read out a letter setting out everything I have been experiencing … He apologised profusely and cried quite a lot in his talk with me. I could tell he was really remorseful.

“He was also honest. He told me that the alert wasn’t put on my file in 2014 – it was in fact put on there in 2012, which upset me even more.

“He had seen the sentence there, but somehow had missed it,” she said.

The clinic and doctor, which Cockburn did not wish to name, have since reviewed their processes and procedures for dealing with patient alerts and held refresher sessions on psoriasis treatment.

Cockburn now uses Dermol sparingly and is trying to replace it with a non-steroidal cream for her psoriasis.

Cushing’s syndrome, which affects between one and three people in every million, is an invisible illness. With make-up, a long dress and stockings on there are no obvious signs of anything being wrong with the outgoing 36-year-old.

“A lot of what is going on with me is going on inside, or are things you couldn’t see unless I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt,” Cockburn said.

“I’m normally in bed or lying on the couch, because one of the big side effects for me has been lower back pain and I now have gynaecological problems as well.

“Over the past few months my back pain has been horrific – I am in pain sitting here now – but I guess if you talk to anyone who is in daily pain they kind of get used to it.

“I’ve forgotten what it is like to feel well.”

Cockburn decided not to pursue a health and disability commissioner complaint, but the Accident Compensation Corporation is investigating her situation.

With treatment, Cushing’s syndrome can be managed, but Cockburn’s prognosis is uncertain, which has led to anxiety and panic attacks.

“I have been very open on Facebook – I blog about my journey, what is happening to me,” Cockburn said.

“What has happened to me has happened – you can’t change it, you can’t take it back – but I sure as hell can stop it happening to other people by raising awareness.”

From https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12232161

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