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Tanya (Tanylou), Testing for Cushing’s

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Testing!

Hi I’m a 51yo mother of four kidults and 2 grandsons.

I havea few health issues including diverticular disease, hypothyroidism, hashimotos autoimmune thyroiditis (including multinodular gland), secondary hyperparathyroidism, non alcoholic fatty liver, high cholesterol, major depressive disorder and social anxiety and borderline diabetes.

I’m currently undergoing tests for cushings due to 2 recent elevated cortisol levels on a 4 point saliva test and morning cortisol blood tests. I have a hump, puffy face, signicant weight gain, ushing, excessive sweating, anxiety, skin issues (granuloma annulare, new stretch marks, rashes).

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In Memory: Liz Raftery, March 2012

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A Golden Oldie

We sadly learned that Liz died in March 2012 at the age of 45. She was an active member of the Cushing’s Help Message Boards.  She had a photo gallery there.  The photo below is from that gallery.

Liz in 2002The image at left is from 2002.

Liz wrote in her bio:

Hello, I’m from Hampton, just outside London. Same old story – at least 6 years of various illnesses, including four operations for various crap (kidney stones, gallbladder removal, and 2 cysts on my coccyx)

I then went from being very skinny (even after childbirth) to very fat in about a year (from 7.5 stones to 13 stones). You could roll me down our local hill! I wear maternity clothes as my tum is so disproportionate to my legs & arms (size 26 vs size 12!). My face, chest, neck and back look like someone’s put padding in, and my nice red glow brings all sort of compliments about how healthy i look, grr! I’ll post some photos later.

So far, a left adrenal tumor has turned up, but I have abnormally high ACTH (60) with a highish cortisol of about 600. This apparently implies a pituitary source – but the pituitary MRI was clear. I’m waiting on a second one with gadolinium this time, but here in London MRIs take AGES. The wait at our local hospital is currently 10 months.

In the meantime, I’m frustrated and feeling lousy and v tired. I have to work full time (luckily I’m an accountant, not something overly physical) as I’m a single mum to a lovely 8 year old girl who does not deserve all this. The guilt eats me up, but she is thankfully not the outward bound type!

Walking is a struggle as my legs seem to suddenly buckle on me, and sitting up without support at say the hairdressers or a restaurant is really difficult. So my (thinning) hair’s a mess and I don’t eat out much! I veer about – someone at work told my boss I couldn’t walk in a straight line! Highly amusing as I haven’t touched a drop in ages!

Other symptoms that have developed more recently include interimittently high blood sugar, intermittently high blood pressure, have to shave every day, horrid night and day sweats, red marks up my arms, but none on my body, intermittently rotten swollen ankles and feet, recurrently horrid kidney stones, and of course, an attractive buffalo hump (moo). And the final insult – can’t get into any of my shoes any more so shuffle about at work in my oversize carpet slippers. Very popular amongst my grey accountant colleagues.

As so many of the symptoms are intermittent, the endo says he is convinced it is cushing’s, but cylical, due to (again) interimittent high blood cortisol and ACTH, and non suppression on three low dose dex tests. Then the first 24 hr ufc came back normal which was very frustrating. I’m not particularly religious but i pray he won’t give up on me as it is a long journey compared to the diagnosis of other equally horrid diseases.

Feel quite isolated from my mates and lovely mum, although they are trying hard to be supportive – I’m surprised my mood swings haven’t frightened them all off lately. It’s so difficult to explain how rough it feels to take part in normal activities, especially when every symptom is something most people consider they have in everyday life to some degree. As well as the physical exhaustion/pain/weakness, my body image distresses me enormously. Recurrent kidney stones are pretty painful too (but not as bad as childbirth as a lot of men claim!).

Hope to be there soon. Great to read all your stories and know that so many of you know how it all feels – and have felt it for umpteen years too.

All the best.
Liz

Update April 21, 2005.

Following dex/CRH test, which even included a dexamethasone assay to make sure the levels were adequate (took forever to come back from the lab), my endo confirmed cushings. The bad news is I need the IPSS which will be in May. My ACTHs are between 80-100 so it is most likely a pituitary cause despite my adrenals showing a small adenoma – a red herring!

It’s a very odd feeling after waiting so long, knowing something was very wrong, but not knowing what, and thinking i would go on for ever in misery. So to all you guys out there feeling like this, and i know you’re out there(!), don’t give up!!

Wish me luck …

Posts in Liz’s memory:

Terry: Oh no, that is terribly sad.

Jenny: Oh no, what happened, did he say? 😦

Beth: omg, I felt sick reading this. I knew of her, but never got to know her. I’m so sorry. 😦

Regina: How tragic! :/

Liz: This is just so sad !! And yet he reaches out to us in his time of sadness, please forward to him my deepest sympathies

Nancy: Oh no!!” This makes my physically ill! I’m fighting tears.PLEASE get details so we can try to learn about what happened and prevent any other Cushie from loosing their life..  Hugs and prayers to Liz’s family!

MaryO: He didn’t say – I just responded to his email and we’ll see if he has any more to say.  I hate when Cushies die 😦

Sandra: Omg liz was my friend! We used to chat on the phone when I was seriously ill too! Omg I cannot belkieve it! Mary cud u pm his email add pls xxx

Liz: Me too Mary me too, just brings everything to a scary place for all of us !!

Trisha: I am so sorry to hear this. I remember Liz from the boards.

Sandra: Have just spoken to ciara lizs daughter who said it was a massive heart attack in the end! Her funeral is on thursday! God bless u my friend xxxxx

Lisa: God bless her family..so sad 😦

Kim: So sad

Jennyfer: Oh no no more cushies down please send my love

Judy: So sad. Does anyone know how old she was, I had never figured that out.

Mary: Oh no! I loved our Lizzy girl and have been thinking of her recently. I hadn’t heard from her in awhile. So very sad. Please pass along my deepest condolences.

Linda: No! Not Liz! No no no

MaryO: She was 45. On the C-H boards, her name was Lizr007

Shauna: News like this breaks my heart over and over again. Mary, please let him know that her Cushie family mourns her loss deeply.

Linda: Please do tell Liz’s brother how much she was loved. I can’t believe she is gone….

Judy: Thanks, Mary. I sometimes haven’t converted who they were on the boards to their real life name. I know who she was. That is so young.

Adrienne: so sorry, so sad!!!

Linda: Please let Liz’s brother know that I adored her. She was one of the first people I met on the Cushings boards many years ago, and she was one of my “rocks”. She was such a supportive, loving person with a great sense of humor. I am heartbroken that she is gone.

Stephanie: How tragic!! Thoughts and Prayers for her family and friends.

Lisa: Poor Liz. My heart breaks for her family. I remember her struggles Mary: You have my permission to send my condolences.

Grace: This is such sad news! Prayers and hugs for Liz’s family. How sad that we lose even one of us to the complications of this disease.

Sandra:  RIP liz u were such a wonderful person and a dear friend! I’m sure suziQ was waiting for u along with all our other cushies that have past over! God bless u huni I will miss u! Xx

Joanne: Im so sorry to hear another precious life taken by this illness, prayers for her and her family..

Anne : Oh not Liz!! She was an awesome person! She had such a great spirit. How horribly awful.

Janelle: So sad.. Please let us know what the complications were.. 😦

Alicia: So sad. We are losing way too many people to this disease. Praying for her family.

Robin: Oh, this breaks my heart. Please tell Liz’s brother we will miss her terribly.

Heather: I’m so sorry. I loved Liz. Her spirit and sense of humor were amazing. I was actually thinking about her the other day as well. Please feel free to convey my condolences to her family.

Melissa: As soon as I saw her name — Liz Rafferty — I started to cry. Liz was part of our group there on the Cushing’s- Help message boards. She posted over 2000 times. When you posted her screen name, I could see her avatar in my mind. I am so sad to hear that she is not with us, her family or friends. I am so upset as I wonder why this has to happened to her, to us, to our community. Please send my condolences along to Liz’ brother, and make sure they know that she was caring and supportive of many as well as loved by many. I will miss her.

And Mary, please be sure to tell him she was part of our group, too. I bet he would want to make a donation to you and Cushing’s-Help if he knew how extensively she participated in our group.

Hugging all of you a little tighter today.

— Melissa, TX

Beth: Another person with my disease has passed. I didn’t know her personally, but the hurt is still there.. As is the fear. RIP Liz R.

Chanelle: Omg!! Ugh my head hurts :((

Sandra: Beth she was a dear friend and such a sweet sweet girl! Even at her worst she was cheerful and lovely ! She has left behind her daughter and her mum god bless em x

Christina: 😦 so sad to hear this, RIP to her.

Mary: I loved Liz. She was so funny and upbeat and helpful. RIP old friend.

Linda: Rest in peace, Liz. You were very loved and and I’m thankful to have met you on my Cushings journey.

Susan: Thanks for posting this, MaryO. My sympathies to Liz’s family for their loss. As a member of this community, we will miss you.

missaf: My heart goes out to her family. I’m glad she started to feel better for a little while and got to smile more in life. Damn Cushing’s.

Sherry: Not another Cushie:( I am so sad to hear this news, Liz was well known on the boards and she will be greatly missed. I just hate this. My deepest sympathies go out to her family.

Elizabeth: Deepest sympathy & many prayers. This is so heartbreaking.

Dawn: I did not know her, but her passing has affected me. I am sorry that the world has lost her and I’m sad that it was a result of this horrible disease. It always hits close to the heart. My condolences to her family and friends.

Ami: I am completely heartbroken. She was a dear. Please include my condolences to her brother. I too would very much like to hear what the cause of death was.

Kristin: I’m so upset about this, all I can say is I’m sorry for her family. Leaving a 16 yo without her mommy is so terrible. Somehow the medical community needs to realize how many of our group are not making it needlessly… Prayers for her family. Very nice of her brother to let us know.

Melanie: OMG! I feel ill. I loved Liz dearly, she helped me keep my sanity when I first arrived on the biards and gave me such great support – we had some great laughs together and spoke on the phone for hours at a time. I cannot believe another one of us has gone. This damn disease is so bloody unfair.

Just read it was a heart attack (Thanks Sandra).  – heartbreaking.

Gumdrop: So sad to hear this. I pray her family is comforted.

Sandra: If I find any more info out I will post

Mary: She and I had SIADH in common and the continuing electrolyte issues afterwards, too. I think when I was hospitalized with it, she was the only other person on the boards who’d experienced it at that time.

Bernadette: I didn’t know her, but am so saddened by her much-too-early death. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, and with all the rest of you who knew her.

Ami: I know she and I exchanged posts on the boards. I wish I remembered more about her…

Shelley: I’m sorry to hear about her passing. She and her family and loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mary: oh no! devastating news. so sorry and saddened to hear. 😦

Amy: I am so broken hearted. 😦 Liz was one of the very first people to make friends with me on the cushings website. So sweet and funny, what a wonderful person she was. I have just cried and cried ever since learning of her passing. She really struggled to get her BLA for a long time. May God rest her soul. She truly was “one of a kind”

Dacia: Please send my love, my thoughts and prayers to all…

AuntSha: Condolences to her family…. My prayers and thoughts are with them. She certainly has been taken too young and much too soon :-(!!!

Diane: My beautiful, funny, smart dear friend Liz. You carried me through my journey and held my hand through some of the worst times I can remember. You were my rock, you were my shoulder. Words cannot express how I feel right now. I am heartbroken. I am so sad. The heavens are blessed with another beautiful soul. Love to you my dear friend xx

The last time we saw each other was when you had your adrenal operation. I was so thrilled to finally see you in the flesh after spending months posting to each other here and emailing and chatting on the phone. I met Liz at Cromwell Hospital in London where she was recovering from her adrenal operation. I bought her a massive bunch of stocks that filled her hospital room with a glorious heady scent and I bought along a few things to pamper her with. We spent the afternoon chatting non-stop and I remember giving her Mum a big hug. Those memories will stay with me and that is how I remember Liz. A happy smile and a big heart.

Rest in peace lovely lady….

Your Cushy friend, always,

Diane

x

Ellen: My deepest condolences to her family. This is such a stark reminder of how cruel this disease is.

Monica:  Oh Liz. I’ll miss her, she was such a good person and gave support to us all even while fighting her own battle.

Melly: So tragic! May God welcome Liz and bless her family with peace and strength during this horrible time. Such a reminder that each day I breathe is a gift.

love,

melly

3v3:  I am new here so I am not familiar with Liz, but I am so sorry to read this. Condolences to her friends and family. I was trying to find her bio info/old posts and it seemed like she was cured or at least recovering? 😦

Judy:  Mine too. It’s just so sad. I pray for the family.

Beth: Such a tragic loss.. I wish her family and friends strength and peace. 😦

Sandra: Have spoken to aLex woore who was also a cushie friend wiv liz and apparantly she had a bla smtime ago but they cudnt get her sodium n potassium levels right so whether that had anything to do with it I dnt knw but have left my no wiv ciara and her nan so if they call I will let u all knw! X

Karen: Please send my condolences also, such sad news . This disease is awful, we are losing so many amazing people to it. Many prayers,

Monica: Thinking of Liz tonight. I pray for comfort for her family, especially her 16 year old daughter. Far too many friends lost to this disease over the years.

Stanley : I’m sorry to hear that.

Melissa: This makes me cry all over again.

Mary, could you offer our services in helping to decipher what could have led to Liz’s death? For example, we could guide the family on getting copies of her hospital, doctor, surgical, and lab records.

Susan: I am just devastated by this news. Liz was so kind and caring. So tragic to lose someone so young.

Rissa: This is so sad. Praying for Liz and her family tonight.

Ikho: This news makes me so sad. My condolences to her family.

Lorrie: I am so sorry. My prayers go out to her family. 45 years old….such a young woman. God Bless them.

Amy: I’m still just in shock. Thinking back I can remember that sweet pic she had of her cat playing with something. I never could figure out what that cat was doing though. LOL This is just surreal to me . . . 😦

Jenny: Please pass on my condolences, her family will be in my prayers. Just so unbelievably sad. 😥

Jo: cant believe it.  very sad, god bless our dear friend Liz.taken far too soon.

Jenny: The Cushings community has lost yet another dear member. Liz was only 45, please pray for her family and friends. 😦

Lisa: One of our fellow “cushies” (Cushings patient) sadly passed away.  Liz was a wonderful 45 yr old mother of a 16 yr old and a friend to us that got so many through this. She was an inspiration and someone that kept her chin up and a smile on her face and ours on our message board. She will be missed.

Mary R:  We’ve lost another Cushing’s Warrior from complications of this rotten disease. Her name is Liz and leaves behind a 16 yr old daughter. This is the 3rd Cushie in 8 months!!! It doesn’t have to be this way! Just because it’s rare, doesn’t mean that the Dr.s should doubt us and our biochemical/imaging evidence. Please say a prayer for Liz’s daughter and family.

PLEASE promise me that if this disease takes me from my family at a young age, that you will bring Cushing’s awareness & education to others on my behalf.

Jen: I remember Liz well and I am so sorry to hear that she has passed. My condolences to her family.

Diane: It’s been a day since I found out and I am still numb with shock. There are moments in your life when things happen that change your whole outlook on things. Cushings was that something for me. However with all the difficulties of coping with such a terrible disease I managed to find many special friendships and was given support by such a special group of ladies that I will treasure in my heart forever. Liz was one of those special people. We had a giggle, we had a moan about the whole NHS process and testing, we shared some of our most painful moments going through this disease. I will miss you so much Liz. Shine a bright light in heaven lovely lady xxx Mary – you certainly have my permission xx Thank you for creating a place where I had an opportunity to meet someone like Liz xx

Amy: I was so very fond of Liz and my heart is still broken in two. 😦

Diane:  I’ve just been reading some of Liz’s old posts on the site…more tears are flowing but with a big smile on my face. I forgot just how much of a laugh we had despite the fact we were going through hell…I particularly like the fact that alot of people didn’t understand Liz and my British sense of humour. It just reminded that some great bonds were forged during hours of such need and loneliness, stress and depression, and a fight to get heard and a struggle to get diagnosed.

Jo: do you remember when her endo put her in the priory, & she met Ronnie Wood ? Liz Thought she looked better than he did.I cant count how many times K didn’t get his dinner because we were too busy on the phone.Still cant believe it.

Sally: I am so sad to read this. Liz, myself and a few others had said we needed to get together in Bermuda (half way) when we were all finally healthy to celebrate our 40th birthdays. I don’t know if any of us managed to hit that milestone healthy, I know I didn’t and I know Liz didn’t. I’m heartbroken, it’s so very sad.

betseebee: Such devastating news! Liz’s bio was one of the first I read when I joined the boards. I also distinctly remember her kitty avatar and that I could relate to things in her bio, like being grateful that my daughter was also not an outward bound type, which made it a little easier to be at home so much. My most heartfelt condolences to her beautiful daughter, Ciara, as well as the rest of her family.

Liz, may you rest in peace, and dance among the angels.

Sherry: My deepest sympaties go out to her family. This disease is awful, Liz was a wonderful person, she and I joined around the same time, I am very sad to hear of this disease taking another precoius life. RIP Liz.

Diane:  That is so funny Jo, I did not know that. I think Liz would have had no problem looking better than Ronnie!! Have you seen his program on SkyArts right now?!! Sally – I am 40 in June and this has just brought home to me how precious life is and. Not sure I’ll get to Bermuda, maybe Bognor…!! xx

Sandra: Sally I remember that convo ! I was one of them then, and yes I made my 40 th prob the healthiest I’m ever going to b now despite battling fibro still! And diane I knw what u mean about the british sense of humour! So not only did we laugh about the joke we cracked up with the fall out of being misunderstood (in a goodway) of course! Lol …..I thought about her sooo much yesterday and poor ciara bless her! Just stil can’t beleve it x

Jean: Im soo sorry to hear abt this ;( Really shows how this disease is serious n deadly, if not treated properly or from complications from surgery…my condolences to her family n all who knew her.

Dave: Liz, we never got to share that coffee. You were so helpful to me in researching my various problems and I know that there are many many friends who don’t come here any more but we will all miss you. Sincere sympathies to all your loved ones.

Sheila: A tragic loss at such a young age. Sad to know that death happens with Cushing’s when we are in the year of 2012.  Hopefully more doctors will take an interest in this little known disease of Cushing’s Syndrome.

Tanya: 😦 OMG rest in peace Liz. I’ve heard “I wish cancer would get cancer and die.” Well ‘I wish cushing’s would get cushing’s and die.’

In Memory of 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 of 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.

 

Sherri A, Pituitary Bio

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44 year old female started out with joint pain and gastrointestinal issues.

Rapid weight gain despite a significant drop in caloric intake due to the gastro problems. Typical Cushings presentation with the weight, purple marks, moon face, fatigue etc .

IPSS is scheduled for June 23 after MRI revealed a Pit. tumor.

Surgery will be scheduled after results from the IPSS.

 

Sherry added her Helpful Doctor, Matthew Gorris, to the Cushing’s MemberMap

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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.

 

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