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Victoria (Victoria), Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi everyone! I would first like to say how happy i am that this website exists it makes me feel so much better that others have gone through what i am currently experiencing and have made amazing recoveries! I am 19 years old and just finished my first year at college. This past semester was one of the hardest times of my life because not only was

I am 19 years old and just finished my first year at college. This past semester was one of the hardest times of my life because not only was i experiencing the internal manifestation of cushings causing extreme fatigue, anxiety, headaches, and muscle pain my appearance seemed to drastically take a turn for the worst bringing my self esteem to an all time low. My physical symptoms include an extreme moon

My physical symptoms include an extreme moon face,striae on breasts and calves, excessive hairiness, buffalo hump, acne, and bacne. I felt disgusting and sick all the time. i isolated myself from everyone because i was so embarrassed and sad because i felt like my femininity had been stripped away from me and i just was not myself. I began cutting to cope with my extreme sadness

i am now home for the summer and last Wednesday went to the doctors to finally get the diagnosis of cushings because i know for a fact that i have it. i first showed him my back and told him about my other symptoms. he then asked me if i was exercising and i said no because i never feel well. he said he thought that

he said he thought that i just needed to lose weight and that would help with my back and other things. he did notthink it was cushings because my buffalo hump was not pronounced enough but thankfully enough he said he would do a urine test just to be sure amongst many other blood tests. Now i am not a very large girl cushings has not manifested itself in me that has really effected my weight but it has effected everything else.

Anyways i am still waiting for the results of my blood work and urine test, i really feel that i will get the diagnosis there is no way that i do not have this. i just want to go back to my old self and enjoy college with my friends.

i am so scared and hope to support others and find support through this amazing site! Thank you 🙂

 

 

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Elizabeth, Pituitary/Adrenal Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted September 24, 2008

Hi my name is Elizabeth (Liz or Lisa). I am a 32 year old who has possible cushings. In October of 2005 I was diagnosised with an adrenal tumor on my left adrenal gland. At the time I contacted my PCP to get a referral to an Endo doc. I was then seen by an endo doc who had ran some tests to meassure my cortisol levels which, of course, came back normal.

I then continued to gain more and more weight and was getting more and more stretch marks as well as facial hair. I have suffered from headaches for years and had begun to suffer from extreme fatigue and body/limb weakness.

This time last year my mom was reading a Weight Watchers magazine and read a story from a lady that had the same signs. She thought that she was gaining weight and getting stretch marks due to a pregnancy but had a hard time believing thats all it was. So this lady went to a specialist and they tested her for cushings and ended up finding out that’s what she had and of course the tumor. They performed the surgery to remove her gland and she immediately lost 20 lbs and felt so much better. So my mom and I began to research this disease online and discovered that this sounded exactly what I have and was going through.

I then took this information to my endo who began testing me more and more. We had finally found an elevated reading of cortisol from my urine in December 2007. He then send me for a MRI to rule out the pituitary tumor in January 2008. With surprise to everyone, I ended up having a pituitary tumor as well.

At this time, my doc decided to send me to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to see a Cushings specialist. With a lot of time and money, the doc at the Mayo advised that he was unable to diagnosis cushings based off of one elevated reading. None of the tests that were performed at the mayo clinic came back elevated. I then went home in tears and disappointment. I have been continuing to go through 24 hour urine testing and pretty much everything else and no luck but just 1 more elevated reading.

This has been one of the hardest things that I have ever gone through in my life. I used to weigh 125-135 lbs and had a beautiful body and such confidence in myself. Now, I am almost 100 lbs more and have a body that is a cross between a zebra and railroad tracks with facial hair like a man. My mental health has gone completely down the drain and I am on the verge of tears everyday all day long. My dating life has gone from having someone in my life for years to nothing due to my moods and self confidence. There are times that I feel like I am going to loose it. Like I just can’t take this any more. I try my very best to watch my diet and exercise and I still gain the weight.

My endo doc here at home just this week consulted with the doc at the mayo and they just can’t figure out why the readings aren’t coming back elevated. They definately say that my physical appearance is cushings. So we just continue to test and test until, hopefully, that day comes to end this horrible disease.

It has been so great to know that they are other people out there feeling and going through the same things as I am. It does help to know that I’m not the only one going crazy over this. With luck and prayers, hopefully the next time i am writing is to say that I have to go ahead for surgery. For everyone out there, try to keep positive thoughts!

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Jules, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally from September 25, 2008

My journey with Cushing’s started six years ago at the age of ten. It started when I developed a duodenal ulcer. It was unbearably painful (this is coming from someone with a very high pain tolerance) and I have extreme stomach problems for at least 4 years following. I went to a gastroenterologist and got it somewhat under control.

This went on until the age of almost 15 when I just couldn’t take it anymore. By this time I had struggled with a very mentally draining family issue that had occurred. I became very irritable and depressed and just assumed it was from this hard period of my life.

I was shocked one day to see purple stretch marks running down my abdomen. I had been rapidly gaining weight and associated them with that. Always being an average size girl this weight gain both freaked me out and made me even more depressed. I was very irritable and unhappy with myself. I don’t overeat and am pretty active being an equestrian rider and working out at least twice a week. It made no sense. I knew something was wrong but had no idea what. My face has always been round but lately it was larger and red.

I decided to go to a new gastro. and was suprised when he felt the base of my neck and told me my thyroid was very enlarged. He quickly referred me to an endocrinologist who diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. I though I’d finally found the answer and expected my new medication to solve my problems.

To my dismay the symptoms only got worse. I was also now noticing fatigue and weakness.I gained 25 pounds that year when I should have been losing it after starting the medication. I was starting to get thirsty and drink all the time. I urinated frequently and sometimes had leakage. My periods from day one were very intense and I had horrible PMS but now they were becoming very weird and I am starting to lose them. I have sweet cravings several times a day and if I miss a meal by an hour I get an intense headache sometimes accompanied be nausea. It is now difficult for me to concentrate on schoolwork and I am extremely fatigued. I can’t bend my joints for long before they tighten and ache. I can no longer bend over without having bad pains when I straighten up again. Some nights I have an awful time trying to sleep and I feel as if life is growing harder and harder by the day.

After dealing with this endocrinologist for a year and having him ignore my other symptoms by telling me that my thyroid levels were normal I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I was very sick deep inside.

I scheduled an appointment with my now lifesaver. My first appointment with Dr.Borg was the best day of my life. He did a full body exam (which the other doctor hadn’t) and immediately told me that I looked like a person with Cushing’s disease. He was completely shocked when I told him that the other doctor hadn’t tested or looked at anything other than my thyroid.

Advice to anyone who might have this disease is to insist that your endocrinologist runs as many blood tests possible and make sure they do a physical exam. This is what I think “saved my life”. I was told by my new doctor that I would have developed type 1 diabetes within 3 years.

After the tests showed that my levels were way off I had an MRI which confirmed a tumor. I should now say that the best day of my life was when he told me that the MRI showed that I had a tumor and this was very fixable. I was so relieved. Now I am seeing a neurosurgeon and am awaiting news of when my surgery is. What I would like to say to anyone struggling with this disease is listen to yourself over anyone else. I had countless doctors tell me that I needed to eat less and work out more.

Deep down inside I knew there was a reason for my weight gain and for the hurt I lived with everyday. I knew that life was better than this. I pushed my parents to bring me to as many doctors as it took until we found the one who could find the culprit. You are the only one who knows how you are really feeling. I know it’s hard but hang in there and know that there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel.

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Doc Karen, Pituitary and BLA Bio

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Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

 

 

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

 

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

Kim H, Ectopic Bio

2 Comments

golden-oldie

 

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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Kim H, Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

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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Rebecca, Undiagnosed Bio

3 Comments

golden-oldie

 

Originally from Friday, October 3, 2008

I am 24 years old.

Last year my life changed. In less than 3 months I gained 39 kg or 85.8 pounds in less than 4 months. I am constantly tired no matter how much I sleep. I suffer on/off insomnia, my skin is fragile and thin, my hair on my head is falling out in droves and is not growing fast at all. I suffer severe migranes, have horrible stretch marks across my body, have lost my shape, have a swollen (moonface?) face, have extra hair growth on the body and I am bruising easily.

I have little concentration, am very irratible and have noticed personality changes. I get heatrashes in the middle of winter across my face, yet my hands will be frozen. My bones ache and I have lost so much muscle strength. I am so depressed, have a low libido, have no period and lately I am having problems with my eyes.

My normal doctor knows there is something wrong however none of the endo’s I have seen do anything. One told me it was all from depression. Another told me I stuff my face too much. This especially hurt as I was living on 2400 Kilojoules a day, barely surviving, exercising like crazy and still putting on a kilo a week.

My blood tests show my cortisol is high, my platlet level is getting higher and higher, I am constantly showing signs of infections/inflammation, I have hypothyroidism.

In Australia, the only way to diagnose cushings is with a 24hr urine test, yet mine was only “moderately” high. It is affecting everything in my life and I just want to know what it is. One of the hardest parts is the not knowing.

Everytime I eat, people stare and you can tell they think I’m gross. People make nasty comments about my weight and say I should exercise. I don’t do much anymore because I just can’t manage it, but even when I did, nothing positive would happen. Its affecting my friendships and relationships. I feel like such a winge, but I can’t help how hopeless it feels.

I am so grateful for this, for being able to vent with others that actually understand what its like.

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