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Mak M, Pituitary Bio

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My name is Makena, I’m a 20 year old in California recently diagnosed with Cushings.

I have been having a really rough couple years with a multitude of symptoms. I have been suffering from severe depression since I was around 14, and have been prescribed an endless amount of antidepressants over the years. None of them have worked for me no matter the dose or brand.

The first symptom to cause me to visit the doctor was an extremely high blood pressure and pulse rate. I could always feel my heart pounding in my ears and felt on edge 24/7. My psychiatrist first told me it was anxiety and put me on anti-anxiety medication. That did not help, which led me to see my primary Dr. since my resting heart rate was around 150bpm. I have been put on blood pressure medication which has helped regulate me but I still feel very on edge.

My blood tests show very low vitamin D, very high testosterone, and very high cortisol. My Dr ordered an MRI on my brain and a CT of abdomen. The CT came back normal, but a 6mm microadenoma was found on my pituitary gland so I was referred to an endocrinologist. After doing a 24hr urine test and a saliva test, the results for that came back normal.

My main concern being: I can only physically feel my cortisol levels rise at night. I’ve had severe insomnia and daytime fatigue but the jittery and anxious feeling comes at night and then I crash during the day. I have had severe weight gain in my stomach and face as well as purple stretch marks all over. Losing hair, light sensitivity, vision loss, muscle and bone weakness, easily bruising, a stomach ulcer, a buffalo hump, and constant fatigue have ruined my life. I feel like my body is deteriorating and am not the same person I once was.

I’m hoping I will be able to get surgery to remove the tumor but am concerned that I won’t be approved for it because some tests came back normal. I am not sure what my next step will be but am happy to find stories I can relate to here on this website.

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Jayne, In The Media

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From http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2004/032004/03092004/1287556

Cushing’s didn’t rob woman of her fertility

Jayne Kerns

Photo by Scott Neville / The Free Lance-Star

Jayne Kerns holds her 5-year-old daughter, Catherine, and 2-month-old son, Brian, at their home in Spotsylvania. Kerns, who was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease two years ago, became pregnant despite her illness, which usually makes women infertile.

 

Baby boy is miracle to mother with Cushing’s disease

By MARCIA ARMSTRONG
The Free Lance-Star

DATE PUBLISHED: 3/9/2004

THERE WAS A moment in 1999 when Jayne Kerns just knew that something was wrong with her body.

The Spotsylvania County resident was tired and irritable. Her muscles hurt. Her hair was falling out.

The silvery stretch marks acquired while pregnant with her daughter Catherine turned into angry, purple streaks. Kerns wasn’t losing the pregnancy weight, either. In fact, the pounds were still piling on.

“I was walking every day, eating right, doing the ‘Best Odds’ diet,” said Kerns, 40. “But, it wasn’t helping. I just didn’t feel right.”

One doctor said Kerns’ complaints were not unusual for a postpartum body. When another told her to exercise more and eat less, she kept a diary of the fat, carbohydrate and caloric content of everything she ate and began walking a mile three times a day.

But, a year later, Kerns was even heavier and her health was getting worse.

The slightest bumps caused her skin to bruise. Hair began to grow on her face and arms. Her eyesight was plagued by double vision, tunnel vision and spots. She had trouble concentrating and was beset with short-term memory loss. Her blood pressure skyrocketed to stroke level. Her menses stopped.

The symptoms worsen

Doctors tested for lupus, diabetes and fibromyalgia, but the results were negative. One physician gave up on a diagnosis, telling Kerns he didn’t have time to listen to her roster of complaints. He referred her to a psychiatrist for a prescription for antidepressants. Another told her to see a nutritionist.

By then, Kerns’ muscles hurt so badly it was hard for her to hold Catherine or let her climb onto her lap. She couldn’t get down on the floor to play blocks with her daughter or push her on the swing set. Bedtime became a struggle.

“I’d go upstairs and she’d run downstairs, and there was no way I could grab her and carry her back up,” Kerns said.

Kerns’ appearance took on that of a much older woman, even though she was only in her mid-30s. She had a hump in her back. Her thinning hair was turning gray. People who didn’t know her thought she was Catherine’s grandmother.

Then, in May 2000, a physician’s assistant told Kerns her symptoms matched those of Cushing’s disease, a hormonal disorder caused by the overproduction of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone needed in times of stress.

The diagnosis was a long shot, as the disease is rare, affecting only 10 to 15 people out of 1 million each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But, tests revealed that Kerns’ cortisol levels were 25 times higher than normal.

The physician’s assistant was right. Kerns had Cushing’s.

A tumor on Kerns’ pituitary gland was causing her adrenal glands to produce the overabundance of cortisol, but the mass was so small doctors couldn’t find it.

Kerns had four options.

Doctors could remove her pituitary, taking the obscure tumor with it. Or, they could zap the gland with gamma-knife radiation. The third choice was to put Kerns on medication that would lessen cortisol production. And last, she could have her adrenal glands removed.

With any of the choices, she was unlikely to ever have another baby.

“Usually, people who have Cushing’s are infertile because the disease alters the normal endocrine milieu of the body and interferes with ovulation,” said Dr. Fay Redwine, a perinatologist with Richmond-based Central Virginia Perinatal Associates.

In fact, it is so rare for a woman with Cushing’s disease to get pregnant that Redwine said she expects to see only two or three such cases during her medical career.

Baby surprise

Kerns took the cortisol-suppressing medication until it began to destroy her liver. Then, she had her adrenal glands removed.

Immediately after the surgery, Kerns’ eyesight cleared. Her blood pressure dropped to normal levels. And, three months after the operation, something else changed, too.

Kerns became pregnant.

“That was a surprise, a big surprise,” she said. “I was happy to know that I was still fertile.”

The pregnancy lasted only 10 weeks before ending in miscarriage. But, 15 months later, Kerns was pregnant again.

“The first thing I felt was total elation, then total fear of losing the baby,” she said.

Her anxiety was warranted, Redwine said, because the fetus of a mother with Cushing’s is at much greater risk of intrauterine fetal death and pre-term birth.

But, it was during this pregnancy that Kerns began to feel almost normal again.

Her muscles quit aching. Her moods leveled out.

“My body somehow said, ‘We’re going to have this baby, so we have to be healthy,'” she said.

Kerns’ obstetrician, Dr. William Hamilton, increased the dosage of Kerns’ hydrocortisone pills to cover the stress pregnancy put on her body. Redwine monitored the baby’s growth and movements.

And, on Dec. 15, 2003, Brian Matthew Kerns was born, full-term and healthy.

“He is our miracle baby,” Kerns said.

What’s in the future

Cushing’s has taken a permanent toll on Kerns’ life.

The purple stretch marks will never go away. Weight will always be a problem.

Kerns must have a magnetic resonance imaging scan every six months as doctors keep looking for her pituitary tumor.

Kerns regrets that she was so sick when Catherine was an infant and toddler that she couldn’t devote herself to mothering. And, it’s hard for Kerns to keep from crying when Catherine, now 4, doesn’t recognize her in the pre-surgery pictures in the family photo albums.

Even so, life is still very, very good.

Kerns spends her days cuddling her son and playing with her daughter. She’s getting stronger. She feels much better.

She’s thankful that the only effect the disease had on her relationship with her husband, Robin, was to make it stronger.

“Some men can’t handle it,” Kerns said. “I’ve read stories online about women who are getting a diagnosis and a divorce. But, Robin stood by me through everything: the surgery, doctor’s appointments, all the questions.

“He has kissed my stretch marks and said ‘No matter what happens, you are still a beautiful person.'”

Heal and share

But, for all it’s taken from Kerns, Cushing’s has given her something back: the courage to speak out.

She recently contacted Gov. Mark Warner’s office to enlist his support of a national day for Cushing’s awareness.

And last September, she approached a woman in the grocery store who she thought looked like a mirror image of herself: the same moon face, the same upper-body obesity, the same hairy arms.

“Excuse me,” she said to the woman. “I have to tell you my story.”

“I was a little taken aback,” said Laura Zastrow, who lives in Locust Grove. “I’d never heard of Cushing’s.”

Zastrow, 34, told Kerns she’d been looking for a diagnosis for her weight gain, mood swings and stretch marks for four years.

Kerns referred Zastrow to an Internet Cushing’s support group that features a lengthy list of Cushing’s symptoms.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Zastrow said. “It was like me, all the symptoms, everything.”

Tests showed that Zastrow has a tumor on her pituitary. But, unlike Kerns’ tumor, doctors know exactly where it is. She will have it removed this spring.

Zastrow calls Kerns her guardian angel.

“If she hadn’t said anything,” Zastrow said, “I’d still be wondering what in the world is wrong with me.”

For more information about Cushing’s disease, visit the Web site cushings-help.com.

To reach MARCIA ARMSTRONG: 540/374-5000, ext. 5697 marciaa@freelancestar.com


JAYNE KERNS IS A MEMBER OF THE CUSHING’S HELP AND SUPPORT MESSAGE BOARDS.

Jayne has seen several potential Cushies and spoken to them. Many have contacted their doctors and turned out to have Cushing’s Syndrome. She was also instrumental in setting up the first Cushing’s Awareness Day and continues to provide Cushing’s Awareness tables at local health fairs.

One of the patients Jayne urged to check out Cushing’s is Laura Zastrow. In the article about Laura, all the credit is given to Jayne.

Jayne answered questions in an online Voice Chat January 31, 2008 at 6:30 PM eastern. Archives are available.

Jayne and Robin also hosted a Special Cushing’s Awareness Day live chat April 8, 2008. Archives are available.

Listen to CushingsHelp on internet talk radio

 Subscribe to the CushingsHelp podcasts on iTunes

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Pam M (mapgirl23), Undiagnosed Bio

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I am the mother of an 18 year old daughter who I suspect has Cushing’s. Kristy was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome when she was in the 5th grade. She suffers from mild to severe motor tics.

Fast forward to the end of her Freshman year and high school when she started to develop depression, anxiety and unexplained episodes of vomiting along with rash covering her entire body which the doctors just said was eczema She also developed stretch marks all over her breast, abdomen and thighs. I asked the dermatologist and she said she was just growing. She was the same size she had been for the last 2 years and was actually losing weight. I took her to a neurologist who diagnosed her with Cyclic vomiting syndrome. By May of the following year she was seeing a therapist and then went to see a psychiatrist who put her on Prozac. Her rash immediately cleared up. I asked the doctor about cortisol I figured her body must be producing to much and he said yes it was causing a stress rash.

Her mood improved temporarily and everything was blamed on the Tourette Syndrome. She started gain weight and by her Senior year she had gained 60 pounds and she barely ate. Her face became moon shaped and the majority of her weight was carried in the abdomen area. Her anxiety continued to get worse along with severe fatigue. We saw more doctors who just told her to lose weight and go to therapy to learn to live with her symptoms because there is nothing they could do for her. In June we found a new psychiatrist at U of M who increased her dosage of Prozac to the max dosage. She still has know improvement and she even attended anxiety classes to try to learn to cope.

She is now suffering from severe brain fog , has difficulty speaking and gets confused easily. In November she started having vomiting episodes and a rash again so that brought me back to thinking about her cortisol levels. I started searching the internet once again and stumbled upon Cushings once again. The light bulb went off! I ran downstairs and checked the back of her neck and there was a Buffalo Hump that wasn’t there in June. That is when I knew we may have found the answer.

We saw a new family doctor in December and she took us seriously and ordered Prolactin, testosterone, Thyroid, 24 Hour free urine cortisol and a Cortisol blood test. The Prolactin and Urine Cortisol came back elevated. The blood Cortisol 8am test cam back at the highest end of normal. We met with her psychiatrist and he agrees that it may be Cushings. We will see him on Feb. 1 and he is going to review her labs with a endocrinologist. We have an appointment with an endocrinologist on March 2 and are waiting to get into another endocrinologist at the University of Michigan. Praying for an answer!

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Roxanna (Dawn), Undiagnosed Bio

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I’m writing because im frustrated and sad. Today I got my results and doctor says negative for Cushings .
CORTISOL, FREE 24 HOUR.
F CORTISOL, FREE, URINE 36.2 Range 4.0 to 50.0

I have another appointment with an assistant to an Endocronologist but that’s not until next month March. I’m tiered of waiting.

I’m fatigued all the time. Insomnia. Emotional and currently tapering off venlafaxine. Lots of hair for a female. Camel hump.

Large abdomen. Low thyroid and high testosterone. Purple stretch marks. Edema in ankles and legs. Extreme joint paint and vitamin D deficiency. My teeth are decaying. I gained 50-60 pounds in 1.5years. Memory issues. Prediabetic and some hypoglycemia. Blurry vision sometimes.

I was hoping finally I would get treatment. I want to get an answer and help. I want to live again. I want to one day have anther child. I just know that I cannot plan on moving forward with life without taking care of this. I feel like I’m just in a hole.

I’m 31 years old.

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Mika, Undiagnosed Bio

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I’m 16, going on 17… and I think I’m close to being diagnosed with Cushings. Quite frankly its scaring me so I’ll just do my best to get my story out there.

I’ve always kind of been on the heavier side compared to other people my age, even when I was really little. However, my weight has shot up from 60 kg to about 110 kg in 2-4 years, and my already awful confidence is basically shattered.

When I got my growth spurt I got severe stretch marks, but I thought it was nothing, and my parents attributed it to me growing so quickly or something along those lines.

I’m in constant pain, I’ve barely been to school since September 2016. I can barely move half the time due to severe exhaustion and pain, I fear for my future.

We originally thought all the pain was from gluten intolerance, which I was diagnosed with, late 2015. We completely cut gluten out of my diet, but instead of getting better, my symptoms got worse. The exhaustion lead to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue in mid 2016.

On a whim I’m guessing, my doctor ordered tests for ACTH when he got told of my worsening symptoms. It was much higher than it should’ve been, and I got forwarded to an endocrinologist, more tests, ect… I need to go back in a few days for the results, I’m becoming more and more nervous the more I wait.

My already bad mental health has taken a hit, as well. I was never really mentally okay due to a horrible string of things happening to me in my childhood, but when this popped up my illnesses got 10x worse, to the point I’ve harmed myself and attempted suicide. Even when I feel okay enough physically, I can’t go outside without being scared something will happen to me or that everyone is judging me for how I look. I was on medication for depression, but I was able to function even less when I was on it, so I was taken off of it. I have depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other disorders which have been diagnosed and they’ve all worsened in some way.

My schooling has taken an even bigger hit, I can’t think right due to disturbed sleep, general tiredness and headaches. I used to be a fairly good student and before I left, my grades had dropped significantly, my teachers and peers were looking down on me for how far I had fallen.

I used to constantly blame myself for my weight, I’ve hated it since I was very little, so at least this gives me a small bit of relief that its not completely my fault.

I just want to get my life back, I have my whole life ahead of me, but my teenage years are basically being stolen from me like I had my childhood stolen. While everyone else my age worries about tests I worry on if I can ever move out of my house or even walk to the shops again. It feels wrong and cruel. My symptoms have suddenly gotten much worse and I’ve developed new ones, and I honestly get more scared by the day.

Everyone else’s posts give me a tiny bit of hope for the future, I just hope I can one day live like everyone else does and not be weighed down completely by illnesses. It will be a slow road, but I just hope I can get there in the end.

Thank you for reading this to the end if you have, sorry if its just a jumble of words. ^^;

 

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Ren, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hi there. 27 year old female, never had kids. It’s been an awfully long couple years and I’ve been researching and reading all you lovely people’s bios on pituitary tumours, Cushing’s disease and Acromegaly for about that long.

My symptoms onset at a time where my lifestyle was out of control. I was drinking heavily, using drugs and didn’t have a care in the world. Or so I thought. At the time of my heaviest use (cocaine) I started having strange laundry list of symptoms.

Pressure headaches
Pain in my abdomen
Acid Reflux
Excess hair growth (abdominal, face)
Purple stretch marks on my abdomen
Weight gain of approximately 30lbs in a month (distributed in only my trunk/abdomen)
Swelling of arms, face (around eyes too) sore jaw, enlarged tongue (ridges on the sides, from my teeth)
Swelling of hands, feet & legs (increased foot size from size 7 to 8)
Exhaustion
Hair loss on scalp
Itchy, sensitive skin that looks very thin (see-through almost, blue veins very prominent all over body) skin redness as well, large pores. Dull eyes.
Fatty deposit on the back of my neck
Collar bones no longer visible
Diagnosed with anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD
Memory loss, brain fog
Irregular menstrual cycles and increased pain
Tunnel vision at times and blurred vision. Sensitivity to sunlight.

At the time, I was so messed up my perception of reality was pretty skewed. The combination of my lifestyle and all the symptoms mentioned above motivated me to get clean (a year and a half so far woohoo!) I knew something was wrong and I needed to figure out my baseline without substance abuse to get to the bottom of it. At my lowest point I met up with my parents who I hadn’t seen in a month and they commented on how different I looked. One of my friends from narcotics anonymous hooked me up with a great physician as I didn’t have a family doctor. I was determined to get to the bottom of all this.

When meeting with my new family doctor (after getting sober) all of the focus was put onto my recovery and mental health. Seeing as she didn’t know me beforehand she didn’t know the petite, energetic person I used to be. I voiced my concern about my physical changes as well as my mental ones. I was referred to a psychologist. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety and prescribed meds for all of the above. The interesting thing is I didn’t have these problems before the physical symptoms onset. This was followed by countless ER visits for panic attacks, being dismissed countless times for strange physical symptoms that every medical professional attributed to my history of drug use and mental health. I believed them at the time. I was also diagnosed with TMJ disfunction and started seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist with no improvement.

The year that followed was the most challenging of my life. I thought I was going crazy. I tried eating an extremely healthy dairy free, wheat free, exercising constantly with no change. Seeing various doctors, explaining my symptoms only to get basic bloodwork done and sent on my way. It wasn’t until I decided to get off my psychiatric meds and focus on finding a diagnosis for my physical ailments that things started to change. I visited the ER and the doctor on call actually listened, he referred me to a rapid assessment internist. To date I have had a thyroid panel, hormone panel, all basic bloodwork, thyroid ultrasound, abdominal and pelvic ultrasound, cortisol 8am test, 24 hour urinary cortisol- all came back within normal range. I have been tested for angioedema, (neg) referred to an allergist, dermatologist and endocrinologist.

When I saw the endocrinologist he basically said “I see people with your symptoms all the time and there is never a diagnosis, so you’ll probably have to live with this” I was instantly worried and heartbroken with that response. He ordered some tests, ACTH, another 24 hour urine, T3 T4, DHEA-SO4. I’m waiting on these results now. Saw my internist again after the endocrinologist as he also ordered a prolactin and ACTH test which I hadn’t obtained the results from yet. ACTH was slightly elevated as well as prolactin. (High) not by very much. He ordered a CT scan of my head which I have to wait a month for (he said possible hyper prolactinoma of the pituitary). I’ve asked to have my growth hormone (IGF-1) levels checked, endo says “nope you don’t have Acromegaly”

I am trying to stay strong but I’m on the verge of losing home based my business as I’m a hairstylist and am starting to develop tremors in my hands, I can barely get up in the morning, I feel as though no one understands what I’m going through. I have a sense of urgency within me to find a diagnosis, my body is screaming at me that something is very wrong. My symptoms above increase in severity by the day. Have any of you diagnosed with Cushings out there experienced only slightly elevated ACTH results or prolatcin? I was also curious if anyone has an enlarged/ swollen tongue as a form an ACTH secreting tumour, I’ve tried to find information on it but only points to an acromegalic symptom. Something inside of me is telling me this is either pituitary or adrenal related. I can’t help but wonder if my drug use somehow stimulated my pituitary.

My personal life is non existent, I have isolated myself from my friends who no longer reach out or accept me (even though I have attempted to confide in them). I feel as though everyone but my family thinks I’m completely out to lunch. Just want to thank everyone on this site for sharing their stories, when I’m feeling hopeless and at a dead end, reading your bios are the only thing that is keeping me going and pushing for a diagnosis!

 

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Lynne (jim4lynne), Steroid-Induced Bio

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My bushings has been caused by corticosteroids. I have been on steroids or 40years daily.for severe brittle asthma. I have been on prednisolone and iv steroids on hospital admissions for years. I did suffer from cushingoid symptoms caused by fluid but they settled as the steroids were reduced. About 4/5 years ago i was struggling with the extremely high doses of prednisolone so I was put on intramuscular Kenalog of 40ml/mg every 2 weeks. This was to be a short term fix but went on longer.

Unfortunately this was not monitored and reduced at all. Even though I was experiencing pretty obvious symptoms of bushings I could not gt anyone to look at this so I got worse and wore.

Eventually I saw my Resp Consultant on 4thJuly and got the diagnosis. This was a horrible relief.

Immediately I was put on a 2.5ml/mg education every 2 weeks to try to lower the cortisol levels.

Bit like closing the gate after the horse has bolted! To say this is hard is an understatement as what with the side effect from the cushing as everyone will know this is hell there is the withdrawal from the corticosteroids too. They all morph into one so I don’t know what is happening.

I have tried to get some answers from the medical profession but can’t get any information at all.

The Cushings side effect weight, stretch marks etc are still getting worse and I can only think that this is because I am still being loaded with steroids.

I appreciate that my bushings is caused by steroids and not a tumour but if any one has any advice how to cope with this I would be sooooooooo grateful.

All my best wishes to other sufferers.

 

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