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Mary S (ladysslipper), Adrenal Bio

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Originally from December 28, 2007

I recently completed a clinical trial at NIH because of an adrenal nodule. I also have hyperplasia of both adrenals.

Turns out I have primary hyperaldosteronism (which had previously been diagnosed) as well as elevated cortisol. I was told I don’t have Cushings but could develop it. Yet I do have unbelievably excessive sweating and have just begun to develop what I assume to be a buffalo hump–a lump at the top of my spine between my shoulders that is hard to the touch and painful.

My ability to handle stress is nearly nil; I sleep upward of twelve hours and more a day and yet get exhausted doing the littlest things. I’ve lost a lot of weight over the past two years because of nearly daily diarrhea–which I now believe may be caused by a deteriorating liver as I also have Heptatis C–and yet I have a fatty paunch which is beginning to show stretch marks I didn’t know I had.

My skin heals poorly and bruises very easily. I have splotchy skin, i..e, dark patches and totally pigment-less patches on my face. I was told my hypothalamus produces too much CRH which, in turn, triggers the ACTH to produce too much cortisol.

With two, possibly three, chronic conditions, I am beginning to worry about returning to work after my medical leave of absence ends this January.

I was on the pheochromocytoma support board until my diagnosis, and I know how helpful it was to have a group to turn to. I’m glad to see this one looks like a similarly supportive and informative group.

 

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Deborah S, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed

 

Hello all,

I do not know where to begin. For many years I have been struggling with these symptoms. I have proximal weakness, intolerance to stress, blood pressure fluctuations, hyperpigmentation, reactive hypoglycemia, sweating, severe dehydration, very bad confusion, vision, memory problems, physical body changes (hump, bruises), carb intolerance, and inability to exercise.

My endocrinologist did a workup for Cushing’s disease and the midnight saliva test was high. She brushed it off as “stress”. I am seeing a doctor now that says I have POTS and Dysautonomia. My doctor says I have inappropriate adrenaline rushes.

My body is falling apart because I haven’t found a doctor who will take my symptoms and test results serious. I would like to talk to others who are having trouble getting diagnosed and also to those who have gotten diagnosed who have a good doctor.

God Bless and Thank You,
Deborah

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Roseglass (Roseglass), Adrenal BIo

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adrenal_glands

 

I have been ill for 9 years. I was experiencing severe anxiety/depression, profuse sweating, extreme hypertension, a non-stop migraine, and living in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Seven years ago, a full body CT scan revealed a left adrenal tumour. It has taken until this past year (actually just a few months ago) to finally get a diagnosis of pheochromocytoma from the medical field (no one listens to the patient – I have been telling them about the pheo and that I have Cushings for 7 years! My cousin died from an undiagnosed pheo.) Fortunately, I have wonderful long-term family doctor and more recently a great endo who have given me alpha and beta blockers to keep the symptoms more tolerable while we waited for a confirmed diagnosis.

Besides the above symptoms from the pheo, I have all the typical Cushing’s symptoms, I have also had a stroke, at least one TIA, and a heart attack. My heart has become enlarged and I can hardly breathe. After the heart attack, my weight took a huge jump. I had already become quite large but then I gained 7″ around the middle in 4 weeks. I complained to my doctors that something was terribly wrong but they kept saying I was just eating too much (sound familiar?). I also have a variety of lesions covering a variety of organs.

Due to the diagnosis of pheochromocytoma (via a MIBG), I was sent to a surgeon. The first was an idiot (don’t stand for that – ever – there are decent people out there). Then I was allowed to choose my own team. I found a team in Toronto, at Princess Margaret Hospital, who are knowledgeable and really understand this disease. When they said I had classic Cushing’s, my eyes teared up – finally someone saw it.

I have just had my 1st consultation with them, plus more tests, and am waiting for my 2nd consultation in January when I also expect to meet with the surgeon. It is looking hopeful that I may have my life back. They believe my body will go back to normal: my heart, diabetes reversal, my hair return to normal (more on head, less on chin), pain relieved (I can hardly walk and cannot climb stairs), and other delightful changes …including a normal life span.

I am worried about small lesions developing on my pituitary and right adrenal gland but no one is really looking at those at the moment. I just got word that the left adrenal tumour doubled in size recently so getting this out is the priority. It has been such a long and frustrating process that I won’t feel truly at ease until I have an actual surgery date.

Roseglass

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Margaret S (Maggierose), Possible Adrenal Bio

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undiagnosed 5

Hi

I’m new to cushings and just looking for some insight into this disease. I’m 67 yrs and for the last 15 yrs I have not felt good and problems getting worse with no explanations in the past. After discussing problems with my Dr I was tested twice for thyroid but tests came back normal.

I do have other problems due to surgeries in the past, I have adhesions, scar tissue etc. I am now type 2 diabetic since last 5 yrs.

I was admitted to hospital because of stomach pain in July this year, I had a cat scan which showed I had tumours on my adrenal glands. The left being the largest. I am waiting to see the endo surgeon in November but have just finished some tests I’ve blood, 12 hr and 24 hr urine specimen. No results as yet.

My symptoms are as follows.

Sweating mainly evening time around 9pm

Can’t sleep until 3am, but could easily sleep on afternoon if I allowed myself.

Changes in face. When I look in mirror I often think this does not look like me.

I have put weight on but not a lot. I have been noticing a lot of facial hair on my face.

I had very, very thick hair and it’s now extremely thin. I have a type of rash on my face which has got worse over the years. It seems like my legs and arms are much thinner than they used to be but my abdomen is getting larger, mainly my upper abdomen. I don’t have any stria but have similar marks on my legs especially around my knees. My skin marks easily. I also seem to have a small buffalo hump on my back. Seem to have brain fog but usually put that down to age. Feel tired all the time.

Some things I can maybe put down to age.

I would appreciate any comments from members. I will let you know when I get results.

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Jason, Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-medulla

 

Growing up, I was always quiet and withdrawn. I struggled in school with memory issues and was always embarrassed by my excessive sweating. I continued to have issues growing up and then something happened in 2001. I would have fits of rage, massive sweating, psychotic episodes, periods of major highs and periods of massive lows.

In 2003, a psychiatrist labeled me bipolar, schizoaffective, ADD, ADHD, and major drepressive. I took their cocktail of meds to only get worse. I would end up in a mental hospital (5 times).

In approx. 2005, I was done with them and I stopped everything and I just hid behind closed doors so to speak. Also in 2003, I just found records(2015) of bloodwork I had done in 2003 which showed high Hemoglobin and also high Hematocrit levels with high WBC count. Nothing was mentioned to me about this. I keep struggling to get answers.

In July of 2014, I started massive pains in my stomach with rectal bleeding and major flank pain. I went to the doctor and he ordered a CT of my abdomen. The CT showed bilateral Adrenal masses(left was 2.2cm and right was 3cm). He said these were “incidental Adenomas”. I am waiting two more weeks to have my low dose cortisol test performed. When I did the 24h urine to rule out pheochromocytoma , all was fine except plasma metanephrines which was slightly elevated and the doctor said there was a “near zero” chance of me having a Pheo.

I am still having these symptoms: weight gain (20Ibs. since 2014), “moon face starting (2015), thinning, fragile skin that bruises easily, slow healing of cuts, bites and infections, decreased libido, Fatigue, Muscle weakness, Depression, anxiety and irritability, Loss of emotional control, Cognitive difficulties and worsened high blood pressure and pulse.

I now have a new mass in my right armpit. An ultrasound was inconclusive.

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Karen K, Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

 

Hi, I’m Karen 51 yrs old, undiagnosed by a doctor, just realized all my crazy symptoms are related and have made an appointment with my doctor for next week.

I think it started in my Mid 30s with very bad acne, horrible migraines with throwing up, vertigo, high blood sugars, major depression, sleep apnea.

My symptoms over the last 12 years are hair loss on my scalp, weight gain no matter what I eat or how much I exercise all in my torso, buffalo hump and fat pads above clavicles, daytime exhaustion, insomnia, bloated feeling, edema in my legs and feet, tendonitis, arthritis and bone spurs, dehydration daily, sweating a lot during the day and at night, bruise easily, muscle weakness, depression, scary crazy mood swings with lots of screaming, no libido, red and white patchy tongue, high blood pressure and diabetes, my face gets red and hot like I’m blushing or have a bad sunburn, then goes back to normal looking, fat face, really bad heartburn everyday several times a day and before I go to bed I need to take antacids, it’s so bad I feel like I’m going to throw up. then theres the strange boil on my back that comes and goes, and the diverticulitis, and most recently a blocked salivary gland! also some back pain by my hump and side pain next to my left breast, I get so angry and I just want to cry all the time, it’s so frustrating, and I’m so so tired everyday.

I have seen doctors for most of these issues. I never thought they had anything to do with each other, I was sick a lot when I was a kid, I just thought I was someone that got sick a lot. Especially with the diabetes, I just assumed I was getting infections because of my weakened immune system and premature menopause.

I’m not sure when I got the hump but it’s in my wedding photo’s. Our 12 year anniversary is coming in January. My periods stopped right before I got married at 40, that’s also when I was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, over the last 12 years my weight had gone up and down but mostly up 75 lbs. I eat better now than I ever have, plus there’s all the exercise everyday walking 3-5 miles a day on weekdays.

Recently I was switched to the U500 insulin, so my sugar readings have been great, finally after a few years of very high readings and feeling like crap, diarrhea and vomiting.

I’m so glad I found this website!

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In Memory: Kate Myers ~ 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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