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Stephanie (Stephanie), Pituitary Bio

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The pituitary gland

3 years ago, 2014, I was 43 and very active, running, doing HIIT workouts, volunteering, making and doing stuff, traveling like a maniac.

Then I started getting cysts that were benign but required surgery. One was endometriosis and ovarian, the second, lumbar. Which resulted in my having chronic, severe numbness and nerve pain in my left leg. I attributed the severe weight gain to not exercising.

Then I went to the emergency room for a abscessed cyst in my neck. An ENT did a follow up MRI and found a cyst on the pituitary gland late 2015, but I had to move to Fairbanks. early 2016.

Finally, I have a team of an Endocrinologist specializing in Cushing’s and a Neurosurgeon at Swedish in Seattle. I have to travel but it’s worth it because I’m being treated for something.

I had the first transphenoidal surgery in Aug 2016 that removed the bulk of the macroadema, but there was still elevated cortisol and they found some cyst left. Just had the second surgery January 2017 and will be going to post-op appointment soon.

I still have symptoms of Cushing’s Disease, don’t know yet if I actually have elevated cortisol, but I left the hospital with no change in cortisol from admittance to discharge. I looked at the scale today and despite watching my eating have gained weight- I have gained 60 lbs in 3 years! I still have the severe, chronic nerve pain so am on meds, go to p/t and a pain management specialist.

Have had hypothyroidism and take steroids. I go through cycles of good days but mostly bad with sleeping and bathroom problems and unhappy thinking.

I rarely leave the house anymore. I look and feel ugly and disabled – I just got a handicapped placard. I want to volunteer, travel, go outside but then when I try, I get sick and can’t. So I’m trying to find ways to be active at home or on my own time schedule. I do fiber arts at home but for my own sanity- it’s not good enough to sell but I have enough stuff to sell! I’m also an introvert with a social phobia, I don’t have any extended family, and I’m new to this area so have not made any friends! So this is the great challenge of my life, where all my roads have led me to, to which my strength and knowledge must apply and conquer.

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Margaret D (MargaretD), Pituitary Bio

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Original Bio:

My story spands over 20 years and may sound familiar to many with Cushings who read this. The first clue came when I was diagnosed at 19 yrs old with a thyroid tumor. The tumor turned out to be both solid and cystic… Cushings is a cystic disease.

Shortly after my thyroid surgery, I developed difficulties with having regular menstrual cycle. I was diagnosed with PCOS… Cushings is a cystic disease.

In the following years, I went up and down with my weight until I finally was 80lbs over and unable to lose any; I slowly lost my hair; I developed stretch marks in my abdomen and chest area; and I developed hypertension, diabetes, and bad cholesterol problems at a young age. I went to my doctor for help and was told I just needed to lose weight.

My symptoms kept getting worse with time.

In July of 2003 changed jobs and was hired by Dr Johnny Delashaw, Neurosurgeon @OHSU. This was a day of blessings in more way than one. Accepting this position brought changes to my professional career and BIG changes to my life.

As part of my job, Dr Delashaw asked me to work with the Pituitary Diseases Clinic and Dr Bill Ludlam. I was more than happy and very enthusiastic as my professional background is in Internal Medicine.

In the beginning, I was interviewing patients to get them ready for surgery and I would also see them for their 2 week post-ops. Soon after that, I got involved in conducting endocrine testing with Dr Ludlam. This was my information gathering stage.

Not long after that, I came to the realization that I may have Cushings and the thought scared me. It took me a month or so to gather enough courage to talk to Dr Ludlam and discuss my fears. (If anyone out there knows Dr L, you know how funny my last statement is since he is the most kind and caring of doctors). He LISTENED to me and did not make me feel like a fraud. I felt legitimate.

We ran the tests and did the MRI and – BOOM – I had a very large pituitary tumor and high cortisol levels. I was surprised but then not surprised.

I have undergone 2 pituitary surgeries with the second one resulting in a complete hypophysectomy. Despite no pituitary, I continued to have symptoms along with high levels of ACTH and cortisol and eventually had a BLA in Sept 2004.

I struggled through withdrawals after my BLA but like a trooper, I returned to work within a month. Thank God I worked for Dr Delashaw who was very understanding. I was doing well for a few months but then in March 2005 I started to have symptoms again. Recent tests show ectopic cortisol production so now I’m waiting to go through the work-up to find the ectopic tissue.

I believe, as well as my doctors, that I’ve had Cushings for at least 20 years if not more. This disease has caused me to develop other conditions that increase my mortality and morbidity. Ironically, as I was going through Physician Assistant school… I jokingly (halfway) thought I had Cushings Disease as we studied it in class. I should have pursued it more but people with Cushings understand how this disease plays with one’s mind.

I am not sure when or if I will get over this disease, but I can tell you….
I am grateful… I am blessed… but most of all, I am hopeful…

Update December 12, 2013:

It’s been 10 years now since I had my “cure” for Cushings.  I am one of those rare people who have had both a complete hypophysectomy and bilateral adrenalectomy.  I have had my ups and downs over the years but can honestly say I am in a good place now both physically and mentally.

I just wanted people to know that I am back in the Pacific Northwest working at Swedish Neuroscience Institute with Dr. Johnny Delshaw again – the team is back!  Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions. As a healthcare provider and patient, I can be honest with what to expect and I will do what I can to help you through it.

Many thanks to my family and friends who have put up with me and helped me while I rediscovered myself after Cushings.  God Bless to all!

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