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Paul M (Paul), Pituitary Bio

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Hi All,
I was diagnosed 4 years ago. I had extreme weight gain despite a very physically active life style. I would require less than 2 hours a night of sleep. Eat less than 1,000 calories per day and exercise 3-5 hours a day. I had the emotional swings as well. I would bruise or cut very easily. Doctor suspected Cushings after I displaced my knee cap for the second time due to Patella Tendonitis.

Months of testing resulted in what the doctors considered a low likelihood for positive outcome, the surgeon (supposed to be one of the best) agreed to remove the tumor either way. It was filling the Sella to the point it was pushing on my pituitary. It was wrapped around my optical nerve and would probably cause problems with my eyesight.

I was told that I would be back to work in 3 weeks.

Post Surgery my Cortisol levels never rebounded. The doc gave me 10mg of cortisol with no affect. Then they gave me 40mg and I could get up to go to the bathroom. Within an hour levels were back down to 3 (whatever).

They put me on 80/40mg of Cortisol for morning and noon each day. I still was basically unable to move. After 1 year. I was off cortisol and passed the suppression test. And still wasn’t losing weight, felt sick all the time.

It appears my anterior pituitary gland has not recovered. I don’t make enough TSH or the hormone to induce Testosterone. I took the Gel for testosterone with poor results. My thyroid tests are considered inconclusive. I try to feel out my thyroid dosage. Now I get testosterone implants. They seem better.

Basically put, four years later I feel almost as bad most days as before the surgery. Weight gain is still an issue. The major differences are, I sleep really well. I don’t bleed at the touch. My feet are very week, I could sleep 15 hours a day.

 

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Rachel, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am 31, will be 32 in 2 weeks.

I have been suffering from this medical condition, which I believe to be Cushing’s Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, or Pheochromocytoma, or maybe a mixture of all 3. I have had this for around 16 years, maybe longer, as I have had the classic “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck since I was 9 years old and have always had trouble with my weight. I have been on many diets since mid-childhood.

When I was around 13, I discovered a weight loss supplement, which I diligently took and lost 20 pounds over a 2-year period. I felt the best I have ever felt my entire life. I eventually had to stop taking it, though, due to not being allowed to bring any meds or supplements to my high school. I was not totally thin, but I looked pretty good. But during that first year of high school, my insomnia returned, and the rest of my symptoms started to emerge.

Autumn 1999 (when I was 14): I started getting daily headaches. Sometimes, they were minor, where I could ignore them, and other times they were so debilitating that I had to miss school. Because I wasn’t allowed to bring medication to school, I had to take Ibuprofen every morning as a preventative.

Autumn 2000: I suddenly gained 20 pounds in one month without changing anything in my diet. The fat was especially much around my face, neck, and torso.

Spring 2001: I developed fatigue, loss of concentration or “spacey-ness”, and being easily physically and mentally drained. I lost contact with many of my neighborhood friends, since I avoided lengthy times spent with them, and sometimes wouldn’t be when them at all because of not having enough energy.

Autumn 2001: Thinking I had hypothyroidism, I had my first doctor’s appointment over these symptoms, especially of the weight gain that was getting worse. Nothing showed up in tests, and the doctor wanted to put me on a 900 calorie diet. I never went back.

Summer 2002: My menstrual cycles became irregular, skipping sometimes 2 or 3 months at a time. Finally, they stopped altogether. I also gained another 20 pounds that upcoming school semester (16 weeks).

Summer 2003: I went to another doctor. She put me on birth control pills to get my menstrual cycles back. It helped a little, but they were very light with severe cramping. I gained an additional 20 pounds from the birth control pills and did not feel good. Once I got off of them, my menstruation stopped again, and I never lost those 20 pounds.

Autumn 2003: I went to another doctor from the University of Chicago. He tested various hormones and found that my androgen levels (mainly testosterone) were so high that it was off the charts. He thought that I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so he entered me in several studies he was conducting for people with PCOS. I was given several test medications and had more tests done testing insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, and other things. Nothing came up positive. During that time, I also had an ultrasound done on my ovaries to check for cysts. Nothing showed up. After other tests were done, he concluded that I did not have PCOS, and that I might actually have Cushing’s Syndrome. I couldn’t go back to him, though, as his regular appointments without the studies were really costly. This whole time of the studies lasted till summer of 2004.

I also gained an additional 30 pounds during this time.

>My symptoms of fatigue and loss of concentration continued to worsen, so I had to become a part time student to avoid exhaustion with classes. I felt my worst usually starting around 1 or 2pm, and lasting till around 5pm.

Summer 2005: Diarrhea started abruptly and has been continuing ever since. A year later, I had discovered that caffeine could cause it, so I got off of all caffeine, which alleviated it for a few months. However, it returned shortly after, blossoming into 3 different kinds and becoming worse and more frequent over the years. I used to have it only at night, but now, I have it in the morning as well, and some at night, and sometimes some in the afternoon. I can have even 5 or more bouts of it a day, which makes it difficult for me in any public place. It slows me down in the mornings (as I sometimes have to spend an hour in the restroom) and often makes me late for things.

2006-2010: I have gone to many doctors over this time, each one testing my cortisol, TSH, T3 and T4, testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, and insulin levels, and each one coming up with nothing abnormal except high testosterone.

Spring 2009: I developed a candida skin infection that has been reoccurring since then. Antifungals do not take it away, only antibiotic ointments. However, even the antibiotic ointments do not take it completely away, as it keeps reoccurring and showing discoloration in spots where it had been previously.

Spring 2010: Episodes of light-headedness, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate started appearing, ranging anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour in duration. They would come completely at random, sometimes 3 or more times a week, and sometimes not for several months.

2011: I developed slow motility, where it takes hours for my meals to digest. This made it hard for me to get to bed at a normal bedtime like 10pm, since I couldn’t lie down without getting horribly nauseous. This also affected my diarrhea, making it where I have to push to make it come out, since my intestines do not contract much to squeeze it out or they contract very slowly.

Summer and Autumn 2011: I went to 2 doctors in New York who also tested my cortisol levels and catecholamine levels to test for pheocromocytoma, which all came out normal. I also had an MRI done on my brain to check for growths on my pituitary gland. Nothing showed up with that, either. I also went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. My results in those tests also were all normal, and no diagnosis was made.

Spring 2012: My menstruation returned to regular monthly cycles.

Winter/Spring 2013: I suddenly started to become sensitive to cold, so winter became almost unbearable for me. This cold sensitivity has been increasing every year thereafter. Even temperatures in the 60-degree Fahrenheit range make me feel chilled and forced me to dress in double and triple layers of clothing.

Also, around this time, my fatigue reached a new level of severity, making my “dead” time duration between 12pm-6pm.

Spring 2014: My menstrual cycles suddenly changed again, where I had constant menstruation for over 3 months.

2015: My fatigue, again, worsened, making me so tired that I could fall asleep throughout the afternoon and most of the evening. This extreme tiredness would come especially shortly after I would eat a meal, particularly in the midday. This made studying for my classes very difficult and time consuming, since I was so slow.

I also started to notice I could feel a small lump on my upper left side, just below my ribcage. This lump started out the size of a golf ball and has increased to the size of a baseball. It makes me feel nauseous if it’s pressed on with little pressure and hurts when it’s pressed on hard.

My menstrual cycles became irregular again and have stayed that way ever since.

Spring 2016: After getting nowhere with endocrinologists, I went to see a gastroenterologist because of my diarrhea and lump. A CAT scan was done of my abdominal area showing nothing abnormal. In fact, the space where the lump should be in the pictures just shows empty blackness, no organs or growths whatsoever.

Over the course of these years, I have done a lot of my own research and have noticed that my symptoms all match 3 possible conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, and Pheocromocytoma. I am wondering if all these three conditions can coexist in the same body. I know that Cushing’s results from a growth on either the pituitary gland or the adrenal cortex of the adrenal gland, making the adrenal gland produce too much cortisol.

I also know that pheocromocytoma results from a growth on the medulla of the adrenal gland, producing high levels of catecholamines, which, for some reason, does not always show up in a blood test. And I know that adrenal fatigue results when the adrenal glands become exhausted from constantly producing high levels of cortisol during stress that lasts over a long period of time, so they don’t produce enough. So could it be that I have a growth on one of my adrenal glands that extends from the adrenal cortex into the adrenal medulla, causing the symptoms of Cushing’s and pheocromocytoma, while my other adrenal gland has adrenal fatigue? That would make sense why nothing shows up on the tests, because one adrenal gland is producing too much cortisol, and the other is not producing enough. So the two would cancel each other out, yet I could still experience symptoms.

I have gone to 12 doctors over these 16 years, and not a one has ever come up with a diagnosis or even cared about investigating the cause. They resist doing further testing and evaluating, because nothing shows up in the initial blood and urine tests. They don’t even believe me and think that it must be depression or that I am just making it all up. I have been criticized, rebuked, and laughed at by them. I even had a doctor chuckle as he told me, “You better get your periods back or you could get cancer of the uterus”. I have run out of doctors and have basically given up hope.

So where I am right now, spring 2017: My symptoms have gotten so bad that I am almost debilitated. Every day, I always wake up feeling just as tired as I did the night before. No matter how much sleep I get, I do not feel rejuvenated whatsoever. This makes it impossible for me to get up before noon, so often times, I am just eating breakfast/lunch around 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I have no energy all day long, and the fatigue makes me unable to do much of anything during the times I am awake. Most of the time, I feel like I am moving in slow motion, because time seems to pass by so quickly. I have to take frequent breaks from mental or physical tasks just to regain some strength and energy. I try to avoid social events, as I don’t have the energy to be with people and get easily stressed and drained. So I am alone much of the time. I can only take one class per semester in college now, as I don’t have enough energy to study.

I have acquired muscle weakness in my arms, hands and legs, that makes it incredibly difficult, and sometimes painful, to go up and down stairs, along with doing the process of going from sitting to standing or vise-versa. I appear as “lazy” since I can’t even get up from my chair to get something that is just a few feet away from me. The muscle weakness in my arms and hands makes it difficult to even do handwriting.

My memory if often foggy, also making studying difficult, as I can’t remember what I am reading. Many times, if a friend asks me what I have done during the last few days, I can’t remember. I can experience a fun event, and I still will forget and have to force myself to think about what it was. I feel like in a fog all day.

Almost every day, I will wake up with a headache, or I will get one over the course of the day. I have to take painkillers, such as Alleve, everyday just to keep my headaches under control. And sometimes, my headaches are so bad that they debilitate me. With those kinds of headaches, taking up to 12 Alleve in one day will not take them away.

Painful diarrhea keeps me in the restroom sometimes up to an hour or longer with each bout. I have to eat my evening meal earlier and earlier, so I don’t have to sit up late waiting for it to digest. I even have to keep from lying down for over an hour after drinking just water.

My immune system is also impaired, so I can get sick easily and have reoccurring candida infections. Colds and the flu hit me hard, often debilitating me for weeks. I take vitamin D3 to enhance my immune system to not get sick as often, since I have to ride the train and bus going to and from school. I have also acquired more allergies over these years. My nose has gotten really sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. I never used to be allergic to animals, but now, I can’t even go into a house that has pets without getting a bad sore throat and runny nose for 3 days after. And in general, I have noticed my lungs and nasal passages are producing more mucous, so I have to keep coughing and blowing my nose frequently, or I get a sore throat.

My menstrual cycles are very light and almost non-existent. I haven’t had one since January, and it’s now the beginning of April.

I am now 100 pounds overweight and can’t lose it, even with the same weight loss supplement I took before my first year of high school. The majority of the fat is around my face, neck, and torso, with some now accumulating on my upper arms and upper legs and pale purple stretch marks on my belly and upper arms. I have the typical fat distribution and appearance of Cushing’s Syndrome.

I still get the episodes where I experience a rapid heart rate, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. During those times, I have to breathe harder and just stop whatever I am doing. I have even almost felt like passing out at times.

I will be graduating in 4 weeks and am very afraid, as I don’t know how I will handle the stress and demands of a full time job, especially if I have to interact with people. I have very few friends, and half of my own family doesn’t believe me when I talk about my condition. I feel ugly and boring and have become very depressed. Is there ANYONE IN THE WORLD who will help me??? I hope someone (like a doctor perhaps) will read this bio of mine, and have compassion in their heart and be eager to help me.

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Matt, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, my name is Matt. I am extremely desperate for answers as I simply do not want to live anymore in this condition. I have been suffering for years with something that I strongly believe was caused by continued use of inhaled corticosteroids (Azmacort asthma inhaler, and Fluticasone nose spray). I used these inhalers for about twenty years. 2 puffs of Azmacort every morning and every night for over 20 years.

From 1996 to 2007, I began to develop several health problems. These included severe neck pain, eye twitching, tremor, heartburn, aching teeth, vertigo attacks, peeling skin from my lips and inside my cheeks, a lower eyelid “cyst” that I had removed, an episode of thrush, depression, daily headaches, insomnia, and low energy.

In 2007, I took my inhalers and threw them out. I was trying to figure out if the inhalers were contributing to my health problems. Within months of discontinuing the use of the inhalers, a few of my symptoms went away, but most of them got worse and I developed more worsening problems- brain fog, crawling skin, constant eye pressure, a feeling of sand in my eyes under my eyelids, constant crying, strange pulling feelings in my eyes, cheeks forehead and scalp, muscle atrophy in my neck, face, and shoulders, withdrawl/hangover feelings, concentration/memory problems, suicidal tendencies.

I always assumed that the problems were caused by the inhalers and figured they would subside with time, and I still think that they may. I have always been optimistic for some reason that I am getting better, but the symptoms have still not gone away. It has been ten years now since I instantly quit the corticosteroids and like I said earlier, I am getting desperate. I have talked to dozens of doctors over the past ten years, and they ALL dismiss the idea that the inhalers caused my problem.

In fact, since my symptoms are all invisible, my MRIs are unremarkable, and my blood work is always in range, most of my doctors I am pretty sure think that I am crazy. Funny thing about that is that I have no reason to make up symptoms that I am suffering with. I have already distanced myself from all of my family and friends. I do not tell any of them how much I suffer, because it is so humiliating when people say that I am depressed, or need rest, or should cut down on stress.

In other words, nobody believes that I am truly sick. I am sure that if I killed myself tomorrow because of the pain, people would say that I was a lost soul, or lonely. I have trouble being around other people because I always feel like I need to cry and decompress. I had to resign from my teaching position because of my insomnia and lack of ability to concentrate. It was the one last thing that I loved. I tried to hang on as long as I could, but I felt that the pressure to be at work and perform well daily was not benefiting my health and probably harming it.

Anyway, here is where I stand right now–


I do seen an endocronologist. I found out years ago that my cortisol levels and most other hormones other than my testosterone are normal (my testosterone level was at 100 for God knows how long). I was shocked when I found that out. I was sure that my cortisol would be through the roof, but here is the thing– I NEVER had any blood tests done while I was taking the corticosteroids. Only years after discontinuing them.

In my opinion, my cortisol levels were elevated (or depressed) while I was on the steroids. I believe that the inhalers poisoned my body. 99% of my symptoms are in and around my mouth, neck, throat, head and eyes (right where the spray was going). I believe that my cortisol levels are normal now because I am no longer taking the inhalers and my body is making the correct amount. What happens, however, to all of the cortisol that was building up in my body if this was indeed happening?

I believe that my symptoms post-inhaler are due to my body trying to get back to normal. But ten years is a long time. I was sure that I would be better by now but I really dont know how long it takes to recover from what I did to my body with those corticosteroids. After all, I used Azmacort shortly after its inception and beyond the time that it was discontinued in the US, when I was ordering it online from the UK. There probably are not many if any people that used that inhaler as diligently and for as long as I did. I have always been thin my whole life, so I cannot say that I ever had a ton of fat on my body that would indicate Cushing’s.

In the past several years though, I have noticed that I am losing mass in my neck, face, and shoulders. My face is becoming more angular. The spot between my shoulders where a camels hump would be is becoming more and more concave. It seems like this is kind of the opposite or reverse of Cushing’s. Could this be because my body is trying to recover and slowly melting away the fat deposits on my face and neck?

Again, I am extremely desperate for answers and help. I look forward to being a part of this forum and eager to find out if anybody else out there has had a similar experience to what I have been going through. I have researched Cushing’s and other diseases for years. One thing I have never been able to find online is how long does it take to recover from Cushing’s. If I did, indeed, have Cushing’s, it would have been building up for nearly 20 years. What kind of recovery would be involved with unknowingly having Cushing’s for that long? I really need to find out if it is possible that I could still be recovering after 10 years off of the corticosteroids. I still have some faith, but that faith is definitely waning.

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Harley (HBW), Adrenal and Pituitary Bio

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golden-oldie

 

Originally posted Monday, January 19, 2009

My bio for the Cushings and Addisons web site.

Hi my name is Harley I’m a 56 year old male. In 1985 I broke my back which reqiured several surgeries over a period of 10 years, which caused a severe amount of pain. Then about 10 years ago I was diagnosed with addisons disease. I did’nt have all the symptoms of the disease but I’ve been diagnosed by my family physician plus other physians have confirmed the diagnosis also. As we all know this disease is very hard to detect. I’ve been on prednison and high doses of hydrocordison over the past 5 years. I’ve been hospitalised numerous times with adrenal crisis.

I was also diagnosed with a pituitary malinoma and have been treated that over the past 10 years. I have MRI’s every so often to see if it has enlarged.

I started seeing a massage therapist for the past 4 years.Starting with my back which has really been helping. She also treats me with oils which I was very hesitant at first but have grown to believe in them in many ways. My doctor has also discovered that my testoterone levels were extremely low so he has been giving me shots for that every 2 weeks I have recently been diagnosed with Cushings do to the high doses of steroids I’ve had during this time. In the past I’ve seen three endroconligists to avail.

Needless to say my wife and I have been very discouraged after all they are supposed to specialists. My last hospitalition my family doctor talked us into seeing another endo as my doctor said he was afraid of the shape I was in he was afraid of me not making it. I thank God for the faith that my wife and I have or I’m afraid this would have been more than we could handle but He has given us the strength to keep moving on.

God directed my wife to a gal that is a Certified Holistic Practioner that also has Cushings and Addisons herself. She has been living with this for the past 7 year. This is what prompted her to start her practice of healing. She started treatin herself first using oils and changing her diet and it worked for her she is stable now and doing much better. This is a real blessing because she has studied this disease indepth plus can relate to what I’m going through. It’s been great because before this I had know other contacts as we all know these are very hard diseases to detect. The new endo has set up a series of tests for me which I started a week ago and have another series this next Monday, after he gets the results of these he will decide where to go from there.

I’m so glad that God has finally set up a support group for me but they are also very strong in faith which continues to feed my wife and I.

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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.

 

Stephanie (Steph), Undiagnosed Bio

3 Comments

undiagnosed2

Hi. My name Steph, and this has been a long journey for me so far, and I see a long road ahead. Hopefully their will be a rainbow once all these clouds have melted away.

I just turned 33 years old (this month) and have been dealing with symptoms of Cushing’s since I was a pre-teen without even knowing it. I was diagnosed (or possibly mis-diagnosed) with PCOS when I was about 11. That’s when the irregular (to almost non-existent) menstrual cycles, hirutism (chin, upper lip, upper and lower thighs, fingers, toes, basically everywhere) and weight problems began. I was immediately put on birth control to regulate my periods, which only made my life a living nightmare. They forced on a fake (non-ovulating) period and made my moods a disaster. I went on to be on birth control until from the age of 11 until about 3 years ago when I just couldn’t take it anymore, and took myself off. I’ve been using herbal supplements for menstrual regulalation since then, and feel MUCH better.

Over the years I’ve always felt like there was something “more than PCOS” wrong with me. From the extreme inability to lose weight normally, and the ease to gain it, to the weak legs, vitamen d insuffeciency, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, extreme irritability, now non-existent cycle, shortness of breath (just from walking up 1 flight of stairs), slow healing, hoarse voice, high testosterone, male pattern baldness, blurry vision, EXTREME brain fog etc….. It has been very, very, very tough and emotional over the years. It has taken a toll on my personality, emotions, and those around me….

The way that I found out about cushing’s is rather unique. I was on a popular PCOS message board site called “soul cysters”, and I have always been EXTREMELY self conscience of my round puffy face, and was wondering if it could be a side effect of PCOS. So I searched Puffy face on the message board to see if others on the board had experienced it, and sure enough Cushing’s came up, and a suprising number of women either had both (cushing’s and PCOS) or had been mis-diagnosed, which apparently is very common with cushing’s. it was like a gigantic light bulb went off in my head when I started googling cushings symptoms. All these things that I have been experiencing almost my entire life started coming together. I’m really not crazy!! Everything is possibly related. Im almost 100% sure that this is it!!! I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, as I see that cushing’s is curable in most cases, but it is also scary, and diagnosing it seems like hell!!

I have began my -already slow- journey to diagnosis. And, the the Dr.’s don’t seem to be all that well informed. However, I am DETERMINED. I am excited at the thought of possibly being able to get my life back through surgery or meds. I went to a well respected Endo in my area, and she is gonna test all of my hormones, including my cortisol level. Though she didn’t seem to be too informed on Cushing’s when I brought it up, along with my “dead ringer” symptoms. I’m going to a pulmonologist on the 29th as suggested by my GP (who also thinks I have cushings, but admits he’s not well informed enough or equipped to diagnose). I’m also going to an OBGYN soon (tried going to one today, and had to walk out because it was such a bad experience). But I am determined to get 2nd, 3rd, and however many opinions are needed until I am satisfied.

Also, on a side note, possibly having cushing’s, along with having PCOS, has made me look at the doctors and the medical profession as a whole in a different light. I feel like if you find a genuinely good doctor who listens, cares, takes you seriously, and is willing to test you without question, and work with you, your levels, and your symptoms, you are blessed!! I have had so many doctors try to push meds down my throat (for their own pockets/greed obviously) when it wasn’t needed or necessary without hesitation or question. And, then when I tell them that the medicine is affecting me adversely, they just tell me to keep taking it! It’s sad and ridiculous. I’ve had to learn to do my own research, know my own body well, and trust my own judgement…..

I will be praying for myself and everyone on this message board who has had to deal with this horrific symptoms over the years.

Updates coming…..

interview

Stephanie was our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, April 29 at 6:00 PM eastern.

The archived interview is available now through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 82 other past interviews to listen to!

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Tiffiny D (Tiffiny 3), Pituitary Bio

2 Comments

Hi! My name is Tiffiny.  I am 34 years old. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression back in May because of weird pains in my back and on the right front of my stomach. I thought something was wrong with my kidneys and sciatic nerve. I kept getting weird tingling in my legs and face. I was told it sounded like anxiety attacks, which I am sure they were. I am stressed all the time and I don’t know why. I am also very short tempered. I was prescribed meds but I didn’t think I was depressed or have anxiety, so I didn’t take them.

About a year ago I started having weird things going on with my tongue.  Every time I would eat anything my tongue would burn and wouldn’t quit bothering me.  I noticed that I had white, longer looking taste buds too. I thought it was something I was eating so I kept cutting out foods. Nothing was helping, is it anxiety, is it my imagination, what is wrong with me? I googled burning tongue and lots of things came up, geographic tongue, burning mouth syndrome, and thrush. I decided on August 17, 2014, to go have a doctor take a look at it. He diagnosed me with thrush. I was treated for two weeks. The meds seemed to help but the burning was still there.  A month later, one of my kids had a doctor’s appointment. At that appointment, I asked the doctor then if he thought the thrush went away. He said “no it looks like you still had it.”  I mentioned to him that I also have major peach fuzz on my face, lots of darker hair on my belly, and darker pigmented spots on my face. I thought I had too much testosterone. He thought my body was for sure out of whack because of the thrush and ordered a bunch of hormone tests. I came in the next day and had my labs done. This is when I found out I had high cortisol!! My results were 28.5 should be between (6.2-19.4). Okay, what the heck is cortisol?? He referred me to an endocrinologist to have it checked out.

The endocrinology appointment was scheduled for November 3, 2014, three months later, really! I put myself on the cancelation list and got in rather quickly, September 30. Thank goodness because I am a severe stress case! At the endocrinologist visit, the doctor walked in and said “wow, you are not what I was expecting.”  He started talking about the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.  I am 5’3, 110 pounds, an avid runner and I eat pretty well. I do have very thin arms with bulkier muscles.  My veins do poke out on my lower arms and are very visible, very dry hands and red fingers. The red hands/fingers started about two or three years ago which I was told it was Reynold’s disease or some skin condition. The red hands bother me very much, they look very old for my age and it is embarrassing.  The doctor then ordered me an ACTH test and two 24 hour urine tests because my blood cortisol results were very concerning to him. Both tests have confirmed Cushing’s.  My ACTH levels indicated that it most likely is a pituitary tumor. I was ordered to have an MRI a week later and they found a 6.5mm to 7mm. tumor in my pituitary gland. At this point I was referred to a neurosurgeon.

I met with the neurosurgeon a week later. Their pituitary clinic happened to be the following Friday and they only do it once a month, which happened to be on Halloween.  He ordered two more night time saliva tests, a week a part, and the results where two and three times past the limit. I am now scheduled for surgery on Dec. 9th and I am totally freaking out. I do notice weakness in my muscles and have an achy body sometimes. My hair on my head has been falling out a ton for many months. I thought it was from nursing and a bad hair coloring! I keep finding more symptoms I really didn’t notice. Face is getting rounder on one side, I am shaky, cold all the time and believe I am losing feeling in my fingers. It is very hard to distinguish between hot and cold, I have to use my arm. My memory is horrible! I do get acne under my chin and on the sides of my jaw. I get obsessive about everything! I am very antisocial, think everyone is judging me or looking at my face hair, hands, etc. I feel so bad for my girls and husband! My obsession with my tongue and peach fuzz has hopefully saved my life! Trying to be POSITIVE for the steps forward!!

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