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Brian (Brian), Adrenal Bio

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In 2011, I realized I had Cushing’s Syndrome. I was a 30 year old male with several complications: swollen feet, swollen legs, stomach looked 9 months pregnant, hair fell out, memory loss, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, diabetes, mood swings, depression, urination every hour during the night, bright pink stretch marks, etc.

After changing my doctors several times for misdiagnosis, I was finally tested for Cushing’s Disease/Syndrome. I contacted the National Institute of Health and doctors advised me to come in immediately. I survived 2 months living at NIH, while doctors ran several tests to determine if I had Cushing’s Disease or Cushing’s Syndrome. I had Cushing’s Syndrome and my tumor was found in my right adrenal gland.

After sucessful surgery, I did not have the energy to get out of the bed for almost a month. I was taking almost 10 pills per day including cortisol, high blood pressure medication, potassium, etc. I lost 40 pounds after surgery going from 208 pounds to 168 pounds and after 6 months, I was taken off all medication. I beat Cushing’s Syndrome and Diabetes!

Now, I am 32 years old. I am in great shape and finally got my life back. I do not have any complications. The only sign of Cushing’s Syndrome are the stretch marks and a scar from removing the tumor from my adrenal gland.

I just wanted to meet other people going through a bad disease and help out if possible. I am here if anyone has questions or just want to talk.

~ Brian

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Laree (Laree), Pituitary Bio

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My Thanksgiving Day was less stressful this year than I thought it might be, because I had my head examined the day before at Johns Hopkins at about 9:30 in the morning.  By 1:30 in the afternoon, my endocrinologist there, a metabolic bone specialist, had emailed me that I was the proud parent of a 0.7mm lesion on the right side of my pituitary gland.  All day Tuesday I had performance anxiety because I feared that after six months of testing every liquid my body could produce for excessive cortisol, I had finally been given the green light to undergo the Holy Grail of tests and have a look-see at the Master Gland.  I feared that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the goods, but I managed to produce, and now I’m being referred to a neurosurgeon.

It’s been a very long process, even though the testing has only been a six month part of it.  In 2001, I broke  my collar bone while playing tennis.  Granted, I fell down, but it’s not like I made a Boris Becker leap for the ball or anything.  Then in 2003, my first stress fracture, followed by another one in 2005.  Then a crushed wrist on another tennis court mishap–my feet got tangled up when I was moving backward, and within a week, I was having my wrist rebuilt with a titanium plate and several screws.  Then there was  the broken tailbone, followed by the upper arm compression fracture suffered while pushing a small car off an ice shelf in Ohio.  And finally the L4 vertebra that I broke loosening the lug nuts on a tire I was changing with my still-healing broken arm.

After each incident, I would ask the doctors what could be causing all these weird bone breaks, and sometimes they would send me off for a dexascan to see if I might have osteoporosis, but the test always said no, and the doctors were always orthopedists of one sort or another.  They would shrug and say that these things happen.  After the upper arm (this past January), and the subsequent dexascan, the ortho told me that the test said I didn’t have osteoporosis, that if I wanted to try to learn more about the bone formation, I should see an endocrinologist, but he didn’t know of one to whom he could refer me.  He did refer me to his colleague to have my osteoarthritic hip replaced.  I’m 53, by the way.  He told me that going to an endocrinologist was likely to yield nothing, and he opined that I was suffering from “Laree Martin syndrome,” if I need for it to have a name.

My gynocologist, who works in the same hospital center as Ortho 1, we now lovingly refer to him as Frick, referred me to an endocrinologist who also practices in the same hospital center.   I got myself hooked up with her, and she very quickly determined that since I had broken not one, but all of the bones that are considered to be typical indicators of osteoporosis, despite multiple dexascans to the contrary, I had osteoporosis.  Shortly thereafter, she discovered excess, but “unimpressive,” levels of cortisol in my system.

Ortho 2, we’ll call him Frack, saw me prior to my hip replacement, and I complained about my back injury the week prior.  He pronounced that I had not broken my vertebra, but he offered to send me for an MRI, if that would make me feel better.  I scheduled the MRI, had it in the evening, called his office in the morning to report that I had gone for the test, as he had asked me to do, and instead of leaving a message, I got put directly through to the doctor.  Turns out that he was wrong, and it is possible to break your L4 vertebra pulling on a lug wrench with a still-healing compressions fracture in your upper arm . . .  if you have osteoporosis.  When I told him that he didn’t have to worry about my bones in general, because I was seeing an endocrinologist for that.  I just needed him to be extra careful not to break anything when implanting the new hip.  I told him that the endo specialist was working me up for Cushing’s, and he told me that I certainly did not have Cushing’s, because I wasn’t 100 pounds overweight and diabetic.

By September, the endo doc concluded that my results were equivocal for Cushing’s, but she encouraged me to go to Johns Hopkins to the metabolic bone specialist, since there wasn’t another good explanation for my osteoporosis, which had by that time been objectively diagnosed with a bone biopsy.  She felt that she had no choice, clinically, but to treat my osteoporosis as post-menopausal in origin, even though my bone breaks began 8 years ahead of my menopausal symptoms.  Off to Johns Hopkins.

The bone specialist took the history, again . . . did some more testing (blood, saliva, urine, again . . . ) and then consulted with the adrenal team, who agreed with her diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease.  Unfortunately for all of you who read these bios, it’s more complicated than just Cushing’s, because I had bilateral pulmonary emboili and a DVT in my leg when one of my stress fractures had me on non-weightbearing restrictions for six weeks.  That little incident was also considered a fluke, until about six years later when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that is also considered to be “rare.”  It is a mouthful to say–antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS).  It’s main risk is hypercoagulability, and its treatment involves lifelong warfarin (brand name Coumadin), which people mostly call a “blood thinner,” although it doesn’t really act that way.

I feel somehow more than lucky to have two fairly uncommon, fairly complicated conditions with fairly scarey treatment options.  I feel like I need a Fairy Goddoctor to be able to properly manage my surgery and treatment, because of the risks associated with drug interactions with the warfarin, the higher risk of clotting that I already have from the APS, which is apparently compounded by Cushing’s, and my understanding that I’m not supposed to be mixing hormones, including steroids, with the warfarin.  Nevertheless, it was good to know so quickly after the MRI that the result was that I flunked that test as well as I had flunked all the others previously.  I thought I was going to have to stress over that for the entire long weekend, but no.  Instead, I pretty much put it out of my mind until tonight, and now you’re getting the Reader’s Digest version of the last 12 years of my medical experience.

The doctors have exhausted my resilience with all of their certainty, which over the years I relied upon to conclude that I was just clumsy and that my weight struggles with those extra 25 pounds that could pack on in a couple of months, especially when I was recuperating from a fracture, without really changing my diet much, were probably associated with my inconsistent sleep and the fact that I will reach for pizza when I am feeling particularly low.  So when I read here and there about the recovery process after surgery and how difficullt and complicated it can be, I have to admit that my first reaction was that I should quit work, take a year off, spend all my money on travel or whatever I would feel like doing, and then just commit suicide and be done with the whole thing.  And that still has a sense of comfort associated with it when I remind myself of what I’m in for for the next maybe couple of years or more in recovery . . . and possible relapse . . .

But I have a 82 year old mother, and I”m her baby, and I witnessed her sorrow when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident about 18 months ago, and I wouldn’t put her through that again.  Instead, it’s my intention to take as much time off work as possible after surgery to let myself gather my emotional resources and get over the angry, bruised feeling that I have from both diagnostic processes that have lasted over a decade.  I appreciate that this space is here for newbies like myself to say out loud what most of my friends and family either can’t or don’t want to hear.  It doesn’t really matter so much that anyone is listening; I just need to say it.

Cheers!

Laree (who actually has Cushing’s disease, not Laree Martin’s syndrome)

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Sharon, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

Hello. My name is Sharon. Im 42 years old from Saskatchewan, Canada. I’ve been lurking on this site for about 3 weeks now, and finally decided to add my story. I appologize now if  I get carried away, but here goes.

As a youngster, I was always a healthy kid, seldom sick. Always active, very athletic. Sports were my life. But I did always have very heavy periods, and painful ones, right from day 1. Doctor said it was Mother Nature, and was told to live with it.

Got married, had 2 children. In between the 2, I had to have my gallbladder removed, unfortunatly it was an unsuccessful surjury. I still get attacks till this day. A hernia operation, 3 months later, a hysterectomy. (due to endemetriosis) a year later, the removal of one of my ovaries. I must admit I never felt right after the hysterectomy, but chalked it up to being in early menopause.

Then a year ago, my husband had to rush me to the ER. My heart was palpatating so fast I could feel it in my ears. A second visit to the ER for more of the same. The Doctor on that visit seemed annoyed, and said, get your thyroid checked. I thought, why not. I’d been suffering from freezing cold hands and feet anyways. Tests came back normal, and after a holter test, they told me my heart had an electrical problem. I was put on pills to regulate it.

At this time, the weight gain started to elevate. Being thin my whole life, I was startled by this. I’ve always eaten healthy. We are not an eat out type of family, I prefer to cook at home. But I decided to become more strict with what I ate. I always walked for excercise, now I added a half hour of core workouts and a half hour of abdominal workouts, 6 days a week. Plus my daughter, who was a health coach at Herbal Majic, put me on a plan.(minus the herbs, just the menu) Weight loss after 2 months was zero. She said, Mom, this plan works, why is it not working for you? Good question.

Im also into alternative methods to maintaining health as well. I purchased a chi machine and far infrared hothouse. While it has helped with my constipation issues and seems to have kept the gallbladder attacks away, it had done nothing to help aid in weight loss. (my friends and family however, have all lost weight in it)

Then more puzzling symptoms appeared. Always covered in bruises, major hair loss. Feeling very tired. And it showed in my face, because I have countless people who tell me I look tired. Yellow eyes from time to time. (could be from the gallbladder issues) This went on for a year . And in that year, I gained 25 lbs, 5 of that was literally overnight. .

Then 2 months ago, my heart medication stopped working. The palpitations are back, as well as a very low heart rate at times. And a shift from freezing cold hands and feet, to not being able to tolerate being hot. Noticed facial hair, my normally straight hair if full of waves and curls. Wake up drenched in sweat (chalked that up to menopause too) While I have maintained my weight at 142 lbs (115-120 lbs is my norm) my belly continues to grow. If it wasn’t for the hysterectomy, I’d swear I was 6 months pregnant. Then I developed a burning pain in my right shoulder. The pain is always there, makes it hard to use my arm at times. Some days its severe, at times during the day, the pain is tolerable. I thought maybe I dislocated something excercising. After a bath I decided to have a look in the mirror, and discovered a hump on my back I never knew I had. I think the hump and shoulder pain are related. I lay on a far infrared heating pad for the pain and it helps. Pain medication does nothing for it.

But not only is my belly growing larger, I noticed my face and neck growing larger as well. And my once smooth skin has turned rough, and red. Acne breakouts that leave scars and even a couple of skin tags on my face. This is all new to me. After careful examination of my neck, I realized I had a few lumps on the right side, and a fatty pad under my right collarbone. And when I press on that fatty pad, I feel the pain in my shoulder. Im exhausted most days now, from the pain, and not sleeping through the night for the past 2 months. I get up 2 to 3 times a night to pee. The other day I noticed that my pee had a really foul odor.(sorry for the TMI)  But it never burns.

Well, the final straw was a rash that appeared on my back. Even though I had a Doctors appointment in a week, I decided to go to the ER as the rash had me freaked out. I made the mistake of telling the nurse I thought I might have cushings. (had been reading the patient bios. It all seemed to add up) She smirked, and took me to another room. The Doctor came in and in a condecending tone, asked me,”what does google have to say about cushings” I should have told him that I leaned more from actual patients who had been diagnosed than I did from google. But we ran through my symptoms. He assured me he thought I didn’t have it. It was probably all menopause. He asked to see my drivers license and told me he thought I looked no different. I asked him if he could feel the lumps in my neck, he said no. (at this point I knew I was wasting my time)

He asked if I had used a heating pad, I lied and told him No.(Because he ticked me off) That may have been my saving grace. He called in another Doctor to have a look at this rash and neither one could figure it out, so he ordered alot of blood work. (odd though, i’d been using this same heating pad for years, and never developed a rash until now) They took blood sugar (a little high) urine, shoulder x ray. I was told to follow up with my Doctor. A week later my Doctor informs me that my blood sugar  in the ER that day was very high. And a large amount of sugar in my urine. He never said a word to me about my urine that day. She told me that one of the blood tests that came back showed abnormal for lupus.

Although she feels I am neither diabetic, or have lupus, it lets her know that there is something definatly not right. But the affirmation I got was from my Doctor who took one look at me and told me I did in fact look different. She could see the lumps without actually touching them. I guess Im not crazy after all.

She set me up with a specialist who told me flat out that he did not think I have cushings, because he sees the worst of the worst. I then showed him a picture of what I normally look like, and took a pause. Well, he’s looking into plenty of things, he has included cushings after all. And assured me if the tests come back normal, we will retest, and retest. Im also scheduled to have a thyoid ultasound in April. I feel like there is now hope that we might find an answer to all of this.

I went from being a shy person, to someone who is outspoken. I felt I needed to be, because I wasn’t being heard. Im angry at being dismissed over the years, and to the Doctor in the ER, i know i must have bruised his ego by telling him what I felt was wrong with me. Although I have alot of things wrong with me, there was nothing wrong with my hearing that day, when I over heard the Doctor and Nurse making fun of me.

I feel for each and everyone of you who’s stories I have read the past 3 weeks, who have had to endure way worse hardships than myself. I read how often you are mistreated by Doctors, and the horrible situations that you have gone through.

It breaks my heart. But each of those stories have given me the courage to fight for myself and for that, I can’t thank you enough, for being so open in sharing your lives with us.

God Bless You All!

Update May 18, 2012

Since my last post, there has been some developements, I’ve had a thyroid ultrasound and cat scan on my neck. They discovered 3 thyroid nodules the size of a pea. My Internist says that it does not explain my symptoms. An incidental finding was arthritis and disc degeneration in my neck. I am also newly diagnosed as active hypoglycemic.

Another 8 lb weight gain in 2 weeks. During those 2 weeks I lost my appetite and got the flu twice in 1 week. I barely ate enough to stay alive in those 2 weeks and still gained weight. My Internist told me he is at a loss. The swelling in my neck is now on my left side as well, and a chunk of thigh muscle in my left leg has all but disappeared. I ended up spending Mother’s Day in the ER. I woke up that morning with a burning pain in my chest and was so dizzy I couldn’t walk a straight line. Stayed dizzy for the next 5 hours. The heart checked out fine. The ER Doctor listened to my history and wished me luck, he had no idea either. I have had 3 Doctors tell me that if it is cushings, “do you know how hard that is to diagnose?” Meaning it’s to hard for them to figure it out, so they won’t bother. My Internist who tested me for cushings took a blood test, and told me that the 24 hour urine test, is old school. We don’t test for it that way anymore. Just a blood test. Of course mine came back normal. All my tests seem to be coming back normal, however I decided to document my findings as NO ONE believes me, except my Primary Doctor. But she knows nothing about cushings, she just sees the physical changes in me. I video taped the yellowing of my eyes, took pictures of my expanding belly, the hump on my back, the loss of muscle in my leg. And these strange muscle twitches that are happening throughout my body. The only thing my Doctor can do for me is to refer me to an Endo, which she is now doing.

My husband grows increasingly frustrated, and has told me that, you’ll be dead before they find out what’s wrong with you. I feel the same way. Knowing my Birth Mother died when she was 49 years old from a massive heart attack, but had the same physical symptoms as me, is scary. I am almost too tired to fight anymore but my Husband and kids keep me going. It’s been a battle, and I am far from winning yet. Will keep you posted.

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Shelleyw, Adrenal Bio

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Hi all! I am joining this group because my 19 year old daughter is going through testing for cushing’s.

She has PCOS although she is very thin. Her cortisol levels have come back high on more than several occassions, so our GYN sent us to the endocrinologist.

They have done 2 24 hour urine, Dexa suppression, cortisol serum, ACTH, CBG, DHEA, 2) Salivary tests. This has been ongoing since May. The Endo said that she has failed all of the tests, and she just did a third 24 hour urine and CBG again.

They are really puzzled, as she really doesn’t fit the normal symptoms list(neither did she fit PCOS). They have said that it seems to be adrenal as the ACTH was low and the DST was high. So we are patiently awaiting the results.

She is my only child. I am so afraid. We also have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Jessica, Undiagnosed Bio

1 Comment

First of all – I have to excuse my language – I’m Swedish, and will not always be able to find the right words.

After several years of increasing symtoms some of which worsened severely a couple of months ago, I finally found “Cushings disease” and recognised most of the symtoms. I’ve suffered from severe depression and thereafter adrenal burnout, and have explained most of my problems from this point of view. It’s “only” stress related, I’ve thought to myself.

I’ve always been slender, but gained weight using antidepressives. After ending SSRI I managed to loose weight again (I love running, and exercised a lot!) But my face stayed round and my belly stayed big. (Today BMI 21 and look 7 months pregnant)

I’m very easily bruised since several years.

I wake up several times each night and it’s often very hard for my to fall asleep again.

I get easily exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve got lowered simultan capacity, am sensitive to impressions (sounds and vision)

My skin is very dry and thin and looks like paper on the back of my hands and on my lower legs.

My cheeks are always red, as well as the front of my neck.

I’ve always had extremely low blood pressure, and now it was high (in the lower region)

Inflammations won’t heal. I’ve had stressfractures in my left foot twice the last couple of years.

My legs always hurt.

The last two months my strength has decreased a lot!

I’m always thirsty and pee a lot.

I live extremely healthy (Exercise, eat good, hardly any sugar, exercise bodyscan/meditation, minimum of alcohol – my day ends extremely early) – all in order to manage my part time job, and my two children who are in great need of me.

And now we’ve found that my cortisol is high (urine and blood), ACTH is high and I’ve been a patient for a couple of days for several bloodtests, another urinetest and dexamethasone-test. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for an MRI, and next week I’ll see a doctor to get the results.

It seems that I’ve got Cushings – and my first feeling was a sense of relief. All this suffering all these years, and I’ve always thought that I wasn’t trying hard enough. And the explanation was that something was growing in my head that they would be able to cut away. And the tumour is almost always benign.

But having read some stories on the internet I’m suddenly scared. I realize that you are in deeper need of writing if you don’t get well, but still I’m suddenly very scared.

If anyone out there is a “success” (when it comes to getting well again) please respond. I desperately need hope.

Jessica

Britney (PandaBearHobbit), Undiagnosed BIo

2 Comments

I’m a 25 year old who’s in the middle of being tested for Cushing’s.

I have very high anxiety, hirsutism, fatigue, muscle weakness, can’t lose weight, acne, irregular periods, very high testosterone (163, normal is below 79 for women), always thirsty & pee often, ect.  My doctor referred me to an endocrinologist, and I was diagnosed with PCOS.  My cortisol levels were never tested.  I was put on birth control & metformin and the doctors told me that would help with everything.

After being on these medications for two years and seeing little to no improvement I started to do my own research.  I went to my endocrinologist and brought up the possibility of Cushing’s.  She assured me that it is too rare and I am fine.  I would’ve just taken her word for it, because I figured she knew what she was talking about, but my wonderful husband pushed for us to go ahead and do the tests.  I’m SO glad that he did.  All of the many, many tests have come back abnormal.  I’ve never had so many blood, urine, & saliva tests in my life!  After months of testing, my doctor said that Cushing’s is looking more and more likely.

I struggle immensly with weight loss.  My mother is a personal trainer and has always been in amazing shape.  She & the rest of my family told me I wasn’t doing enough to lose weight.  At one point I was working out 4 hrs EVERY DAY at the gym in addition to having a very physically demanding job.  I was able to lose a couple pounds, but that was it.  I eat healthy, and I’m not just saying that… I really do!  haha!  I’m a vegetarian, eat loads of fresh fruit & veggies, & try to keep my caloric intake to about 1500 calories a day!  I recently found information that a lot of exercising can actually raise my cortisol levels, which are already high.  So, I’ve taken my workouts down to brisk walking for 30-45 min.  Which, after years of intense working out, is weird for me.  I have never been able to lose weight on my belly and face.

I really struggle with anxiety & Irritability, and I hate it.  I get anxious about everything and it drives me crazy.  I compete in dog agility & get so anxious before & after I go into the ring that my pulse is over 180 & I shake (Just while I’m standing there!).  I love the sport so much, though, that I’d never give it up!  My dogs are my life!  I want to be able to compete & be able to enjoy it more, without all the intense anxiety!  I lack emotional control at times, and it tears me up.  I am a very loving person, and hate putting my loved ones through that.  When I lose my temper, I can’t control myself.  Once I come down from it, I feel aweful & can’t believe the things I said or did.  I feel like a crazy person!

I often have mental fogginess & insomnia as well.  Trying to focus on something is difficult, which made college a real struggle.  It’s not rare for me to go through patterns of insomnia, where I can only sleep a few hours a night.

Hoping to get officially diagnosed soon, so I can move forward with treatment.  I’m so eager to get all this figured out and feel “normal” again!

~~~

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Kristi (kingskid), Undiagnosed Bio

1 Comment

Hi my name is Kristi and I’m seeking any help or advice on Cushings.

I had always been active growing up into sports, running, weight lifting and horseback riding.

27 Yrs ago I gave birth to a beautiful healthy daughter. I was a size 10 and had only gained 25 LBS during prignancy.  Less then a year later I was carrying my second daughter.  I had no appetite and could barely eat but was gaining 10 pds every other day.  My blood pressure soared and I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.  I have been sick ever since I gave birth.

In the past 20yrs I have put on over 150 lbs and I can’t get it off.  I was told I had a fatty liver and my cholesterol and triglicerites are off the chart.  I began having memory trouble even forgetting my daughters name, hair loss, blurred vision (even typing this is slow going so forgive any mistakes) I started falling, loosing bladder and bowel control, walk into walls, tables and door frames/   I’ve had bouts of blndness and layered viion (Multiple Sclerosis has been ruled out) chronic body and nerve pain, horrible mood swings from happy, depressed, anger, intolerance (it’s like a daily rollar coaster ride) SEVERE salt cravings, low body temp, heaviness in legs, bruising, infections, trouble healing, brain lesions., trouble sleeping.  Get cyst on my breast, head, ears and pubic area.  Have little hard bumps on pubic area that never go away.  No sex drive left for husband and even when we are active it’s very painful..  Major swelling in face, neck, legs and feet, backaches, headaches.  When I stand up I feel like I get a head rush or lightheaded and I flap my arms to stay up or I fall back into bed or chair.  I sweat even in winter.  I do have the buffalo hump, the stretch marks, the moon face, brain lesions and the discolored skin under breast,  behind neck and arm pits.

Dec. 6th I had a carbuncle which had develped staff and mrsa removed from my armpit.  My whole armpit had to be removed and a couple weeks later I developed an abcess and had to go back to surgery.  It has been 5 months and I still can’t heal.  Have been packing the wound every day and seeing the surgeon every 2 wks.  Now I have a carbuncle on the other side and I’m facing more painful surgery after this side heals.

Today I recieved a call that the urine test I took for cushings came back with normal levels.  Needless to say I sat down and sobbed.  I am 46 yrs old and I have been sick for half my life.  I have seen so may doctors, been through so many surgeries and painful testings.  I have been told over and over that there is something wrong but the Doctors can’t find it.  I thought cushings was the answer and that I could finally get treatment and get better.  I look in the mirror and I don’t recogize this person I see….How will I start over again on this long search for answers?  Where will I get the strength?

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