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Christine G, Pituitary Bio

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It took approximately 6 years for me to be diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. I have had many unrelated illnesses up to that point, Congestive Heart Failure, FMD, Gallbladder Removed, problems with vision, high blood pressure, weight gain, problems with balance and more.

No doctor could figure out why the weight gain only in my belly. All were prescribing different diets.

My husband and I were on vacation for a month in Florida every morning and afternoon I would walk on the beach 3 miles each time and my belly kept getting bigger???? My husband saw an article on excessive cortisol and how it was a stress hormone and that excessive cortisol expanded your belly!

My daughter had a friend who was an endocrinologist, I made an appointment to see him when we got home. At first sight the doctor said I do not believe you have “it” but to appease you I will test you. To this day I do not believe he would have tested me if he was not friends with my daughter. I did not have any of the typical signs. Non of us is textbook, we are all individuals.

To the doctors surprise testing came back positive for Cushing’s Disease the doctor said that he would have to send you to someone more familiar with Cushing’s and he sent me to Mass General. I met with a Dr. Tritos who once again said I did not have the typical signs and I was retested. Yup it was Cushing’s. I met with a nurosurgeon at Mass General, Dr. Sweringen, who had extensive experience in Cushing’s surgeries.

My insurance company denied my out of network coverage. I saw a few doctor’s locally and did not feel comfortable with any local surgeons because of the lack of surgical experience with Cushing’s Disease. I began my battle with the insurance to have the out of network covered. I was first rejected by the insurance company, I then appealed with Maximus (second step in process) and was rejected. During this time my health was deteriorating, I had double vision and could no longer drive, I needed to hold onto someone to walk because I had become so unsteady. My family was worried because they had read that the longer you waited for surgery chances were less likely for a full recovery. My daughter gave me the money for the surgery which I had at Mass General on November 16, 2016 by Dr. Sweringen, who is fantastic! I had successful Pit surgery.

After surgery I continued my pursuit in getting the money back. I went to the next level, the applet judge……This time I won, with the help of my local endocrinologist, Dr. Busch and documented proof of Dr. Sweringens exceptional expertise in Pituitary Surgery.

Now almost 10 months later, I am very surprised that I still have muscle weakness and joint pain. When I mention this to doctors they do not believe it is Cushing’s related, even though when you go to the Cushing’s Facebook support group people mention this. I am wondering how many others have this problem 10 months post op. I still have trouble getting out of a chair.
What is so sad you are not told about the post op obstacles you will face.

I think that all of us facing this disease have to give ourselves credit for the strength we have and have to continue having to battle this disease, and to appreciate our support of family and friends.

 

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Leann, Undiagnosed Bio

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Originally from December 14, 2008

I’m Leann, a 40-year-old single mom of three from Pittsburgh. My son was recently diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Because of this, it caused me to suspect possible adrenal problems with my oldest daughter (age 19) and myself. I am unsure of my daughters exact lab results (she sees an endo on 12/22), but mine seem to be indicitive that further testing is needed to rule out Cushing’s Syndrome. That’s why I am here (well, that – plus my friend told me to join).

My initial bloodwork shows high blood pressure, high BAD cholesterol, low GOOD cholesterol, and high cortisol levels. I initially went to my PCP due to extreme fatigue! I am soooooooo tired ALL THE TIME! My muscles are always sore and my bones hurt. I am prone to miagraines. I have been clinically depressed, I believe my entire life, but was diagnosed about 20 years ago. The weirdest thing (possibly unrelated) is my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease characterized by loss of peripheral vision and night blindness. My mom read somewhere that loss of peripheral vision is a symptom of Cushing’s, but she can’t find the website.

I also have gained a significant amount of weight in the last few years, all in my mid-section. I look like I am either 7 months pregnant or that I drink a case a beer a day.

My PCP seems to think that I do NOT have Cushing’s because my ACTH levels are fine, but he didn’t do any special ACTH testing, only the basic bloodwork, all drawn at the same time. I argued with the nurse about it and asked that my PCP call me back (on Thursday) but he hasn’t yet.

I am just so tired of feeling like crap all the time. I am hoping to find some answers here. Thanks for reading.

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Heather P (Heather), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed 5

 

This is about my husband…2010 diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (one day he was fine, the next day he was in agony type onset). Was placed on methotraxate, prednisone, humera, actemra, etc. for the next 4 or 5 years. None of the bilogics worked for more than a month. Pred and pain meds became a mainstay for about 5 years. I started to question the accuracy of the diagnosis and was patted on the head and basically told to forget it and go my merry way and accept it. We were always told the bloodwork “was fine. no issues with the exception that when Neal hurt, his inflammatory blood factors were low..which was odd but it is his body”. It was left at that. We basically gave up the Rheumatologist in 2015 as it was getting us nowhere and nothing was changing. Something was still wrong.

Late 2015, his weight gain went crazy. He developed moon face, the traditional hump on the back of his neck, huge adbdomen with tons of stretch marks everywhere, no energy, listlessness, severe pitted edema, paper thin skin, spots all over his legs, rash on his chest, pressure on his chest and lungs when laying down, sleeping all of the time (as in 2 seconds after he hit is recliner), sleeping solely in the recliner, lower extremety severe weakness, nausea, etc. This led to congestive heart failure in Jan 2016 due to the extreme fluid retention. Placed on lasix, indomethacin, blood pressure meds. Cleared by heart doc two weeks later to return to work.

Still no results…..still spiraling downhill. March 2016 Get steroid injection in the knees as he cannot walk due to the weakness, swelling and pain. Vision issues are now added to the list of continuing issues.

June 7, 2016. Go to another doctor out of state and get more bloodwork done as we cannot take it anymore. They take more blood. Doc does comment on his paper thin skin and mentions that is usually from steriod use. Neal passes out and has to be taken out of the office in a wheel chair as he cannot walk due to the extreme weakness and pain. Increase lasix to 2 a day and get prednisone.

I have finally had enough. I cannot stand seeing my once vibrant active husband just laying there…just existing….just barely…. I make a comprehensive list of all of his symptoms, make a graph of his blood work results from 2010 to present…what I found was astonishing…his results were NOT ok. I took him to the local doctor and pleaded and begged for him to figure out what is wrong with my husband. I initially go thte ole “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes” etc. as we had just gone to the new rheum. doc a week ago. He ordered a new echocardiogram and it was clear. Added new drug. Neal had an allergic reaction and was put on high dose (50 mg daily) of prednisone combined with zantac and zyrtec for 3 days.

A week later, his bloodwork came back…gout, hypothyroid (based on symptoms), severe internal infection. Add more meds.

Go to eye doc and get the diagnosis of cateracts in both eyes. Doc felt it was due to prednisone due to the rapid onset. Surgery scheduled for next week.

In the meantime, Neal has gone even more downhill….now he feels like he periodically fractures a rib, a finger, etc. Even more stretch marks are present. He is listless and cannot function. He cannot walk. Add decreased urine output even on the lasix). He just lays there stuck in a shell. He has missed so much work in the past 2 weeks. He lives as one would in a nursing home…I take care of his daily needs. He cannot.

I go back to doing my research online. Cushings Syndrome pops up…OMG….Between all of the biologics, the up and down on the prednisone, zyrtec, steroid injections , etc. has sent him into the major downward spiral that he is experiencing…..Steroid induced Cushings along with hypothyroidism (might even be hashimoto’s..too soon to tell). We came to this conclusion at 2 am this morning. To further prove this, he took an additional 10 mg of prednisone immediately. I know…he refused to go to the er…he wanted to prove it one way or the other. (I did tell him that I was gonna invoke my medical poiwer of attorney and have him taken out by ambulance on tuesday if not sooner if this didn’t have some impact). Well…he can WALK this morning. He actually went to the bathroom to use the toilet….THAT is a huge deal to us. He is in pain but he can MOVE!!!! He went to work this afternoon as well. He has to have his cateract surgery so he can see to work (we will lose our home…company house…and everything else if this is not done asap). That is his priority. Once the surgery is done, we will be headed back to Nebraska to approach the doctor there about our findings relating to Cushings Syndrome.

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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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AllisonChained (AllisonChained), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed2

I’m becoming increasingly concerned I may have Cushings and I dont know where to start.

In 2006 my health suddenly took a dive. It started with my mental health. I had severe anxiety and depression and panic symptoms. I am currently disabled due to agoraphobia. My fight or flight response was on a hair trigger. My brain would give me sudden urgent DO THIS RIGHT NOW MESSAGES, as though if I didn’t I would be in danger. But the things it was telling me to do was things like jump out of the moving car, put my hand on the stove. I was hospitalized eight times in impatient mental health. I feel like I’m on high alert all the time.

In 2007 I developed insomnia and it’s been very severe ever since. I sleep on average three to five hours a night no more than five nights a week. This past October I didn’t sleep for 9 straight days aside from two one hour naps. I have circadian rhythm disorder and when I do sleep, it’s usually between 8-11am. I also have diagnosed sleep apnea. I take Trazodone, it doesn’t help enough.

I’ve been being treated for the past four years for Fibromyalgia. I was seeing a PT for massage therapy twice a week for two years because I am in serious pain all the time. Every day I have sinus headaches and headaches behind my eyes. I have pain in my lower back/hip/IT band and then in my neck, shoulders and arms. My shoulder joints are so painful I wake up with my arms dead more often than not and I just feel incredibly weak during the day. I take 2700 mg of Gabapentin/day. I am 60.5 inches in height and weigh 297lbs but I have never had high blood pressure. I have a pendulous abdomen and keep getting yeast infections under it. I have tons of stretch marks, adult onset acne cysts/boils and mosquito bites that just wont go away. In the past year I’ve been losing my hair by the handful.

For a while I thought I might have a sex addiction because my hormones were just out of control but then my sex drive abruptly disappeared. My menstrual cycles disappeared as well. I’ve had three in the past five years. And I don’t know if it’s sleep deprivation or what but my vision has gotten so bad lately. I had mild double vision so they put prisms or something in my glasses to raise the vision in one eye slightly and lower it in the other. I used to be able to get by without them but now I feel like I cant see hardly at all without my glasses and I have trouble tolerating light.

I have an appointment with my primary on Tuesday but I frankly do not trust him and I dont know how to bring this up and request to be screened.

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Jill (Jillleesmith), Adrenal Bio

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adrenal-glands

 

Cushing’s Syndrome
Addison’s Disease

After I had my daughter in 1995, I started gaining weight. I went from 110 pounds to over 200 pounds in a year. I had so many symptoms and was told to quit eating. My family wondered what happened to me. I never ate much. I was always the smallest one. One doctor even wrote me a prescription to get a dog. Over the course of 10 years, I was told I had possible MS, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, severe depression resulting in several suicide attempts, hallucinations, declining vision, stress, severe fatigue, inability to work, divorce, personality disorder, inability to walk the stairs or walk for that matter and numerous others.
I went undiagnosed for 10 years. I was home sick one day on September 9, 2006. I was watching Mysterious Diagnosis and saw a woman with my symptoms. She had Cushing’s Disease. She turned out to be Sharmyn McGraw, a friend and mentor. I made an appointment for the next day. I asked my doc to test me for Cushing’s. I was diagnosed with multiple tumors in each adrenal gland called Cushing’s Syndrome. I was literally on my death bed. I was unable to care for all my kids and had given my cousin custody of my oldest son and my ex was given full custody of my daughter. I did manage to care for my son Gavin, who actually took care of me. Riding his bike home from school to make sure I was ok and riding his bike home right after school to take care of me.

I went through many different testing including vein catheterization to see which adrenal needed to come out first. I begged my endo to just take them both but with that it would mean I would have to be on steroid replacement everyday for the rest of my life in order to sustain life. I had surgery on November 14, 2006 to remove my left adrenal gland. I lost 45 pounds in 1 month but all of a sudden I was gaining weight once again. It was found that the other tumor riddled adrenal gland needed to come out.

On February 14, 2008, I had my right adrenalectomy. This was an even more difficult recovery. I was hospitalized for 15 days. Resulting in Addison’s Disease, I am unable to work. I lost my home, my kids, my animals, my car, my life. I have not been able to return to work and am on disability. I am just surviving.

The reason for this letter???? First, I want to bring awareness to these very rare life-threatening diseases, Cushing’s Syndrome and Addison’s Disease. My body has never recovered from the extreme weight gain and weight loss. The overproduction of cortisol for 12 years, has caused irreversible damage to my body. I have lost 40 pounds. My stomach hangs and gets in the way. I could never be intimate with anyone because of how my body looks.

Steroids everyday for the rest of my life is a hard pill to swallow. Forgive the pun. Lol

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Rashelle, Pituitary Bio

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From 10/11/2010:

My name is Rashelle and here is my success story.

I grew up as a tall, skinny, athletic and active girl. I was one of those girls you envied who could eat what I wanted, when I wanted without having to worry about gaining weight. In fact most my high school life I maintained a steady weight of 118 pounds.

That all changed in the blink of eye during my senior year of high school. At 18 yrs old my once long and skinny face, turned round and moon-like. My stomach, once flat as a board, now looked like the belly of a pregnant woman. I once stood tall but found it difficult to keep my shoulders back with the “buffalo hump” now protruding behind my neck. My nice long legs now were now covered in stretch marks and I started getting unwanted hair in places where hair should not grow on a girl. I stopped getting my period, felt tired all the time and started to get really bad migraines. I suffered insomnia and depression.

I knew there was something wrong but didn’t know what. The worse part was the embarrassment of gaining so much weight, over 50 pounds in a matter of 4 months.  I would run into old classmate and I could tell by the look on their faces what they were thinking. Some would do double takes, not even recognizing me at first glance. Once I ran in to my high school crush, whom I hadn’t seen in years, and he was so confused by my appearance and swollen face that he asked if I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out? I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide.

After being testd for all sorts of thing,  my family doctor (whom I’m sure thought I was a hypochondriac by now) referred me to an Endocrinologist in 1999. Finally I would be getting some answers!

Much to my disappointment the specialist found nothing wrong with me except claiming that I had a bad case of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Regretfully this was a wrong diagnosis that caused me to live with Cushing’s disease 4 years longer than I could have. I was prescribed some medication to help with my facial hair on my chin and upper lip. But that was the least of my worries, the hair was hardly noticeable, it was my weight that I was concerned about. From then on I  became an exercising dieting queen. I was going to Curves and working out at the YMCA and I tried every diet imaginable from Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig, Atkins to Body for Life. But no matter what I did nothing seemed to work. I was so frustrated! My last resort was to lay out the money to see Dr Lefebvre, a weight maintenance control specialist. After a few months of treatment, being told to eat 500 calories a day, and losing a minimal amount of weight, I was questioned about how much was I really eating as to inadvertedly accuse me of being a closet eater.

In the year 2000 I went backpacking through Europe for 2 months. Despite the headaches, fatigue and extra weight I had to carry around I was determined to have a good time. The trip was challenging, after 2 months of walking everywhere with a heavy backpack on my back I still had not lost any weight. During this time I was also earning a Degree in Journalism and working lots of hours. Trying to balance school, work and a social life was a difficult because I was exhausted all the time and had zero energy.

Fast Forward to November 2002, age 23; my mom had been with me through this whole rollercoaster ride and was just as frustrated as I was. One night she was searching the internet for what could possibly be wrong with me when she came across this website on Crushing’s Disease. She called me over and we were amazed to find that I had almost every single symptom listed! So the next day I asked my doctor for if I could get a second opinion from a different Endocrinologist.

This time my new specialist said it was unlikely I had Cushing’s yet sent my to get a 24 hr urine test, something the previous Endo had neglected to do. She said it was the “golden test” that would confirm if I did indeed have it. I remember when the test results came in and I got the news. My cortisol level was unequivocally elevated at 1061.3 nmol/day indicating that I most certainly had Cushing’s disease. I was so scared, yet even more so I was relieved that I had finally been diagnosed. The next step was an MRI to determine whether or not I had a tumor on my pituitary gland or on my adrenal gland. As it turned out the tumor lesion was on my pituitary and measured 0.9 x 0.9 x 1.6 cm in height. It was explained to me that pituitary tumors have a 65% cure rate, but there is a lack of cure with pituitary surgery when the tumor is over 1 cm. So my cure rate goes was only 35%. Even so I was anxious to proceed with the surgery despite these statistics.

On Feb 7, 2003 I had the surgery and was discharged from the hospital 5 days later. The road to recovery was a long one but I had high hopes when I notice that my headaches had disappeared and I got my period again for the first time in 4 years. However, I still appeared quite “cushingoid.” Doctors believed that I had been cured but could not tell for sure as it was hard to distinguish scar tissue from the tumor on the MRI. They warned me that results (losing the weight) could take a while so I went on with my life waiting and watching patiently for any changes.

Later that year on October 2003 I was rushed to that hospital for what appeared to be a really horrific migraine. But it was a lot different then any other headache I had ever had. The pain was so intense and almost intolerable I wanted someone to take a gun a shoot me! I spent 36 hours in Emergency being treated for what the emergency doctors diagnosed as “just a bad migraine.” Finally obtaining a CAT scan showed that it wasn’t a migraine after all, my tumor was still there and had hemorrhaged and bled into my optic nerve. I had right sixth nerve palsy with decreased visual acuity in my right eye. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital and could not see properly out of my one eye for over 5 months. Luckily my vision eventually came back 100%. My specialist and surgeon decided that the hemorrhaging had been a blessing in disguise as it could mean that the tumor could be all gone after the episode but it would be too soon to tell.

Then, March 2004 I awoke in the back of the ambulance to be told that I had had a grand mal seizure. Doctors found this to be a mystery since I had no history of seizures or epilepsy. Tests concluded that the crushing’s was still present and I had another MRI which showed residual tumor still extending into the cavernous sinus which is not approachable surgically. The tumor was now only a dangerous 4 mm from my optic nerve.  So the next option was to be referred to a Radiation Oncologist to discuss the option of radiation.

On Oct 20, 2004 I had stereotactic radio surgery. The following week I felt great until the effects of the radiationg suddenly hit me. The radiation took a toll on me and I could not even find the energy to get myself out of bed. It was by far the sickest I have ever been in my whole entire life. Eventually, after being bed ridden for several months I regained my strength and things got back to normal. I still had not lost any weight and showed most of the signs of crushing’s. It is believed that by doing the radiation, it impacted my pituitary function causing it to lose partial functioning. As a result my adrenal glands started to over react to compensate which was not helping my Crushing’s at all.

So, the next step was for surgeons to perform a bilateral adrenalectomy. In June 2006 what was suppose to be a simple, not so risky surgery turned out the opposite. The procedure should have only consisted of 4 very small incisions done laparoscopy. However, during my surgery they discovered that my liver was too large and had to do a complete incision across my whole stomach in order to proceed. Post surgery my blood pressure was so high I was monitored and not let out of the post opt room for 14 hours. On a side note while going through my medical records I discovered that after they had stitched me up a I had to have an X-ray while still under the anesthetia . Apparently the operation room was missing a pair of scissors and they were thought to have been left inside me! Luckily they were found elsewhere.  My recovery was a long and painful but I kept hoping and praying that this would be the cure, especially after my long history of unsuccessful attempts. First the pituitary surgery, the tumor hemorrhaging, the grand mal seizure, radiation, and then the bilateral adrenalectomy. I couldn’t imagine what I was going to do if this did not work as I knew I was running out of options. My fear of never finding a cure led me to seek further answers.

In January 2007 at the age of 26 and a few months post op my parents took me to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. With all my medical records in hand we met with top of the line doctors and discussed my condition and prior attempts to get cure my crushing’s. The doctors said it was unfortunate and just plain bad luck that I had encountered so many problems on my quest for the cure. As far as the specialist was concerned everything that could be done, had been done. Six months after I got my adrenal glands out I finally noticed that I had started losing weight. At this point I had given up on exercise and eating healthy so found it to be a small miracle. Day by day and month by month the pounds started melting away. I was losing weight as fast as I had put it on and the best part was I wasn’t even putting in any effort to do so. Before I knew it I was down to a healthy 130 pounds and back to myself.

At the age of 27, I had been cured of Crushing’s! I  to had overcome this horrible disease that It had overtaken my life and I\could  begin working on getting my life back. By this point I found it difficult to find a job in the journalism field due to the fact that I had a huge gap in my resume. Having graduated so long ago and not having had any experience made it impossible to even get an interview. Looking back at all I had been through I expected to be happy I had been cured but instead I strangely became depressed.

Once an dedicated Christion, I was now mad at God for making me miss out on so much. I felt like by now I should have been married, had kids, owned a home, been established in my career etc. But I wasn’t. I had lost out on so much precious time. I started to hate the job I once loved, sleep a lot, and do things that were out of character for me. I got involved in a relationship with a married man whom I had met on a plane and that didn’t even live in my city. It had been so long that any one of the opposite sex had even paid attention to me that I thrived on the attention. I latched on and became obsessed and needy (totally not me). I just could not find happiness and had delusions of what my life could be like with this secret love affair. On a whim I decided I was going to move to the same city  as him. So  I packed up all my belongings, ordered a moving truck, gave notice to the place I was renting, got a transfer at my job, and found a new place to live.

Three days before I was suppose to leave I overdosed on some pills. I dont remember the incident, not even taking the pills, just the part of having to drink that disquisting tar stuff. I was admitted to the Psych ward and held against my will. I spent 3 weeks as an inpatient and attended therapy sessions daily. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and it was explained to me by my psychiatrist that I had been grieving from a sense of loss. Only the loss was not a person, it was a loss of time. While battling cushings I was always concentrating on getting better that I didnt even have time to focus on my life goals. But now that I was better I had time to realize all the I missed out on. After being released as an inpatient I became a mandatory outpatient. For one month I had to attend daily classes at the hospital. The sessions focused on being in the present and included things like art classes, sailing, yoga and medititation as well as daily therapy sessions. I learned all sort of coping mechanisms so now when I am depressed  instead of sleeping to escape the pain, I draw color, write  or make a collage. In the end what could have ended in tragedy, opened my eyes and helped me a great deal. I still battle with depression and at times fall into a deep black hole but I always manage to pull myself out of it.

I honestly believe that since losing my adrenal glands I have become a different person. My emotions are intensified, I get stressed and sick easily and am quick to anger. It has definitely taken some time to get use to. Istill have to see the doctor regularly to monitor my meds and will be on medication for the rest of my life. I have hypoglycemia and Addison’s disease which so far only affects my skin pigmentation and gives me a year round tan. All of that is nothing compared to what I was dealing with when I had cushing’s. Having the disease strangely somehow has made me a better person. I am not quick to judge a book by its cover and really truly care for people. In fact, after all the time i spent in the hospital I am now back in school to become a nurse.

So remember that what ever you are facing, whether you have been diagnosed or are trying to get diagnosed, never give up. Stay strong, keep praying and believing.

Update 11/4/2013

In fact, after having completed my Degree in journalism I am now going back to school to become a nurse. After my experience I want nothing more than to help people who are sick. Just remember that what ever you’re facing, whether you have been diagnosed or are trying to get diagnosed, never give up. Stay strong, keep praying and believe you will be cured.

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