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Moxie G, MoxieGarrett, Pituitary Bio

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August 1, 2017:

It’s been 3 months since my surgery. I’m still trying to piece my story together.

I think it begins with the pregnancy and birth of my last child in 2012. After 3 exemplary pregnancies and home births, I never expected the cholestasis, a 36-week breech & manual turn, or a retained placenta and near fatal delivery. After successfully nursing 3 children, I struggled to produce enough milk and gave up after 3 months. I was ashamed of my inability to have a healthy pregnancy and nurse my baby. I tucked it away.

Normally a very thin and “bounce back” kinda person (5″8/130lbs), I was unable to entirely lose my baby weight and then noticed a gradual weight gain. My wedding rings no longer fit and when I went to get them resized, I was told my finger had changed by 2.5 sizes. I was embarrassed. I took them off.

My once angular face became puffy & round. I developed acne on my back and arms. Nothing healed. I started noticing dark facial and body hair on my blonde body. Normally a pink person, I didn’t really notice when my skin turned red. Normally easy to bruise, my new ones didn’t alarm me. Having not escaped my pregnancies without some stretch marks, I didn’t think much about the excess ones I was sporting. Always complaining of feeling cold, I now felt like I was overheating and wanted to rip my clothes off. My cuticles cracked and bled and I chalked it up to winters in Canada. Two of my teeth broke and I figured they were just weak… it runs in the family. My newly prescribed glasses made everything look fuzzier… oh well, I’ve always had poor vision. I attributed my alarming hair loss to post-pregnancy normalcy. I figured the continuing lactation was just a left-over indignity. Pretty sexy stuff.

People asked me on a regular basis when I was due. My abdomen was completely rounded, my breasts were huge, but I still had comically thin limbs. It felt like my body was open to judgement and commentary. I was ashamed of my new appearance. I made light of it.

I stopped attending social functions because I hated the way I looked. I couldn’t bear going through the process of trying to find something flattering to wear and then having to field questions about my uncharacteristic weight gain. I felt like I always had to explain myself. It was humiliating. I withdrew.

I had a pathological, insatiable thirst. Normally not a large beverage consumer, I was pounding can after can of whatever I could get my hands on. I planned every excursion around knowing where there were restrooms and where I could buy my next beverage. My sleep was interrupted hourly. It became a joke among my family & friends. I limited where I would go and who I would be around.

I oscillated between having super-human energy (16-18 hour self-imposed workdays) to being so bone-weary that I would fall asleep sitting up at my computer, mouse still in hand. When my symptoms began, I was working in senior positions in advertising agencies. It was a demanding & high-paced lifestyle. Also during this time, I left my career to open my own business. In the 5 years I was sick, I launched a successful childrens’ retail store. I assumed my exhaustion was a natural by-product of my workaholism. All working moms are this tired, right?

I couldn’t understand… I was functioning at a high level… 4 happy kids, a great marriage, a clean house, a successful business, I was even freelancing as a strategist on the side. Why didn’t I feel like myself? What was going on with my body? I surely couldn’t be ill. I was doing just fine. Look. See? I should just try harder.

I often said to my GP that I thought my hormones were outta whack. Nothing was severe enough to warrant a doctor’s visit or alarm. Everything was manageable but there were so many small, strange things happening that I was sure something was off. Eventually, she ordered blood tests. I carried the requisition around for almost a year. I thought I was overacting and wasting people’s time. In June 2016, I had a severe sinus infection and went to my doctor. Sheepishly, I promised to attend to the blood work I had been avoiding.

A week later, my doctor’s office called and told me to walk myself to the hospital emergency room. My sugars were 34 (Normal is 4-6, Coma is 16+). I didn’t know what this meant but was assured it was severe. I called my husband and we went out for dinner. I sent him and my daughter home and walked to the hospital.

I started to get an idea of how serious it was when the hospital staff rushed me in and started giving me insulin shots. No-one could understand why my sugars were so high and how my body was tolerating it without shutting down into a coma. They tried unsuccessfully for 24 hours to bring my sugars down to acceptable levels. With no history of family or gestational Diabetes, I was diagnosed with Type 2.

Dealing with this diagnosis was hard. It was my belief that only fat, lazy people with horrible lifestyles developed this disease. I went home and had to learn how to live like a Diabetic. I cut sugar completely out of my diet. We had to relearn how to grocery shop and cook. I had to start reading and understanding food labels. My husband made me disgusting quinoa muffins. Being a Diabetic became a full-time hobby. And the medications wreaked havoc on my digestive system.

The road to finding out what was causing the resistant Diabetes was in full throttle. I met dozens of doctors, nurses, technicians, and specialists. I had CTs, MRIs, X-rays, diabetes management & dietician appointments, urine tests, blood tests, hormone tests, pre-op & pre-admitting appointments, visual tests, Neuro-opthamology appointments, ENT consults, Endrocrinology reviews… It was constant and exhausting. I developed a deep hatred for medical tape.
So, Diabetes symptoms led to a Cushings Disease diagnosis, which eventually led to a pituitary tumour diagnosis. I had a 9mm Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing tumour. Surgery was booked. Jokes were made. All of a sudden, I needed everything about as much as I needed a hole in the head (They really did drill a hole in my skull. It’s held back together with glue!). But being diagnosed with a brain tumour was a relief. Something beyond my control was responsible for my current condition. I didn’t do this to myself because I was incompetent, lazy, or deserving. This was done to me and now we could try to fix it.

My surgery was booked at St. Michael’s Hospital with Dr. Cusimano here in Toronto for April 21. Due to a hospital error, my surgery was cancelled at the last minute and re-booked for May 1. After my family travelling here to be with me, getting my house in order, making arrangements for my store, childcare, packing my bags, saying cryptic goodbyes to my loved ones just in case, and even shaving my legs, I was crushed. I had mentally prepared and now I had to wait another 9 days and do it all over again.

Getting prepped for surgery was terrifying. I was in surgery for just over 3 hours and in intensive care for 3 days. I slept a lot during my immediate recovery. I had a bout of Diabetes Insipidus. But the good news? My cortisol crashed immediately. This assured everyone that the tumour was gone. The bad news? I felt like absolute garbage. My mom, my husband, my brother, and my best friend were there with me. I let them take care of me. I let them take care of everything.
Surgical recovery is manageable. Getting the stitches & stints removed from my nose was absolutely horrible and I had what I thought was a panic attack directly after the procedure. It really scared me (I now know it was my adrenalin crashing. My surgery has left me with an adrenal insufficiency which means my body cannot handle any stress, illness or injury.). Scar tissue has formed around one of my nostrils. It is affectionately known as “Mini Nostril”. And I can tell you that not blowing your nose for 3 months is one of the most annoying things in the universe. I went back to work 8 days after surgery. I shouldn’t have, but I’m a show-off. Everybody that sees me is stunned at the transformation thus far. My skin is a normal colour and I have lost nearly 30 lbs. People that knew me before I got sick say, “Welcome Back”. People that didn’t know me previously ask me if I am ok or don’t even recognize me.

Chemical recovery is terrible. My sugars are behaving more normally and I’ve been able to discontinue one of my three medications. I started my hormone weaning a few weeks ago and it is so hard. My latest blood tests show that my body is still not producing it. Every muscle and joint aches. I barely eat anything. I have headaches. It takes me hours to fall asleep. I’m dizzy. I’m weak. I’m exhausted. I’m not sure my digestive system will ever be right. I’m so tired of complaining. This will be my reality for at least a year.

But, I am hopeful. I know that I will heal. And most of all, I am grateful… for the love of my friends & family, the health of my children, the healthcare system of my country, and the chance to reset my life. I put my wedding rings back on yesterday. They fit.

(And what of that fucking tumour? The hospital adopted him. I had to sign papers and everything. You’re welcome, science.)

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Irene, Pituitary Bio

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FOR Irene Fox, everything seemed to go wrong all at once. It was 1999 and she thought her life was falling apart. She felt her relationships had deteriorated.

Her face and stomach became bloated. Meanwhile, her arms and legs became very thin. Her blood pressure was extremely high. The sunlight irritated her eyes.
One day the mother-of-two from Bray, Co Wicklow, lost the use of her leg. Then she started falling. “I was losing power in my arms and legs,” she recalled.
Irene was 47, so, she reasoned, maybe it was just the menopause. But she went to the doctor and found out that it wasn’t. She was sent to St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown for a battery of tests which went on for more than two years.
In 2002 Irene was diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome, following an MRI scan. It emerged that a tumour on her pituitary gland was causing an excess production of cortisol, the stress-relieving hormone. She had an operation in Beaumont Hospital in August 2003.
“Before the operation I couldn’t walk for more than a few stops before falling down,” she recalls.
Irene’s condition did not improve following the operation, however. She discovered she was unable to keep any food down. In October she collapsed and was brought back to Loughlinstown where she stayed until January 2004.
“I was in intensive care for two weeks and then in the general hospital for 10 weeks.”
Irene, now aged 59, was told she had to increase the amount of steroids she was on.
“I take hydrocortisone and I wear a hydrocortisone bracelet to inform people that I take it.”
These days the mood swings are gone and her eyesight is better. “I walk with a stick but I don’t fall any more — the symptoms were caused by the tumour on the pituitary gland. I’m told that it affects different people in different ways.”
There should be more public awareness about the pituitary gland and its functions, she says.
“I feel there should be more awareness of the pituitary gland and what can happen if anything goes wrong — it’s one of these things that people just don’t seem to know much about.”

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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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