What Idiots!

Every morning, I go onto the message boards and ban the spammers who seem to operate only at night.  This one was particularly amusing since he posted the same basic messages about 3 hours apart.

In that 3 hours, he managed to change his IP address (upper right corner), his birthplace and his school plus a few other minor details.

Unfortunately, both posts were in response to the same topic so they appeared right after one another LOL

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Interview with Doc Karen, Pituitary Patient and Cushing’s Advocate

Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

Pituitary Patient Support Group Meeting

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Pituitary Patient Support Group Meeting!
Saturday–November 19th, 2016
“We will be Live Streaming on Facebook!!!”

Speaker: Garni Barkhoudarian, MD
Topic: “Advancements in Pituitary Surgery-Better Treatments, Better Quality of Life”
Meeting: 10:00am-11:00am
Breakfast Snack will be served 10:00am-11:00am
Lunch will be served 11:30am following the meeting
Family and Friends Welcome!
Please RSVP: Sharmyn McGraw at pituitarybuddy@hotmail.com or message on FB

16 Years of Help and Support.

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It’s unbelievable but the idea for Cushing’s Help and Support arrived 16 years ago tonight.  That’s a long time for anything online.

I was talking with my dear friend Alice, who ran a wonderful menopause site called Power Surge, wondering why there weren’t many support groups online (OR off!) for Cushing’s and I wondered if I could start one myself and we decided that I could.

The first website (http://www.cushings-help.com) first went “live” July 21, 2000 and the message boards September 30, 2000. Hopefully, with these sites, I’m making some helpful differences in someone else’s life!

The message boards are very active and we have weekly online text chats, occasional live interviews, local meetings, email newsletters, a clothing exchange, a Cushing’s Awareness Day Forum, podcasts, phone support and much more.

Whenever one of the members of the boards gets into NIH, I try to go to visit them there. Other board members participate in the “Cushie Helper” program where they support others with one-on-one support, doctor/hospital visits, transportation issues and more.

Of course, we now have a Facebook page and 2 groups.  Both are secret, so if you want to join, please email  or PM me for an invitation.

Other sites in the Cushing’s Help “Family”

maryo colorful zebra

Help Advance Research for Better Cushing’s Syndrome Treatment

clinical-trials

 

I am so passionate about Clinical Trials, especially for Cushing’s because I was only diagnosed in 1987 because I was a part of a clinical trial at the NIH.  In addition to helping myself, I knew I’d be helping other Cushies coming along after me – something positive I could do while I was at my worst.

I hope that others will consider doing Clinical Trials, if they qualify for them.  You never know who else you might help!

This trial is testing the safety and effectiveness of an investigational drug for the treatment of Cushing’s Syndrome. Under the supervision of qualified physicians, cortisol levels and symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome will be closely followed along with any signs of side effects.

More about the study:

The study drug (COR-003) is administered by tablets.

  • There will be 90 participants in this trial
  • There is no placebo used in the trial

If you are interested, please find the full study details and eligibility criteria listed here.

Eligibility Criteria:

Participants must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • have been diagnosed with endogenous Cushing’s Syndrome by a medical professional (not caused by the use of steroid medications)

Participants must not:

  • have been treated with radiation for Cushing’s Syndrome in the past 4 years
  • be currently using weight loss medication
  • have been diagnosed with uncontrolled hypertension, some forms of cancer, adrenal carcinoma, Hepatitis B / C, or HIV

Please complete the online questionnaire to check if you’re eligible for the trial.

If you’re not familiar with clinical trials, here are some FAQs:

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies to determine whether investigational drugs or treatments are safe and effective for humans. All new investigational medications and devices must undergo several clinical trials, often involving thousands of people.

Why participate in a clinical trial?

You will have access to investigational treatments that would be available to the general public only upon approval. You will also receive study-related medical care and attention from clinical trial staff at research facilities. Clinical trials offer hope for many people and an opportunity to help researchers find better treatments for others in the future.

Learn why I’m talking about Clinical Trials

Webinar: The Essentials: The Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypopituitarism

Presented By

John D. Carmichael, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
Co-Director, USC Pituitary Center

After registering you will receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar.

Contact us at webinar@pituitary.org with any questions or suggestions.
Date: Thursday, June 30, 2016
Time: 11:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 2:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Webinar Description

This will be a case-based review of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of pituitary failure, focusing on the most common scenarios patients may encounter. We will review issues with hormonal testing unique to patients with pituitary disease, and the approach toward optimizing pituitary hormone replacement.

Presenter Bio

John CarmichaelDr. John Carmichael is the Co-Director of the USC Pituitary Center and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. After earning a degree in biomedical ethics at Brown University, Dr. Carmichael graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. He then completed internship and residency at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. He received his endocrinology fellowship training at NYU, where he received a research fellowship grant to conduct clinical trials devoted to growth hormone deficiency and acromegaly after his clinical fellowship. In 2006, he moved to Los Angeles to join the Pituitary Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he cared for patients with pituitary disease, devised and conducted clinical trials, and taught medical students, residents, and endocrinology fellows. In 2014, he joined the faculty at the University of Southern California. He has authored several journal articles devoted to clinical pituitary medicine, book chapters covering hypopituitarism and hypothalamic disease, and sits on the editorial boards for Pituitary and Endocrine, Diabetes, and Metabolism Case Reports.

Safety Plan

Reblogged from Kelly’s great blog:

My local endocrinologist wanted me to get a medical bracelet, solucortef, and training. I went back this past Friday and was asked about my plan. Part of the problem is that I live alone. My dogs, cats, and fish can not help me if anything happens. While I check in with family daily for this reason and have friends of the family that have helped, this is not enough. One of the things discussed was making sure that people I have contact with every day know who to contact if I don’t show up for something. Additionally, I was asked to have a neighbor trained in solucortef injection. I thought that the biggest problem I would have would be a problem with needles, BOY WAS I WRONG.

Read more at https://zebraontheside.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/safety-plan/