✍️ Day 14: 40 Days of Thankfulness

From 40 Days of Thankfulness

 

I am thankful, believe it or not, that I had Cushing’s. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to have it now, although diagnoses and surgeries seem “easier” now.

 

Having Cushing’s taught me a lot, including how to stick up for myself, how to read medical books to learn more about my disease, how to do web design, how to navigate NIH. It taught me patience, how to make phone calls. It brought me a lot of new friends.

 

I am also thankful that people are becoming more empowered and participating in their own diagnoses, testing and treatment. Things have changed a lot since my surgery in 1987!

 

 

When I had my Cushing’s over 30 years ago, I never thought that I would meet another Cushing’s patient in real life or online. Back then, I’d never even been aware that there was anything like an “online”. I’m so glad that people struggling with Cushing’s today don’t have to suffer anymore thinking that they’re the only one who deals with this.

 

Because of my work on the websites – and, believe me it is a ton of work! – I have had the honor of meeting hundreds of other Cushies personally at local meetings, conferences, at NIH (the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD where I had my final diagnosis and surgery). It occurred to me once that this is probably more Cushies than most endocrinologists will ever see in their entire career. I’ve also talked to countless others on the phone. Amazing for a “rare” disease!

 

I don’t know what pushed me in 1983 when I first noticed I was sick, how I got the confidence and self-empowerment to challenge these doctors and their non-diagnoses over the years. I’m thankful that I didn’t suffer any longer than I did and I’m glad that I have a role in helping others to find the medical help that they need.

 

❓What do YOU Think?

 

Do you think allergies are worse post-op?

I posted on Facebook that I’ve learned the hard way that I had an allergic reaction to blackberries. I’ve known about my strawberry allergy for decades and have avoided them mostly successfully. Apparently, they’re both in the same class of allergens 😦

These blackberries were in an ice cream. And it was a good ice cream. Drat!

I have a lot more steroids to take for a few days. Oh, joy! And, another wean at the end.

Someone responded: “The further we get from Cushings, the more allergies surface. So glad you got help. Scary stuff!

I said: “I guess it’s because we don’t have so much cortisone already running in our bodies.”
Someone else asked: “Is that true? I seem to be allergic to pollen amd mold now?
And I responded: “I don’t know but it makes sense now that I think of it. I’m definitely allergic to more things than I was Before Cushing’s

So, in my informal poll – what do you think?  Are your allergies worse or are you having new ones after Cushing’s?

😍 Mary Kelly O’Connor, Person of the Month-May 2018

 

The EPIC Foundation would like to recognize Mary Kelly O’Connor as a pioneer in the Cushing’s community as an advocate and life changer! Mary Kelly O’Connor is Person of the Month for May, 2018!

Mary Kelly O’Connor is the founder of Cushing’s Help and has been providing support to the Cushing’s community for almost 20 years! Mary’s life changed in 1983! She began noticing several weird symptoms. The first symptom she noticed was an abrupt cessation of her menstrual period. Her gynecologist confirmed that she was not pregnant but had no good explanation for why this was happening. Then she began experiencing extreme fatigue which required her to take frequent naps throughout the day.

Many weird and seemingly random symptoms began appearing. Mary grew a beard (Hirsutism), gained weight even though she was on Weight Watchers and working out at the gym nearly every day, developed chronic pain, developed what is called a “moon face” and a “buffalo hump” on the back of her neck, and developed stretch marks. Mary also developed mood symptoms including depression.

Mary eventually came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal magazine that said “If you have these symptoms…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”. After that, Mary began assertively seeking answers. However, doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare and that there was no possible way that she had it!

In 1986, Mary developed a symptom that really caught her husband’s attention-she began bruising very easily and bleeding under her skin. Fortunately, the Hematologist/Oncologist ran a twenty-four hour urine test and really looked into a possibility of Cushing’s. Mary was referred to an endocrinologist who ran further tests.

The endocrinologist confirmed Cushing’s but ultimately Mary O was referred to NIH (National Institutes of Health). NIH was doing a clinical trial of Cushing’s. While she was at NIH, Mary O was gaining about a pound a day! Adrenal Cushing’s was ruled out so they knew that the tumor, which was the culprit, was in the pituitary.

The MRI was not able to locate the tumor which is typical with Cushing’s pituitary tumors. The next step was an Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test, IPSS. Ultimately, this test did show where her tumor was located.

On November 3, 1987, the surgeon, Dr. Ed Oldfield, performed the brain surgery to treat Mary O’s Cushing’s Disease. Mary O achieved remission from Cushing’s and she gets tested regularly to confirm that she has sustained remission.

Because of Mary O’s experience of being sick and the difficulty in finding help and a diagnosis, she decided to create a safe space to support others and to increase awareness. The first website (http://www.cushings-help.com) went “live” July 21, 2000. It was just a single page of information. The message boards began September 30, 2000 with a simple message board which then expanded. Today, in 2017, they have thousands of members!

Mary O is the pioneer for bringing people together in this format from all over the world! This is incredible considering that this was not even a concept when she was going through her journey in the 80s! This has become a movement of empowerment, as people are participating in their own diagnosis, testing, and treatment! Also, it was very difficult for patients to connect with one another many years ago. However, now, thanks to Mary O, patients are able to reach each other and not feel so alone!

Mary O has a blog radio show where she has conducted interviews with influential people in the community including doctors, mental health experts, and other professionals. She has also been able to interview many patients who heal by sharing their stories with each other.

Mary O wants to support, educate, and share! She has been able to provide support to an entire community of people on her own and with very little funding. She puts her heart and soul into this work because she cares deeply about this community! Mary O has been able to turn her adversity into an opportunity to walk in her purpose to change lives!

Mary Kelly O’Connor is definitely someone you should know! The EPIC Foundation proudly works in alliance with Mary Kelly O’Connor the founder of Cushing’s Help, a foundation dedicated to giving Cushing’s patients valuable information, a space to share their stories, and a place to connect with one another. To learn more information about Mary O and her work, you can go to her website at http://cushings-help.com/ Together, We are EPIC!

From http://www.epictogether.org/mary-oconnor/

🦓 Day 30: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

Today is the final day of the 2018 Cushing’s Awareness Challenge and I wanted to leave you with this word of advice…

To that end, I’m saving some of what I know for future blog posts, maybe even another Cushing’s Awareness Challenge next year.  Possibly this will continue to be a tradition. Or not.  Interest seems to be dwindling down a lot 😦

I am amazed at how well this Challenge went this year, giving that we’re all Cushies who are dealing with so much.   I hope that some folks outside the Cushing’s community read these posts and learned a little more about us and what we go through.

So, tomorrow, I’ll go back to posting the regular Cushing’s stuff on this blog – after all, it does have Cushing’s in its name!

I am trying to get away from always reading, writing, breathing Cushing’s and trying to celebrate the good things in my life, not just the testing, the surgery, the endless doctors.

If you’re interested, I have other blogs about traveling, friends, fun stuff and trying to live a good life, finally.  Those are listed in the right sidebar of this blog, past the Categories and before the Tags.

Meanwhile…

Time-for-me

Choose wisely…

 

🦓 Day 29: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

bestday

 

I wrote parts of this in 2008 and other years, so all the “yesterdays” and “last weeks” are a little off. This year’s update is at the very bottom.

Wow.  That’s about all I can say.  Yesterday was possibly the best day of my life since I started getting Cushing’s symptoms, and that was over 25 years ago.  A quarter of a century of feeling exhausted, fatigued.  A quarter of my life spent taking naps and sleeping.

Last week  in this post I wrote in part:

I went to the endo yesterday.  Nothing has changed for me.  Nothing will.  He wants me to take more cortef.  I don’t want to gain weight again.  He looked up Provigil and it’s not indicated for panhypopituitarism.  So he won’t prescribe it.  My kidney surgeon probably won’t let me take, anyway, but it was worth a try.

He did mention that in “only” 2.5 years maybe I can go back on growth hormone.  I don’t want to live like this another year let alone 2.5.  But then, when I was on GH before it didn’t help me like it helps most everyone else.

I’m tired of catering to a kidney that may or may not fail sometime anyway, tired of being so exhausted all the time.  I feel like I’ve lost nearly half my life to this Cushing’s stuff already.

So, yesterday I was supposed to go to a conference on web design for churches.  My church sent me because they want me to spiff up their site and make them a new one for Christmas.  I wanted to go because, well, I like learning new stuff about the web.  I figured that I would learn stuff that would also be useful to me in others of my sites.

And I did!

But the amazing thing is this.  My son had told me about a medication that was very similar to Provigil, that he had tried it while he was writing his doctoral thesis and it had helped him.

So, having tried the official doctor route and being rebuffed – again – I had decided to try this stuff on my own.

Just the night before I had written a response on Robin’s wonderful blog that reads in part:

I hate this disease, too.

I was just talking to a friend today about how I’d try nearly anything – even if it ruined my one remaining kidney – to have a few days where I felt good, normal, where I could wake up in the morning rested and be able to have energy for the day.

I want to go out and have fun, to be able to drive for more than 45 minutes without needing to rest, to be have people over for dinner, whatever. I hate being restricted by my lack of energy.

My endo says to cheer up. In two and a half years I can try the growth hormone again. Whoopee. Didn’t work the first time and maybe gave me, or contributed to, cancer growth. Why would I want to look forward to trying that again?

I want to feel good now. Today.

I hate that this disease kills but I also hate that it’s robbed me of half my life already.

I wish doctors would understand that even though we’ve “survived”, there’s no quality of life there.

I hate Cushing’s. It robs so much from so many of us. 😦

As I said earlier, I have a history of daily naps of at least 3 hours a day.  It cuts into everything and prevents me from doing many things.  I have to schedule my life around these naps and it’s awful.

rockford-2006-sue 12-18-2006 2-09-18 pmA few years ago I went on a Cushie trip to Rockford.  I’ve been there a few times and it’s always so much fun.  But this first year, we were going to another Cushie’s home for a barbecue.  I didn’t drive, I rested in the back of the car during the drive.  We got there and I managed to stay awake for a little while.  Them I put my head down on the dining room table and fell asleep. Our hostess kindly suggested that I move over to the sofa.

So, I have a long history of daily naps, not getting through the day, yadda, yadda.

So, I was a little nervous about yesterday.  I really wanted to go to this conference and was afraid I’d have to go nap in my car.

I got up at 5:30 am yesterday.  Before I left at 7:15, I took my Cortef and then I took my non-FDA approved simulated Provigil.  (Although it’s not FDA approved, it is not illegal to possess without a prescription and can be imported privately by citizens)

I stayed awake for the whole conference, went to a bell rehearsal, did Stacey’s interview, had dinner and went to bed about 10:30PM.  NO NAP!  I did close my eyes a little during the 4:00PM session but it was also b-o-r-i-n-g.

I stayed awake, I enjoyed myself, I learned stuff, I participated in conversations (completely unlike shy me!).

I felt like I think normal people feel.  I was amazed.  Half my life wasted and I finally (thank you Michael!) had a good day.

My kidney doctor and my endo would probably be appalled but it’s about time that I had some life again!  Maybe in another 25 years, I’ll take another pill.  LOL


Well, the energy from the Adrafinil was a one-day thing.  I felt great on Thursday.   Friday and Saturday I slept more than usual.  Saturday, today, was one of those days where I sleep nearly all day.  Maybe if I took the drug more it would build up in my system, maybe not.  But it was still worth having that one day where I felt what I imagine normal to be.

While I was being a slug today, my husband painted the entire house.

I’m not sure if I would have been this tired today or if I was somehow making up for the nap I didn’t get on Thursday.  Whatever the case, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try this and to experience the wonderful effects, if only for one day.

Information from a site that sells this:

Alertness Without Stimulation

Adrafinil is the prototype of a new class of smart drug – the eugeroics (ie, “good arousal”) designed to promote vigilance and alertness. Developed by the French pharmaceutical company Lafon Laboratories, adrafinil (brand name, Olmifon) has been approved in many European countries for treating narcolepsy, a condition characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and other unusual symptoms.

Non-narcoleptic users generally find that adrafinil gives them increased energy and reduces fatigue, while improving cognitive function, mental focus, concentration, and memory. It has been reported that quiet people who take adrafinil become more talkative, reserved people become more open, and passive people become more active.

Of course, many stimulant drugs, ranging from caffeine to methamphetamine, are known to produce similar alerting/energizing effects. Adrafinil has been described by some users as a “kinder, gentler” stimulant, because it provides these benefits but usually with much less of the anxiety, agitation, insomnia, associated with conventional stimulants.

Adrafinil’s effects are more subtle than those of the stimulants you may be used to, building over a period of days to months. They appear to be based on its ability to selectively stimulate 1-adrenergic receptors in the brain.2 These receptors normally respond to norepinephrine (noradrenaline), a neurotransmitter linked to alertness, learning, and memory. This is in contrast to conventional stimulants, which stimulate a broader spectrum of brain receptors, including those involving dopamine. Its more focused activity profile may account for adrafinil’s relative lack of adverse side effects.

There’s more info about Adrafinil on Wikipedia

It’s interesting that that snipped report that people become more talkative.  I reported that in the original post, too, even though I didn’t realize that this was a possibility.

A good quote that I wish I could relate to better:

“Time is limited, so I better wake up every morning fresh and know that I have just one chance to live this particular day right, and to string my days together into a life of action and purpose.”

Lance Armstrong (1971 – )
Cyclist, seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor


2011 stuff starts here:

A while ago I went to a handbell festival. I took a bit of adrafinil on the main day to try to stay awake for the whole day. It didn’t seem to keep me as on as it did before. I can’t be used to it already. Maybe I’m just that much more tired than I was before.

Our son lives in New York and every few years he gives us tickets to see a Broadway show.  A couple years ago we took the train to NY to see Wicked.  Usually, my DH wants to go out and see sights while we’re there.  I usually want to nap.

This time we got up on Saturday morning, went out for breakfast.  I wanted to take in the whole day and enjoy Wicked so I took some Adrafinil.  We got back to the hotel and got ready to go to a museum or other point of interest.

But, DH wanted to rest a bit first.  Then our son closed his eyes for a bit…

So, I found myself the only one awake for the afternoon.  They both work up in time for the show…

Sigh  It was a great show, though.

A recent Christmas I was going to get my son some Adrafinil as a gift.  The original place we bought it didn’t have any more stock so I tracked it down as a surprise.  He was going to give me some, as well, but couldn’t get it from the original source, either.  So he found something very similar called Modafinil.  GMTA!


20-years-vaf

And 2016…

Saturday, 4/23/16 really was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

I’ll be writing a longer post about that later on my travel blog but here’s the original plan: https://maryoblog.com/2016/04/23/busy-saturday/

Suffice it to say, we arrived at the Tattoo and I got no nap at all, all day!

IMG_0936

IMG_0940

 

And 2017.

We just came home from a great weekend in New York City with our son.  I haven’t written about it yet in my Travel Blog but will soon.  I did put a bit about it in my Little Free Library blog (do I have too many blogs??)  I was amazed to make it through the entire weekend with no Adrafinil – sadly, there’s nowhere to get it anymore.  I carried extra cortisol, just in case.  And slept all the way home on the train.

Last but not least, 2018.

We went back to the Virginia International Tattoo again and it was everything I remembered from 2016.  A wonderful, but very exhausting time!

This time around we went to some of the band competition, then went back to the hotel for a nap before the show.  Fortunately, most of the afternoon events were live-streamed on Facebook so I didn’t miss much.

All of the 2018 Tattoo is on YouTube already.

A couple of my favorite acts:

and

 

And the Finale:

 

When they showed the videos of the Medal of Honor recipients, I thought it was amazing.  There is no way I could do any part of what they had done.

Just before leaving, I bought a teeshirt which said More Bagpipes.

When we got home this afternoon, it was a 4-hour nap.

 

 

🦓 Day 28: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

And today, we talk about pink jeeps and ziplines…

How in the world did we get here in a Cushing’s Challenge?  I’m sliding these in because earlier I linked (possibly!) my growth hormone use as a cause of my cancer – and I took the GH due to Cushing’s issues.  Clear?  LOL

I had found out that I had my kidney cancer on Friday, April 28, 2006 and my surgery on May 9, 2006.  I was supposed to go on a Cushie Cruise to Bermuda on May 14, 2006.  My surgeon said that there was no way I could go on that cruise and I could not postpone my surgery until after that cruise.

 

 

I got out of the hospital on the day that the other Cushies left for the cruise and realized that I wouldn’t have been much (ANY!) fun and I wouldn’t have had any.

An especially amusing thread from that cruise is The Adventures of Penelopee Cruise (on the Cushing’s Help message boards).  Someone had brought a UFC jug and decorated her and had her pose around the ship.

The beginning text reads:

Penelopee had a lovely time on Explorer of the Seas which was a five day cruise to Bermuda. She needed something to cheer her up since her brother, Tom, went off the deep end, but that’s another story!

Penelopee wanted to take in all of the sights and sounds of this lovely vessel. Every day she needed to do at least one special thing. Being a Cushie, she didn’t have enough spoons to do too much every day.

On the first day, she went sunning on the Libido deck……she didn’t last too long, only about 10 minutes. Goodness, look at her color! Do you think maybe her ACTH is too high?

Although I missed this trip, I was feeling well enough to go to Sedona, Arizona in August, 2006.  I convinced everyone that I was well enough to go off-road in a pink jeep,  DH wanted to report me to my surgeon but I survived without too much pain and posed for the header image.

In 2009, I figured I had “extra years” since I survived the cancer and I wanted to do something kinda scary, yet fun. So, somehow, I decided on ziplining. Tom wouldn’t go with me but Michael would so I set this up almost as soon as we booked a Caribbean cruise to replace the Cushie Cruise to Bermuda.

Each person had a harness around their legs with attached pulleys and carabiners. Women had them on their chests as well. In addition, we had leather construction gloves and hard hats.

We climbed to the top of the first platform and were given brief instructions and off we went. Because of the heavy gloves, I couldn’t get any pictures. I had thought that they would take some of us on the hardest line to sell to us later but they didn’t. They also didn’t have cave pictures or T-Shirts. What a missed opportunity!

This was so cool, so much fun. I thought I might be afraid at first but I wasn’t. I just followed instructions and went.

Sometimes they told us to brake. We did that with the right hand, which was always on the upper cable.

After the second line, I must have braked too soon because I stopped before I got to the platform. Michael was headed toward me. The guide on the end of the platform wanted me to do some hand over hand maneuver but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying so he came and got me by wrapping his legs around me and pulling me to the platform.

After that, no more problems with braking!

The next platform was very high – over 70 feet in the air – and the climb up was difficult. It was very hot and the rocks were very uneven. I don’t know that I would have gotten to the next platform if Michael hadn’t cheered me on all the way.

We zipped down the next six lines up to 250-feet between platforms and 85-feet high in the trees, at canopy level. It seemed like it was all over too soon.

But, I did it! No fear, just fun.

Enough of adventures – fun ones like these, and scary ones like transsphenoidal surgery and radical nephrectomy!

 

🦓 Day 27: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

People often ask me how I found out I had Cushing’s Disease.  Theoretically, it was easy.  In practice, it was very difficult.

Ladies Home Journal, 1983In 1983 I came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal which said: “If you have these symptoms…”

I found the row with my symptoms and the answer read “…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”.

After that article, I started reading everything I could on Cushing’s, I bought books that mentioned Cushing’s. I asked and asked my doctors for many years and all of them said that I couldn’t have it.  It was too rare.  I was rejected each time.

Due to all my reading at the library, I was sure I had Cushing’s but no one would believe me. My doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare, that I was making this up and that I couldn’t have it.

 

In med school, student doctors are told “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras“.

According to Wikipedia: “Zebra is a medical slang term for a surprising diagnosis. Although rare diseases are, in general, surprising when they are encountered, other diseases can be surprising in a particular person and time, and so “zebra” is the broader concept.

The term derives from the aphorism “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra”, which was coined in a slightly modified form in the late 1940s by Dr. Theodore Woodward, a former professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Since horses are the most commonly encountered hoofed animal and zebras are very rare, logically you could confidently guess that the animal making the hoofbeats is probably a horse. By 1960, the aphorism was widely known in medical circles.”

So, doctors typically go for the easily diagnosed, common diseases.  Just because something is rare doesn’t mean that no one gets it.  We shouldn’t be dismissed because we’re too hard to diagnose.

When I was finally diagnosed in 1987, 4 years later, it was only because I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker so my leg looked like a cut log with rings.

When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size of the rings. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.

Fortunately, that new doctor ran a twenty-four-hour urine test and really looked at me and listened to me.  Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s but, of course, couldn’t do anything further with me.  They packed me off to an endo where the process started again.

My final diagnosis was in October, 1987.  Quite a long time to simply  “…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”.

Looking back, I can see Cushing’s symptoms much earlier than 1983.  But, that ‘s for a different post…