🦓 Day 13, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2022

UVA 2004
Cushing’s Conventions have always been special times for me – we learn a lot, get to meet other Cushies, even get referrals to endos!

As early as 2001 (or before) my pituitary function was dropping.  My former endo tested annually but did nothing to help me with the symptoms.

In the fall of 2002 my endo refused to discuss my fatigue or anything at all with me until I lost 10 pounds. He said I wasn’t worth treating in my overweight condition and that I was setting myself up for a heart attack. He gave me 3 months to lose this weight. Those 3 months included Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Needless to say, I left his office in tears, again.

Fast forward 2 years to 2004.  I had tried for a while to get my records from this endo. He wouldn’t send them, even at doctors’ or my requests.

I wanted to go see Dr. Vance at UVa but I had no records so she wouldn’t see me until I could get them.

Finally, my husband went to the former endo’s office and threatened him with a court order. The office manager managed to come up with about 13 pages of records. For going to him from 1986 to 2001 including weeks and weeks at NIH and pituitary surgery, that didn’t seem like enough records to me.

In April of 2004, many of us from the message boards went to the UVa Pituitary Days Convention. That’s where the picture above comes in.  Other pictures from that convention are here.

By chance, we met a wonderful woman named Barbara Craven. She sat at our table for lunch on the last day and, after we learned that she was a dietitian who had had Cushing’s, one of us jokingly asked her if she’d do a guest chat for us. I didn’t follow through on this until she emailed me later. In the email, she asked how I was doing. Usually I say “fine” or “ok” but for some reason, I told her exactly how awful I was feeling.

Barbara emailed me back and said I should see a doctor at Johns Hopkins. I said I didn’t think I could get a recommendation to there, so SHE referred me. The doctor got right back to me, set up an appointment. Between his vacation and mine, that first appointment turned out to be Tuesday, Sept 14, 2004.

Just getting through the maze at Johns Hopkins was amazing. They have the whole system down to a science, moving from one place to another to sign in, then go here, then window 6, then… But it was very efficient.

My new doctor was wonderful. Understanding, knowledgeable. He never once said that I was “too fat” or “depressed” or that all this was my own fault. I feel so validated, finally.

He looked through my records, especially at my 2 previous Insulin Tolerance Tests (ITT). From those, he determined that my growth hormone has been low since at least August 2001 and I’ve been adrenal insufficient since at least Fall, 1999 – possibly as much as 17 years! I was amazed to hear all this, and astounded that my former endo not only didn’t tell me any of this, he did nothing. He had known both of these things – they were in the past records that I took with me. Perhaps that was why he had been so reluctant to share copies of those records. He had given me Cortef in the fall of 1999 to take just in case I had “stress” and that was it.

The new endo took a lot of blood (no urine!) for cortisol and thyroid stuff. I went back on Sept. 28, 2004 for arginine, cortrosyn and IGF testing.

He said that I would end up on daily cortisone – a “sprinkling” – and some form of GH, based on the testing the 28th.

For those who are interested, my new endo is Roberto Salvatori, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins

Medical School: Catholic University School of Medicine, Rome, Italy
Residency: Montefiore Medical Center
Fellowship: Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University
Board Certification: Endocrinology and Metabolism, Internal Medicine

Clinical Interests: Neuroendocrinology, pituitary disorders, adrenal disorders

Research Interests: Control of growth hormone secretion, genetic causes of growth hormone deficiency, consequences of growth hormone deficiency.

Although I have this wonderful doctor, a specialist in growth hormone deficiency at Johns Hopkins, in November, 2004, my insurance company saw fit to over-ride his opinions and his test results based on my past pharmaceutical history! Hello??? How could I have a history of taking GH when I’ve never taken it before?

Of course, I found out late on a Friday afternoon. By then it was too late to call my case worker at the drug company, so we had to appeal on Monday. My local insurance person also worked on an appeal, but the whole thing was just another long ordeal of finding paperwork, calling people, FedExing stuff, too much work when I just wanted to start feeling better by Thanksgiving.

As it turned out the insurance company rejected the brand of hGH that was prescribed for me. They gave me the ok for a growth hormone was just FDA-approved for adults on 11/4/04. The day this medication was approved for adults was the day after my insurance said that’s what is preferred for me. In the past, this form of hGH was only approved for children with height issues. Was I going to be a guinea pig again?

The new GH company assigned a rep for me, submitted info to pharmacy, and waited for insurance approval, again.

I finally started the Growth Hormone December 7, 2004.

Was the hassle and 3 year wait worth it?

Stay tuned when all will be revealed.

Read Dr. Barbara Craven’s Guest Chat, October 27, 2004

Thanks for reading 🙂

MaryO

🎤 Archived Interview: Cushing’s Diagnosis and Symptoms, part 2

 

Listen as Robin Smith (staticnrg) and Mary O’Connor (MaryO) co-host Cushing’s message board members calling in to talk about their fight for diagnosis and treatment. The show will be opened with a brief explanation of what Cushing’s is and what the symptoms are.

Listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/03/13/-cushings-diagnosis-and-symptoms-part-2

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🦓 Day 12, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2022

In March of 1987, after the endo finally confirmed that I had Cushing’s, I was sent to a local hospital where they repeated all those same tests for another week and decided that it was not my adrenal gland (Cushing’s Syndrome) creating the problem. The doctors and nurses had no idea what to do with me, so they put me on the brain cancer ward.

When I left this hospital after a week, we didn’t know any more than we had before.

As luck would have it, NIH (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland) was doing a clinical trial of Cushing’s. I live in the same area as NIH so it was not too inconvenient but very scary at first to think of being tested there. At that time I only had a choice of NIH, Mayo Clinic and a place in Quebec to do this then-rare pituitary surgery called a Transsphenoidal Resection.

My husband asked my endo if it were his wife, if he would recommend this surgery.  The endo responded that he was divorcing his wife – he didn’t care what happened to her.  Oh, my!

I chose NIH – closest and free. After I was interviewed by the doctors there, I got a letter that I had been accepted into the clinical trial.

The night before I was admitted, I signed my will.  I was sure I was going to die there.  If not during testing, as a result of surgery.

 

The first time I was there was for 6 weeks as an inpatient. More of the same tests.

There were about 12 of us there and it was nice not to be alone with this mystery disease. Many of these Cushies (mostly women) were getting bald, couldn’t walk, having strokes, had diabetes. One was blind, one had a heart attack while I was there. Several were from Greece.

My first roommate was a nurse.  She spent the entire first night screaming in pain.  I was very glad when they moved me to a new room!

Towards the end of my testing period, I was looking forward to the surgery just to get this whole mess over with – either a cure or dying. While I was at NIH, I was gaining about a pound a day!

During the time I was home the weekend  before surgery, a college classmate of mine (I didn’t know her) DID die at NIH of a Cushing’s-related problem. I’m so glad I didn’t find out until reading the alumnae magazine a couple months later!  She was the same class, same major, same home-town, same disease…

We have a Scottish doctor named James Lind to thank for the clinical trial.  He  conducted the first ever clinical trial in 1747 and developed the theory that citrus fruits cured scurvy.  Lind  compared the effects of various different acidic substances, ranging from vinegar to cider, on groups of afflicted sailors, and found that the group who were given oranges and lemons had largely recovered from scurvy after 6 days.

I’d like to think that I advanced the knowledge of Cushing’s at least a little bit by being a guinea  pig in 1987-1989.

From the NIH: http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx

Hope through Research

Several components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research on Cushing’s syndrome and other disorders of the endocrine system, including the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Center for Research Resources.

NIH-supported scientists are conducting intensive research into the normal and abnormal function of the major endocrine glands and the many hormones of the endocrine system. Researchers continue to study the effects of excess cortisol, including its effect on brain structure and function. To refine the diagnostic process, studies are under way to assess the accuracy of existing screening tests and the effectiveness of new imaging techniques to evaluate patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome. Researchers are also investigating jugular vein sampling as a less invasive alternative to petrosal sinus sampling. Research into treatment options includes study of a new drug to treat the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.

Studies are under way to understand the causes of benign endocrine tumor formation, such as those that cause most cases of Cushing’s syndrome. In a few pituitary adenomas, specific gene defects have been identified and may provide important clues to understanding tumor formation. Endocrine factors may also play a role. Increasing evidence suggests that tumor formation is a multistep process. Understanding the basis of Cushing’s syndrome will yield new approaches to therapy.

The NIH supports research related to Cushing’s syndrome at medical centers throughout the United States. Scientists are also treating patients with Cushing’s syndrome at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. Physicians who are interested in referring an adult patient may contact Lynnette Nieman, M.D., at NICHD, 10 Center Drive, Room 1-3140, Bethesda, MD 20892-1109, or by phone at 301-496-8935. Physicians interested in referring a child or adolescent may contact Constantine Stratakis, M.D., D.Sc., at NICHD, 10 Center Drive, Room 1-3330, Bethesda, MD 20892-1103, or by phone at 301-402-1998.

 

🎤 Archived Interview with Judy, Mom to Two Cushing’s Patients, and her Daughter, Jess

 

Interview with Judy, the mother of two Cushing’s patients, and her daughter, Jess, a high school student with Cushing’s. Robin (staticnrg) hosted.

Sadly, Judy died on December 15, 2019, after battling lung cancer, Atrial fibrillation, and total body weakness.  She was a great warrior for her children.  Here’s her bio: https://cushingsbios.com/2019/12/15/in-memory-judy-kennedy-december-15-2019/

 

Listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/01/17/judy-mom-to-2-cushings-patients-and-her-daughter-jess

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🦓 Day 11, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2022

Blue and Yellow – we have those colors on ribbons, websites, T-shirts, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge logos and even cars.

This is the yellow PT cruiser I had rented for the Columbus, OH meeting in 2007.  I didn’t ask for yellow.  That’s just what the rental company gave me.  Somehow, they knew.

This meeting is the one when we all met at Hoggy’s for dinner although some of us travelers stayed at this hotel.

I’m the one in yellow and blue.

Later in 2007, I bought my own truly Cushie Car.  I even managed to get a butterfly on the tags.

So, where did all this blue and yellow come from, anyway?  The answer is so easy and without any thought that it will amaze you!

In July of 2000, I was talking with my dear friend Alice, who ran a wonderful menopause site, Power Surge.  We 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 maybe I could.

This website (http://www.cushings-help.com) first went “live” July 21, 2000.  It was a one-page bit of information about Cushing’s.  Nothing fancy.  No message boards, no blogs, no wiki, no image galleries…  Certainly no Cushing’s Awareness Challenges.

I didn’t know much about HTML (yet!) but I knew a little from what Alice had taught me and I used on my music studio site.  I didn’t want to put as much work <COUGH!> into the Cushing’s site as I had on the music studio site so I used a now defunct  WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web editor called Microsoft FrontPage.

One of their standard templates was – you guessed it! – blue and yellow.

TaDa!  Instant Cushie color scheme forever.  Turns out that the HTML that this software churned out was really awful and had to be entirely redone as the site grew.  But the colors stuck.

Now, in this day of mobile web browsers and people going online on their cellphones, the website is being redone yet again.  But the colors are still, and always, blue and yellow.

 

 

🦓 Day 10, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2022

 

This is one of the suggestions from the Cushing’s Awareness Challenge post:

What have you learned about the medical community since you have become sick?

This one is so easy. I’ve said it a thousand times – you know your own body better than any doctor will. Most doctors have never seen a Cushing’s patient, few ever will in the future.

If you believe you have Cushing’s (or any other rare disease), learn what you can about it, connect with other patients, make a timeline of symptoms and photographs. Read, take notes, save all your doctors’ notes, keep your lab findings, get second/third/ten or more opinions.  Make a calendar showing which days you had what symptoms.  Google calendars are great for this.

This is your life, your one and only shot (no pun intended!) at it. Make it the best and healthiest that you can.

When my friend and fellow e-patient Dave deBronkart learned he had a rare and terminal kidney cancer, he turned to a group of fellow patients online and found a medical treatment that even his own doctors didn’t know. It saved his life.

In this video, he calls on all patients to talk with one another, know their own health data, and make health care better one e-Patient at a time.

7a4e4-maryoonerose

🦓 Day 9, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2022

Uh, Oh – I’m nearly a day late (and a dollar short?)…and I’m not yet sure what today’s topic will be.  I seem swamped by everything lately, waking up tired, napping, going to bed tired, waking up in the middle of the night, starting all over again…and the coronavirus which makes everything more hectic, stressful and tiring.

It’s been like this since I was being diagnosed with Cushing’s in the mid-1980’s.  You’d think things would be improved in the last 33 years.  But, no.

My mind wants things to have improved, so I’ve taken on more challenges, and my DH has provided some for me (see one of my other blogs, MaryOMedical).

Thank goodness, I have only part-time jobs (4 0f them!), that I can mostly do from home.  I don’t know how anyone post-Cushing’s could manage a full-time job!

I can see this post morphing into the topic “My Dream Day“…

I’d wake up refreshed and really awake at about 7:00AM and take the dog out for a brisk run.

Get home about 8:00AM and start on my website work.

Later in the morning, I’d get some bills paid – and there would be enough money to do so!

After lunch, out with the dog again, then practice the piano some, read a bit, finish up the website work, teach a few piano students, work on my church job, then dinner.

After dinner, check email, out with the dog, maybe handbell or choir practice, a bit of TV, then bed about 10PM

Nothing fancy but NO NAPS.  Work would be getting done, time for hobbies, the dog, 3 healthy meals.

Just a normal life that so many take for granted. Or, do they?

me-tired

🦓 From a Past Blogging Challenge

Since no other people signed up this year, I’m going to be reposting some past Blogging Challenge Posts:

From Danielle’s Blog at http://www.lifewithcushings.com/

Today, I’m going to be talking about my Cushing’s story, which still continues, even 8 years after I was diagnosed.

I remember the moment I realized something wasn’t right.  My mom was taking me to the mall, because none of my jeans fit me anymore.  She was talking about how she wished I would try to lose weight, because she has been overweight most of her life, and didn’t want that for me.  But, I needed pants to wear to school, so I bought another size up.  I remember thinking, nothing has changed.  I didn’t eat more, or less, I hadn’t stopped any activities.  Maybe this was just my metabolism slowing down.

Read more here: http://www.lifewithcushings.com/

🎤 Archived Interview: JenS discussed Bilateral Adrenalectomy (BLA)

Jen had Pituitary surgery by Dr. Shahinian 4/28/04, removed ACTH secreting corticotroph hyperplasia and prolactinoma.

She was diagnosed by Dr. Theodore Friedman as cyclical pituitary Cushings.

Her second Surgery 7/21/04 for infection resulted in neuralgia. She had a BLA in March 2006 as Corticol Hyperplasia returned and she now has possible Nelson’s syndrome. Jen also has Thyroid Issues (Hashimoto’s, multiple nodules and entire thyroid removed 2003) and she is Growth Hormone Deficient (3/2006)

Listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/02/29/jens-discusses-bilateral-adrenalectomy-bla

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⁉️ Cushing’s Myths and Facts: Cushing’s Syndrome/Disease can be healed or cured

Myth: Cushing’s Syndrome/Disease can be healed or cured through change in diet or exercise.

myth-busted

Fact: NO! Caloric intake or lack of exercise has NO impact on weight gain and/ or loss in persons with Cushing’s.

Saying that someone “cheated” on their diet may seem reasonable to some as a reason for weight gain but I assure you that a candy bar or a piece of pie does not make a person with Cushing’s gain weight or get sick. Excess cortisol is the reason for Cushing’s symptoms. Treating the disease is the only way to alleviate symptoms.

The first line of treatment with the highest rate of remission is currently surgery to remove the tumor (s) from the pituitary, adrenal gland, or ectopic source.