🦓 Day 12, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

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.

 

🦓 Day 10, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

 

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 7, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

 

On Becoming Empowered. Adapted from my blog post Participatory Medicine

This is kind of a “cheat” post since it’s a compilation of other posts, web pages, message board posts and some original thoughts.  I wrote it to submit to Robin’s Grand Rounds, hosted  on her blog.

For all of my early life, I was the good, compliant, patient.  I took whatever pills the doctor prescribed, did whatever tests h/she (most always a he) wrote for.  Believed that whatever he said was the absolute truth.  He had been to med school.  He knew what was wrong with me even though he didn’t live in my body 24/7 and experience what I did.

I know a lot of people are still like this.  Their doctor is like a god to them.  He can do no wrong – even if they don’t feel any better after treatment, even if they feel worse.  “But the doctor said…”

Anyway, I digress.

All this changed for me in 1983.

At first I noticed I’d stopped having my periods and, of course, I thought I was pregnant. I went to my Gynecologist who had no explanation. Lots of women lose their periods for a variety of reasons so no one thought that this was really significant.

Then I got really tired, overly tired. I would take my son to a half hour Choir rehearsal and could not stay awake for the whole time. I would lie down in the back of the van, set an alarm and sleep for the 30 minutes.

A whole raft of other symptoms started appearing – I grew a beard (Hirsuitism), gained weight even though I was on Weight Watchers and working out at the gym nearly every day, lost my period, everything hurt, got what is called a “moon face” and a “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck. I also got stretch marks. I was very depressed but it’s hard to say if that was because of the hormone imbalance or because I felt so bad and no one would listen to me.

I came across a little article in the Ladies Home Journal magazine which said “If you have these symptoms…ask your doctor about Cushing’s”. After that, I started reading everything I could on Cushing’s and asking my doctors. Due to all my reading at the library and medical books I bought, I was sure I had Cushing’s but no one would believe me. Doctors would say that Cushing’s Disease is too rare, that I was making this up and that I couldn’t have it.

I asked doctors for three years – PCP, gynecologist, neurologist, podiatrist – all said the now-famous refrain.  It’s too rare.  You couldn’t have Cushing’s.  I kept persisting in my reading, making copies of library texts even when I didn’t understand them, keeping notes.  I just knew that someone, somewhere would “discover” that I had Cushing’s.

My husband was on the doctors’ sides.  He was sure it was all in my mind (as opposed to all in my head!) and he told me to just think “happy thoughts” and it would all go away.

A Neurologist gave me Xanax. Since he couldn’t see my tumor with his Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine there was “no possibility” that it existed. Boy was he wrong!

Later in 1986 I started bruising incredibly easily. I could touch my skin and get a bruise. On New Year’s Day of 1987 I started bleeding under the skin. My husband made circles around the outside perimeter each hour with a marker, like the rings of a tree. When I went to my Internist the next day he was shocked at the size. He now thought I had a blood disorder so he sent me to a Hematologist/Oncologist.

Fortunately, the Hematologist/Oncologist ran a twenty-four hour urine test and really looked at me. Both he and his partner recognized that I had Cushing’s. Of course, he was sure that he did the diagnosis.  No matter that I had been pursuing this with other doctors for 3 years.

It was not yet determined if it was Cushing’s Disease (Pituitary) or Syndrome (Adrenal). However, he couldn’t help me any further so the Hematologist referred me to an Endocrinologist.

The Endocrinologist, of course, didn’t trust the other tests I had had done so I was back to square one. He ran his own multitude of tests. He had to draw blood at certain times like 9 AM. and 5 PM. There was a dexamethasone suppression test where I took a pill at 10 p.m. and gave blood at 9 am the next day. I collected gallons of urine in BIG boxes (Fun in the fridge!). Those were from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. to be delivered to his office by 9 a.m. same day. I was always worried that I’d be stopped in rush hour and the police would ask about what was in that big container. I think I did those for a week. He also did standard neurological tests and asked lots of questions.

When the endo confirmed that I had Cushing’s in 1987 he sent me 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. 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 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. Towards the end of my testing period, I was looking forward to the surgery just to get this whole mess over with. While I was at NIH, I was gaining about a pound a day!

The MRI still showed nothing, so they did a Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test. That scared me more than the prospect of surgery. (This test carries the risk of stroke and uncontrollable bleeding from the incision points.) Catheters were fed from my groin area to my pituitary gland and dye was injected. I could watch the whole procedure on monitors. I could not move during this test or for several hours afterwards to prevent uncontrolable bleeding from a major artery. The test did show where the tumor probably was located. Also done were more sophisticated dexamethasone suppression tests where drugs were administered by IV and blood was drawn every hour (they put a heplock in my arm so they don’t have to keep sticking me). I got to go home for a weekend and then went back for the surgery – the Transsphenoidal Resection. I fully expected to die during surgery (and didn’t care if I did) so I signed my will and wrote last letters to those I wanted to say goodbye to. During the time I was home just 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 a couple months later!

November 3, 1987, the surgeon, Dr. Ed Oldfield, cut the gum above my front teeth under my upper lip so there is no scar. He used tiny tools and microscopes. My tumor was removed successfully. In some cases (not mine) the surgeon uses a plug of fat from the abdomen to help seal the cut. Afterwards, I was in intensive care overnight and went to a neurology ward for a few days until I could walk without being dizzy. I had some major headaches for a day or two but they gave me drugs (morphine) for those. Also, I had cotton plugs in my nostrils. It was a big day when they came out. I had diabetes insipidus (DI) for a little while, but that went away by itself – thank goodness!

I had to use a foam product called “Toothies” to brush my teeth without hitting the incision. Before they let me go home, I had to learn to give myself an injection in my thigh. They sent me home with a supply of injectible cortisone in case my level ever fell too low (it didn’t). I was weaned gradually off cortisone pills (scary). I now take no medications. I had to get a Medic Alert bracelet. I will always need to tell medical staff when I have any kind of procedure – the effects of my excess cortisone will remain forever.

I went back to the NIH for several follow-up visits of a week each where they did all the blood and urine testing again. After a few years NIH set me free. Now I go to my “outside” endocrinologist every year for the dexamethasone suppression test, 24-hour urine and regular blood testing.

As I get further away from my surgery, I have less and less chance that my tumor will grow back. I have never lost all the weight I gained and I still have the hair on my chin but most of my other symptoms are gone. I am still and always tired and need a nap most days. I do not, however, still need to take whole days off just to sleep.

I consider myself very lucky that I was treated before I got as bad as some of the others on my floor at NIH but think it is crazy that these symptoms are not taken seriously by doctors.

My story goes on and if you’re interested some is on this blog and some is here:

Forbes Magazine | MaryO’s bio | Cushing’s and Cancer Blog | Guest Speakers | Interview Archive  1/3/08 | Cushing’s Awareness Day Testimonial Archive |

Because of this experience in getting a Cushing’s diagnosis – and later, a prescription for growth hormone – I was concerned that there were probably other people not being diagnosed with Cushing’s. When I searched online for Cushing’s, all the sites that came up were for dogs and horses with Cushing’s.  Not what I was looking for!

In July of 2000, I was talking with my dear friend Alice, who ran a wonderful menopause site, Power Surge, wondering why there weren’t many support groups online (OR off!) for Cushing’s.  This thought percolated through my mind for a few hours and I realized that maybe this was my calling.  Maybe I should be the one to start a network of support for other “Cushies” to help them empower themselves.

I wanted to educate others about the awful disease that took doctors years of my life to diagnose and treat – even after I gave them the information to diagnose me.  I didn’t want anyone else to suffer for years like I did.  I wanted doctors to pay more attention to Cushing’s disease.

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 led to a larger one, and a larger.  Today, in 2021, we have over 12 thousand members and many others on Facebook.  Some “rare disease”!

People are becoming more empowered and participating in their own diagnoses, testing and treatment.  This have changed a lot since 1983!

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 over a hundred 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 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, how I got the confidence and self-empowerment to challenge these doctors and their non-diagnoses over the years.  I’m glad 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?  How are you becoming empowered?

 

🦓 Day 5, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

In Day 9 on April 9, 2015, I wrote about how we got the Cushing’s colors of blue and yellow.  This post is going to be about the first Cushing’s ribbons.

I was on vacation  in September, 2001 when SuziQ called me to let me know that we had had our first Cushie casualty (that we knew about).

On the message boards, Lorrie wrote: Our dear friend, Janice died this past Tuesday, September 4, 2001. I received an IM from her best friend Janine, tonight. Janine had been reading the boards, as Janice had told her about this site, and she came upon my name and decided to IM me. I am grateful that she did. She said that she knew that Janice would want all of us to know that she didn’t just stop posting.

For all of the newcomers to the board that did not know Janice, she was a very caring individual. She always had something positive to say. Janice was 36 years old, was married and had no children. She had a miscarriage in December and began to have symptoms of Cushing’s during that pregnancy. After the pregnancy, she continued to have symptoms. When discussing this with her doctor, she was told that her symptoms were just related to her D&C. She did not buy this and continued until she received the accurate diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome (adrenal) in March of 2001. Tragically, Janice’s tumor was cancerous, a very rare form of Cushing’s.

Janice then had her tumor and adrenal gland removed by open adrenalectomy, a few months ago. She then began chemotherapy. She was very brave through this even though she experienced severe side effects, including weakness and dizziness. She continued to post on this board at times and even though she was going through so much, she continued with a positive attitude. She even gave me a referral to a doctor a few weeks ago. She was my inspiration. Whenever I thought I had it bad, I thought of what she was dealing with, and I gained more perspective.

Janice was having difficulty with low potassium levels and difficulty breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, a CT scan was done and showed tumor metastasis to the lungs. She then was begun on a more aggressive regimen of chemo. She was discharged and apparently seemed to be doing well.

The potassium then began to drop again, she spiked a temp and she was again admitted to the hospital. She improved and was set to be discharged and then she threw a blood clot into her lungs. She was required to be put on a ventilator. She apparently was at high risk for a heart attack. Her husband did not want her to suffer anymore and did not want her to suffer the pain of a heart attack and so chose for the doctors to discontinue the ventilator on Tuesday. She died shortly thereafter.

Janice was our friend. She was a Cushie sister. I will always remember her. Janine asked me to let her know when we get the Cushing’s ribbons made as she and the rest of Janice’s family would like to wear them in her memory. She said that Janice would want to do anything she could to make others more aware of Cushing’s.

The image at the top of the page shows the first blue and yellow ribbon which were worn at Janice’s funeral.  When we had our “official ribbons” made, we sent several to Janice’s family.

Janice was the first of us to die but there have been more, way too many more, over the years.  I’ll write a bit more about that on Day 21.

🦓 Day 4, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

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

“Give yourself, your condition, or your health focus a mascot. Is it a real person? Fictional? Mythical being? Describe them. Bonus points if you provide a visual!”

Our “Official mascot” is the zebra.

Our mascot
Our mascot

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.

zebra-mug
A zebra cup my DH bought me 🙂

By 1960, the aphorism was widely known in medical circles.”

Why? Because those of us who DO have a rare disorder know from personal experience what it feels like to be dismissed by a doctor or in many cases, multiple doctors. Many physicians have completely lost the ability to even imagine that zebras may exist!  Cushing’s is too rare – you couldn’t possible have that.  Well… rare means some people get it.  Why couldn’t it be me?

Although one of my signature images has a zebra, many have rainbows or butterflies in them so I guess that I consider those my own personal mascots.

I posted this in 2010 in 40 Days of Thankfulness: Days Twenty-Two through Thirty

I have a special affinity for rainbows. To me, a rainbow is a sign that things are going to be ok.

Years ago, our little family was in Florida. I felt guilty about going because my dad was terminally ill with his second bout of colon cancer. I was worried about him and said a little prayer for him.

I was lying on the beach while DH and our son were in the ocean and I looked up and saw a rainbow. It was a perfectly clear, sunny afternoon. I even called the people out of the water, in case it was something I wanted to see that didn’t really exist. They saw it, too.

Where in the world did that rainbow come from, if it wasn’t a sign that everything would be ok?

Butterflies are something else again.  I like them because I would like to think that my life has evolved like a butterfly’s, from something ugly and unattractive to something a big easier on the eye.

My Cushie self was the caterpillar, post-op is more butterfly-ish, if not in looks, in good deeds.

From July, 2008

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved butterflies for their beauty and what they stood for. I’ve always wanted to shed my cocoon and become someone else, someone beautiful, graceful.

One of my first memories as a kid was knocking on the back door of my house and when my mom answered, I’d pretend to somehow be an orphan, looking for some kind person to take me in. And I would try to be that different child, with new habits, in the hopes that my parents would somehow think better of me, love me more as this poor homeless kid than they did as their own.

The butterfly was trying to emerge but it never got too far. Somehow, I would slip into my original self and be a bother to my parents.

Hope springs eternal, though!

🦓 Day 3: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

Sleep.  Naps.  Fatigue, Exhaustion.  I still have them all.  I wrote on my bio in 1987 after my pituitary surgery “I am still and always tired and need a nap most days. I do not, however, still need to take whole days off just to sleep.

That seems to be changing back, at least on the weekends.  A recent weekend, both days, I took 7-hour naps each day and I still woke up tired. That’s awfully close to taking a whole day off to sleep again.

In 2006, I flew to Chicago, IL for a Cushing’s weekend in Rockford.  Someone else drove us to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for the day.  Too much travel, too Cushie, whatever, I was too tired to stay awake.  I actually had put my head down on the dining room table and fallen asleep but our hostess suggested the sofa instead.  Amazing that I traveled that whole distance – and missed the main event 😦

This sleeping thing really impacts my life.  Between piano lessons, I take a nap.  I sleep as late as possible in the mornings and afternoons are pretty much taken up by naps.  I nod off at night during TV. One time I came home between church services and missed the third service because I fell asleep.

I only TiVo old tv shows that I can watch and fall asleep to since I already know the ending.

A few years ago I was doing physical therapy twice a week for 2 hours at a time for a knee injury (read more about that in Bees Knees).  I come home from that exhausted – and in more pain than when I went.  I knew it was working and my knee got better for a while, but it’s such a time and energy sapper.  Neither of which I can really spare.

Maybe now that I’m nearly 15  years out from my kidney cancer (May 9, 2006) I’ve been back on Growth Hormone again.  My surgeon says he “thought” it’s ok.  I was sort of afraid to ask my endo about it, though but he gave me the go-ahead.  I want to feel better and get the benefits of the GH again but I don’t want any type of cancer again and I certainly can’t afford to lose another kidney.

I always laugh when I see that commercial online for something called Serovital.  I saw it in Costco the other day and it mentions pituitary right on the package.  I wish I could take the people buying this, sit them down and tell them not to mess with their pituitary glands.  But I won’t.  I’ll take a nap instead because I’m feeling so old and weary today, and yesterday.

Eventually, I did restart the GH, this time Omnitrope.

And tomorrow…

🦓 Day 2, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2021

The Seven Dwarves of Cushing's

So, these are only seven of the many, many symptoms of Cushing’s.  I had those above – and I often felt like I looked like one of those little bearded dwarves.

Cushing’s affects every part of the body.  It’s not like when I had kidney cancer and only the kidney was affected.


Here are some of the many areas affected.

  • Progressive obesity and skin changes
  • Weight gain and fatty tissue deposits, particularly around the midsection and upper back, in the face (moon face) and between the shoulders (buffalo hump). Some symptoms such as sudden weight gain, are caused by excess cortisol. The excess cortisol in the body does not increase protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It slows or nearly disables metabolism function, which can cause weight gain (fat accumulation) in the buttocks, abdomen, cheeks, neck, or upper back.
  • Loss of muscle mass. Some areas of the body, such as the arms and legs, will remain thin.
  • Pink or purple stretch marks (striae) on the skin of the abdomen, thighs, breasts and arms
  • Thinning, fragile skin that bruises easily
  • Slow healing of cuts, insect bites and infections
  • Acne

Women with Cushing’s syndrome may experience:

  • Thicker or more visible body and facial hair (hirsutism)
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods

Men with Cushing’s syndrome may experience:

  • Decreased libido
  • Decreased fertility
  • Erectile dysfunction

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Loss of emotional control
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • New or worsened high blood pressure
  • Glucose intolerance that may lead to diabetes
  • Headache
  • Bone loss, leading to fractures over time
  • Hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids – cholesterol – in the blood stream)
  • Recurrent opportunistic or bacterial infections
Think you have Cushing’s?  Get to a doctor and don’t give up!


         

💙 Post-Op Pituitary COVID Injection 1

 

Quick takeaway: I have adrenal insufficiency (one adrenal was removed with my kidney due to cancer, steroid-dependent (post-Cushing’s Disease), growth hormone insufficiency, panhypopituitary.  I had some issues after my first COVID-19 injection (Moderna) but not too bad.  My second injection will be March 15.


January 12, 2021 my Mom’s doctor called and offered her the vaccine but she didn’t want it. She said she didn’t go anywhere.  True but my DH and I do – and she has a friend visit once a month.  I joked to a friend that I could put on a wig and go as her since we have the same first name.

I have been doing the COVID-19 Patient Monitoring System through my doctor’s office since it was first offered.  Just a few boxes of how I’m feeling, if I wore a mask and so on.  I am a strong believer in helping to participate in medical trials, as I mention below.  This one is very easy and takes about a minute out of my day.  Easy-peasy.

I’ve been on the Fairfax Waiting List since January 19, 2021.  As of right now, they are still scheduling people from January 18 – I read somewhere that 41,000-some people registered on the 18th, so it may be a while to get to my date.  They have set up an interesting dashboard to track how things are going  https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus/vaccine/data

I got a link from a friend when CVS opened up clinics in my state – https://www.cvs.com/vaccine/intake/store/covid-screener/covid-qns

I kept the CVS link open and checked it every morning.  Everything was full until Saturday, February 13.  I was able to register at about 5 am.  When I went back about 20 minutes later, everything was gone.

 

CVS sent out an informative email with directions, dates, ics file to easily add to calendar,

On the day of your appointment:

•Please arrive early enough to check in before your scheduled appointment. Arriving late for your appointment may result in an extended wait time.

•Bring your ID and insurance card, voucher or other coverage

•Don’t forget a face covering—wearing it throughout your visit is required

•When you arrive, please check in at the pharmacy area inside the store or follow the signs for the COVID-19 vaccine

CVS tips for vaccine shots:

•Wearing short sleeves makes getting a shot easier and faster

•If you must wear long sleeves, dress in layers with the short sleeves underneath

Review the patient fact sheet about the specific vaccine you are receiving

What to do if you feel sick or have COVID-19 symptoms:

•Contact your health care provider immediately

•If your provider recommends it, get tested for COVID-19

Cancel your appointment

•Don’t come to the pharmacy

•Schedule a new appointment when you’re well

After your vaccine:

•Be prepared to stay for 15 to 30 minutes after the COVID-19 vaccination so you can be observed for side effects.

•If you experience side effects from your COVID-19 vaccine dose, you may find some guidance at Coronavirus: Vaccine, Prevention Tips & FAQs

•The CDC has created a way for you to report how you feel after the COVID-19 vaccination through a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to check in with you. Learn about v-safe and sign up today.

And a short survey, which I took – just add up to 5 stars and write a short paragraph.

Monday, February 15, 2021: When I got to CVS, I found that everything was very well run.

I got a text from CVS asking me to click a link when I arrived at 3:30 and it gave me directions on where to go.

I was met by someone at door who checked my name – I showed him my phone screen – he showed me where to walk following arrows on floor.  Then I was met by so someone who checked my name and he asked if I had done the texting thing (yes!).

There were 4 people ahead of me that I could see.  It went very fast.  I was in the little room within less than 10 minutes.

The nurse asked if left arm was ok to use.

She told me to treat the little quarantine form like gold.  Take a picture on my phone, just in case.  Maybe laminate after second shot.  Keep it with passport.

She said that old folks (like me!) didn’t have as many issues after second shot.

The shot was very fast – I never felt it.

The nurse said if I get a headache, take Tylenol only.  I said that was all I could take anyway because I have only one kidney.

I sat in the waiting area for 15 minutes to be sure there were no problems  There were about 10 or so people sitting around the store that I could see at various stages of their 15 minutes.

I was glad to see that it was Moderna (MRNA) although I would have taken either.  I have a long-standing issue with the other drug company, unrelated to COVID vaccines.

I posted on FB that I had done my first injection and a friend told me about registering at vsafe.cdc.gov for them to keep track of me after the vaccination.  I signed up for that right away – and I noticed that CVS had also given me that link.

About 12 hours later (3:30 am) I got up to go to the bathroom and noticed that my arm was a little sore. No biggie.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021:  I just got my first dose of Moderna yesterday – sore arm, so far.

The nurse told me yesterday that older people like myself (I’m 72) had fewer side effects since we had been exposed to more things over the years.  I’m not sure how accurate that is but I’ll hold on to that hope until I get my second dose on March 15!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021:  I had weird dreams overnight but I got up about 4:00 am.  I did some work and fell back asleep until 10:15.

We didn’t go to water exercise. I decided at the very last minute, walking out the door. Reaction to Monday shot?  I had a little headache, dizzy, congested, very tired.  I should have taken more cortisone at this time but didn’t remember until 8:30 pm.

I slept more until about 2 pm and had very weird dreams – I don’t know if the dreams are part of it or not but I reported them to the safe.cdc.gov questionnaire.

I cancelled piano lessons for the day.  I wrote to my students:

I am so sorry but I need to cancel today’s lesson.  I had the first COVID vaccination on Monday afternoon.  I was feeling fine yesterday so I assumed that I wasn’t going to have any side effects but they caught up with me today.  It’s just a headache , a bit of congestion and fatigue (I’ve been sleeping all day so far) but I don’t think I would be at my best during XXX’s lesson.

See you next week…

After cancelling lessons, I went back to sleep until time for Pender’s 7 pm Ash Wednesday service.  I was felling cold but I don’t know if it was chills or really a cold.  I started coughing a little.

At night, I remembered I should have up-dosed. I told my DH that night if he ever noticed me like this again, it was the perfect time to tell me to stress dose.  It never occurred to me during the day.

At that point, I realized I hadn’t eaten all day.  I had dinner (I was surprised that I could eat it) at 9:25 and did my growth hormone injection.

I went to bed at 11 p.

Thursday, February 18, 2021: I’m a little more tired than usual but ok.  I spent time napping and working alternated through the day.

Friday, February 19, 2021: Just the normal tiredness.  Hooray!


Info below from https://medshadow.org/covid19-vaccine-side-effects/  I’ve had the bold ones so far after the first injection.

Moderna

Moderna started Phase III clinical trials for its vaccine candidate in July. In earlier trials, nearly half of patients experienced common adverse effects like injection site pain, rash, headaches, muscle soreness, nausea and fevers after the second injection. These effects generally subsided within two days. CNBC spoke to a few individuals, some participating in Moderna’s trial and some in Pfizer’s trial who said much the same thing: the side effects were intense and included a high fever, body aches, bad headaches and exhaustion, but were worth it for protection from Covid-19.

In the FDA report published in December, the most common side effects were pain at injection site (91.6% of patients), fatigue (68.5%), headache (63.0%), muscle pain (59.6%), joint pain (44.8%), and chills (43.4%). Three patients experienced Bell’s Palsy, a sudden, and usually temporary, weakening or paralysis of the facial muscles.

A few patients with facial fillers experienced swelling after receiving the vaccine. They were treated with antihistamines and steroids. In California, officials halted the use of one particular batch of Moderna vaccines (lot 41L20A) after a small cluster (fewer than 10) of patients at one particular site experienced allergic reactions that required medical attention.

Out of the first 7.5 million doses administered from Dec 14- Jan 18, 19 cases of anaphylaxis were reported to VAERS after the Moderna vaccine. No patients have died from anaphylaxis. Patients are now being monitored for 15-30 minutes after receiving the vaccine to watch for signs of anaphylaxis.

Many patients are reporting injection site reactions that show up shortly after the injection or up to a week later. These reactions — which are characterized by swelling, redness, itching, rashes, heat and pain — are expected to last a day to a week. Physicians emphasize that while these effects can be scary, they are not dangerous and should not prevent someone from getting the second shot. So far, doctors do not report seeing these reactions after the second shot, however so few have been given so far that scientists are not sure how common it will be on round two.

The CDC reports that 11% of patients experienced swollen lymph nodes after the first shot. That raised to 16% after the second shot.

A study posted on Feb 1 showed that patients who received the vaccine after having been previously infected with COVID-19 showed greater immune response to the first shot and more intense side effects that are associated with strong immune responses like fever and muscle aches. The study included patients who received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Some scientists believe these patients may only need a single shot to provide sufficient immunity, but more research is needed.

Moderna has announced that it will begin testing its vaccine in children and adolescents, who they believe may have stronger immune responses, leading to more intense side effects.

This page has information about the other brands of vaccine: https://fairfaxcountyemergency.wpcomstaging.com/2021/02/16/what-you-need-to-know-when-you-get-vaccinated-and-after-you-get-vaccinated/

🦓 Day 27, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2020

I first saw a similar image to this one with the saying Life. Be in it at a recreation center when my son was little.  At the time, it was “Duh, of course, I’m in it”.

The original image was a couple of males, a couple of females, and a dog walking/running.  No folks in wheelchairs, no older folks, and certainly no zebras.

It would be nice to have everyone out there walking or running but that’s not real life, at least in the Cushie world.  It’s been a long time since I’ve really been In My Life – maybe it’s time to get back.

A dear friend who has not one, but two forms of cancer was traveling throughout Europe for the first time after her husband’s death wrote:

Some final words before I turn in for the night. If there is a spark of desire within you to do something which is not contrary to God’s Holy Law, find a way to make it happen. All things are possible and blessings abound for those who love Him. Life is such an adventure. Don’t be a spectator – live every single moment for Him and with Him.

Somedays, it’s hard even getting up in the morning but I’m trying.  I take Water Aerobics for People with Arthritis and I actually went to class three times a week until COVID-19, I got a “part-time” job several years ago, I’m now teaching piano online, my son and I play at Steinway Hall in NYC twice a year and we have plans for a cruise to Norway in August.

This is the one and only life I’ll ever have and I want to make the most of it!

 

🦓Day 24, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2020

This is another semi-religious post so feel free to skip it 🙂

I’m sure that many would think that Abide With Me is a pretty strange choice for my all-time favorite hymn.

My dad was a Congregational (now United Church of Christ) minister so I was pretty regular in church attendance in my younger years.

Some Sunday evenings, he would preach on a circuit and I’d go with him to some of these tiny churches.  The people there, mostly older folks, liked the old hymns best – Fanny Crosby and so on.

So, some of my “favorite hymns” are those that I sang when I was out with my Dad.  Fond memories from long ago.

In 1986 I was finally diagnosed with Cushing’s after struggling with doctors and trying to get them to test for about 5 years.  I was going to go into the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in Bethesda, MD for final testing and then-experimental pituitary surgery.

I was terrified and sure that I wouldn’t survive the surgery.

Somehow, I found a 3-cassette tape set of Readers Digest Hymns and Songs of Inspiration and ordered that. The set came just before I went to NIH and I had it with me.

At NIH I set up a daily “routine” of sorts and listening to these tapes was a very important part of my day and helped me get through the ordeal of more testing, surgery, post-op and more.

When I had my kidney cancer surgery, those tapes were long broken and irreplaceable, but I had replaced all the songs – this time on my iPod.

Abide With Me was on this original tape set and it remains a favorite to this day.  Whenever we have an opportunity in church to pick a favorite, my hand always shoots up and I request page 700.  When someone in one of my handbell groups moves away, we always sign a hymnbook and give it to them.  I sign page 700.

I think that many people would probably think that this hymn is depressing.  Maybe it is but to me it signifies times in my life when I thought I might die and I was so comforted by the sentiments here.

This hymn is often associated with funeral services and has given hope and comfort to so many over the years – me included.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

~John 15:7

Abide With Me

Words: Henry F. Lyte, 1847.

Music: Eventide, William H. Monk, 1861. Mrs. Monk described the setting:

This tune was written at a time of great sorrow—when together we watched, as we did daily, the glories of the setting sun. As the last golden ray faded, he took some paper and penciled that tune which has gone all over the earth.

Lyte was inspired to write this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis; he finished it the Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the parish he served so many years. The next day, he left for Italy to regain his health. He didn’t make it, though—he died in Nice, France, three weeks after writing these words. Here is an excerpt from his farewell sermon:

O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.

For over a century, the bells of his church at All Saints in Lower Brixham, Devonshire, have rung out “Abide with Me” daily. The hymn was sung at the wedding of King George VI, at the wedding of his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II, and at the funeral of Nobel peace prize winner Mother Teresa of Calcutta in1997.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see;

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;

But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,

Familiar, condescending, patient, free.

Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,

But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,

Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—

Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;

And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,

Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,

On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.

What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;

Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.

Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.