Day 28: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2017

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 30, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

Today is the final day of the 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 become a tradition.

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 2016

People sometimes 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.

Day 28, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

Over the years, we went on several Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.  We liked them because they were small, casual and were fairly easy on the wallet.

They sailed around the Caribbean to a variety of islands, although they sometimes changed itineraries depending on weather, crew, whatever.  One trip we were supposed to go to Saba but couldn’t make port.  A lot of people got off at the next port and flew home.

The captains were prone to “Bedtime Stories” which were often more fiction than true but they added to the appeal of the trip.  We didn’t care if we missed islands or not – we were just there to sail over the waves and enjoy the ride.

The last trip we took with them was about two years before I started having Cushing’s problems.  (You wondered how I was going to tie this together, right?)

The cuise was uneventful, other than the usual mishaps like hitting docks, missing islands and so on.  Until it was a particularly rough sea one day.  I was walking somewhere on deck and suddenly a wave came up over the deck making it very slippery.  I fell and cracked the back of my head on the curved edge of a table in the dining area.  I had the next-to-the-worse headache I have ever had, the worst being after my pituitary surgery. At least after the surgery I got some morphine.

We asked several doctors later if that hit could have contributed to my Cushing’s but doctors didn’t want to get involved in that at all.

The Windjammer folks didn’t fare much better, either. In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch was responsible for the loss of the s/v Fantome (the last one we were on).

All 31 crew members aboard perished; passengers and other crew members had earlier been offloaded in Belize.

The story was recorded in the book The Ship and the Storm: Hurricane Mitch and the Loss of the Fantome  by Jim Carrier.  The ship, which was sailing in the center of the hurricane, experienced up to 50-foot (15 m) waves and over 100 mph (160 km/h) winds, causing the Fantome to founder off the coast of Honduras.

This event was similar to the Perfect Storm in that the weather people were more interested in watching the hurricane change directions than they were in people who were dealing with its effects.

I read this book and I was really moved by the plight of those crew members.

I’ll never know if that hit on my head contributed to my Cushing’s but I have seen several people mention on the message boards that they had a traumatic head injury of some type in their earlier lives.

Day 27, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

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 one a couple males, a couple 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’ve tried Water Aerobics for People with Arthritis and I actually went to class twice a week, I got a “part-time” job four years ago, my son and I will play at Steinway Hall in NYC again in June, we have plans for another trip to Scotland to see/hear the Edinburgh Tattoo again.  This year, we plan to go to Lockerbie, as well!

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

Day 26, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

So often during the diagnosis phase of Cushing’s I felt like this picture – I was walking alone to an unknown place with an unknown future.

My diagnosis was pre-Internet which meant that any information had to be gotten from libraries, bookstores, magazines…or doctors.  In 1983 to 1986 I knew something was terribly wrong but there was no backup from doctors, family or friends.  My first hope was from a magazine (see Day Six)

After I got that first glimmer of hope, it was off to the library to try to understand medical texts.  I would pick out words I did understand – and it was more words each trip.  I made Xerox copies of my findings to read at home and try to digest. (I still have all those old pages!)

All my research led me to Cushing’s.

Unfortunately, the research didn’t lead me to doctors who could help for several years.  That contributed greatly to the loneliness.  If a Doctor says you’re not sick, friends and family are going to believe the doctor, not you.  After all, he’s the one trained to know what’s wrong, or find out.

I was so grateful when I finally got into a clinical trial at NIH and was so nice not to be alone with this mystery illness.  I was also surprised to learn, awful as I felt, there were Cushies much worse off than I was.

I am so glad that the Internet is here now helping us all know that we’re not alone anymore.

We’re all in this together with help, support, research, just being there.  I love this quote from Catherine at http://wheniwasyou.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/wheniwasyou/

Mary, I am delighted to see you here. Cushings – because of the persistent central obesity caused by (we know now) the lack of growth hormone plus the hypothyroidism I was diagnosed with (but for which treatment was ineffective due to my lack of cortisol) – was one of the things I considered as an explanation for my symptoms. Your site was enormously educational and helpful to me in figuring out what might be happening to me. Those other patient testimonies I referred to? Many of them were the bios you posted. Thank you so much for commenting. I am so grateful for the support and encouragement. I really hope that my experiences will help other undiagnosed hypopituitary patients find their way to a diagnosis. I often used to dream that one day I’d get to say to others what was so often said to me: don’t give up, there will be an answer. I kept believing in myself because people I hadn’t even met believed in me. Now I am finally here and I do hope my story will help others to have faith in their own instincts.

Thanks again. Please do keep in touch.

Catherine

Day 25, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

bestday

I wrote parts of this in 2008, so all the “yesterdays” and “last weeks” are a little off. 

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 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:

Awhile 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 this year…

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!

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