Today is the final day of the 2019 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 have dwindled 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.
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 Gynaecologist 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 (Hirsutism), 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 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 uncontrollable 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 injectable 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:
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 2018, we have over 12 thousand members and many others on Facebook. Some “rare disease”!
The message boards are now very active and we have online text chats, occasional live interviews, local meetings, conferences, email newsletters, a clothing exchange, a Cushing’s Awareness Day Forum, podcasts, phone support and much more. Because I wanted to spread the word to others not on “the boards” we have extended out to social networking sites – twitter groups, facebook groups, interviews, websites, chat groups, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest and much, much more.
People are becoming more empowered and participating in their own diagnoses, testing and treatment. This has changed a lot since 1983!
When I had my Cushing’s over 31 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?
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 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!
I wrote parts of this in 2008 and other years, so all the “yesterdays” and “last weeks” are a quite a bit 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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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!
Saturday, 4/23/16 really was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.
Suffice it to say, we arrived at the Tattoo and I got no nap at all, all day!
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.
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 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.
Last but not least, 2019 – my best day was Tuesday, April 23. I just got a cortisol shot in my knee and I’m starting to feel hopeful for the future…
People often ask me how I found out I had Cushing’s Disease. Theoretically, it was easy. In practice, it was very difficult.
In 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…
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’m taking Water Aerobics for Arthritis and I try to go to class 3 times a week (I only miss for doctor appointments). I got a couple “part-time” jobs several years ago, my son and I play at Steinway Hall in NYC a couple times a year. We have plans to go on an exciting cruise this fall. Sometimes, I have to get cortisone shots in my left knee to make it pain-free but whatever works!
This is the one and only life I’ll ever have and I want to make the most of it, to the best of my ability!
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 cruise 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.
“In October 1998, the majestic schooner Fantome came face-to-face with one of the most savage storms in Atlantic history. The last days of the Fantome are reconstructed in vivid and heartbreaking detail through Jim Carrier’s extensive research and hundreds of personal interviews. What emerges is a story of courage, hubris, the agony of command, the weight of lives versus wealth, and the advances of science versus the terrible power and unpredictability of nature.”
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.
I finally started the Growth Hormone December 7, 2004. Was the hassle and 3 year wait worth it? Stay tuned for tomorrow, April 22, 2017 when all will be revealed.
So, as I said, I started Growth Hormone for my panhypopituitarism on December 7, 2004. I took it for a while but never really felt any better, no more energy, no weight loss. Sigh.
April 14, 2006, I went back to the endo and found out that the arginine test that was done in 2004 was done incorrectly. The directions were written unclearly and the test run incorrectly, not just for me but for everyone who had this test done there for a couple years. My endo discovered this when he was writing up a research paper and went to the lab to check on something.
So, I went off GH again for 2 weeks, then was retested. The “good news” was that the arginine test is only 90 minutes now instead of 3 hours.
Wow, what a nightmare my arginine retest started! I went back for that Thursday, April 27, 2006. Although the test was shorter, I got back to my hotel and just slept and slept. I was so glad that I hadn’t decided to go right home after the test.
Friday I felt fine and drove back home, no problem. I picked up my husband for a biopsy he was having and took him to an outpatient surgical center. While I was there waiting for the biopsy to be completed, I started noticing blood in my urine and major abdominal cramps.
There were signs all over that no cell phones were allowed so I sat in the restroom (I had to be in there a lot, anyway!) and I left messages for several of my doctors on what I should do. It was Friday afternoon and most of them were gone 🙁 I finally decided to see my PCP after I got my husband home.
When Tom was done with his testing, his doctor took one look at me and asked if I wanted an ambulance. I said no, that I thought I could make it to the emergency room ok – Tom couldn’t drive because of the anesthetic they had given him. I barely made it to the ER and left the car with Tom to park. Tom’s doctor followed us to the ER and instantly became my new doctor.
They took me in pretty fast since I was in so much pain, and had the blood in my urine. At first, they thought it was a kidney stone. After a CT scan, my new doctor said that, yes, I had a kidney stone but it wasn’t the worst of my problems, that I had kidney cancer. Wow, what a surprise that was! I was admitted to that hospital, had more CT scans, MRIs, bone scans, they looked everywhere.
My new “instant doctor” felt that he wasn’t up to the challenge of my surgery, so he called in someone else. My next new “instant doctor” came to see me in the ER in the middle of the night. He patted my hand, like a loving grandfather might and said: “At least you won’t have to do chemotherapy”. And I felt so reassured.
It wasn’t until later, much after my surgery, that I found out that there was no chemo yet that worked for my cancer. I was so thankful for the way he told me. I would have really freaked out if he’d said that nothing they had was strong enough!
My open radical nephrectomy was May 9, 2006 in another hospital from the one where the initial diagnosis was made. My surgeon felt that he needed a specialist from that hospital because he believed pre-op that my tumor had invaded into the vena cava because of its appearance on the various scans. Luckily, that was not the case.
My entire left kidney and the encapsulated cancer (10 pounds worth!) were removed, along with my left adrenal gland and some lymph nodes. Although the cancer (renal cell carcinoma AKA RCC) was very close to hemorrhaging, the surgeon believed he got it all.
He said I was so lucky. If the surgery had been delayed any longer, the outcome would have been much different. I repeated the CT scans every 3 months, just to be sure that there is no cancer hiding anywhere. As it turns out, I can never say I’m cured, just NED (no evidence of disease). This thing can recur at any time, anywhere in my body.
I credit the arginine re-test with somehow aggravating my kidneys and revealing this cancer. Before the test, I had no clue that there was any problem. The arginine test showed that my IGF is still low but due to the kidney cancer I couldn’t take my growth hormone for another 5 years – so the test was useless anyway, except to hasten this newest diagnosis.
So… either Growth Hormone helped my cancer grow or testing for it revealed a cancer I might not have learned about until later.
My five years are more than up now. In about 3 weeks I will be 13 years free of this cancer! My kidney surgeon *thinks* it would be ok to try the growth hormone again. My endo says maybe. I’m still a little leery about this, especially where I didn’t notice that much improvement.
May 4, 2017 ~ My endo at Hopkins and I talked about maybe trying growth hormone again. We tested my levels locally and – surprise – everything is low, again.
So, we started the insurance routine again. My insurance rejected the growth hormone I took last time around. I just love how someone, a non-doctor who doesn’t know me, can reject my person endocrinologist’s recommendation. My endo who specializes in Growth Hormone, who runs clinical trials for Johns Hopkins on “Control of growth hormone secretion, genetic causes of growth hormone deficiency, consequences of growth hormone deficiency.”
That insurance person has the power over the highly trained physician. Blows my mind.
But I digress. My doctor has agreed to prescribe Omnitrope, the insurance-guy’s recommendation.
June 14, 2017 ~ I got a call from my insurance. They “may” need more information from my doctor…and they need it in 72 hours.
My doctor’s nurse says that they have to refer this to their pharmacy.
June 15, 2017 ~ I got a call from the Omnitrope folks who said they will need approval from my insurance company <sigh> but they will send me a starter prescription of 30 days worth.
June 16, 2017 ~ I got a call from the Specialty Pharmacy. They’re sending the first month supply on Tuesday. Estimated co-pay is $535 a month. I may have to rethink this whole thing 😦 We sure don’t have an extra $6000.00 a year, no matter how much better it might make me feel.
June 19, 2017 ~ The kit arrived with everything but the actual meds and sharps.
June 20, 2017 ~ The meds and sharps arrived along with the receipt. My insurance paid nearly $600 – and they took my copay out of my credit card for $533.
I still have to wait for the nurse’s visit to use this, even though I’ve used it in the past.
I’ve been doing some serious thinking in the last 24 hours. Even if I could afford $533 a month for this, should I spend this kind of money on something that may, or may not, help, that may, or may not, give me cancer again. We could do a couple cruises a year for this much money. I’ve pretty much decided that I shouldn’t continue, even though I haven’t taken the first dose of this round.
April 22, 2018 – I have been on the GH for nearly a year. I don’t feel any better, any less tired, haven’t lost any weight. The only change I notice is that I find myself more chatty, and I don’t like that. I’m thinking of going off this again after I’ve given it a year.
April 23, 2019 – I have been on the GH for nearly two years. I don’t feel any better, any less tired, haven’t lost any weight. The only change I notice is that I find myself more chatty, and I don’t like that. I’m thinking of going off this again since even the co-pay is so expensive. Last summer, I accidentally got water in my GH cartridge. From https://maryoblog.com/2018/07/06/cruise-to-bermuda-september-2017/
I had a huge growth hormone fail on this trip. I packed it exactly like I did here, but there was no fridge in the hotel. I’d planned on leaving it in Michael’s apartment but the first night we were tired and I left it in a container of ice. Of course, the ice melted and got into the cartridge so I threw it away. There was no GH for the entire cruise 😦.
There were no ill-effects that I noticed.
I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to take it with me when we travel through Heathrow Airport again in September.
I have seen this image several places online and it never ceases to crack me up. Sometimes, we really have strange things going on inside our bodies.
Usually, unlike Kermit, we ourselves know that something isn’t quite right, even before the doctors know. Keep in touch with your own body so you’ll know, even before the MRI.
I asked doctors for several 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.
Finally, someone did.
These days, there’s no excuse to keep you from learning all you can about what’s going on with you. There are your computer, books and the internet. Keep reading and learning all you can. You have a vested interest in what’s going on inside, not your doctor.