🦓 Day 15: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

Because it’s a Sunday again, this is a fairly religious post…

After I was finished with the Cushing’s long diagnostic process, surgery and several post-op visits to NIH, I was asked to give the scripture reading at my church. The man who preached the sermon that week was the survivor of a horrific accident where he and his family were hit by a van while waiting at an airport.

I thought I had written down the scripture reading carefully. I practiced and practiced. I don’t like speaking in front of a crowd but I said I would. When I got to church, the reading was different from what I had practiced. Maybe I wrote it down wrong, maybe someone changed it. Whatever.

The real scripture turned out to be Psalm 116. I got very emotional while reading this and started crying when I got to verse 8:

For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death“.

Others in the congregation who knew part of my story were very moved, too.

psalm-116-1-4

Psalm 116 (New International Version)

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

10 I believed; therefore I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”

11 And in my dismay I said,
“All men are liars.”

12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.

16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.

18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.

 

This Psalm has come to have so much meaning in my life.

When I saw a book called A Musician’s Book of Psalms each day had a different psalm. “My” psalm was listed as the reading for my birthday, so I had to buy this book!  For a while, it was the license plate on my car.

I used to carry a print out of this everywhere I go because I find it very soothing. “when I was in great need, he saved me.” This print out is in a plastic page saver but now I have this info on my phone and iPad.

On the other side there is an article I found after my kidney cancer.  You can read that article in tomorrow’s post.

 

 

⁉️ Myths and Facts about Cushing’s: After a “cure” for Cushing’s, everyone heals and goes back to normal.

Myth: After a “cure” for Cushing’s, everyone heals and goes back to normal. All Cushing’s patients can easily heal with no repercussions after Cushing’s. After pituitary surgery or a Bilateral Adrenalectomy (BLA), life is great and being “cured” means having a “normal” life! After all, surgery is a “cure” and about 6 weeks later, you are back to normal. “Say, you had surgery XYZ long ago! Shouldn’t you be better by now?!!!!”

myth-busted

Fact: I can not even tell you how many people asked me “aren’t you better yet?!” after both of my surgeries! There are too many to count! There is a misperception that surgery means a cure and therefore, healing should happen magically and quickly. No! No! No! This is far from the truth.

The sad reality is that even some medical doctors buy into this myth and expect quick healing in their patients. However, they are not living in their patients bodies nor have they obviously read the extensive research on this. Research has shown that the healing process after surgery is a long and extensive one. One endocrinologist, expert from Northwestern, even referred to the first year after pituitary surgery for patients as “the year from hell”! He literally quoted that on a slide presentation.

It takes at least one year after pituitary surgery, for instance, to even manage hormones effectively. Surgery is invasive and hard. However, the hardest part comes AFTER surgery. This is when the body is compensating for all of the years of hormonal dysregulation and the patient is trying to get his/her levels back to normal.

There is a higher rate of recurrence of Cushing’s then we once thought. This means that after a patient has achieved remission from this illness, it is likely to come back. In these cases, a patient faces other treatments that may include radiation, the same type of surgery, or an alternative surgery.

For many pituitary patients who experience multiple recurrences, the last resort is to attack the source by removing both adrenal glands. This procedure is known as a Bilateral Adrenalectomy or BLA. In these cases, it is said that the patient “trades one disease for another”, now becoming adrenally insufficient and having Addison’s Disease. Both Pituitary and Adrenal patients are faced with a lifetime of either Secondary or Primary Adrenal Insufficiency.

Adrenal Insufficiency is also life threatening and adrenal crises can potentially lead to death. Additionally, research says that BLA patients take, on average, 3-5 years for their bodies to readjust and get anywhere near “normal”. Most patients will tell you that they never feel “normal” again!

Think of these facts the next time you feel tempted to ask your friend, family, or loved one, “why is it taking so long to get better after surgery?”. Remember that in addition to the aforementioned points; problems from Cushing’s can linger for years after surgery! One Cushing’s patient stated, “I’m 5 years post-op and I STILL have problems!” This mirrors the sentiments of many of us in the Cushing’s community. Please be conscious of this when supporting your loved one after treatment.

You can find more information in the following links:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2265.2011.04124.x/abstract;jsessionid=CC58CF32990A60593028F4173902EC47.f03t03?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage&userIsAuthenticated=false

http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2013-1470

http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2012-2893

 

Written by Dr. Karen Thames of  Empowering People with Invisible Chronic Illness – The EPIC Foundation

⁉️ Myths and Facts about Cushing’s: It is MY fault that I got Cushing’s…

Myth: “It is MY fault that I got Cushing’s. I did something wrong that caused me to be sick! If I would have just done XYZ, this would not be happening to me!”

myth-busted

Fact: This is a very controversial topic because we don’t like to talk about it. However, many people struggle with this myth. We NEED to dispel this myth my friends! Patients themselves assume responsibility, accountability, and self blame for becoming ill.

To compound all of that, patients are often told by loved ones, family, and sometimes even their churches or other supports that there is something that THEY could be doing or haven’t done that has caused their declining health. “If you would just follow that raw food diet, then all of your symptoms would go away”, “Juicing is the answer! I told you to juice and you wouldn’t get those tumors!”, Sometimes, you are told that if you would just pray harder or have greater faith, then there is no way that you would be sick right now. And my absolute favorite, “you are just too obsessed with being sick and having Cushing’s!  Stop thinking that you have it and it will go away!”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I find value in “positive thinking” and affirming health, wealth, and all kinds of great things. This helps build up strength and personally keeps me motivated, especially during the times that I feel like absolutely throwing in the towel and giving up!

However, I am NOT the reason and YOU are not the reason for this war with this dreadful disease. What many people don’t understand is how tenacious, brave, courageous, and INDOMITABLE you are! Cushing’s patients do not just get surgery and then everything is magically OK.

Many patients have to go through multiple surgeries, sometimes radiation, sometimes years of testing to find the ultimate source of the disease, even after having several organs messed with. Even after patients obtain their “cure”, they are faced with residual and lingering negative effects of the illness, other hormone dysregulation issues, and the anxiety and fear of a recurrence which is based in absolute reality.

There are people, like myself, who are in remission from Cushing’s, BUT we now have Addison’s Disease/Adrenal Insufficiency as a result of removing vital organs in order to save our lives from Cushing’s. So, are we to think that Adrenal Insufficiency is ALSO our faults every time we near death after an adrenal crisis?! NO! NO! NO!

This is NOT your fault! This is NOT your doing! STOP blaming yourself! The best you can do is to FIGHT! Take an empowered stance by saying “NO” to those who won’t listen. Say “NO” to those who project blame onto you and tell you that this is just a “fat person’s excuse to stay fat”. You are not just a “fat person”! YOU are an amazing person who is fighting for your life!

Let me be clear that this blaming is common and we all do it. In my “5 stages of Loss” series on Youtube; I address the “Bargaining” stage of loss, in which we assume responsibility for getting sick or even for getting better.

Everyone should watch this to understand why and how we do this:

Remember, you are a survivor! YOU are Indomitable!!! This is NOT your fault! You WILL overcome!

🦓 Day 11: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

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 floor.

When I left this hospital after a week, we didn’t know any more than we had before, except I found out that my brain cancer roommate had died.

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 French-speaking hospital 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 at NIH.  If not during testing, as a result of surgery.  The scary this is that I didn’t really care.  I’d rather take this chance than continue to live with Cushing’s.

The first time I was there was for 6 weeks as an inpatient. More of the same tests, except for one that they don’t do anymore.  I guess it didn’t really work for Cushing’s.

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 going 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 hometown, 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 underway 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 underway 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.

⁉️ Myths and Facts about Cushing’s: “All types of Cushing’s are the same”

Myth: “All types of Cushing’s are the same”

myth-busted

Fact: In the words of our dear friend and advocate, Robin Ess, “There are many genetic varieties with quite a few discovered in the past couple of years. Plus, there are several types such as adrenal, ectopic, and pituitary. And so on”….Amazingly, some doctors do not realize that there are different varieties of Cushing’s and that the symptoms can come from a different source.

For instance, a doctor might rule out a pituitary tumor and completely dismiss the patient, even with biochemical evidence of Cushing’s. That doctor, instead of dismissing the patient, should thoroughly look for other potential sources, such as an adrenal tumor, or yet another source. Did you know that tumors on one’s lungs can even cause Cushing’s? Most people don’t know that.

For more information about the different types of Cushing’s, please read: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cushing-syndrome/basics/causes/con-20032115

Another great article regarding ectopic Cushing’s can be found here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199809243391304#.VH-80v5f2s8.facebook

MaryONote: Folks might be interested in listening to this podcast episode with Jayne, a Cushing’s patient who had pituitary surgeries and a bilateral adrenalectomy before finding the true source of her ectopic Cushing’s – lung tumors.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cushingshelp/2008/01/31/tentative-date-an-interview-with-jayne-cyclical-cushings-patient

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🦓 Day 10: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinical Interests: Neuroendocrinology, pituitary disorders, adrenal disorders

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

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

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

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

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

I finally started the Growth Hormone December 7, 2004.

Was the hassle and 3 year wait worth it?  Stay tuned for April 24, 2018, when all will be revealed.  Quick answer: NO!

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

Thanks for reading 🙂

MaryO

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

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

myth-busted

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

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

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