Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Life as a Cushie

You know you are a Cushie when you turn off the car engine at the pharmacy drive thru because filling 12 prescriptions for a 90 day supply for hormone replacements is very confusing to the pharmaceutical techs.

Friday, September 4, 2015

PNA: Cushing's at 16

Copyright Robin and Pituitary Network Association, 2015.
I am thankful to read a Cushing's article in the latest Pituitary Network Association's newsletter. Anything we do to put the word out about Cushing's is good.  I also want to thank high school senior Robin for sharing her story in the article Cushing's at 16.  Every story puts a face to this horrible disease. The photos featured really let you see how Cushing's can change a person's physical appearance.

"Cushing's definitely made me the person I am today, and even though the experience was terrible, I am proud of who I am now." ~ Robin, 18 years old

We all can learn a thing or two about strength from Robin!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I do wish that the PNA would have featured a story of someone who required multiple surgeries before getting better.  Highlighting patients who had one pituitary surgery and got their cure is not representative of the patients who experience Cushing's. I know far more people who required multiple surgeries than those who were cured by one.  In my post entitled Cushie Warriors, I begged those with a Cushie in their life to support them, as many of them required multiple surgeries and treatments and still may not have a cure. It seems odd when so much information is out there about how pituitary surgery cures a Cushie, and it was important to let the few that remain part of the Cushie's support system to know that their Cushie-who-can't-get-well is not the exception but the rule. When I collected that patient treatment information and posted over four years ago in April 2011, there were already 50 people on the list. Kinda high for a rare disease, right?  I have an updated list of Cushie Warriors that tops over 125. That sure is a lot of Cushies out there who are trying to get people to understand that we are really sick and we have to go through a lot of testing to be rediagnosed in order to have multiple surgeries. It would further understanding for the complexity of Cushing's treatment if a national organization like PNA could help us get those stories out.

Feel like talking and typing

It's been a long time since I felt up to updating. It's been on my mind lately, so I decided to pop in and say hi. I hope to find the energy to reorganize this blog and add lots of content.  Living with a chronic disease like Cushing's and now Addison's, cortisol is always on my mind.

I want to encourage anyone who wants to contact me to please do so!  

I continue to get emails from Cushies all over the world who are wondering if they too could have this strange disease that no one thinks they actually have. 

On the one hand, I am elated to know that my work over the last 8.5 years is still out here in cyberspace helping someone when they need answers. That part makes me smile. It is imperative in my heart and mind to give back to the Cushing's community in a sort of Pay It Forward that once you experience it, you understand. I got to where I am today by standing on the shoulders of all the Cushies before and along side of me.

You are a doctor. Have a heart.
On the other hand, it saddens me deeply to see that doctors and endocrinologists are still so behind the times.  I see patients being told the same nonsensical, knee-jerk things that I was told. So many patients are going through the same naysaying doctors that I did all that time ago. Why must there be so much suffering? 

In all the ways that we have made progress with educating patients about high cortisol, we still have failed miserably in protecting patients from doctors who don't know better, who haven't read the medical research, who won't stop for one moment to exhibit an ounce of medical curiosity that each patient deserves. While I understand that doctors see common ailments frequently, it should not short circuit their brains into a loop that never deviates from their every day practice in order to dig deeper for the endocrine patients who need more from them.

It's not our fault we are so extraordinary!

How are we gonna get the word out to these doctors? When will they start listening to patients who know their own bodies? When will doctors come to love the internet for all the ways we have embraced it in every other corner of their lives? Patients report to their doctors with information in hand, looking for it to be confirmed or ruled out. We are not asking for the entirety of our selves and lives to be ridiculed, nullified, humiliated, and dismissed. 

I call on all doctors and endocrinologists to lean in order to learn more about the less commonly seen endocrine diseases such as Cushing's and Addison's.

Let's put aside this notion that Cushing's is too rare to have. Listen. All diseases have at least one patient or there wouldn't be a disease, now would it? Rare or not, it is not the doctor's job to rule it out based on possibility alone, as they think it is impossible to have Cushing's. Doctors must rule it out with tests and imaging as well as concern and compassion. If we can add the later to the patient experience, we would all be much better off.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 1: Cushing's Awareness Month Bloggers Challenge


Cushing's Awareness Month:
Bloggers Challenge
Day 1

Here we are again on April 1st. I join my fellow Cushies in blogging for the 30 days of April in an effort to bring awareness to our disease, Cushing's.

On March 28, 2007, I first saw the word Cushing's while researching thyroid doctors in San Antonio, Texas. Within minutes, I knew the word applied to me. I diagnosed myself with a rare disease on the Internet. I could hardly believe it, and none of the doctors believed it.

These past eight years have been filled with some of the darkest moments of my life. At the time, I wondered if I could make it through the next five minutes. Somehow, I endured the medical challenges before me. I faced disappointment and delay. I have been dismissed and dismayed. I have been tenacious and stubborn in fighting for myself, for what is right.

I admit to being stubborn, refusing to give up the fight when I know the fight is important.

Recently, I have learned to make peace with my disease. No matter what anyone says, you don't get ill and make peace immediately. Peace and uncertainty don't mix. You can't face devastation and immediately say, "Oh well. I guess this is my new normal, and it stinks. There is nothing I can do about it." No no no. That is settling for less than you deserve.

Peace comes with accepting the dire consequences of your disease, facing and befriending death as well as life, and still choosing to walk that line every day with a full heart and the stubbornness that won't let you give up or let Cushing's win.

I strive for peace.

I am 15 months post op BLA, or bilateral adrenalectomy for those with a lot of time on their hands for extra words. 

Another year has gone by. Cortisol is as much a part of my life as ever. Instead of cursing pituitary tumors for high cortisol, I scramble to take my cortisol medicine replacements three times a day. The irony is not lost on me. 

In the coming days, I will tell you more about my life after BLA, and how I navigate this stressful world with no adrenal glands. It's not easy (hint: I take a lot of naps).

I hope that you will stay tuned and learn a little more about the nuances of these cortisol-based diseases of Cushing's (too much) and Addison's (zero). In order to survive, I must understand both.

Sincerely,
Melissa

Cushing's warrior and advocate. 
Pituitary surgery for Cushing's in 06/2009 unsuccessful. 
Pit surgery for Cushing's in 04/2011 unsuccessful. 
Took ketoconazole and suffered through adrenal insufficiency for 14 months. Drug banned in European Union. I stopped postponing my life and chose to get rid of high cortisol.
BLA 12/31/2013 successful. 
I'm fighting to get my life back, and I will win.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

After gaining 120 pounds in 1 year, rare diagnosis saves man's life

Cushing's was featured this morning on the Today Show's Medical Mysteries three-part series. 

Hooray for national exposure for Cushing's!


Donelle Trotman, a father in his 30s, suddenly and unexpectedly gained 100 pounds in a year as well as experiencing strange symptoms.

Donelle shares our desire to spread the word and increase patient awareness about his diagnosis. Read the story and watch the video to see yet another example of how devastating Cushing's can be.

We thank you, Donelle, in joining us as a Cushing's Crusader. We wish you all the best in your healing process. Please contact me if I can help you in any way. 

"There was no time to lose: Untreated, Cushing's is a fatal disease."

The tumor was no bigger than the size of the tip of my pen," Boockvar said. "And that something so small can cause a man to grow to 350 pounds and absolutely destroy his life is rather remarkable."

Monday, March 2, 2015

17 Things You'll Only Understand If You Have A Rare Disease

Hi. It is been a long time since I posted something. The road to recovery after years of battling Cushing's disease can be long and curvy. I've had three very rough months, and I'm finally coming out the other side of it. When I get a chance, I will relay those details to you here. For now, I'd like to share this little bit I found on BuzzFeed.

17 things you'll only understand if you have a rare disease.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/findacure/17-things-youll-only-understand-if-you-have-a-rar-1bze2

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing's disease

I would love to see the whole article because the abstract seems pretty basic.  However, the news is good. Bilateral adrenalectomy or BLA is a good option for patients. Doctors should present this surgery as an option to all patients. It should be our choice to make.
Bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing's disease.

Author
Katznelson L1.
  • 1Departments of Medicine and Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, 875 Blake Wilbur Dr MC 5826, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA, lkatznelson@stanford.edu.
Journal

Pituitary. 2015 Jan 8. [Epub ahead of print]
Abstract

PURPOSE: Review the indications, outcomes, and consequences of bilateral adrenalectomy (BLA) in patients with Cushing's disease.
METHODS: A literature review was performed.
RESULTS: The primary therapy for Cushing's disease is surgery, with medical therapy and radiation therapy relegated to an adjuvant role. BLA is indicated in cases of persistent disease following pituitary surgery or in situations where rapid normalization of hypercortisolism is required. When performed via the laparoscopic approach, BLA is associated with a significantly reduced morbidity compared to the traditional, open approach. Following BLA, patients are at risk for adrenal crisis and the concern of Nelson's syndrome. However, BLA leads to a rapid resolution of the signs and symptoms of CS and leads to an improved long-term quality of life.
CONCLUSION: BLA should be considered in the treatment algorithm for patients with persistent CD after failed pituitary surgery, especially in patients who have severe consequences of hypercortisolism or desire pregnancy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Seeing is Believing

7T MRI machines! A patient said the Cleveland Clinic got one in 2013. Wonder where else? These stronger magnet machines have existed for research but not clinical used. Finally, our community to get proper imaging for our disease. It's not our fault the pituitary gland is the size of a pea!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24871334/