Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April 8th: National Cushing's Disease Awareness Day

Happy Birthday Harvey Cushing!

Harvey Williams Cushing (April 8, 1869 - October 7, 1939) was an American neurosurgeon and a pioneer of brain surgery. He is widely regarded as the greatest neurosurgeon of the 20th century and often called the "father of modern neurosurgery".


Harvey Cushing (1869-1939)

Cushing graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1895 and underwent his initial training with William Halstead. In 1900 he traveled to Europe and worked with Theodor Kocher and Victory Horsley, the founder of British neurosurgery. On returning to the United States he joined the staff at John Hopkins Hospital where he began his neurosurgical studies. In 1912 he was appointed professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and surgeon-in-chief at the newly opened Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.

He was a pioneering neurosurgeon and developed many of the basic techniques and procedures used in neurosurgery today. Amongst his many paper the most important relate to the method of destruction of the trigeminal ganglion (1900), infiltrative analgesia (1902), the function of the pituitary gland (1910), experimental hypophysectomy (1910), the introduction of electrocoagulation (1928) and basophil adenomas of the pituitary gland (1932).

In addition to his clinical writings he was awarded the Pulitzer prize in 1926 for his book entitled the Life of Sir William Ostler. The endocrine disorder named after him is obviously Cushing's Syndrome or Disease. Cushing's Syndrome is the state of prolonged exposure to corticosteroids resulting from either excessive cortisol production or steroid medication. Cushing's Disease is pituitary dependent adrenocortical hyperplasia due to a basophilic pituitary microadenoma.

The causes of Cushing's Syndrome are:
• Cushing's Disease (65%)
• Ectopic ACTH production (15%)
• Adrenal adenoma (15%)
• Adrenal carcinoma (5%)

"I would like to see the day when somebody would be appointed surgeon somewhere who had no hands, for the operative part is the least part of the work"
Letter to Dr Henry Christian Nov 20, 1911.


What a fitting day for me to come back and post about my life since August.

I am sorry for not coming back and posting regular updates. I have received many well wishes and questions over the past months. Each message made me smile as I realized this little-blog-that-could is indeed fulfilling a purpose as it reaches out to people suffering from Cushing’s even as I am not there to help. I will try to get around to answering each question soon, so check back often.

I am doing well. My baby Elena is almost seven months old. I have NO time to do anything anymore, and my online time has suffered (but my sweet pumpkin hasn’t!). I now have an iPhone, so I can do some stuff on the internet, but there are tasks that are easier on a real computer. I will make an extra effort to keep things updated periodically.

There is a lot more I want to post about the seven months since delivery. I have had some great times and some difficult times as my body recovered.

Still, I wouldn’t change my actions for anything in the world. I have my little baby in my arms, and I am happy to share my day with her. She is truly a bundle of joy, and I am thrilled to be a mom. I am lucky beyond belief, and I am proof positive that a woman diagnosed with Cushing’s disease can go on to have a beautiful baby if she puts her mind to it.

I am excited to share one bit of good news:

I scheduled an appointment with my neurosurgeon for late May 2009. I will have a 3T (Tesla) pituitary MRI with and without contrast done early morning. Then, I will sit down with the neurosurgeon to review the images at my appointment. This doctor cleared me for surgery in Dec-07, but I waited to try for a baby. It is very likely that my two pituitary tumors (3 millimeters on the left and 5 millimeters on the right) have grown, as the pituitary gland is very active during pregnancy and after. He told me to come back when I was ready for surgery, and we can get back on track to recovery. I am ready for surgery.

My dear sweet baby is about to wake up from a nap, and my time at the keyboard is limited. For now, I will bid you adieu, and I encourage you to keep checking back.

… There she is now. Gotta go get the baby! She’s awake. 