Monday, April 16, 2012

Day 14: My Tumors = Your Pills: Ashley Judd & the Cushing's Connection

Over the years with Cushing’s, I have become increasingly more isolated. A long time ago, I used to be out making the news. I have seen all my interests wane. I hardly turn on the TV anymore.  I don’t watch any movies, news programs, MSNBC, election coverage. I frankly cannot handle all the noise, talking, and distraction. It is the ultimate assault on my silence that is the only thing that keeps my brain from racing. If it is happening in the news, I usually hear about it from my husband or facebook.

So imagine my surprise when I was reading an article online this weekend, and I just happened to see something entitled, Ashley Judd explains Puffy Face. Instantly, I knew she had to be on steroids. I clicked through to read the article Ashley Judd Slaps Media And Critics in the Daily Beast. I scanned the article.  Ah, she said it.  STEROIDS… ‘multiple rounds of steroids.’

The story goes like this: Ashley Judd took steroids to fight a sinus infection and the flu. Since then, the media has covered this -- extensively and insensitively – as people hiding behind their computer screens and smart phones jumped on the hateful band wagon.  The collective internet went nuts with speculation about what was wrong, what did she do to herself, what in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks has happened to her. 

Ashley 'crime.'  What America thinks is hideous. What must they think of us tumored-Cushies?
In the category Best Slap Back by a Celebrity, Ashley Judd responds with honesty, integrity, compassion, passion, and disgust. She gives all the critics with not only a shame-on-you-for-how-you-treated-me, but a shame-on-all-of-you-for-treating-each-other-this-way.

To paraphrase, Judd asks how this society has managed to let criticism of women’s appearance go unchecked and why do women partake in criticism that entraps them inside their own world of trying to keep up with and never measuring up to the woman (friend or foe) sitting next to them.  Judd writes,

“The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.”

Bravo Ashley Judd.  Bravo.

It would have been so easy to send a publicist to explain her medical issue and exit stage left. In fact, the actress tried that. The clamoring did not stop.  Ashley earns my respect for not backing down, for doing what a strong smart woman does: she chastised in order to make people think.  I just hope people take the time to understand the message.  I certainly applaud you, Ashley Judd.  I applaud your passion, fortitude, and overall I’ve-Had-Enough. After fighting a disease as devastating as Cushing’s, my smarts and strength are all I have left.

Is there hope for the rest of us, if they treat the gorgeous Ashley Judd this way?
What’s that you say?  So, how does this relate to Cushing’s? Why does this all make me so giddy? Because, you see, Ashley Judd’s unfortunate media circus brings attention to Cushing’s. Yes, it is true.  Let me explain.

When people say steroids in the medical sense, they usually mean a hydrocortisone replacement.  You see, hydrocortisone and prednisone are synthetic corticosteroids meant to mimic the natural hormone cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. Both natural cortisol and these synthetic cousins relieve inflammation (swelling, heat, redness, and pain) and are used to treat certain forms of arthritis; disorders of the skin, blood, kidney, eye, thyroid, and intestinal (e.g., colitis); severe allergic reactions; multiple sclerosis, and asthma. They work to treat other conditions by reducing swelling and redness and by changing the way the immune system works.

What most people don’t realize is that steroids and Cushing’s are related. While this section on Wikipedia details the distinction, I’ll share my simple version.

Her medication = my tumors

There are two kinds of Cushing’s:  endogenous Cushing’s and exogenous Cushing’s.

endo (internal, “within”): endogenous Cushing’s originates from tumors in the body
exo (“outside,” “external”):  exogenous Cushing’s originates from medication

While the names are different, the symptoms are the same. So, whether a person takes steroids or has a tumor, we are all in the same boat when it comes to the suffering from the physical, mental, and psychological damage.

So, to Ashley Judd, I want to say, Welcome to the Cushie Club.  I hope you are not here long.  I appreciate your voice and social activism. As we say to each other on the we are sorry you have to be here, but we are glad you found us.

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Ashley Judd talks to Access Hollywood about the response of her op-ed.

Folks responding to Ashley Judd’s article share their own puffy face moments.