Helpful Hints for Dealing With Cushing’s

Hint For… What to do
Add Your Helpful Hints for Dealing with Cushing’s
 
Adrenal Crisis On the Message Boards
Adrenal Crisis, getting medical attention Before any crisis occures, contact the local ambulance service that would come to your home and/or work and find out if they have a protocol to treat you. My ambulance service could not give me the shot I needed even tho I not only had a medic alert bracelet, but a file of life on my refridgerator with physician instructions etc.

After my advent, we had to bring it to the governing body’s attention for change, and now ambulance personel are approved to use information like the file of life or the Medic Alert bracelet to treat anyone with not only in Adrinal crisis but anyone with documented medical information.

You could help a lot of other people besides yourself. You may need the help of your physican.

Kim Pulsipher/Dr. Dan

Emergency Kit Contact list: Primary and secondary.

Charged cell phone, all the time.

Directions for how to help. Print out info at http://www.cushings-help.com/911.htm

Medic alert bracelet or pendant. See what others have on theirs here.

Always carry a medical identification card that states the type of medication and the proper dose needed in case of an emergency.

Never omit medication. If unable to retain medication due to vomiting, notify the health care provider.

If there are places that you go often, be sure that those people know that you may have a problem. For a child, inform all of his/her teachers and other staff.

 
Body and Skin On the Message Boards
Brown Spots I have quite a few brown “age spots” on my face,  I accidentally discovered a way to camouflage them when I got a sample of Vaseline Healthy Body Glow. It “tans” your skin. In my case it made the skin dark enough to match the brown spots so they don’t show up as much.

I’ve noticed that there are now lots of similar products on the market and I’m sure that they will all work as well.

~ MaryO

 
Bones and Muscles On the Message Boards
Arthritis Water aerobics for people with arthritis is really helping. I do that twice a week.

~ MaryO

Arthritis Since I can’t take my arthritis meds anymore, I’ve gone back on a combo pill of glucosamine/chondroitin. This only works for osteoarthritis, so if you have any rheumatoid, it won’t work at all.

I was interested to see that The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently running a study of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate and Dr. Jason Theodosakis is heading this up.

There’s more info on “Dr Theo” on Power Surge.

Dr Theo outlined the complete plan in his Power Surge transcripts, saying that it wasn’t enough just to take the pills.

His plan is:

  1. Have a thorough consultation with a physician.
  2. Take glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates to repair damaged joints.
  3. Improve your biomechanics to counteract stress to your joints.
  4. Exercise regularly. (But the right kinds!)
  5. Eat a healthful, joint-preserving diet
  6. Maintain your ideal body weight.
  7. Fight depression.
  8. Use traditional medicine as necessary.
  9. Maintain a positive attitude.

~ MaryO

Arthritis Question: Will the glucosamine/chondroitin that supposedly helps arthritis help with the pain and stiffness of steroid withdrawal? Is there any harm in trying it?

Answer: Glucosamine and chondroitin are chemical components of cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that form the joints and muscle attachments. Some people with arthritic joint pain appear to benefit from taking these chemicals as dietary supplements (supplements because they are in a normal diet that contains meat). I am unaware of any report of their effect on the musculoskeletal symptoms of steroid withdrawal. However, I see no reason to anticipate any more risk for their use in this setting than in any other.

~ David Orth MD

Diet Top 10 healthiest foods for spring

  1. Asparagus. Rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and folate (the world’s most common vitamin deficiency), asparagus has been prized for its culinary and medicinal purposes since ancient times.
  2. Green beans. Harvested while still immature when the inner bean is just beginning to form, they are one of the few bean varieties that can be eaten fresh..
  3. Spring Chinook salmon. The health benefits of eating fatty, cold-water fish are widely known, but salmon contains the highest volume of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for maintaining good heart health.
  4. Spinach. A Mediterranean favorite since the 16th century, spinach is a rich source of vitamin A (for cardiovascular health) and vitamin K (for bone health).
  5. Apricots. The true fruits of spring, apricots were first discovered in China and have been cultivated for more than 3,000 to 4,000 years. They are also rich with beta-carotene and lycopene, two carotenoids important in reducing the artery-clogging LDL cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart.
  6. Spring onions. Onions have been the subject of new research linking them to lower incidence of certain cancers. They also provide vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.
  7. Green peas. Green peas are a rich source of folate and a wide range of B vitamins, essential for the proper metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
  8. Basil. A popular herb that can enhance the flavors of your favorite pasta sauce or spring salad, basil is a wonderful source of vitamin A.
  9. Avocados. Previously avoided by dieters due to their high fat content, avocados have made a comeback as a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to help lower cholesterol. By volume, avocados are also 50 percent higher in potassium than bananas.
  10. Spring greens. Choose from arugula, romaine, mesclun, bok choy and watercress to mustard, collard and dandelion greens. All are rich in lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, minerals and fiber and excellent for digestion.

~ msn.com

Diet Nutrition for Patients with Cushing Syndrome (National Institutes of Health, Clinical Center) – PDF File

~ NIH, National Institutes of Health, Clinical Center

Diet / Exercise Question: While my cortisol levels are still high, is there anything I can do with my diet or exercise to keep my weight from increasing and loosing more strength? Is protein intake important?

Answer: With excessive cortisol levels, diet and exercise are important to keep from gaining weight and losing more muscle strength. A nutritious diet with a multivitamin supplement is recommended, usually the diet should not exceed 1000 to 1200 calories per day. It is important that the balanced diet contain adequate protein, however excessive protein intake probably will not make much difference in muscle strength since excessive cortisol causes protein (muscle) breakdown. Since patients are usually treated soon after diagnosis, no studies have evaluated the effect of a high protein diet.

Regarding exercise, the best type of exercise is that which is not stressful to the skeletal system. For example, swimming and bicycle riding are good exercises. Jogging and lifting weights are probably not a good idea since this does place stress on the skeleton (bones). Additionally, a calcium supplement is important. The recommended amount of approximately 1500 mg of elemental calcium per day can be achieved by taking 4 Tums Ultra or 3 tablets OsCal 500.

~ Mary Lee Vance MD

Headache I choose to just eat salt like it’s a candy. I have a little container of plain sea salt (you don’t want the iodized stuff) and I lick my finger and just dip it! Gross I know… but it’s cured many a headache. My sodium remains low… but it never ceases to amaze me how salt will taste good, and then just stop tasting good. That’s how i know I’ve had enough.

~ ADDflower

Muscles Question: My Cushing’s has been cured for about 3 years, but my muscle strength is still not like it used to be. I work out at a gym regularly, but is there anything else that I can do to try and recover my strength?

Answer: Deterioration of muscle function is a common consequence of Cushing’s syndrome. The majority of patients recover full muscle strength and performance after cure of their Cushing’s syndrome. Physical therapy and a high protein diet have both been shown to improve muscle strength in patients with steroid-induced muscle damage. After cure, most patients recover normal muscle strength within 1-2 years.

~ James Findling MD

Muscle fatigue and weakness From the message boards

Question: A really big problem for me (and seems like a lot of people) is the muscle weakness and fatigue. Does anyone have any tricks that work for them?

Answer: One thing that has helped me is eating more salt. Of course if your blood pressure is really high already, you shouldn’t do this. But mine runs pretty low and I have a hard time keeping my liquids….I am in the bathroom constantly. This is something Dr. F recommended after finding that I have low aldosterone and renin. Also, I am taking vitamins and iron. It seems to help sometimes and sometimes I am as fatigued as can be, but I figure it can’t hurt. Hope this helps!

~ Mertie

Answer: If you are cyclical, it is SUPER important to chart. Part of the problem is that for some folks a Low symptom is another person’s High. After awhile you should be able to see a pattern showing itself.

And yes, when I’m low like that, I did eat salt out of the shaker (I even have 5 different flavored salts, I know, i’m a whacko!)

But when I’m in a Low, I haven’t found a way to pop out of it, or force a High. It’s something I’m working on though.

….If I eat lots of pasta or bread, I have lots of muscle aches and pains. A big bowl of mac’n’cheese will make me feel like I’m having a fibro flair most days

~ vinesqueen

Answer: You’re right. I choose to just eat salt like it’s a candy. I have a little container of plain sea salt (you don’t want the iodized stuff) and I lick my finger and just dip it! Gross I know… but it’s cured many a headache. My sodium remains low… but it never ceases to amaze me how salt will taste good, and then just stop tasting good. That’s how i know I’ve had enough.

~ ADDflower

Answer: One thing to try to find is Sea Salt to replace your normal salt with in the house. It is better for you than regular table salt.

I crave salt and sugar. I can’t get enough of either one.

I need to pick up some DHEA and try it out, it is a precursor hormone and I hear people say it help them feel better.

I can’t seem to find any way to feel better lately, so I am working on a strategy also. I’m back to taking Flintstones vitamins with Iron and an extra Vitamin B6 also.

~ LisaMK

Add your suggestion on the message boards

Osteoporosis Question: I have osteoporosis due to Cushing’s. Will this improve over time?

Answer: A recent study has shown substantial improvements in bone density within several years after the successful cure of patients with pituitary Cushing’s. Bones have the best possible chance for recovery when the replacement steroid dosage is as low as possible. If you are on replacement therapy following surgery, you should be working with your doctor to taper the steroid dose at a rapid , but tolerable rate.

Bones can also benefit from a healthy diet and intake of at least 1 gram of calcium per day. Exercise has also been shown to be beneficial, but is best started under the supervision of a physician. Most patients with osteoporosis can undertake exercise such as walking or swimming without risk of injury. Exercise that is weight bearing, such as weight lifting, or exercise that involves a risk of falling, such as skiing, would not be advisable unless under the direction of a physician or physical therapist.

~ David Orth MD

Swelling Question: Following surgery for Cushing’s, I have had a lot of swelling in my hands, feet and face. Is there anything that can be done to help this problem and is it anything to be concerned about?

Answer: Swelling, or edema, may often accompany Cushing’s syndrome. Following surgical treatment of Cushing’s, some patients will continue to experience edema for some time following the surgery. This may be related to the frequent need for steroid therapy following curative surgery. This is really nothing serious, but can be uncomfortable. I usually treat patients with a water pill or decrease the dose of steroids.

~ James Findling MD

 
Eyes, Ears, Nose,
Sinus, Throat
On the Message Boards
   
 
Hair On the Message Boards
   
 
Heart and blood On the Message Boards
   
 
Psychological On the Message Boards
   
 
Sleep and Fatigue On the Message Boards
  For insomnia try Bach Rescue Sleep. Two sprays on the tongue really seem to help. It is available in most health type stores and markets.
 
Miscellaneous On the Message Boards
  ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!!

Read ~ Susan’s bio

  What pointed me in the cushing’s disease direction were the symptoms such as buffalo hump; hair growth on specific areas; weight gain around my neck, face, abdomen, chest and back; my pituitary adenoma and the last results from my test that showed high levels of cortisol.

Read ~ Gina’s bio

  Get a copy of ALL your lab test results and copies of imaging reports and the actual images….on CD and films.

Read ~ Gina’s bio

  It is absolutely critical for your physical and emotional health for you to have a doctor with expertise and experience with Cushing’s! Inexperienced doctors all too often misdiagnose, insult and frustrate, preventing prompt and proper diagnosis. Misdiagnosis can be lethal!

Obviously, it is also crucial for you to have a surgeon with experience in order to minimize the likelihood of errors that can lead to complications or death. Wouldn’t you prefer someone who performs the surgery 5 days per week over someone who may have done it a total of 5 times in his or her career?

On the other hand, doctors with experience are most likely to be more thorough and precise in recommending and offering the proper tests and treatments, and more aware of the subtle nuances and possible complications of the syndrome, learning from each Cushing’s patient s/he treats, to the benefit of others.

Investigate your insurance, and if necessary (and possible), change your coverage in order to be able to afford to go to doctors who are Cushing’s experts. Because Cushing’s is often caused by a tumor, some insurance (including United Health Care) covers Cushing’s related medical expenses including travel to facilities they consider “cancer centers for excellence” if you need to travel over 100 miles to these experts. United Health Care covers medical expenses with no co-pay, including travel, lodging and meals for myself and a travel companion so that I am able to afford the best medical care possible from doctors who are experienced with Cushing’s.

~ Judi

  The most important advice I have to give is this:

1) GO TO A TEACHING/RESEARCH HOSPITAL!!!

2) If you have kids, think twice before eating disorder treatment. I went into the program with pain and a method of coping. I came out with an eating disorder psyche, bad experiences, and a truckload of pills that were making me crazy.

3) IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOOD DEPENDANT CUSHINGS, HERE IS HOW I COPE;

• the cortisol goes up with too much of any protein, fat or carbs. I eat small turkey/cheese sandwiches at every meal (enough to be full, but well balanced).

• I use stevia instead of sugar because its natural (health food aisle.)

• alcohol really hurts now, so only a little wine occassionally.

• lots of yogurts.

• every couple days a mixture of senna laxative and stool softener (not too often)

4) Remember the squeekiest wheel gets the grease.

~ Magdalena’s bio

 
Men On the Message Boards
Sex Drive Question: Since having Cushing’s, my sex drive is next to nothing. Is this common, will this problem remain forever or get better? Is there anything that can help?

Answer: A decrease in libido or sex drive is common in patients with Cushing’s. Several factors influence a person’s sex drive.

In women, regular menstrual periods or adequate estrogen and progesterone replacement is important.

In men, if the testosterone level is low, this indicates the need for testosterone replacement. In pituitary dependent Cushing’s, once the normal pituitary gland has recovered, the adrenal glands should be producing an adequate amount of both cortisol and male hormones (important in women for sex drive).

If a woman has had 1 adrenal gland removed, the other adrenal should make an adequate amount of male hormones once the entire pituitary adrenal axis has recovered (this may take several months as well). In the situation of bilateral adrenalectomy, there is loss of adrenal male hormone production. If the ovaries are functioning normally, male hormones are also produced and this should provide an adequate amount for normal libido.

If a woman does not have normal menstrual function and requires estrogen and progesterone replacement, sometimes a small dose of testosterone is added to improve libido. A common preparation is Estratest.

~ Mary Lee Vance MD

 
Women On the Message Boards
Sex Drive Question: Since having Cushing’s, my sex drive is next to nothing. Is this common, will this problem remain forever or get better? Is there anything that can help?

Answer: A decrease in libido or sex drive is common in patients with Cushing’s. Several factors influence a person’s sex drive.

In women, regular menstrual periods or adequate estrogen and progesterone replacement is important.

In men, if the testosterone level is low, this indicates the need for testosterone replacement. In pituitary dependent Cushing’s, once the normal pituitary gland has recovered, the adrenal glands should be producing an adequate amount of both cortisol and male hormones (important in women for sex drive).

If a woman has had 1 adrenal gland removed, the other adrenal should make an adequate amount of male hormones once the entire pituitary adrenal axis has recovered (this may take several months as well). In the situation of bilateral adrenalectomy, there is loss of adrenal male hormone production. If the ovaries are functioning normally, male hormones are also produced and this should provide an adequate amount for normal libido.

If a woman does not have normal menstrual function and requires estrogen and progesterone replacement, sometimes a small dose of testosterone is added to improve libido. A common preparation is Estratest.

~ Mary Lee Vance MD

 
Children On the Message Boards

Help Yourself

 

Explaining Cushing’s to Others

Kate on the Cushing’s support board (Cushing’s Help and Support) wrote this letter after having pituitary surgery…

Dear friends and family:

I am writing this letter to share with you some basic facts about Cushing’s Disease/Syndrome and the recovery process so that you will have sufficient information to form realistic expectations about me and my ability to engage in certain activities in light of this disease and its aftermath.

As you know, Cushing’s is a rarely diagnosed endocrine disorder characterized by hypercortisolism. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is vital to regulate the body’s cardivoascular functions and metabolism, to boost the immune system and to fight inflammation. But its most important job is to help the body to respond to stress.

The adrenal glands release cortisol in response to stress, so atheletes, women experiencing pregnancy, and those suffering from alcoholism, panic disorders and malnutrition naturally have higher-than-normal levels of cortisol.

People with Cushing’s Syndrome live life with too much cortisol for their bodies as a result of a hormone-secreting tumor. Mine is located in the pituitary gland. Endogenous hypercortisolism leaves the body in a constant state of “fight or flight,” which ravages the body and tears down the body’s major systems including cardivascular, musculo-skeletal, endocrine, etc.

Symptoms vary, but the most common symptoms include rapid, unexplained weight gain in the upper body with increased fat around the neck and face (“moon facies”); buffalo hump; facial flushing/plethora; muscle wasting in the arms and legs; purplish striae (stretch marks) on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts; poor wound healing and bruising; severe fatigue; depression, anxiety disorders and emotional lability; cognitive difficulties; sleep disorders due to abnormally high nighttime cortisol production; high blood pressure and high blood sugar/diabetes; edema; vision problems; premature osteoperosis; and, in women, signs of hyperandrogenism such as menstrual irregularities, infertility, hirsutism, male-patterned balding and steroid-induced acne.

Cushing's Symptoms

Attached, you will find a sketch of a typical Cushing’s patient. As you can see, the effects of the disease on the body are dramatic.Worse, the psychological and emotional effects of having a chronic, debilitating and disfiguring disease range from distressing to demoralizing.

Imagine that, in the space of a year, you became unrecognizable to those around you and to yourself. You look in the mirror, but the person staring back a tyou is a stranger. You endure the stares and looks of pity from those who knew you before Cushing’s, fully aware that they believe you have “let yourself go” or otherwise allowed this to happen to your body. Nothing you can say or do will persuade them otherwise, so at some point, you stop trying and resolve to live your life in a stranger’s body.

You feel increasingly sick, but when you explain your array of symptoms to your doctor, you are dismissed as a depressed hypochondriac who needs to diet and exercise more. Worse, your family members think the same thing — and are often quick to tell you how you need to “change your lifestyle” to overcome the effects of what you eventually will discover, once properly diagnosed, is a serious and rare disease.

If only it were so simple! No one would choose to have Cushing’s. Those of us who have it would not wish it even on our worst enemy.

Most people with Cushing’s long for the ability to do simple things, like walk a flight of stairs without having to sit for half an hour afterwards, or vacuum the house or even unload a dishwasher.

One of the worst parts about this disease is the crushing fatigue and muscle wasting/weakness, which accompanies hypercortisolism. Not only do we become socially isolated because of the virilzing effects of an endocrine tumor, which drastically alters our appearance, but we no longer feel like ourselves with regard to energy. We would love to take a long bike ride, run three miles or go shopping like we used to — activities, which we took for granted before the disease struck. Those activities are sadly impossible at times for those with advanced stages of the disease.

Sometimes, as with any serious illness, performing even basic tasks of daily care such as showering and dressing can exhaust the limited reserves of energy available to a Cushing’s patient.

How do we explain to you what it’s like to watch our lives slip away? What response is sufficient to express the grief and frustration over losing so much of ourselves? It is often difficult to find the strength to explain how your well-meaning words of prompting and encouragement (to diet or exercise) only serve to leave us more isolated and feeling alone.

Though we wouldn’t want it, we wish our disease were as well-understood as cancer so that those who love us would have a frame of reference for what we go through. With Cushing’s, there is such limited public awareness that we are left to describe the effects of the disease from a void, often with limited understanding from those who love us most, which is disheartening.

The most frustrating misconception about this disease is that we somehow are “doing this to ourselves,” or delaying recovery because we need to continue steroid replacement or lack the energy to excercise often, which is sadly false. Trust me that we would love to have that much control over such a terrible disease.

Fortunately, there is a good likelihood of remission from Cushing’s in the hands of a skilled pituitary surgeon. Unfortunately, the long-term remission rate is only 56%, meaning that 44% of people with Cushing’s will require a second (sometimes third) pituitary surgery, radiation or bilateraly adrenalectomy to resolve the hypercortisolism. Without successful treatment, Cushing’s leads to death. Even with successful treatment, I will have to be monitored for possible recurrence for the rest of my life.

After surgery or other treatment, the recovery period can last months or even years. Because the tumor takes over control of the body’s production of cortisol, the adrenal glands, which had lain dormant prior to surgery, require time to start functioning properly again.

Until this happens, we must take synthetic steroids or else risk adrenal insufficiency or adrenal crisis, which can be quickly life-threatening. Careful monitoring of our cortisol levels is critical during the weaning period. It is a rare but sad fact that some people’s adrenal glands never return to normal, and those people must continue to take hydrocortisone or prednisone — sometimes for life — simply in order for the body to perform correctly its basic systemic functions.

The physical recovery from surgery can be quick, but the withdrawal from hydrocortisone can be a lengthy and extremely painful process. As I described above, Cushing’s causes a tearing-down of muscles and bone. While there is an over-abundance of cortisol in our bodies (as a result of the tumor), we often can’t feel the effects of the muscle-wasting and bone deterioration because of the anti-inflammatory action of cortisol. Upon weaning, however, these become painfully (literally!) evident.

The physical pain experienced while weaning from cortisol has been described as worse than weaning from heroin. When cortisol levels are low, one experiences the symptoms akin to a really bad flu, including severe fatigue (”like a wet cement blanket laid on top of me”); weakness and exhaustion; nausea; headache; vomiting; mental confusion. It is imperative for people who are on replacement steroids after Cushing’s surgery to carry extra Cortef (or injectable Solu-Cortef) with them at all times in addition to wearing a medic alert bracelet so that medical professionals will be alerted to the possiblity of adrenal insufficiency in the event of an adrenal crisis.

People who have struggled with Cushing’s Syndrome all hope to return to “normal” at some point. Though none of us want to have Cushing’s, it is often a relief finally to have a correct diagnosis and treatment plan. For many, there is a gradual resolution of many Cushing’s symptoms within a few years of surgery or other successful treatment, and a good quality of life can be achieved.

But regrettably, this is not possible in every case. Depending on the severity of the disease and the length of time before diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis can be poor and lead to shortened life expectancy and diminished quality of life. This is not a choice or something we can control, but it is the reality for some people who have suffered the consequences of long-term hypercortisolism.

The best support you can give someone who is suffering from Cushing’s or its aftermath is to BELIEVE them and to understand that they are not manufacturing their illness or prolonging recovery. Ask them what they are able (and not able) to do, and then be prepared to help them in ways that matter — whether that be to bring them a meal or help them to run errands, pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy or clean their house.

Because it’s these little everyday tasks, which can fall by the wayside when someone has (or has had) Cushing’s, and these are the things we miss the most: doing for ourselves.

Ask us questions about the disease, and then actively listen to what we say. We know you don’t know much about Cushing’s — even our doctors sometimes lack information about this rare disease. But know we appreciate the interest and will tell you everything you want to know, because those of us who have it necessarily become experts in it just in order to survive.

Thank you for caring about me and for hearing what I am saying in this letter. I know you love me and are concerned about me, and I appreciate that so much. Thank you also for taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to discussing further any questions you might have.

In the meantime, I am attaching a brief article written by a woman who recently was diagnosed with Cushing’s. I hope hearing another person’s experiences will help you to understand what I’m going through so that when we talk, we will be coming from a similar starting place.


Endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in Cushing’s Syndrome and its related issues) realize the medical aspect and know the damaging effects that Cushing’s has on the body. Family and friends see their Cushie suffering and know they are hurting physically and often times mentally and emotionally. However, understanding the debilitation of Cushing’s and how it can affect every aspect of a person’s life can only be truly realized by those who have experienced the syndrome.

Cushings Help Organization, Inc., a non-profit family of websites maintained by MaryO, a pituitary Cushing’s survivor, provides this letter for patients to provide to their family and friends in hopes of providing a better understanding Cushing’s and it’s many aspects.

We’re sorry to hear that your family member or friend has Cushing’s Syndrome or suspected Cushing’s. A person may feel better at times then at other times. It’s common for a Cushing’s patient to have burst of energy and then all of a sudden they become lethargic and don’t feel like moving a muscle. There are many symptoms that are associated with Cushing’s. They include weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, feeling achy all over, headaches, blurred vision, mood swings, high blood pressure, stretch marks (straie), buffalo hump, diabetes, edema and the list goes on. Hormones affect every area of the body.

It is important to note that not all patients have every symptom. Even some hallmark symptoms, such as straie or the “buffalo hump”, may not be noticable on every patient. Not everyone who has Cushing’s will experience the same symptoms, treatment, or recovery. Because not all “Cushies” have these symptoms, it makes diagnosis even more difficult.

Cushing’s can cause the physical appearance change due to weight gain, hair loss, rosacea, acne, etc. This can be very disturbing when looking in the mirror. Changes in appearance can often cause the Cushing’s patient to withdraw from family and friends making it a very lonely illness. Patients often feel alone or withdrawn because few others understand.

Cushing’s can affect affect anyone of any age although it is more commen in women.

Cushing’s patients need to be able to take one day at time and learn to listen to their bodies. There will most likely be times when naps are needed during the day and often times may not be able to sleep at night due to surges of cortisol. Your Cushie doesn’t expect you to understand Cushing’s Syndrome completely. They do need you to be there for them and try to understand to the best of your ability what they feel and not give up on them.

Often a Cushing’s patient may be moody and say things that they don’t mean. If this should happen with your Cushie try not to take it personally and know that it’s most likely caused by the elevated cortisol and disturbances in other hormone levels caused by the Cushing’s and not from the heart or true feelings of your Cushie.

It can be very depressing and frustrating having so many limitations and experience things in life being taken from you. Cushing’s patients are sick, not lazy, not hypochondriacs or even the newer term “Cyberchondriacs”. If a Cushing’s patient says they don’t feel like doing something or they express how bad they feel let them know that you believe them. One of the most frustrating things to someone who is sick is to have those you love not believe you or support you. Telling a Cushie to think positive thoughts will not make him/her well and will just be aggrivating.

Testing procedures can be lengthy and this can become frustrating for the patient and family. Often, it takes a while for results to come back and this can be stressful. Don’t look to far ahead just take one day at a time and deal with the situation that is at hand at the present time.

After a diagnosis is made then it’s time for treatment. Surgery is usually the best treatment option for Cushing’s that is caused by tumors. Don’t be surprised if the surgeon’s facility wants to run even more tests or redo some of those that have already been done. Your Cushie may have to travel a ways to find a surgeon who is trained in these delicate surgeries and who has performed many of them.

Once the diagnosis has been made and treatment has finished then it’s time for the recovery process. Not all patients who have surgery are cured and they have to make a choice along with the advice of their doctor as to what their next treatment option will be.

The recovery from the surgery itself is similar to any other surgery and will take a while to recover. The recovery process obtained from getting a cure from Cushing’s is quiet different from other surgeries. A Cushing’s patients body has been exposed to excess cortisol, usually for quite a long time, and has become accustomed it. When the tumor is removed that has been responsible for the excessive cortisol and the body is no longer getting it this causes the body to have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be very hard causing an array of symptoms muscle aches, weakness, bone and joint pain, emotional disturbances etc.

Thank you for reading this and we hope it will help you to understand a little more about Cushing’s and the dibilating affect it can have on a person. Thank you for being there and supporting your Cushie during this time in their life. We realize that when a family member has Cushing’s it not only affects the individual but other family members and those around them as well. Showing your love and support will encourage a speedy recovery for your Cushie.


‘The ugly disease’

By Toby Hatchett

When Fedela Vincent, 68, of Rye, was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, she was relieved, almost happy. After more than three years, she knew what was wrong with her.

Vincent had spent years trying to figure out what was wrong with her, what was happening to her and her body. A petite woman, of 5 feet, she had always been trim and fit. She ate right, worked out at the gym and led a healthy lifestyle.

But, for no apparent reason, she began to gain weight. Lots of weight, primarily in the upper body.

“I looked like an apple, with a moon face,” Fedela says. “Cushing’s is not called ?the ugly disease’ for nothing.”

Cushing’s disease victims don’t share the same symptoms, but many of the symptoms are physically noticeable: the extreme weight gain in the upper body, the moon face, a buffalo hump on the back, hair loss and blotchy, red skin with breakouts.

“Feeling constantly cruddy” is the polite description of being a Cushie,” Fedela says.

Then there are the other symptoms, those not visible on the outside. Fedela says the worst for her was the insomnia, the anxiety, the fear of abandonment and pain. The joints hurt, the muscles lose their mass and walking is difficult.

When Fedela was at her worst, she couldn’t walk up the stairs, let alone cook or shop. She was as weak as a kitten, she says.

Her doctors at this time urged her to lose weight, giving medications that often made her sick in an effort to solve the problem.

Bob Vincent, her husband of 48 years, never left her side during this difficult time. Cushing’s disease is such a traumatic disease that it is estimated more than half of husbands leave their wives. The mood swings can be dramatic.

“When Bob would bring me coffee,” says Fedela, “he never knew what to expect.”

Then Fedela decided to try a different kind of doctor. She went to Dr. Jennifer Warren, in Hampton, who specializes in weight control. In Warren, she found someone who listened to her and paid attention. Warren was the first doctor to suggest Cushing’s disease might be the cause of Fedela’s weight gain.

From that moment on, things began to happen. Fedela went to Dr. Daniel Nadeau who put her on a diabetes-related medication for weight loss. This didn’t work and after a month, she was given a simple urinalysis test. Within 24 hours, she had her diagnosis.

Nadeau referred Fedela to the Lahey Clinic, in Burlington, Mass. There she met the doctor she now calls her “savior,” Dr. Nicholas Tritos. This clinic is world-renowned for its work in pituitary malfunctions.

What is Cushing’s disease? It is the body reacting to a constant overdose of steroids being released by the adrenal glands. The pituitary gland over-stimulates the adrenal glands, which in turn send crisis-level chemical messages to all the other endocrine glands.

“The body reacts to the hyper-stimulation by constantly being in a state of fight or flight,” says Fedela. “It’s 24/7 with no relief.”

Cushing’s disease affects an estimated 10 to 15 out of every million people. The fact that it is relatively rare in numbers is one cause of the lack of public knowledge and awareness of this disease.

Non-diagnosed, Cushing’s disease can lead to uncontrollable diabetes, and eventually, death. The symptoms can be so varied and mimic so many other conditions, that Cushing’s disease is often not diagnosed or misdiagnosed.

“The not knowing what is wrong with you is awful,” Fedela says, “and the way people look at you when you’re not what society calls “normal.’”

“People would tell me ?you are what you eat’ and suggest I try Weight Watchers, things like that.”

But Fedela was carefully watching what she ate, often eating less than her doctors prescribed. Even when her energy level was almost non-existent, she and her husband would go to the gym.

“Bob wouldn’t let me stay inside. We kept going out, for drives, to Market Square and lunch with friends.”

After the initial diagnosis, Fedela spent six months undergoing various tests.

Then, on Mother’s Day of this year, during the New Hampshire floods, she was operated on. Fifty percent of one side of the pituitary was removed and 25 percent of the other side to remove the offending tumorous tissues.

Fedela spent five days recovering at the Lahey Clinic.

“The whole staff was just wonderful. The nurses would pop in to see what a Cushie looked like. They never left me alone.”

When she came out of the surgery, Bob was there beside her, along with a very special teddy bear.

“The teddy bear was hugged by members of South Church, including the children Fedela taught in her kindergarten class,” he said.

The blessing of this disease, as Fedela describes it, is in learning how to receive. Having long been a giver herself, this was not an easy lesson to learn. South Church, in Portsmouth, put together a Fedela Vincent Support Group, with people from Portsmouth, Rye, Salem, Mass., and Greenland, to provide moral support, company and meals. For six weeks, day and night, someone was there.

“South Church is an amazing institution,” Bob says. “The support group was invaluable. Fedela received over 250 cards from all over the country.”

This support group is still there for Vincent as she continues to recover and regain her health. She still has problems, but she can now lead a more normal life. “I can shop!” she says with a grin.

“I wanted to do this interview as a call to the medical community to be alert to the symptoms of Cushing’s disease and to really listen to their patients.”

Fedela also hopes that by sharing her story, others may learn that diet alone is not always the cause of weight gain. America’s obsession with skinny bodies and the resulting negative judgmental views on those who do not fit this picture is something she hopes people may think twice about before making judgments.

Lastly, Fedela wants to publicly thank her husband, family, friends and physicians who have stood by her during this difficult struggle. She still has a long way to go, but she is on the mend now and knows what was wrong with her.

“The not knowing what was happening to me was the worst of all.”

“If by telling my story, I can help even one person not go through what I did, then it’s worth it.”

Tritos, a leading endocrinologist at the Lahey Clinic, says it is common for Cushing’s disease to not be immediately diagnosed.

“It is common because the condition itself is uncommon. The symptoms are subtle and can be attributed to other causes.”

“In Fedela’s case, her own body was producing an overload of steroids.”

There is a peculiar type of weight gain, in the face, neck and upper torso. Unfortunately, it can take awhile to be diagnosed.

“Most patients go from one doctor to another before Cushing’s disease is diagnosed.”

Also, Tritos says, sometimes the tests are inconclusive.

But once on the appropriate path, most patients can be helped.

Tritos also notes the value of a good support system, which Fedela had in place.

“The support of family and friends is very important. By telling her story, Mrs. Vincent will increase the public’s awareness of Cushing’s disease.”

Amazing! It’s Been 5 Years, Already.

Amazing! It’s Been 5 Years, Already.

Today is the Fifth Anniversary of my kidney cancer surgery.  These five years have been bonus years for me.  What were the odds I’d get kidney cancer? According to my “risk factors”, I “should” have had colon cancer because both parents and an aunt had it twice each.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that I won’t get that, too.

And the risk factors for kidney cancer aka renal cell carcinoma?The majority of kidney cancers are renal cell carcinomas. Risk factors for renal cell carcinoma include:

  • Age. Your risk of renal cell carcinoma increases as you age. Renal cell carcinoma occurs most commonly in people 60 and older.

I was younger than this.

  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop renal cell carcinoma than women are.

I am female

  • Smoking. Smokers have a greater risk of renal cell carcinoma than nonsmokers do. The risk increases the longer you smoke and decreases after you quit.

Not me!

  • Obesity. People who are obese have a higher risk of renal cell carcinoma than do people who are considered average weight.

A Cushing’s gift

  • High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of renal cell carcinoma, but it isn’t clear why. Some research in animals has linked high blood pressure medications to an increased risk of kidney cancer, but studies in people have had conflicting results.

Never had this until the kidney cancer.  It went away immediately post-op.

  • Chemicals in your workplace. Workers who are exposed to certain chemicals on the job may have a higher risk of renal cell carcinoma. People who work with chemicals such as asbestos, cadmium and trichloroethylene may have an increased risk of kidney cancer.

What?  Me work?.

  • Treatment for kidney failure. People who receive long-term dialysis to treat chronic kidney failure have a greater risk of developing kidney cancer. People who have a kidney transplant and receive immunosuppressant drugs also are more likely to develop kidney cancer.

Nope.  Some sites also list polycystic  kidney disease.  I don’t have that but half my husband’s family does.  Hmmm – wonder if that’s contagious

  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease. People with this inherited disorder are likely to develop several kinds of tumors, including, in some cases, renal cell carcinoma.

I’ve wondered about this but, you know, it’s too “rare”.

  • Hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma. Having this inherited condition makes it more likely you’ll develop one or more renal cell carcinomas.

Not that I know of.

I am so thankful for all my doctors but today I am thankful for Dr. Amir Al-Juburi who saved my life by removing my kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma).

In 2006 I picked up my husband for a biopsy 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. I left messages for several of my doctors on what I should do. 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 anaesthetic 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 became my new doctor.

When I was diagnosed in the ER with kidney cancer, Tom’s doctor said that he could do the surgery but that he would recommend someone even more experienced, Dr. Amir Al-Juburi.

Dr. Amir Al-Juburi has been so kind to me, almost like a kindly grandfather might be, and he got rid of all 10 pounds of my kidney and cancer.

I owe him, the original doctor, and my Cushing’s doctors, my life.

 

The following are extracted from posts that were made during my kidney cancer diagnosis and surgery in 2006:

From Alice April 29, 2006

This is Mary’s friend, Alice (Dearest of Power Surge).

I’m not going to go into every detail at this time. I will fill you in on more details as I receive them from Mary and Tom. I’m sure Mary posted on the boards that she recently went back to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to be retested because the tests that had been done the past year were incorrect and she was getting the wrong dose of hGh for the past year. In any event, she was tested again on Thursday and then returned home. The above is just a preface to create a time frame of events. It isn’t the reason I’ve come here to ask for prayers for Mary.

This is: Mary mentioned to me last week that she had noticed some blood in her urine. She was going to get it checked. As it were, when she returned from Johns Hopkins, she drove her husband, Tom, to get his regular biopsy for his history of prostate cancer.

While in the emergency room, Mary started having cramps in her stomach and when she went to the rest room, discovered a great deal more blood in her urine. Fortunately, she was at the hospital with her husband when this occurred. The cramps were becoming more severe. The doctors checked her out and they found a tumor in one of her kidneys – the tumor is actually the size of the kidney.

At this point and time, the doctors are recommending removal of the kidney and one of her adrenal glands. One surgeon recommended immediate removal of the kidney. Mary and Tom wanted to first talk with her other doctors and will decide on what surgeon performs the surgery. She never left the hospital where she simply went to take Tom for his test. Instead, she was admitted. She had a great deal of pain last night, but it was helped with pain killers. I will provide hospital details later.

She’s scheduled for an MRI later this morning or early afternoon.

I don’t want to go into much more detail except to say that whatever the condition of the tumor, the prognosis is pretty good.

I know how much all of you love her (as I do), how much she’s done with this site, how hard she’s worked to provide you with so much wonderful information about Cushing’s — plus what a good friend she’s been to so many of you. I also know that those of you who talk to her may want to call her. She needs time to go through all the preliminaries before being inundated with calls.

I will do my best to keep you apprised of Mary’s situation as I receive information. When she gives me the go ahead for giving out the hospital and is ready to take calls, I’ll pass the information along.

Please take a moment to send prayers for {{{{{MaryO}}}}} (she’s “our” MaryO on Power Surge, too) that everything will turn out all right and she will get through this crisis with flying colors.

Dearest

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice April 30, 2006

* Addendum: 9:30 AM – made some corrections to the 5 something AM post.

What a beautiful show of love and support.

I spoke to Mary last night. She had the MRI as scheduled. She spoke with her own doctor and they decided on a surgeon, but it means going to another hospital. She said she’d probably be coming home for a day before going in for the surgery.

I hesitated to mention in my first post that the doctors said they * think the kidney tumor is malignant due to it’s size – 5 cm. I’m sure many of you surmised that, or why would the emergency room doctors recommend immediate surgery. However, as I said earlier, Mary and Tom wanted to consult with her own doctor first. She was told that if, in fact, it is kidney cancer and is detected and treated early and confined to the kidney, the chances for a full recovery are good.

Considering what she’s going through, Mary sounded good. Lord knows, she’s been through so much already. God willing, this may resolve some of the other health issues she’s been experiencing.

Knowing Mary, when she returns home for a day before checking into the other hospital for surgery, if she’s up to it, she’ll post here herself and provide you with additional details.

For now, I’ve told you just about all I know.

Keep up those prayers!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice April 30, 2006
11 AM Update:

Mary had a brain scan this morning. She was supposed to have a bone scan today as well, but they’re doing it tomorrow instead, so they told her she could GO HOME TODAY (until she checks into the other hospital for the surgery)! She’s thrilled to be going home and I’m sure she’ll be here posting to all of you herself. You know Mary can’t stay away from computers very long. I’d venture a guess that if they looked inside, her arteries and veins would look more like computer cables (ducking).

We love Mary – so keep on praying that everything goes well, that the tests all yield good results and that she’ll be getting better ‘n better until she’s finished with this whole ordeal

(please, God!)

Reminds me of the phrase . . .

Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Til the good is better
And the better, BEST!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice April 30, 2006

Update – 2:15 PM:

Spoke with Mary. She’s home. She’s resting. The brain scan, chest/lung x-ray, abdominal scan all came out clean. The only test remaining that I know of is the bone scan, but it’s excellent that the above tests yielded good results.

She’s going back to the hospital for the bone scan tomorrow and, hopefully, scheduled for surgery ASAP.

Her attitude is very good. She sounds very good and I know, with God watching over her, and everyone showing so much love and caring, she’ll pull through this with flying colors.

It’s easier for me in conveying information to you to do so with an upbeat attitude. I try to avoid thinking of these things as tragedies or things that make me sick. Of course, I’m saddened and sorry that Mary is going through this — and has gone through so much, but such is life. You all certainly know that very well. Nobody hands us a guarantee that life is going to be without problems. And, yes, as the Morton’s salt container says, It never rains, it pours. But my M.O. is to try to keep as positive as possible, especially when in the throes of life’s unanticipated crises.

I believe the expression, “Attitude” is half the battle won.

Mary’s attitude is excellent and I know in my heart she’s going to come through this just fine.

Alice

P.S. An expression I remember my mother using, “The things we fear never happen. It’s the things we never think about that do!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice May 2, 2006

There wasn’t much to add yesterday. Mary was scheduled for a bone scan, but first had to have the radioactive tracer substance injection (I presume it was injected — she wasn’t sure herself). She was scheduled to have that around 10:30-11 AM, ET, and then had to return five hours later for the bone scan.

I didn’t speak with her last night, but she text messaged me around 6:30 that she was finally home and that the surgery had been scheduled for a week from today, Tuesday, May 9th at 9:30 AM.

I’ll post the hospital information as the time draws near.

That’s about it for now. She’s still sounding pretty good and wants to get the surgery done already!

Let’s keep those prayers going!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Me May 2, 2006

First off, I’d like to thank you all for your good wishes, support and prayers. I could do the Sally Field thing and say “…and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” but I won’t smile.gif

I plan to print everything out and take it with me to the hospital as a cheery-upper.

Alice has been such a wonderful friend through all this, calling, checking up on me, keeping all of you updated on things as they are known right now. Her support and love has been such a wonderful blessing in my life, especially now.

As it is, I’m currently feeling “normal” whatever that is. If I didn’t know I had a problem, I would think that I was just fine.

I am fortunate that I found this out before the tumor could grow any larger. I am fortunate that I was close to the ER, not driving home from Baltimore, or in Baltimore, Oklahoma or on the cruise.

I know that the tumor has been growing for quite a while – it’s very large. I saw the MRI images and even I can tell that it’s not normal. As far as I know now, all the other scans have been fine. I had an abdomen CT, chest CT, brain MRI, chest/abdomen MRI and a full body bone scan.

When I was in the ER Friday, they assumed that it was a kidney stone and did the first abdomenal CT scan looking to see where that was. They came back with the news that yes, I had a kidney stone but that it was the least of my worries at them moment. So, I was admitted to the hospital and had all the other scans except the bone scan. Knowing what I know now, it would have been better and easier for me to have had the bone scan as an inpatient. As soon as I checked out and was out of the system, it was harder to get an “emergency” (not scheduled weeks in advance) bone scan. Oh, well.

My surgery will be next Tuesday, May 9, at 9:30AM at Fairfax Hospital ( http://www.inova.org/inovapublic.srt/ifh/index.jsp ). I’m expected to stay there for 3-5 days post op and they don’t anticipate any pesky complications like chemo or radiation at this time.

For now, I’m keeping my normal schedule, avoiding reading horror stories online, eating, sleeping – even napping! – as usual. Sometimes I even forget that I have this little medical appointment next week.

For a non-phone person I’ve talked with so many people these last few days, it’s mind-boggling.

I’m happy to report that all is not lost on the (Cushie) cruise. Someone will replace me – and there will be another cruise later in the year. YEA! My main “concern” on that now is that I’ll lose weight (finally!) post-op and my cruisewear will no longer fit. Yeah, right.

In thinking back, I think it’s a good thing that my arginine test was messed up in Sept of 05. If it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have redone it on Thursday. I believe that having that stuff in my body was what made my kidneys rebel and act up on Friday. So, without the lab screw-up I might not have known anything for a long time.

So, it’s all good

Thanks to everyone who has called and posted such wonderful things. I cannot begin to imagine what my email looks like…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice May 9, 2006, 09:10 AM

I’ve been in constant contact with Mary. Spoke to her at 7 this morning. She, Tom and their son, Michael, were on the way to the hospital. Mary sounded very good as she has all week. She’s going in with an excellent attitude.

She’s probably being prepped right now. The surgery is set for for 9:30 (ET). They anticipate the surgery will last 3 1/2 – 4 hours.

Now, all we can do is pray and wait. Tom will call me after the surgery is over. As soon as I hear something, I’ll make it a point to come back and post what I know.

Your support, love and prayers have been remarkable. Thank you on behalf of Mary. Please keep on praying until it’s over.

God? You listening? You’ve got someone very special to watch over this morning. We’re counting on you!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice May 9, 2006, 12:33 PM

Mary’s husband, Tom, called me at 12:15

He said it’s going to be another 3 hours – around 3:15 PM – before they’re done. Surgery didn’t start as scheduled at 9:30, but more like 11:30. There wasn’t that much he could tell me except that the doctors said, so far everything is going as expected and Tom said, “so far, so good.”

I hesitate to draw any conclusions from that statement because I’m not 100% sure of what the doctors expected, so it’s a matter of waiting until it’s over.

I’ll keep you posted. Keep praying, please!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice May 9, 2006, 2:00PM

Tom called at 1:15, but we had a bad connection. We finally connected.

The operation is over. Mary was being sewn up. Tom said according to the doctor, “the tumor and the kidney were removed.” The doctor is calling the operation a “complete success.”

I asked if they saw any signs of cancer anywhere else because Mary had told me originally that they’d said they might remove the gall bladder, too, but they didn’t remove the gall bladder – which is a good sign.

It appears as though everything was concentrated in the kidney.

Thank God. It’s over!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice May 9 2006, 07:39 PM

Someone said: “… I told her that I would wait until she was home and feeling much better before I talked to her again and she agreed that she wasn’t sure she would be up to taking phone calls. Again, thank you so much for keeping us updated… this way we can know how Mary is doing without her having to take so many calls…”

That’s exactly how Tom and I feel. Tom suggests people not call the hospital. I wouldn’t even call his cell phone all day. I waited for him to contact me. I know he’s also exhausted. I figured he’d call when he was up to it. He called about 15 minutes ago.

It’s important that Mary get all the rest she can while recovering. Yes, everything turned out well, but she still had major surgery, is on morphine and needs her sleep. It’s important that we all allow her this time to rest.

It just so happened she was awake when he called and he turned on his cell phone’s speakerphone so Mary and I could talk for a minute. I was so happy to hear her voice. She sounded tired, her mouth was dry, but she sounded good.

Because this is a public message board, I prefer not to post details of the room she’s in. If anyone wants this information for the purpose of sending something to Mary, please E.mail me from the address you registered with on the board, and please include your user name. Thanks.

Another thing is that Mary has allergies, so for those wishing to send something to her, Tom and I (and Mary, as we discussed before she went into the hospital) agree she’s better off without flowers.

Finally, Tom said the doctor was very pleased with how her surgery went – that her body was quite robust, that there was very little bleeding, so no transfusion was needed, and he was generally very pleased with the surgery.

It’s been a very stressful day. I love Mary like a sister. We’ve been good friends for 11 years. I cried so after he initially called and said everything went well. I know all of you love and care about Mary, too.

All I’ve thought all day is, thank you, God, for watching over MaryO. I know all of you have thought the same thing.

That’s about it for now — she even cracked a personal joke when we said goodbye — she’ll be back to her old self again before too long.

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Alice May 13 2006, 08:10 PM

Saturday Update on Mary:

When she’s back on her computer, I know Mary will be thrilled to read all your thoughtful, beautiful and caring messages.

She’s doing well. The worst part is the incision which is quite large because the doctors originally anticipated the possibility of having to remove the adrenal gland above the kidney that was removed and the gall bladder as well. However, as I posted earlier, once they got in there, everything was found to be clean so they just took out the tumor and the kidney (as if that’s not enough). So, when she gets up to go to the bathroom, the incision is quite painful. I imagine an incision of that size will take a while to heal. Other than that she says she feels good!!

Additionally, the doctor was awaiting the results of the lymph node biopsy (just to be sure) and he told her yesterday, “everything looks clean.”

She was originally scheduled to go home tomorrow, Sunday, but . . . she went home TODAY!

Spoke to her after she arrived home (sorry I didn’t post earlier, but also have my Web site to deal with).
She sounded great and was glad to be home especially since a new person checked into her room yesterday and Mary wasn’t able to sleep all night.

That’s all for now – and all very good news, thank God!

Alice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Me: June 17, 2006 post-op:

Thank you all for your prayers, good wishes, cards, phone calls, gifts, general “cheery-uppers”. They all really helped me on my road to recovery.

I do have a ton of thank you cards to send out to lots of people – I’m very slow at that. Under normal circumstances my handwriting is terrible. Now, post-op kidney cancer, I can no longer take my arthritis meds or any NSAIDs and my writing will probably be even worse sad.gif

I am very nearly better, not much pain anymore, a nasty big scar and my energy levels aren’t so great. Of course, they were awful before. I can no longer take the GH even though I’m deficient. In 5 years (if I survive!) I can take the GH again, supposedly.

I’ve had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking over the last 6 weeks. I know I was extraordinarily lucky to have my tumor discovered before it was too late. The lab reports and my surgeon reported that it would only have been a week or so before the tumor had hemorrhaged and caused major problems. Thank goodness the argenine retest for GH had caused me to bleed – at least I think that’s what set it off. If I hadn’t had all the blood and pain for one day only, I’d have had no clue that I had this cancer and who knows what would have happened in that next week.

I will be getting CT scans every 3 months for awhile to be sure that there is no cancer hiding out.

During my time of thinking, I have also been thinking about making changes to the boards based on what I have heard was going on here. I am not yet sure how these changes will manifest themselves but I do know that bashing others will not be tolerated. More on this later, in another area.

Again, thank you for all your support!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Me July 6, 2006

Since I recently had surgery for kidney cancer, I’ve been looking around for another board to read and talk about this with other survivors (hopefully!) I haven’t found anyplace I’d like to visit or feel comfortable with yet, so I decided to make a new area here.

I know – or I think I know – that no one else here has had kidney cancer, although I know at least 1 other person has had a kidney removed and several others have reported kidney stones and other possible kidney diseases.

I’m sure that my recovery will be much the same as for any other major abdominal surgery, although I’d like it to be faster.

Before my surgery, I didn’t have time really to consider that I had cancer, and what it meant for my life. There was no going from doctor to doctor, running a different test each week, suspecting that maybe… Just boom, there it is. Cancer.

Now that I’m about 8 weeks post-op, I’m thinking more and more about this and how it might affect my future. I know that there are going to be lots of scans, every 3 months, just to be sure that there wasn’t a cell hiding out.

I know I have to be careful with meds – no NSAIDs so my arthritis is worse. No GH – it’s contraindicated for 5 years…assuming I’m cancer free then.

I’m supposed to be eating less protein, more fruits/veggies, drinking more water.

And I’m supposed to avoid playing football and other things that might damage my remaining kidney.

Normally, I know how very lucky I am. I just reread the path reports and know that the tumor was already hemorrhaging around the borders and the cysts contained hemorrhagic fluid. Things could be much worse.

Sometimes, at night when I can’t sleep, I wonder why I was lucky like this. What haven’t I done with my life that I should. Seems to me that I’ve accomplished what I should already.

And, in the night, I worry about the cancer returning, taking my other kidney or worse.

At this time, there’s no standard chemo unless it’s metastasized, although there are some promising clinical trials and radiation doesn’t seem to work for this kind of cancer, so if it returns it’s more surgery.

I suppose I could/should have put all this in my blog, but I put it out here in case anyone else should need this in the future. I hope not!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From me Aug 19 2006, 01:25 AM

Thanks so much for asking!

Unfortunately, I haven’t read the boards much lately – I’m spending most of my online time deleting/banning the InstaChat intruders.

I have been working on the websites, though, and that’s always fun! I’ve even added a new one to the roster and it has some cool stuff on it. New features to be announced in the upcoming newsletter.

I’ve been even more tired than usual now that I’m off GH. I can’t take my arthritis meds, or anything like Excedrin (no NSAIDs) so my joints are nearly always bothering me and I have to wait out any headaches. I’m also just getting over a UTI.

I just had my 3 month post-op CT scans and I hope they come out ok. At first I was grateful that I wouldn’t have to have chemo or radiation come to find out that neither has been discovered yet which works well with kidney cancer. Apparently, it can resurface any time for the rest of my life. I’m hoping that some of the chemo clinical trials show some good results so I can get this thing before it metastasizes somewhere.

I’m having trouble sleeping (1:20 AM here, now) although I’m always tired. My mind plays all kinds of tricks in the night. Those InstaChat people don’t help, either! When I wake up just a little, instead of falling back asleep, I’ll go check to see what they’ve done.

Whine, whine!

On the plus side – I survived the kidney cancer surgery, and it’s almost vacation time!

Even vacation will be bittersweet, though. 2 years ago, Sue went with us on vacation. She had a great time and she had asked if she could go with us again this year. Of course, we had said yes…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From me May 8 2008, 11:07 PM
I am feeling very maudlin, a bit down and depressed. It’s very nearly the anniversary of my kidney cancer surgery. I posted this in my blog a few days ago:

I’ve been feeling weird for about a week now. Last Friday, I went through the whole “Sending Prayers” topic (MKO’Note: this thread) that my good friend Alice started for me.After I read that, I started reliving all the kidney cancer events…again. I know I shouldn’t do this. My counselor says that this is a very stressful thing to do and it’s not good for me, for anyone. But I do it anyway, especially the pituitary and cancer surgery anniversaries. I wish I did this with good stuff, could relive that instead of the scary and painful.

After I finished rereading all that, I went back to my post in the cancer section: I guess I’ve talked about this more than I think! I just wish there was someone I could get answers and support from. I have never met anyone in real life who has shared my particular brand of cancer, haven’t talked to anyone on the phone or emailed anyone.

I even asked at my local cancer support center about support for me – they have all kinds of meetings, mainly for breast and prostate cancer, but other kinds, too. But they said that there weren’t enough kidney cancer people to have a meeting. The one and only book that the library there has on kidney cancer was given to me by the author to donate there.

Lucky me – two rare diseases that no one gets. According to statistics I should be a black man who smokes and works in the iron and steel industry or is exposed to certain chemical and substances, such as asbestos (a mineral fiber that can be used in construction materials for insulation and as fire-retardant) and cadmium (a rare, soft, bluish-white chemical element used in batteries and plastic industry), also increase the risk for renal cell carcinoma. I should have polycystic kidneys and not drink the copious coffee.

So…where did it come from? A mutation of my parents’ and aunt’s colon cancer or do I still have that looming on my horizon?

And the Cushing’s came from nowhere, too. I know that no one knows these answers but I think of them a lot, especially at night.

Although I’m not afraid of death and would like it to be as peaceful and pain-free as possible, I still dream at night that I’m dying or have died. These dreams have been going on since before the cancer and I can’t seem to shake them although I’m taking them more in stride now and can go right back to sleep.
And from last year’s post on this topic, these still concern me:

What if the lung nodules that “aren’t growing” turn out to be something on the next scan? Is the stomach distress I’m currently feeling a cause to ask for my next colonoscopy a bit earlier?

Is the pain on the other side the other kidney causing trouble? Or something new with an ovary?

What if, what if…?

Seems like in my addled brain any new symptom could be cancer, not the simple stomach bug or pulled muscle.

Had they told me in 2006 that I only had a year or two to live, I’d have thought it far too short a time. I guess how long a year is depends on the frame of mind!

I hate going for scans because they could show something but I get nervous when there are no scans because there could be something else! Seems like my mind is setting me up for a lose-lose situation.

I’m sure as I get closer to Friday that other thoughts will come to me. I am so grateful that I’ve had these two “bonus years”. I feel like there is so much still to do with the Cushing’s sites and I will never get them done in my lifetime but I plan to keep trucking along!

And from Wonderful Words of Life…

I’m acquiring the title of an old hymn for this next post.

After I was finished with the long Cushing’s diagnostic process, surgery and several post-op visits to NIH, I was asked to give the scripture reading at my church. The man who did 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 verse 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 verse was different. Maybe I wrote it down wrong, maybe someone changed it. Whatever.

This verse has come to have so much meaning in my life. When I saw at a book called A Musician’s Book of Psalms each day had a different psalm. On my birthday, there was “my” psalm so I had to buy this book!

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.

 

I 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. On the other side there is an article I found after my kidney cancer. I first read this in Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul and is posted several places online.

The Best Day Of My Life
by Gregory M Lousignont

Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!

Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.

I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.

Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.

Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for her and how much she means to me.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me.

I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine.

And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures.

As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

 

When I’m feeling down, depressed or low, reading my 2 special pages can help me more than anything else.

Beautiful sunsets help, too!

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