Science Teacher Receives Support After Cushing’s Disease Diagnosis

I find it amazing that it’s newsworthy in this day and age for anyone receiving support after a diagnosis.  Of course, a diagnosed person should be getting support as a matter of course.  If she had cancer, everyone would be all over this.

For Kara Murrow, the most rewarding moments as a teacher come when students learn about animals in the classroom. So it’s difficult for the Bonham Elementary fifth-grade science and social studies teacher to be away from school while she prepares for surgery.

“I enjoy it, and I know my kids enjoy the class and enjoy science because of it,” Murrow said. “With the science club I do after school once a week, the kids get upset when it gets canceled because of meetings. Not having it now is upsetting, too.”

Murrow was diagnosed this month with Cushing’s disease, a condition that develops when a tumor on the pituitary gland causes it to secrete too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. Murrow, who moved to West Texas from Arizona three years ago, said she has received support from Midland ISD employees and others in the local community.

Murrow’s mother, Louise Gonzalez, also appreciates Midlanders’ concerns for her daughter.

“People in Midland have been wonderful, considering how new we are to the area,” Gonzalez said. “The school district sent out the GoFundMe page and there’s been an outpouring of support for that. People at my church always ask me.”

Murrow’s family is collecting donations from the website GoFundMe to cover the costs of medical and travel expenses. Murrow and her husband, Kai, recently spent money on hospital stays connected to their 4-year-old son’s food sensitivities.

“They’ve been paying off those bills and doing OK until this came,” Gonzalez said. “Plus, she’s been going to the doctor about this. Because Cushing’s is so rare, doctors don’t recognize it.”

Murrow was diagnosed with the disease after medical professionals discovered a tumor on her pituitary gland. For six years, she experienced symptoms — including weight gain, dizziness and headaches — but said doctors couldn’t determine the cause. Murrow was thankful when she received an answer.

“It was a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis and know that I wasn’t crazy or making things up,” Murrow said. “It’s weird to be excited about a brain tumor. It’s a relief to know what was happening and that I have a solution.”

Murrow traveled this week to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where she’s scheduled to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Though Murrow said recovery lasts several months, she hopes to return to the classroom next school year.

Jaime White, fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Bonham, said both staff and students miss her presence. She said Murrow expresses concern for her students during her time away.

“She’s worried about how kids will do on the STAAR [State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness],” White said. “She doesn’t want them to think she abandoned them. The disease has to take center stage.”

At school, White said she noticed her colleague’s dedication toward helping her students understand science.

“She’s hands-on,” White said. “When it comes to science, she’s always making sure the kids are doing some sort of experiment. She wants to make sure the kids grasp it.”

Murrow teaches students about animals through dissections and presentations. Before she became a teacher nine years ago, she coordinated outreach programs at an Arizona zoo.

When she came to MISD, Murrow saw an opportunity to generate enthusiasm about science. She launched an invite-only science club for fifth-graders who show interest in the subject.

“I started it because there wasn’t really anything,” Murrow said. “They have tutorials for reading and math. There’s not a lot kids can do with science after school. They get science in the younger grades, but the focus is on reading and math. Science is something kids really enjoy.”

Though Murrow is disappointed about not being able to facilitate the club, she recognizes the importance of her upcoming surgery. She’s happy her mother, husband and two children will be in Phoenix for support.

“I hope that it will bring about a sense of relief to all the symptoms I’ve been dealing with and provide a chance for myself and my family to continue along with a full life,” Murrow said.

From http://www.mrt.com/news/local/article/Science-teacher-receives-support-after-11026581.php

Interview with Doc Karen, Pituitary Patient and Cushing’s Advocate

Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

“How can you leave her like this?”

A mother has revealed the anguish her family suffered after her daughter (16), who is in need of brain surgery, was turned away from Beaumont Hospital.

The National Centre for Neurosurgery had no beds or theatre access for nine patients with malignant brain tumours last Friday.
One of the people who was turned away was 16-year-old Chloe Holian from Donegal.

Her mother Caitriona explained to the Anton Savage Show on TodayFM that the road to treatment has been fraught with setbacks.

“I can’t stress how happy I am with the neurosurgeon and his team are there but it seems our consultant’s hands are tied, what am I supposed to do?” she said.

Chloe was diagnosed in July with a recurrence of Cushing’s syndrome, a metabolic disorder which is caused by abnormally high levels of the hormone cortisol in the blood stream.

After being promised treatment in July and then August, the Letterkenny girl was finally admitted on Thursday and was fasting for a procedure on Friday morning when she was told it was cancelled.

“When we got down they told us that they decided to put off the surgery for a couple of days,” said Caitriona.

She was told that the doctors wanted to perform a dexamethasone suppression test first to confirm that Chloe was, in fact, suffering from Cushing’s – despite previous diagnosis revealing that she was.

However, she soon found out that the test couldn’t be performed.

“At 11am someone in scrubs came around to say it wasn’t fair but he had to tell us she won’t be doing the surgery… and she wouldn’t be getting the major test either,” said Caitriona.

She said he was very empathetic of their situation.

“I felt sorry for him having to tell us that news… I asked him ‘how can you leave her like this?’

“He promised that he was going to organise this test himself. It was quite difficult as you need four people in the surgery to do this test, you need the radiographer, neurosurgeon, endocrinologist and anesthetist.”

Unfortunately, an anesthetist was not available for the test.

Caitriona said that Chloe was quite upset at the news. One of the side-effects of her condition is excessive weight gain and the student has gained six stone since last September.

“She had psyched herself up for the surgery,” explained her mother.

“Everybody was around her encouraging her, they threw a party for her before she went because it was a big thing. Chloe has no confidence because she’s put on an extra six stone. She was looking forward to getting her old self back, she just wanted to go and do this operation and get it over and done with.

“For anybody to have a little bit of a weight gain they can be conscious of it but if you’re 16-years-old and you’ve gained six stone and you can’t explain it…”

Caitriona said the family were forced to pack their bags and return to Donegal but, as of today, they have still not received a rescheduled appointment.

The mother-of-three is struggling to juggle home life with trips to Dublin but she said the family’s life is on hold until the tumour is removed.

This is the second time that Chloe has developed Cushing’s, in 2009 she was sent to London for surgery as treatment was not yet available in Ireland.

Patients lives are being threatened by delays, according to the head of the country’s national brain surgery centre. Clinical Director Mohsen Javadpour says people are at risk of dying while they’re waiting for treatment.

From http://www.independent.ie/life/how-can-you-leave-her-like-this-mothers-anguish-as-daughter-16-in-need-of-brain-surgery-is-turned-away-from-beaumont-35029557.html

Video: Adrenalectomy for Cushing’s Syndrome Surgical Management

Adrenalectomy for Cushing Syndrome Surgical Management by Dr Anup Gulati

History of Patient
A 35 yrs old female with complaint of…
Weight Gain over last 2 years (weighing 115 kg at present)
Pulse 70, BP 124/76. No history of episodes of hypertension.
CECT whole abdomen suggestive of left adrenal 5×5 cm cystic mass
Dexamethasone suppression test positive for Cushing’s disease.
Rest all hormone profile normal.

Adrenal glands are attached with kidneys sometimes release excess hormones which cause cushing’s disease. Urologists do Adrenalectomy procedure which can cure Cushing’s disease.

 

Why Was This Woman Gaining Weight Despite Her Diet?

“I just can’t seem to lose weight,” the 59-year-old woman said quietly. She had tried everything, she told the young doctor, who was training to be an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Weight Watchers. Exercise. She ate more vegetables, less fat, then fewer carbs. But still she was gaining weight, 30 pounds during the past seven months, including 12 in the past two weeks. She had never been skinny, she continued, but shapely. In her mid-40s, she started gaining weight, slowly at first, then rapidly. She was considering bariatric surgery, but she wanted to make sure she wasn’t missing something obvious. She had low thyroid hormones and had to take medication. Could her thyroid be off again?

The doctor asked her about symptoms associated with a low thyroid-hormone level. Fatigue? Yes, she was always tired. Changes in her hair or skin? No. Constipation? No. Do you get cold easier? Never. Indeed, these days she usually felt hot and sweaty.

It was probably not the thyroid, the doctor said. She asked if the woman had any other medical problems. She had high blood pressure and high cholesterol — both well controlled with medications. She also had obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapse during sleep, cutting off air flow and waking the person many times throughout the night. She had a machine that helped keep her airway open, and she used it every night. She also had back pain, knee pain and carpal-tunnel syndrome. The pain was so bad that she had to retire from her job years before she was ready.

Big, Bigger, Biggest

The doctor examined her, then went to get Dr. Donald Smith, an endocrinologist and director of lipids and metabolism at Mount Sinai’s cardiovascular institute. After hearing a summary of the case, Smith asked the patient if she had anything to add. She did: She didn’t understand why she was getting so much bigger. Her legs were huge. She used to have nice ankles, but now you could hardly see them. Her doctor had given her a diuretic, but it hadn’t done a thing. Everything was large — her feet, her hands, even her face seemed somehow bigger. She hardly recognized the woman in the mirror. Her doctors just encouraged her to keep trying to lose weight.

Worth a Thousand Words

“Let me show you a picture,” she said suddenly and reached over to her purse. The patient’s sister had made a comment recently that led the patient to wonder whether the changes she saw in the mirror were more than simple aging. The patient pulled out a photograph of an attractive middle-aged woman and handed it to Smith. That was me eight years ago, she told him. Looking at the two faces, it was hard to believe they belonged to the same woman. Smith suspected this was something more than the extra pounds.

Two possibilities came to mind. Each was a disease of hormonal excess; each caused rapid weight gain. The first was Cushing’s disease, caused by overproduction of one of the fight-or-flight hormones, cortisol. The doctor looked at the patient, seeking clues. On her upper back, just below her neck, the woman had a subtle area of enlargement. This discrete accumulation of fat, called a buffalo hump, can occur with normal weight gain but is frequently seen in patients with Cushing’s. Do you bruise more easily these days? he asked. Cushing’s makes the skin fragile. No, she said. Did she have stretch marks on her stomach from the weight gain? The rapid expansion of the abdomen can cause the fragile skin to develop dark purple stretch lines. No. So maybe it wasn’t Cushing’s.

Find out the answer at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/17/magazine/17mag-diagnosis.html#/#7

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