First in a series.
On Oct. 17, 2014, my legs were covered in hives. It was the day before I was supposed to meet P.K. Subban, a hockey player, in Montreal. Little did I know that this would foreshadow my health’s future.
I’m Catarina, and I’m a 24-year-old Cushing’s disease survivor. You may or may not have stumbled upon my Facebook or Instagram page, “Crush Cushing’s.” Awareness and supporting others are crucial when dealing with Cushing’s disease. Only those who have it truly understand the hell of it. Awareness is my mission.
In early January 2015, I began noticing small, odd changes in, and on, my body. My lower abdomen began growing, but only in a single spot. I decided to start eating better and going to the gym. Within a few months, I began noticing my muscle coming in, and it felt great!
The only thing not going well was my gut that wouldn’t shrink no matter what I did. I started developing stretch marks on my calves and inner thighs at this point, so my mom and I thought it was due to finally gaining weight. I was 88 pounds when this started, and I could never gain weight before.
During this time, I was in college studying marketing, and my program ran through the summer. In summer 2015, I started a new job out of town. I commuted for everything and was never home. When I started becoming stressed and irritated easily, I thought it was because I was never home except to sleep. Despite that thought, I kept on going: commuting, studying, going to classes, working out, spending time with my boyfriend, and going to work.
By December 2015, my gut had grown significantly, I had a double chin, and my chest and back were full of acne. Stretch marks had spread to my stomach and I had constant hives. I was always exhausted and stressed. I also was having difficulties at work. Despite working hard, getting no sleep, and experiencing rapidly declining health, I continued to cater to everyone’s needs and decided I was lazy with my trips to the gym.
In March 2016, I took a food sensitivity test and began a three-month food elimination diet. I had reactions to almost every food you can find that’s easy on-the-go. I ate close to nothing and worked out, yet still managed to gain 30 pounds in the three months of that diet. While I was close to completing my diploma, I struggled with severe short-term memory loss, a foggy mind, body aches and pains, sleeping only two or three hours a night, and constantly sweating. Everything was difficult.
In May 2016, I finally found a second job, and it was in my field and located five minutes from home. But I had to leave my first job at a health and wellness store. At that store, I was told I was “too big” for the company’s culture. Those who have Cushing’s likely understand how horrible it felt to go from looking like myself to being unrecognizable. Being told I was “too big” for a job sent me over the edge. That’s when I went to my family doctor and demanded to see an endocrinologist. My mom accompanied me because she had thyroid cancer the year before and was worried my thyroid wasn’t functioning.
Throughout it all, I never once had heard of Cushing’s disease. My naturopath kept bringing up polycystic ovary syndrome, so I began doing research the day before my appointment with my endocrinologist. I stumbled upon Cushing’s disease. I read that it was caused by a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal glands and brushed it off. Me? A tumor? Especially in the brain? Never.
Little did I know my entire world would change the day I met my endocrinologist.
Next week, I’ll discuss my diagnosis and the journey to surgery, as well as the post-operation period. Just remember, you’re not alone in this scary time of your life and you don’t have to go through it by yourself. Together, we will crush Cushing’s.
Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.