How Cushing’s Syndrome Changed My Social Life

Kat Rees avatar

by Kat Rees |

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I started developing Cushing’s syndrome at a very young age, though I wasn’t diagnosed until age 22. My doctor believes the tumor in my adrenal gland began growing when I was a child. I had common Cushing’s symptoms when I was 10, but no weight gain. I’ve always been shy, and I developed specific phobias and anxieties at a noticeably young age. This caused me to withdraw from friends, from elementary school through college. I was never social, but I did have a tight group of close friends.

Kat in a college class. (Courtesy of Kat Rees)

Due to the excess cortisol my body produced during the later stages of Cushing’s, I became increasingly anxious and withdrawn. This was really difficult in college, a time when one should be lively and thrilling! My friends from high school stopped talking to me, and strangers didn’t seem interested in me or what I (rarely) had to say. I am a pretty charismatic person, but my insecurities and discomfort left me lackluster. I was a wallflower — thankfully, completely different than how I am today.

Before and after photos of Kat. (Courtesy of Kat Rees)

After I had surgery to remove the tumor in my adrenal gland, I immediately felt lighter, as if I could feel its weight fall off my body. I saw a light at the end of this suffering. Optimism, excitement for the future, and relief fueled me. I started to become confident again! This made me eager to do all the things I wasn’t able to when I was sick.

Losing weight helped with my joint pain, and soon I looked forward to spending time doing pleasurable activities again. Life is so much more enjoyable when you’re reveling in life instead of just surviving. Walking with my mom in the mornings was not so tiresome. I now looked forward to a birthday dinner with my best friend.

I often heard that the person I was before seemed like a stranger. I even seemed like a stranger to myself. I didn’t necessarily go back to being my old self, because the old me hadn’t gone through the turmoil I had experienced. I embraced who I had become.

Since my surgery five years ago, I have metamorphosed into a social butterfly. I still deal with anxiety; it’s become such a big part of me after being exposed to cortisol for so long, especially in my growing years. However, I now love spending time with people and hearing their stories, hardships, and aspirations. Going through a rare disease makes you appreciate so much more in life. I’m grateful for who I’ve become on the healed side!


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 Cushing’s.


Julianne Taylor avatar

Julianne Taylor

Thank you for sharing! Our stories are so similar and I really resonated with your article. Your experience gives me hope.

Kat Rees avatar

Kat Rees

I am so glad this helped you, Julianne! Take care!


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