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Natalie F., Transsphenoidal Pituitary Surgery, Gamma Knife

Hi! I am 31 years old, a Marine wife, and I was diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome in February, 1990. I began to have problems during the summer of ’89. After many doctors visits for many different problems, I was told by a Dermatologist at Camp LeJeune, NC that I looked Cushingnoid. He called in Internal Medicine and the tests began. A tumor was found on my pituitary gland. I was then sent to Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, VA. I saw the neurosurgeon and had surgery in March 1990. Every thing was going well and then my cortisol levels started to rise again. We once again went up to Portsmouth, VA, and more tests were run. Everything showed up normal. We went back to NC and a couple of months later the levels started to rise again. This time, I was once again admitted to the hospital and during my stay, all of my doctors were called over seas to participate in Desert Storm. (That’s the military for you.) I started with all new doctors and that wasn’t easy. They were telling me that I wasn’t giving the surgery enough time to take full effect.

By this point, I was so tired of feeling bad and being an emotional basket case, I insisted that I be seen by Radiation oncology and after looking at my MRI, they agreed with me that something else had to be done. The surgery was unable to remove the entire tumor, so there was still tumor in my sinus cavity and with the radiation, they hoped to kill the rest of the tumor. So we moved home to VA with my parents so that we would be closer to Portsmouth, where the treatments would take place. My husband, Joe, was able to get orders to be a recruiter’s assistant, so that he could be with me during the 30 days of treatments. We went through the treatments with no problems and returned to NC.

I was doing really well and Joe and I decided that it was time to move, so we asked for a transfer to Atlanta, GA. Here in GA he wouldn’t have to be away as much as he was in NC. We moved in September, 1992. I found a doctor here just for regular follow-ups. (There are no military hospitals here.) I was doing well until the summer of ’94. I developed a droopy eyelid. I started the route of different doctors once more, never thinking that it could be related to my tumor.

After six different doctors, I ended up at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta and an MRI showed that the tumor was back. This time the tumor was pressing on the optic nerve and I had developed a third nerve palsy. I was treated with medication until February ’95. This treatment wasn’t shrinking the tumor, so they decided to do surgery once again, knowing that they couldn’t remove the entire tumor. After surgery, I have been on many medications to help control the cortisol levels. I haven’t been on hydrocortisone (that is what I hope for). I had Stereotactic Radiation surgery in August of that same year. Everything is going well for now and I hope it will continue that way. I am on several medications that have become a part of life. As long as it helps, I don’t mind.

Our next dream is to have a baby. We have been married for over 10 years. We are so much a part of each other, we are ready to share that special relationship with a child of our own. We have been told that it may be possible for us to have one of our own, but we haven’t given up the idea of adopting.

Joe and I have become so close over the past ten years. It is all a result of being married to a Marine and dealing with Cushing’s. This disease has been an experience that really makes you wake up and appreciate what you have.

My advice is to take one day at a time. Sometimes it is a long road, but you will get there eventually. I am just beginning to see the end of that road. If there is anyone who would like to get in touch with me, please feel free. I would love to hear from you. We are getting ready to get out of the Marine Corps and do not know when this will actually happen.

Member: 244
Newsletter: December, 1996 
State: Maryland

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