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Kill Bill

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Bill's Reign of Terror, Part I: The Sneak Attack

I first became aware of Bill on November 6, but now that I know about him, I am pretty sure he officially arrived during the summer of 2012. Since then, I suffered from depression, acne, menstrual problems, 30lb weight gain (while training for a marathon), and high blood pressure. Best of all, Bill has taken up residence on the back of my neck and created a little colony on my belly too.

 

I always been pretty healthy (except for hypothyroidism) but in the last year, I had seen several different doctors for all of the weird things that have been happening to me. A gynecologist and dermatologist both suggested my menstrual and acne problems were likely hormonal and happening because I was probably going through perimenopause (I was 40 at the time). A psychiatrist put me on Effexor for depression and a beta-blocker for anxiety (I jump a foot when the phone would ring or someone would knock on my office door). All of these treatments seemed completely reasonable to me and they helped. It never occurred to me or anyone else they could be related. And all potentially explained why I kept gaining weight, despite not changing my diet and exercise (5-6 days a week) regime. Who knew hitting your 40s was going to be this rough?

 

I started to really slow down on my runs - 2 to 3 minutes per mile slower than before. Maybe it was the weight gain that was making running harder, maybe it was the unusually hot and humid summer. I kept waiting for my running to get back to normal. But it never did. Every day it was a struggle to run. It was something I used to love so much - it was my way of working through stress. Now, it just made me feel bad. When I went to my regular endocrinologist in July for my annual thyroid check-up, he discovered my TSH was "way off" - and a little light went on. That's why I felt so crappy this year! I recounted my symptoms to Endo 1 (whom I had been seeing for 7 years). He thought I must be "very sensitive" to changes in hormones to have such a large reaction to the drop in TSH but hey, you never know. My Synthroid does was adjusted and I kept waiting to feel better. But I just kept getting worse. At my follow-up appointment in October, Endo 1 (who was with a medical student) told me my hormone levels were perfect and my face fell. He said I looked like I wanted a different answer. I explained that I felt worse and was having very troubling symptoms now. I run the week before and two miles in developed an excruciating headache, blurry vision and unsteadiness that stopped me in my tracks. I had to sit down for 30 minutes before the symptoms subsided and I could walk back to my car. I haven't run since. He started standing up, with the medical student in tow, and told me "this is not an endocrine problem - you should talk to your PCP and go see a cardiologist." That was that.

 

I found a great cardiologist that deals with athletes, Dr. B. I was supposed to run the Philly marathon in November and so I tried to get his nurse to squeeze me onto his schedule in early November so I could figure out if there was something wrong with my heart. I had a stress test at his lab which came out completely normal. However, my blood pressure was very high. He told me that my heart was fine but something was very wrong for my blood pressure to be so high. I had mentioned to him that I had high BP readings at the various doctor's offices I had visited over the year - but I was always told "you are young and healthy, your BP is just high because you are in seeing the doctor today" (which for the record is ridiculous - it is hard to stress me out and a visit to the doctor is certainly not enough to do it).

 

After reviewing my records and giving me a physical exam, he came back and told me he suspected I had Cushing's. He started some lab work to try and test for it too - two 24 hour UFC's and a dexamethasone suppression test. I had never heard of Cushing's, but my symptoms fit to a T. And as I read about "buffalo humps" and reached up to feel my neck, I realized I had known about Bill for some time. The cardiologist was so wonderful. He told me. "This is an endocrine issue, not a cardiac issue. But I am going to keep seeing you until you are better and I am going to help you navigate through the system."

 

I felt very happy and relieved when I left his office. There was something wrong and it had a name. Now, I would just have a couple of tests, see my endocrinologist and go back to my normal life. If only life were so easy....



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