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Deloreese Daniels Owens's Story

"Touched By a Pituitary Tragedy"

Actress Della Reese has spent the last eight years starring on the hit TV series "Touched by an Angel." But earlier this year Reese, 71, was touched by tragedy. In March, her 42-year-old daughter, Deloreese Daniels Owens, died from complications stemming from pituitary disease. Owens left behind two children, ages 19 and 21.

Understandably, Reese has been too distraught to discuss her death, but in an interview with the Pituitary Network Association member and author Ken Baker, Reese talked about the painful experience, sharing her frustration with the lack of awareness and knowledge of pituitary disorders. "When it happened, I thought, 'It's such an odd thing to die from,' because pituitary problems aren't something you hear about," Reese said. "It makes it harder because you don't understand what happened. It seemed so strange and hard to explain. It still is, to be honest."

Reese said that her daughter's pituitary gland -- the body's "master gland" -- had begun malfunctioning about six years ago. Her Los Angeles-area endocrinologist prescribed various medications, but, still, the gland's functioning was severely impaired. She continued with hormone injections and other drugs. "She had been treating it for some time," Reese said. "It seemed fine and the medication seemed to be enough."

But Reese said her daughter's death came suddenly this spring soon after her daughter caught a cold. "Her gland stopped -- period," she said. "As you know, when the gland stopped, her immune system stopped too." Reese believes strongly that the public must have more information about pituitary disorders. She praised Ken Baker for his 2001 book, "Man Made: A Memoir of My Body," in which he told the story of his battle with a prolactin-secreting pituitary tumor. Reese also applauded the educational outreach efforts of the Pituitary Network Association, which has helped thousands of patients and their loved ones cope with pituitary disease. "People need to know more about the pituitary," she said. "It is so important."

Despite the tragedy, Reese, an accomplished gospel singer who has moonlighted as an ordained minister since the late 1980s, has found spiritual peace with the loss of her daughter. "She was in a very good place in her life," Reese said. "She was happy. She had established a relationship with God. It wasn't a good time for me, but she was at a good place when she left."

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