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Shery A's Story...

'm sitting here at my PC dejected, a little teary, and yes - angry.

I saw my family MD last week for a rather hard lump in my left lower leg, with was also grotesquely swollen (pitting). While at my appointment I showed him my "Quasimodo" hump - which is what I'd been calling it. It had become pretty noticeable in the previous 3-4 months. Dr. C told me he thought the lump in my leg was a blocked vein, and prescribed naproxen, AKA Aleve.

As for my hump, he did say the word Cushing's, but kept referring to the hormone as "cortisone". He then had the nurse draw 3 large vials of blood, and said if I hadn't heard from him in a week to give him a call. Fine. So I went home and read everything I could possibly find about Cushing's. I sound like a poster child. I put off reading individual stories until I'd read all the medical stuff first. I didn't want to get confused or distracted about the facts. Well, it's been a week and no word so I called the Doc's office this morning. A secretary told me my tests had all come back o.k. I asked that Dr. C call me. I read virtually NOTHING about this disease being diagnosed through a standard blood draw. I meant to ask him about this. He called me back at the very end of the day. I could tell he didn't even connect my name to me. When he apparently did remember he just said my tests were o.k., and all my "levels" were normal. He said to keep working on losing weight, and that I couldn't lose it in "spots". Perhaps he was referring to my hump - I don't know. Then he offered to refer me to some woman with a weight-loss program, who "gets good results with medication that I wouldn't be comfortable prescribing." (HUH?) By this time, my throat had completely closed in and I could feel myself trying very hard not to cry. I said no thanks. He said o.k. I hung up. For some reason I've always had this "thing" about being a good little patient. I don't whine and tend to downplay whatever is going on. I suppose I don't want to be seen as just another hysterical, fat, late-30ish, typical housewife. Under normal circumstances - or when I'm defending someone else - I'm very assertive. I was born without the "tact" gene, and tend to be very blunt. I have no idea of what to say to my doctor without offending him or alienating him.

I don't really think he gives a crap. Did he even run the right test in the first place?

I'm not looking for a convenient excuse as to why I'm overweight. I've never once even suggested it was anyone else's fault. In fact, if anything, I'm very quick to take the blame and responsibility for just about anything that happens within a 10-mile radius. Sewage spill? My fault! School bond didn't pass? Yup, I'm the one to pin it on, and I don't mind - really!

I spent 6 years in the Marine Corps. I know all about diet and exercise.

I felt like such garbage yesterday when I woke up that I elbowed my husband and asked him if he and the kid would be o.k. with the amount of life insurance I have if "anything happened to me". What a dope I am, huh?

I do know this - I'm sick. Frankly I'm worried I'm going to drop dead. Following is a partial list of my history and current symptoms.

The only items on this list I've even mentioned to my Dr. (and almost always just in passing) are the hump, erratic menstrual cycle, depression (which we have a long history of in my family), swelling (I saw him for that one time specifically. His attitude was, "it's not that bad - it'll go down - don't worry about it."), sleep problems, sweating all the time ("people have different tolerances to heat and cold."), skin tabs ("harmless."), lousy immune system (". . .well, you know that obesity can lower your immunity."), and high blood pressure. Keep in mind that I never brought all these symptoms up at one time. I'd mention this symptom, next time that symptom, and during another visit I might say something clever about sweating if the temperature is over 50 degrees. Ha-ha! Isn't that hilarious, Doctor?

1. I now have a pronounced hump. I call it "Quasimodo".
2. I have a period perhaps twice a year. When I do, I bleed so heavily that I usually miss a couple days of work. I sit on hospital blue pads over plastic garbage bags. Sometimes I just sit on the toilet for an hour or so. I had a D&C once years ago to stop a mega-period. (I've seen a few OB/GYNs over the years about this. Of course it's because I'm fat.)
3. I'm hairy.
4. I'm depressed. (I've taken 20 mg. of Prozac off and on. Can't say that it helps that much.)
5. I swell up. (Right now I can sink a finger into my shin bone.)
6. I lost my gall bladder by the time I was 27.
7. I'm completely enervated most of the time.
8. I'm a lousy sleeper, and am awake half the night. My husband says I snore like a chainsaw. I tend to have "night sweats".
9. I look like hell. I have black circles under my eyes.
10. I sweat excessively, and have no tolerance whatsoever to heat. I've always joked that it was because of my weight - you know - "Yup. Being fat is like wearing a parka all the time! Ha-ha!" (O.k., so I have a warped sense of humor.) Today it's 80 degrees and here I am, miserable.
11. I'm covered in skin tags, mainly around the neck, underarms and eyelids.
12. I get infections ridiculously easy - from staph infections, to zits and sties, to cellulitis (hospitalized), to a serious infection in my jawbone which caused me to lose three teeth in one fell swoop. I've had two complicated pregnancies (one child born with asthma, one child born with bilateral pleural effusions. He was on a ventilator for 5 weeks because of that), and never produced any appreciable milk. I had to bottle feed because I had no choice. I could pump for 30 minutes and barely cover the bottom of the bottle.
13. I heal excruciatingly slowly. I can have a sore that won't heal for weeks or months at a time.
14. I had shingles a few years ago that didn't heal for about 6 months.
15. I'm covered in stretch marks from my shoulders to my hips.
16. Lately, I've been short of breath and can feel my heart pounding from time to time.
17. I have a history of hypertension. I took 20 mg. of atenolol until recently. I took myself off it, wondering if it was having a side affect after such long-term use. I thought it might be part of the reason I feel so lousy. Since stopping the atenolol, my blood pressure has been in the "moderate" range.
18. I lost my gallbladder when I was 27.

We belong to a really bad HMO. This plan has been nothing but a hassle since the first day. We are working people, and I don't have the resources to just trot to any specialist I want. I have very little tact, and if I tried to speak frankly with my MD I'd probably end up alienating and angering him. I feel like I just hit a brick wall. On top of everything, in this mid-size city of 150,000 there are only 2 - count 'em - 2 endocrinologists I could see even if I could get past my MD!

I'm feeling a little . . . panic-y at the moment.

Have you any advice for me?

Anything would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

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