People used to tease that I couldn't gain a pound if I tried. I was the kind of person who wished I could gain a few pounds, the kind of person who was stuck wearing children's sized clothing until 10th grade, and the kind of person whose last problem in the world would have ever been weight...or so I thought. I was always as thin as a rail throughout my entire childhood, and that did not change as a teenager. I was barely one hundred pounds when I graduated. Throughout most of middle school and high school I felt awkward and out of place as the girls around me were growing into attractive women while I continued to look like a twelve year old. On the up side, I ate what I wanted without consequence. I was active, taking Tae Kwon Do classes three days a week. I don’t exaggerate when I say I had rock hard abs during that time. In fact, when I was five months pregnant with my first child at the age of 20, my doctor specifically complemented how muscular my stomach was. After my daughter was born (seven weeks premature but otherwise healthy), I continued to be slim, probably still only 105-110 pounds. While waiting tables for a living, I enjoyed eating fried food, chocolate peanut butter pie, and drinking soda as if it didn’t matter nearly every day of the week. Two years later, I miscarried my second pregnancy, but was able to become pregnant again within a few months. I spotted during that first trimester, and cried thinking that perhaps I was only ever going to have one child. I do not know if those pregnancy related events have any relevance to my Cushing’s Disease story, but Cushing’s Disease seems to effect EVERYTHING, so I think it is possibly related. After the birth of my second child in 2001, I quickly lost most of my pregnancy weight as expected. I would guess that I was still less than 115 pound.
That next year, instead of knocking off those new pounds, I started gaining weight. I didn’t worry too much at first. I had quit my waitressing job, so I figured it was the reduced activity that was holding me up. Plus, since I was breast feeding, I was hungry all the time. I reasoned that I had to eat more to keep up with my ravenous child, and that when I stopped breast feeding, I would likely not have to eat as much. I knew this was contrary to popular advice that breast feeding helps new mothers lose weight, but the theory helped me make sense of the continued weight gain I was experiencing. My theory proved worthless after I stopped breast feeding and continued to gain weight. I started jogging around the neighborhood, and eating healthy for my own benefit for the first time in my adult life (rather than because I was pregnant or breastfeeding). Still, I could not lose weight. Complaining about my weight was futile. When I first approached a doctor with my concern, I was only 125 pounds, still far thinner than most people I knew. I remember feeling like I was in a crisis state when I reached a size 8. I cried my eyes out, not because a size 8 wasn’t a perfectly normal and healthy size, but because I was a hideous size 8. I had a pudgy belly that appeared more pronounced than when I was “bouncing back” from pregnancy. It was still not prominent enough for other people to notice, but I saw it in the dressing room that day when I was trying to come to terms with going from a size 5 to a size 8, and I hated it. My wonderful aunt took me clothes shopping that week, and with a largely new wardrobe that fit correctly, I was starting to feel better. I continued complaining to doctors over the years, who simply told me that I was getting older, that my metabolism had changed, and that I should get used to the fact that I wasn’t a kid anymore. I had also stopped getting a period at the age of 24. The doctor tested my thyroid, did a sonogram, and considered a few other possibilities, before deciding that anything dangerous had been ruled out. She put me on medication to produce a quarterly withdraw bleed. She further assured me that as long as those medications were working, that my body was still producing estrogen, so I need not worry. However, within 2 years, the medication stopped working, and at the age of 26, I had my last period (before the treatment of Cushing’s Disease, which I had no idea was ravaging my body all along). After repeating a few more tests, the doctor point blank asked me “Are you finished having kids?” I quickly responded yes, and she quickly responded that “there is no medical reason that you have to have a period” at which time she suggested an annual sonogram to ensure that endometrial tissue would not build up. By the way, it was not an accident that her words to me that day are in quotes. I will never forget them as at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis…but I will come around to that as my story continues.