Opening day…weather is perfect, your bow is tuned and you have spent the summer practicing and going to 3-D tournaments to better hone your skills. As you get settled into your tree stand, which you set in the location you scouted and know is going to put you in the perfect position for the king of the woods. You take a deep breath and look up at the remaining stars that day break will cause to fade away. Yes, you are ready, you are prepared and you are in your sanctuary. But what if that didn’t happen……..what would you do?
I can tell you because it happened to me. In 2015, after a routine check up I was sent to a ear nose and throat Doctor to check my Thyroid, I had large nodules that were beginning to interfere with my breathing. I blamed it on allergies. The Doctor wanted me to have surgery to remove the right side of my thyroid. This way I would not have to take medicine for the rest of my life because the left side would still function.
After a conference I decided to remove it completely which turned out to be the best since the left side had several nodules as well and I would have had to have it removed as well. I was down for a week and I was back to work and ready to resume life with the addition of a tiny pill a day that I would have to take the rest of my life. Not the end of the world even though I loath taking medicine. I have always been healthy and recover from anything that is thrown at me in rapid time.
This time it was different, after many trips back to the Doctor for blood work and a slight adjustment to my medicine I never felt better, kept gaining weight and seemed like a I was in a fog. The other thing that I was facing is I kept feeling weaker despite going to the gym three or 4 days a week, training dogs, working full time and never being still. I could not draw my bow back easily, I struggled to draw it.
It was so frustrating, I have shot the same poundage for years, with no effort, standing or sitting it was smooth and easy to draw. So more trips to both my ear nose and throat doctor and my family physician, both with the same answer “eat less move more”. For someone that is not a big eater or a grazer this really burned my butt and did not explain why I seemed to get weaker and my energy level was gone.
Jim was all in on helping me get back to normal and he also saw that this road was on a downhill slope so we upped the game. Jim has always been my archery coach and we are both very competitive people being athletes the majority of our lives. We are not strangers to hard work and I am stubborn as a mule and have never had any trouble with determination. But the harder I tried the worse it got, the bigger I got, the weaker I got.
It was at one of my dog obedience classes that one of my students overheard someone ask me how I was feeling since my Thyroid surgery. Since it was a friend that I have known most of my life instead of my usual answer of “sparklie” I told them briefly what was going on with no more thought.
Haley, who was one of my students texted me that evening and said she was not being nosy but had heard my conversation with my friend. She told me she worked for a endocrinologist and I should come see him. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, blah blah blah, all I could think was why go to another doctor, a specialist at that who was going to tell me I was fat and lazy, I had heard that enough.
With a lot of coaxing I finally went and met Dr. Rich Marlar at Asheville Endocrinology. We talked, did blood work and he wanted to see me again in two months to see if I felt any different. What was odd was he actually listened; he acted as if he was interested in what I had to say. What really got me was he said “if you will stick with me I PROMISE I will find out what is going on and I will help you”.
Promise is a big word I told him. I knew when I left that office it was just another pay check for him and the results would be the same as from the other doctors that told me to learn to live with it. How do you learn to live without being able to do what you love, what makes you happy? Find a new passion? No, shooting, training dogs, hunting, being outdoors, this is my passion and I am not willing to just give it up. I was afraid this was another empty promise.
To make a long story short, he did find out what we going on, I had Cushing’s Disease. I was diagnosed in October. I had never heard of Cushing’s Disease, Dr. Marlar told me it was rare and that the symptoms mimic Hypothyroidism, which is what I have. Cushing Disease is a fairly rare endocrine disorder. It is a tumor on the pituitary gland which is located at the base of your brain. This tiny gland along with your thyroid controls everything in your body basically. I was scheduled for surgery at the University of Virginia in April of 2017 with Dr. Oldfield who is regarded as one of the greatest surgeons for this procedure. The entire staff and this hospital are considered the leaders of this surgery and technology in the world.
The surgery is done by going in under your upper lip through your sinus cavity to the base of your brain where the pituitary gland is located. For me they removed a 9mm sized tumor the size of a bullet and causes your body to produce high levels of cortisol which wrecks your entire body and causes weight gain in your body, neck, face, and back. Before surgery I was gaining 2 pounds a week with weakness, brain fog, and a myriad of other symptoms.
I arrived on Wednesday for post op work and meetings with the Doctors, surgery on Thursday, a night in the ICU (standard procedure with this surgery) go home on Saturday, I liked that plan.
Surgery was successful and my cortisol bottomed out to zero before I left the hospital which was the result wanted to be considered in remission. So now I would have to take Hydrocortisone until my pituitary woke up and produced normal levels again. Now for the kicker, recovery is the hardest part and takes between 8 months and several years according to how long you have had the disease. And, there is no way to tell how long you have had it.
We had several added adventures while in the hospital but everything was ok for discharge on Saturday. I had two Doctors come in on Friday to give me the list of what I could NOT do after I left.
- You Can Not bend over for 4 weeks. You Can Not blow your nose for 6 weeks, you will do sinus rinses twice a day for three months sinus spray every hour every day except when you’re sleeping.
- You will NOT ride a 4 wheeler, shoot a bow, a shotgun or rifle or train dogs,
- You will not go to the gym, but you can gently walk in the house
- Do Not Cough or Sneeze and if you do keep your mouth open to decrease the pressure in your head.
- Do not lift anything more than 10 pounds for 2 weeks and then no more than 25 the following 4 weeks.
- Do NOT do anything that will cause the pressure to change in your head or elevate your heart rate
Oh yeah, you could also have a spinal fluid leak which is very serious, you could develop diabetes insipidus, which is very serious, adrenal insufficiency and the list goes on. Any by the way you can’t deep sea dive for 8 weeks, who knew.
So I asked, can I go to the gym and ride a bike? “NO”! “you can walk gently around your house or in your driveway if it is smooth or on your street if its safe”.
So can I……”No” you do nothing at all for two weeks. Do not do anything to change the pressure in your head or to raise your heart rate, it will cause pain like you have never known. After two weeks you still take it easy for the next four weeks. They tell you that you will feel like you have been hit by a Mac Truck and have very severe flu like symptoms.
They were not as harsh as I have written of course, but they were very matter of factly and you can bet I gave Jim the stink eye when they said no 4 wheeler, no bow, no dogs, no guns no fun. I thought he had talked to them about my lifestyle and he assured me he had not but that if I remembered, Dr Mary Lee Vance had asked me about my lifestyle in our first visit, she had to be the one that snitched on me.
Homeward bound on Saturday and all in all I felt good, sun is shining and the 6 ½ hour ride home was rather uneventful except I had zero energy and I felt a little out of body and terrible brain fog, which is normal.
By Monday I was like a caged tiger, I was feeling sorry for Jim at this point he had taken two weeks of vacation to stay with me and I think he thought that his usually easy going wife was going to eat him. The 4 walls were closing in fast. For someone that is never still and the list of “Don’t Do’s” that I come home with was making me feel like I was in solitary. Imagine not being able to bend over, you get really creative.
I was told I could ride in a car as long as it was not a rutted out, rough country road so we decided to take a ride to the gym, I know, bad bad bad girl. Give me a little credit, I would not do anything to mess up my surgery and I sure didn’t want to go back to the hospital. Jim knew the change of scenery would be good for me and I do love to travel. At the gym we walked very slowly around the track, it didn’t take long before I was tired but at least I felt more like a human.
We went every day for a little while and by Wednesday I told Jim I wanted to get on the bike, he didn’t like the idea but knew I had to try. I told him I would peddle slowly so I would not increase my heart rate and he could ride right beside me. So I gingerly got on the bike and like a turtle running through peanut butter I was off. I went so slow the bike wouldn’t register but again, for me it was good for my mind and my body.
All was great for two weeks, I felt good, my face was starting to show some difference from the chubby swollen red face it had been. I knew I had this licked, like always. Wrong!
After two weeks they cut the Hydrocortisone in half. The beginning dose was mimicking where my cortisol levels had been. Now the journey began, pain, nausea, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, every bone in my body felt as if it would explode at any moment. My muscles hurt so bad I could not stand to be touched or hardly touch myself.
So they continue to cut my dose in half every so many weeks with trips for blood work to monitor your progress. Back to University of Virginia in June, several trips to my Endocrinologist continued with cuts in dosage and by November I was off of medication, my pituitary was awake and beginning to work. After all this my body was still not use to a normal level of cortisol so you continue the fight. Your body has to reboot so to speak. I knew after that first cut in dosage I had two choices, lie down and see what happened or jerk on my big girl panties and fight with all I had. Fight I am.
It has been 9 months since surgery and I fight every day. It turns your muscles to marshmallows so I am fighting to get them back. Jim worked on an old Mathews LX I had and finally got the poundage down low enough to where I can shoot it and still keep the limbs in the pockets. I can shoot between five and ten shots according to the day. That is better than none.
Thanks to Corrine Bundy at Mathews Solocam Bows, they have been one of our sponsors since 1998. I just received a new Z-3 with 40lbs of draw weight and I am climbing that hill to get back to my usual 54lbs. Like a baby bird you have to be brave enough to take that first leap. I’ll take it because I know Jim will be right there it catch me if I fall.
I would like to thank all of our very understanding sponsors that have stuck with us through this and for the amazing support group I have with Jim, my family, friends and a great facebook family of other people recovering from the disease.
Now what I would love to do is help other archers, hunters, and outdoors people with this disease. If you or someone you know has Cushings Disease, especially archers please contact me so we can exchange notes or give each other encouragement. There are other hunters, and archers that suffer from various physical challenges or diseases and we have to stick together, lift each other up and bring awareness so people will understand our fight.
This disease is not easy and it does not care how stubborn you are it will kick you in the face on a daily basis. There are good days and bad days and Jim is there fighting with me. I have a long way to go, this is not easy but one thing this disease was not expecting is that I kick back.
I can’t thank our Sponsors enough for sticking with us and their continued support!
Mathews Solocam Bows, Wildlife Research Center, Real Tree Camo, Danner Boots, Sure-Loc Sights/Ferendyne, Quality Archery Designs, Last Chance Archery, Outdoor Edge Knives, SportDOG Brand, Borg-Warner Turbo Systems, Doinker Stabilizers
For more please go to: Lynne Frady