By Rebecca Drew
THIS ANOREXIA survivor previously weighed just seven-stone but is now getting her life back on track after her weight more than doubled despite her restricted food intake thanks to a rare hormone condition.
Hospital console operator, Deana Camacho (32) from New York, USA, first started to suffer with eating disorders when she was just nine-years-old. This spiralled into anorexia and she described herself as being a slave to the illness as she would restrict her food in a desperate attempt to make herself disappear. At her lowest point, Deana weighed just 7st and wore clothes for 14-year-olds.
When she was 25, she started to notice herself rapidly gaining weight and over the course of three months put on 7st 10lbs despite restricting and over exercising. As well as this, she developed acne, stretchmarks and a ‘buffalo hump’ on the back of her neck which is a tell-tale sign of Cushing’s disease. However, it took doctors two years to diagnose Deana with the hormone condition by which point she had reached 15st 8lbs and wore a UK size 22-24.
The diagnosis lead to her battling depression for four years as she had a complete lack of control over her weight. After coming off of Risperdal which is thought to have caused her symptoms, Deana now weighs a healthy 10st 4lbs and is a UK size 12. She discussed her battle with anorexia and how she felt when she gained weight.
“For as long as I could remember I’ve suffered with eating disorder thinking, I started acting on that thinking when I was nine years old,” she said.
“I felt like a slave. I convinced myself for so many years that I was in control, when in reality, I was stuck in a chaotic world dictated by irrational obsessions and an almost psychotic and desperate attempt to make myself disappear. I lived my life chasing an impossible goal.
“I suspected something was wrong when I started rapidly gaining weight despite extreme restriction and over exercising, also, with how I was gaining weight. I noticed that, while my arms and legs stayed stick thin, my stomach, neck and face were blowing up.
“I also stopped menstruating completely which, for me, was something that was very concerning, always having been very regular and having no chance of being pregnant.
“Some of the symptoms I had were weight gain, severe acne, buffalo hump, stretch marks, infections and amenorrhea, which started when I was 25 years old.
“Despite having textbook symptoms, I didn’t receive the correct diagnosis until almost two years later.
“Cushing’s made me feel powerless, ashamed and weak. I remember wishing I could walk around with a sign that read, ‘I didn’t eat myself to this weight’.
“The complete loss of control over my weight was devastating and I spent the first four years of my illness in a very deep depression.
“I was diagnosed after three 24-hour urine tests and a saliva test, which both test the levels of cortisol in your body at different times and several MRIs which indicated a pituitary tumour.
“The only treatment I was given was being removed from Risperdal, the medication I was taking that was believed to be the cause of my pituitary tumour and Cushing’s disease.”
Cushing’s disease develops when the body makes too much cortisol, the condition often develops as a side effect of treatments for inflammation and autoimmune conditions but can also develop as a result of a tumour inside one of the body’s glands.
Its main symptoms are weight gain whilst maintaining slim arms and legs, a puffy face, skin that is easily bruised, large purple stretch marks, depression, low libido and fertility problems.
The main treatment is to stop taking the medication causing it or to remove the tumour. If left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It affects about one in 50,000 people.
Deana spoke of her biggest struggles with the condition and advised anyone who suspects they might have Cushing’s disease to keep pushing for a diagnosis.
“The most difficult part of my journey for me has always been, and always will be, looking in a mirror and seeing a person who is not me,” she said.
“Even now, at a healthy weight, I struggle with my body image. You would think I’d be ecstatic to be a healthy weight, but I can’t look past the loose skin and stretch marks.
“My friends and family never miss a moment to encourage me and tell me how proud they are and how strong of a person I am even if I don’t feel it.
“The best advice I could give is to be your own strongest advocate. This is a disease that can be very difficult to diagnose, and, as a result, is frequently misdiagnosed.”
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