Waking up. I hate waking up. Mornings are cocky, rubbing their untroubled rays of overwhelming merriment right in front of my face as soon as the blinds part. I haven’t much to smile about these days. My friends are shallow, having the hankering to hang out with me only within the solid walls of my cramped apartment.
“I don’t think you’ll enjoy night clubs,” Vivian pressed one night two years ago while adjusting the fabric plastered on her seemingly impossible Barbie replicated figure. “Let’s just have a movie night,” she insisted instead, giving a stealthy glance to my stomach that casually protruded over the lip of my jeans. Before I could even think to detest in the slightest way, within seconds a little black cell phone would be pressed against the side of my face with a shrill, high-pitched voice covertly lying about all the cons of night life and the “poor excuse for bedroom hobbies” who’d be vexatiously pawing at my feet the entire evening. They had no clue that I needed to be pawed over.
I never quite garnered the moxie to tell them that my weight gain was the cause of Cushing’s Syndrome. Instead, I slowly phased them out, accepting the occasional pity visit so as not to appear as completely despondent. The day I was diagnosed I can only define as the death of my old self. It was not long after my high school graduation during my yearly visit to the doctor when routine test results showed an astonishing amount of cortisol in my urine. The weight gain seemed immediate, as if hearing the results sparked a physical reaction in my body. I went from a petite 105 lbs to a hefty 195 lbs in just 6 months following. It doesn’t help that I top in at a mere five feet one inches tall.
A full three years and two surgeries later, I have almost learned how to accept my life. Every morning, I make my way to the local gym to meet up with Vince. Like me, Vince was diagnosed with a disease that altered his weight gain beyond his control, but unlike me, Vince had an uncanny way of bringing fresh air into my exasperated life. He always greets me with a “Hey sunshine, let’s prove everyone wrong,” before we began a sweaty, strenuous journey on the elliptical machines. And as hard as I struggle with being positive since this new part of my life arose, Vince is the only one who can keep me beaming. He pushes me, and when I complain, he punishes me with the exercises I hate the most; and I do them. I do them for him, but mostly, I do them for me. “Be rigorous, be vigorous,” he says with a rasp, as we both battle to complete our sets of squats and lunges. On days that my soul feels as heavy as the weights that I lift, he lets me cry on his shoulder. “Crying means you’re letting yourself feel,” he reminds me.
Vince is the reason that, though I loath mornings more than balancing my calorie intake, I yearn for each glowing stream of light the sun offers at the beginning of each day. While I haven’t had much to smile about these days, I do smile when it comes to Vince. He’s more than my friend. He’s my motivation, my partner, the reason I love myself and the scars that he calls my “battle stripes”. It’s because of him that I have slimmed down to a sultry 135 lbs of mostly muscle, and makes me feel as if each inch of me belongs on the cover of Sports Illustrated: The Bikini Edition. He’s the man who paws over me when we meet up downtown to dance the night away in the most popular dance clubs in the city; the same man who clocked the pervert who was ballsy enough to steal a feel of my voluptuous backside as we strolled the late night streets towards home. Vince is the cure to my disease.
While this story is fiction, Cushing’s syndrome is real and is most common in adults, between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, although it can occur at any age. For more information on Cushing’s syndrome or how you can support more research, please click here.