PARKLAND, FL- January is Adrenal Cancer Awareness Month in Florida, and for one Parkland resident, the uncommon diagnosis hits directly home.
Orly Goldman, a married mother of two, began to experience some strange physical symptoms a few years ago. Her blood pressure was higher than normal. Goldman's legs felt week. She was noticing acne and weight gain that wasn't par for the course. She even lost her menstrual cycle, and was forgetting things and feeling anxious as well. None of these were normal for Goldman, so she went back to the doctor to get checked out further. None of the doctors could piece together what was wrong, so they kept sending her to another specialist or sending her home. Goldman continued to experience the strange symptoms and would periodically go back to the doctor to get checked out. Again and again, nobody could figure out what was wrong, and she was often misdiagnosed.
"I saw doctors for 3 years with these symptoms. Nobody knew what it was. Some would say that I'm crazy and there's nothing wrong with me," shared Goldman. "My blood work came out fine. They thought my thyroid was off."
And yet, the issues persisted. "I kept falling, so I went to the ER with a list of symptoms," says Goldman. "The ER doctor said it's a pituitary issue." His initial thought process was key to getting Goldman correctly diagnosed.
Goldman then asked the endocrinologist to check for Cushing's Disease, a common and treatable condition. She took a 24-hour urine test to find out more. The results came back positive. After researching the internet for possible diagnoses, they discovered the dreaded underlying issue of all her symptoms; Orly Goldman had stage 4 adrenal cancer. She underwent immediate surgery to have her left kidney and adrenal gland removed.
For Goldman, the 1-in-a-million diagnosis has placed her directly into a battle for her own life. "I want to live to see my kids grow," she says. Currently, there is no cure for adrenal cancer. She had surgery last June to have the tumor removed, but the cancer had already spread to her liver and lungs before she was diagnosed.
"Early detection is so important. I don't want others to go through this," shares Goldman. "There's no cure for what I have. We need more research on adrenal cancer for people like me. The federal government doesn't give money towards research because it's so rare."
Goldman wants everyone to be aware of what adrenal cancer is and how to keep an eye out for it.
"You have to be an advocate for yourself and know your own body. And to not take 'no' for an answer. Don't let doctors blow you off (because they can't find a diagnosis)," she shares.
For Goldman, the future is hopeful but uncertain. The medications and chemotherapy for her liver and lungs have been making her very sick. She is under the care of Dr. Hammer from Michigan, a top doctor in the nation for treating adrenal cancer.
"There are Stage 4 survivors that live for a very long time," she says. January's Florida Adrenal Cancer Awareness Month become intensely personal for Orly Goldman. "I would love to see more options for people like me. I don't want anyone to be in my position," Goldman says. "I need to spread awareness about adrenal cancer. I now have a bigger purpose in life."
Know the Signs of Adrenal Cancer:
- Weight gain
- High Blood Pressure
- Leg weakness
- Hormone changes in women that might cause acne or excess hair growth on face, back, chest
- Hormone changes in men that might cause enlarged breast tissue and shrinking testicles
- Irregular periods or loss of menstrual cycle
- Depression, anxiety, forgetfulness
- Abdominal bloating
- Back pain
- Weakened bones (osteoporosis)
- High blood sugar levels, often leading to diabetes
- Fat deposits behind the neck and shoulders (fatty hump or buffalo hump)
- Purple stretch marks on the abdomen