A photo of podcast guest Avery, who shares her journey with acromegaly.

Avery was gearing up for senior year of college when she began to notice painful changes in her body. Her initial symptoms included difficulty sleeping and intense jaw pain. Avery also began to notice growth in her facial features, hands and feet. She thought these changes could be from another growth spurt or from the stress of being a student athlete. Though these changes challenged her self-esteem, especially as a woman in her early 20s, Avery did not realize these symptoms were reasons to consult with a doctor. That is, until her symptoms intensified and the pain in her jaw became unbearable. After three years of symptoms, doctors diagnosed her with acromegaly: a rare disease caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland that pumps out growth hormone.

A self portrait by Avery, who shares her experiences with acromegaly on this podcast episode
A self-portrait by podcast guest Avery Toomes

Avery’s health journey was full of misdiagnoses, costly interventions, unnecessary sinus surgeries, and painful splinting for her jaw alignment. Though a doctor ordered a head CT scan, the tumor on the pituitary gland was missed which led to jaw and sinus treatments. These surgeries did not resolve her symptoms, and Avery began to lose hope of ever finding answers.  Eventually, Avery found a cardiologist who listened to her and referred her to an endocrinologist. As a result, an MRI revealed a three-centimeter tumor on the pituitary gland and blood work revealed high hormone levels. The endocrinologist diagnosed her with acromegaly, and after years of constant pain, doctors performed surgery the following day. Now, just two months after surgery, Avery is almost entirely free from pain.

In this episode of the Major Pain podcast, Avery shares her encounters with doctors, family, and friends who believed her symptoms were “in her head” rather than actual physical symptoms. Being doubted led her to experience self-isolation and feeling as though she was alone in this journey. Avery reveals her struggle with depression and internal blame for her condition. She details her perspective shift from anger at her situation to feeling overwhelmed with support from her loved ones once her tumor was discovered. In her healing, Avery started to look inward to see her beauty and inner strength. Further, Avery shares the importance of advocating for yourself, trusting that your pain is real, and believing in yourself. Now that her acromegaly tumor is removed and is no longer causing bodily growth, Avery is recognizing how this journey has prompted emotional growth in its place.

Subscribe to Avery’s Substack: https://substack.com/@averylaaa

Podcast description by Kait Williams @alignedk8

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