Scary reason for post-baby weight gain
MOST women can expect to gain a few kilos after pregnancy, but for one mum the extra weight was a symptom of a rare, debilitating disease.
Around the same time her son Elijah was born, Danielle Gselmann was rapidly gaining weight, had developed a "hump" on her back, was constantly breaking bones, losing hair, not sleeping and suffering from severe depression.
Baffled by his wife's fast-deteriorating condition, personal trainer Dean Gselmann began to conduct his own research.
It took five years before a specialist diagnosed her with Cushing's Disease.
Cushing's Disease is caused by a tumour on the pituitary gland in the brain, resulting in an excessive amount of cortisol being produced.
Less than 10 in one million people are diagnosed with it each year. After surgery, 44 per cent of people will regain symptoms.
Danielle said the disease took a monstrous toll on herself, her family and robbed her of watching her son grow up.
"I felt really sick, every single day," she told the Sunshine Coast Daily.
"Physically my body broke down, I gained 20kg and lost most of my muscle and bone density... but mentally I went numb.
"It affected everything, I couldn't have conversations with people without reminding myself of body cues, like smiling and laughing.
"I had to concentrate really hard all the time...people would tell me it was baby brain but I knew it was something more."
The condition affected her relationships with friends and family; mostly with Dean and Elijah.
"I missed so many moments, especially at that newborn stage because I can't remember any of it," she said.
"The condition just takes your mental capacity away.
"My husband has been without affection, without someone to talk to and it has been really hard for him too."
On July 19 Danielle had brain surgery to remove the tumour, but it could take up to a year before she feels "normal" again.
Doctors have prescribed her steroids to ease her body into coping with low cortisol levels.
"The cortisol from the tumour sort of masked the muscle breakdown effects of the disease; with it gone, I feel everything," Danielle said.
"I now understand why drug addicts are so desperate.
"The day after surgery I woke up with the worst feeling in the world.
"For five years my body was used to abnormally high cortisol levels, which have now been stripped.
"It's like being in a constant state of pain and nausea and there's nothing you can do about it.
"I'm just glad my surgery was successful."
Danielle will have a long, painful recovery and will need to be monitored for the rest of her life.
Friends of the family created a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of ongoing medical treatments.
Danielle hasn't been able to work since falling ill and Dean will soon have to return to work.
"Financially it has been hard. Dean has been balancing travelling to see me, working and looking after our son," she said.
The Gselmanns hope to raise awareness of the rare disease and the symptoms.
Dean, owner of Natural Advancement Health and Fitness, posted an article about the disease on his website.
"If we can help just one person who has no idea what is happening with their body be diagnosed then that's enough," Dean said.
"This disease is cruel, it's chronic, debilitating and disfigures the body ruthlessly.
"I cannot even fathom how Danielle has battled for so long and has done so with staying positive around others in the outside world."