RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For 14 years, Julie Ellinger-Hunt of Rutherford felt that she was dying.
Ellinger-Hunt was living with a rare ailment called Cushing’s Disease, which causes the pituitary gland to excrete high levels of cortisol, leading to constant nausea, fatigue and muscle weakness.
But four years ago, Ellinger-Hunt fell in love with LuAnn Lanzerrotti-Jones, and the two worked together to cure Ellinger-Hunt of her disease.
Today, Ellinger-Hunt, 37, is in recovery, and she knows it wouldn’t have been possible without her partner.
“She saw me at my worst and she still stuck with me even though I know she was scared,” Ellinger-Hunt said of Lanzerrotti-Jones, whom she lives with in Rutherford.
“It was very frustrating to not be able to help this person I love and care for,” added Lanzerrotti-Joenes, 52. “But I was determined to find out what was going on.”
Ellinger-Hunt had been living with the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease since 2002. The cause of the disease was a small tumor on her pituitary gland.
Cushing's Disease is extremely rare, and, for a long time, doctors could not accurately diagnose Ellinger-Hunt. In the meantime, Ellinger-Hunt lost her marriage with her first husband, who couldn’t handle her being sick all the time with what seemed like a mystery illness.
“I lost touch with a lot of friends and family while I was sick,” Ellinger-Hunt said. “Because nobody could figure out what the disease was, people didn’t believe I was really sick.”
In 2012, Ellinger-Hunt met Lanzerrotti-Jones on an online dating website.
“When I met her I told her I was sick and she said we will deal with it together,” Ellinger-Hunt said.
Lanzerrotti-Jones took her to specialist after specialist until, finally, last December, doctors were able to accurately diagnose Ellinger-Hunt with Cushing’s Disease.
On March 3, Ellinger-Hunt had surgery to remove the tumor from her pituitary gland. She is now in recovery, trying to train her pituitary gland to excrete normal levels of cortisol again.
“I feel like I’m going in the right direction for the first time in a long time” Ellinger-Hunt said. "And I know I couldn't of done this without LuAnn by my side."
The couple has set up a crowdfunding campaign on the website "Booster" where they are selling t-shirts to help pay for Ellinger-Hunt's medical expenses.
The t-shirts feature a "kissy face emoji" and the phrase "everybody needs <3."
CLICK HERE to donate.