You are not alone.
The happiest day of my life should have been the day I got married or the birth of my son. But for me, it was June 12, 2012 the day I was diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, a rare and mostly undiagnosed endocrine disorder that ravages the body causing severe and often irreversible damage.
After more than two years of symptoms that didn’t seem connected (including four bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia, strep, shingles, a fractured hip, a “hump” on my back between my shoulder blades, a mysterious umbilical hernia and foot problem as well unexplained weight gain of over 70 pounds in less than 15 months), I finally had an answer to what was causing my body to go into a downward spiral. I had seen 10 different specialists and had hundreds of tests. Now even though the diagnosis was devastating, at least we had a name for it.
Cushing’s Disease is designated as a rare disease affecting 10 to 15 people per million each year, most commonly adults between 20 and 50 years of age. Women account for more than 70 percent of cases. Because the population of patients is so small, there is an incredible lack of information and awareness among medical professionals and very few quality materials available for patients and their family and friends.
Marie Conley is a consultant focusing on project management, engagement strategies, leadership development, event planning, and strategic communication counsel for a variety of clients through her company Conley Consulting, LLC. Marie never takes any professional or personal task at face value. She is always looking for ways to improve outcomes and calls upon herself and those around her to do he right thing for the right reasons. Building and maintaining relationships are at her core and believes that when you bring the right people together for the right reason's success is an inevitable outcome. Marie does big things by making the little things count. Her engagement strategies have strengthened reputations, boards, volunteer committees, and donor bases. Her projects create a ripple effect to produce long-term loyalties and support.
Recently Marie served as the project manager for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts(HE&R) for their Hersheypark Leadership Development Internship(HPLDI). From concept and design to implementation and post project review, Marie worked with Hershey management to create a first of its kind program that married the company’s workforce needs for frontline workers in Hersheypark over the summer and a desire to support and develop a student’s leadership potential based on core competencies. This passion for a curriculum based on leadership development and mentorship for today’s future leaders was a vital component of that Marie wanted to bring to this program having spent over thirteen years as a Board of Governor member on the State System of Higher Education. Marie established a relationship between HE&R and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania to collaborated on the curriculum ensuring students could receive academic credits from a Middles States Accredited Higher Education Institution. Responsible for the coordination among HE&R planning team, the housing partner and curriculum, Marie worked to create a 12-week program that graduated 176 Hersheypark team members in its inaugural year (2021) with certificates of completion from the Office of Student Success and Strategy from Shippensburg University. Marie continues to serve as a general consultant and as the academic coordinator for the program.
In 2012, Marie was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease – a disease so rare it affects less than ten people per million each year. She authored her journey in her book, A Cushing's Collection: A Humorous Journey Surviving Cushing's Disease, Diabetes Insipidus, and a Bilateral Adrenalectomy and founded The Conley Cushing's Disease Fund, fiscal sponsor TFEC. The Fund raises money to educate medical professionals on early diagnosis of Cushing's and to support and coordinate a community of Cushing's patients and their families. She was instrumental in the passage of the PA Rare Disease Advisory Council in 2017 and was appointed by the Governor and legislature to serve on its board. In October 2019, she was nominated and elected as its’ Chairman. She sits on the Board of the Cushing's Support and Research Foundation, the national organization for advocacy for Cushing’s disease. Marie is a volunteer at the USO at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Marie was unanimously granted Governor Emerita status by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for her more than 13 years of service. She continues to be a guest speaker and panelist on leadership development, mentorship, and stakeholder engagement. She is a proud graduate of Bloomsburg University and received a certificate in Organizational Leadership from Villanova University. She and her husband, Chris Lammando, and their son, Carter, live in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.