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Mother helps educate others on son's disease

SUGAR HILL - John Sellers is an old man stuck in a 9 1/2 year-old's body.

And that's a good thing.

While most boys his age can be a little self-absorbed and, well, downright rude, John is thoughtful, polite and speaks with authority on just about anything.

Fire trucks, the Defense Intelligence Agency, hot rods.

This fearlessness may be because for the last four years, John has suffered from pediatric Cushing's Syndrome, a mysterious condition that causes extreme weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and volatile mood swings.

It took John's mother, Donna Sellers, several years and a string of heartaches before learning John had Cushing's. His weight had ballooned, his moods erratic. School was a nightmare. Teachers, his mom says, didn't understand his temperament and neither did his classmates.

Finally, John began growing a mustache. Something was seriously wrong.

Doctors soon discovered the culprit: a tumor the size of a baseball on his left adrenal gland. It was diagnosed as Cushing's Syndrome. Cushing's causes the body to overproduce cortisol, a stress hormone that increases blood pressure and blood sugar.

Once removed, John lost weight, but he requires medication to due psychological side effects. He's now home- schooled through the Georgia Virtual Academy.

To help parents of children who suffer from Cushing's, Donna Sellers started John's Foundation for Cushing's Awareness, a nonprofit organization that provides education and support as far as India. She says doctors need to be more aware of the condition, because if left untreated or misdiagnosed it can be fatal.

"It is time that we as parents ask doctors not to just push it off as baby fat, lack of exercise or a poor diet," she says.

Though John has gained weight - a side effect of medication - his doctors are upbeat and say John is in, for the most part, good health.

Still, he struggles with moodiness.

"Well, some days I'm mad, sometimes I'm good," he said. "It's just like that. Sometimes I can get my work done without any problems, one day it takes me like six hours to get my work done."

Donna Sellers has organized several fundraisers this summer to pay for educational materials.

Saturday, Tropical Smoothie Café in Buford - 1680 Mall of Georgia Blvd. - will sponsor National Flip Flop Day. Any customer wearing flip-flops will receive a free Jetty Punch Smoothie. Later on July 20 at 2 p.m., Andretti's, the racing entertainment park, will host a classic car show to raise awareness for Cushing's.

"The outpouring of people helping the foundation is just unbelievable," Donna Sellers said.

For more information, visit http://www.jfcainc.com or call 678-267-9497.