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She’s 6-foot-6, 480 pounds ... and still growing

Discussion in 'JF Doctor' started by MziziMkavu, Jun 23, 2009.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Tanya Angus was 5-foot-11 and 115 pounds before she noticed her body starting to change at age 20. Today, at 30, the rare disorder acromegaly has made her 6-foot-6 and 480 pounds.

    Tanya Angus, 30, has rare disorder that causes uncontrolled growth

    By Mike Celizic contributor
    updated 9:17 a.m. ET June 23, 2009

    It seemed as if it happened overnight. The young woman who had been tall and reedy and dreamed of being an actress was suddenly growing out of her clothes.
    When she couldn't fit into her shoes, she knew something was wrong.
    Tanya Angus was just 20 years old and living in Michigan when her body started changing into someone she no longer recognizes. "It's like I'm somebody else," she told NBC News' Michael Okwu in a story filed Tuesday for TODAY. "I look in the mirror; I don't see me."
    Once 5-foot-11 and 115 pounds, Angus today is 6-foot-6 and 480 pounds. After Okwu's report aired, she sat down with TODAY's Meredith Vieira in New York to explain why she's decided to tell the public about her condition.
    It is, she said, "to let others know that it's out there. It could be hidden, and you wouldn't even know it until it crawls up on you. You start looking different. It's easier to catch if you know the symptoms."
    Rare and difficult to diagnose
    Acromegaly is more commonly known as gigantism. In Angus' case, it manifested as a tumor that wrapped around her pituitary gland in the base of her brain, forcing it to secrete excessive amounts of growth hormone. Wrestler Andre the Giant had the same condition; so does actor Richard Kiel, who played "Jaws" in the James Bond movies.
    "She was a perfectly normal child growing up," said Angus' mother, Karen Strutynski, who joined her daughter on the show. "There was no indication. Everything was normal - the growth, everything."
    Acromegaly is rare and difficult to diagnose. Researchers don't even agree on how prevalent it is, but at least four people in a million develop the full-blown condition each year.
    The condition can be treated with surgery and drugs. But despite three brain surgeries and all the available drugs, Angus continues to grow from a half inch to an inch a year.
    "They said that I am the only person that they cannot control my growth with medicine," she said.
    "I don't want to see myself in a mirror," she had told Okwu in his report, tears streaming down her face. "I feel so ugly."
    Dismissed by doctors
    Ten years ago, Angus was 20 years old and living in Michigan when she started getting migraine headaches and noticed her shoes no longer fit. Her voice was getting deeper and she was growing again. Most alarming, people started asking her if she was a man or a woman.
    She went to several doctors who, she said, dismissed her and even accused her of making up symptoms so she could get prescriptions for pain relievers.
    Angus finally went home to Las Vegas.
    "When I moved back to Nevada, my sister took a look at me and said, ‘Oh, my God! I'm taking you to a doctor. I barely recognize you,' " she told Vieira.
    Strutynski took Angus to her old pediatrician, who was a family friend. She diagnosed the condition immediately.
    Unfortunately, by then the tumor that had wrapped itself around Angus' pituitary had grown to the size of a grapefruit, forcing the gland to pump out massive amounts of the hormone that made her body continue to grow.
    Tanya Angus at age 7. Her mother said she was "perfectly normal growing up - there was no indication."
    Angus underwent surgery that got most of the tumor. But it grew back, and when it was the size of an orange, she underwent another surgery. A third surgery followed.
    The oldest disease
    Symptoms of the disease normally include abnormal growth of the hands and feet, along with the enlargement of facial features such as the brow, jaw and nose. Additional symptoms (and their associated frequency) can vary and may be presented through headaches, joint pain, swelling of the soft tissue, fatigue, loss of vision, carpal tunnel syndrome, skin changes, excessive sweating, snoring, tingling in the arms and legs, impotence and absence of menstruation.
    The disease can awaken at any time. Bob Knutzen, founder of the Pituitary Network, was diagnosed with acromegaly when he was 50. Now 72, his disease is under control, but he campaigns tirelessly to combat it.
    Knutzen called it "the oldest disease in the world," noting that it explains the biblical giant Goliath.
    "It's one of those rare diseases that just hits you one morning, one night. You wake up and know that something is wrong."
    The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.