At 6 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 372 pounds, Tanya Angus has grown so large that her bones are crushing her structure. But now, a San Francisco doctor says he might be able to help the Nevada woman.
Angus takes 20 pills a day to stop the uncontrolled growth caused by a brain tumor that is pressing on her pituitary gland.
"I live every day in pain that's excruciating," said Tanya, 31, who is the only person in the world whose growth seems unstoppable.
She has had three surgeries so far. One 13-hour operation nearly killed her, and another caused a stroke that took away most of her hearing.
"Every time something went wrong," she said. "I am thankful he is there and can look at my case, but what is he going to say?"
Last July, doctors at St. John's Health Center and John Wayne Cancer Center in Southern California, believed they could help Tanya.
"She poses all sorts of big risks, literally and figuratively because of her size," said Dr. Dan Kelly, director of the brain tumor center there. "It makes everything more problematic."
After tests, doctors decided a procedure was too risky. Tanya's mother, Karen Strutynski, fears they will be let down again.
An estimated 1 in 5, or 60 million Americans, suffers from pituitary or hormonal disorder, according to the Pituitary Network Association.
Angus, once a beautiful 21-year-old who rode horses, danced and had a boyfriend, one day noticed changes in her 5-foot-8-inch frame: Her shoes didn't quite fit, her jeans were too tight and her hands got bigger.
"She was perfectly normal, but by age 22 she had grown three inches," said her mother. "Nobody knew what was going on."
Angus, who lived in Michigan and was a supervisor at a Wal-Mart, began to worry when even her face and head got larger. Her bosses also noticed -- and fired her. And her boyfriend left when his parents began to ask, "Is she a man?'"
Tanya decided to return home in 2002. When her sister picked her up at the airport, she "freaked out," because she didn't recognize Tanya.
The doctor took one look and diagnosed acromegaly, also known as gigantism, caused by a tumor in her brain that is pushing on her pituitary gland, causing it to produce an excess of growth hormone.
"I don't know how to explain how it is, being a giant," Tanya told ABC's affiliate KTNV. "I put my shoes on in the morning, I'm like, 'Ugh, gosh they're growing again. I'm growing again.'"
"The tumor has been growing from the time Tanya hit puberty," said Strutynski. "Her back is collapsing due to the overgrowth. As she grows her bones weaken and they break down. She is so big, her spine looks like a boomerang."
"When she grows, everything in her body grows -- her lungs, kidneys, bladder," she said. "Her body is literally having a hard time and she is so uncomfortable."
In more than 98 percent of the cases, acromegaly is caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland that causes it to secrete excessive growth hormone, according to the Pituitary Network Association.
Acromegaly is not that rare. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports six cases in every 100,000 people, but the association says many cases go undiagnosed or under-treated because doctors are not educated enough about the disease.