Living With Giantism: How It Feels to Be Huge

Tanya Angus lived a picture-perfect childhood, filled with horseback riding, swimming pools and dreams of becoming a princess.

The cute little girl grew into a beautiful young woman who was popular, athletic and no different from anyone else in her neighborhood. At 18, she was 5 feet 8 and weighed 140 pounds -- and had seemingly finished growing.

"She was very energetic. She had a lot of friends," said Karen Angus, Tanya's mom. "She was a typical student. She would go from A's to C's."

Karen said Tanya was never the tallest girl in her class. Things have changed.

The Big Get Bigger
What If You Never Stopped Growing?

Watch the special "Help! I'm Turning Into a Giant" on TLC March 14 at 8 p.m.

Between the ages of 18 and 31, Tanya went from 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 140 pounds to 6 feet 6 inches and weighing 430 pounds.

Karen Angus said Tanya is actually 6 feet 11, but her spine has collapsed. Each day for Tanya brings a new lesson in pain. Her body is breaking down under the strain of endless growth.

Tanya's condition is called gigantism, or acromegaly. It's a rare disorder caused by a tumor inside the brain. The tumor causes the pituitary gland to secrete an excess amount of growth hormone, in some cases without ever stopping.

"It's a deforming disease," Tanya Angus said. "I didn't used to look like this when I was 16, 17, 18. About age 20, I started to change. I grew out of my clothes, out of my shoes. I was wearing more makeup. I mean, I wouldn't leave the house without makeup. I called my mom and dad, I was like 'Mom, Dad, people are telling me I'm looking like a man.'"

"I felt like I was Bigfoot, and that's what people would call me. ... I was like, 'People think I'm a monster.'"

What's happened to Tanya Angus in the past 10 years has changed every aspect of her life.

"It's very scary," she said. "I used to have nightmares about being as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and people were scared of me, and they were pointing up at me, saying 'Look, it's a he-she.'"

Karen Angus described how painful it's been watching her daughter go through this.

"It's awful to think of what people can come up with," she said. "It's a mother and father's worst nightmare, to have to see their child go through so much pain, because I don't care if you're 6 or 31, you're always our child, you're always our little girl."

'I Feel Like I Don't Belong'

The condition isn't new. History is filled with examples of acromegaly. People with the condition were often considered freaks or outcasts, and some are thought to have inspired the old stories and legends of giants.

Igor Vovkovinskiy, 27, at 7 feet 8 inches tall, has one of today's most dramatic cases.

"Some days, I feel like I don't belong anywhere on this planet," Vovkovinskiy said. "Everything is too short, too small, not comfortable, not made for me."

Nothing in Vovkovinskiy's life is normal. Both his home and car have been custom-made to fit his huge frame. Chairs are too small, keyboards too tiny -- everywhere he goes doorways are too low.

Igor has hardly ever known what it is to be small, even as a child. He was 6 feet tall by the time he was 7 years old.

If you've ever wished to be just a little taller, imagine life in his size 26 shoes.

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