Living With Giantism: How It Feels to Be Huge

"People can be a little bit disrespectful when I'm out in public," said Vovkovinskiy. "They'll yell across the store, or they'll take out their cell phone cameras and start clicking pictures, and sometimes they'll start yelling at their other friends across the store. And it gets a little embarrassing when you find out you're the reason why they're yelling."

Early on, Vovkovinskiy's family recognized their son had a huge problem. It sacrificed everything in search of a cure, moving from its native Ukraine to Rochester, Minn., for treatment.

"You can cure it," said Dr. Todd Nippoldt at the division of endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "Surgery can cure acromegaly as long as the entire tumor is removed and there isn't any residual tumor that occurs."

Vovkovinskiy's tumor was removed and his growth has finally stopped.

Doctors Can't Remove Angus' Tumor

Tanya Angus' case has proved more complicated.

Her doctors say they are unable to remove the entire tumor from her brain and fear her growth can't be stopped.

"All we do is just slow it down," said Dr. Phil Chen, who has treated Tanya. "There's no way I don't think that we can stop it. ... So far we don't have any way to stop it. We just use experimental drugs and hope, hope something new may come up."

When acromegaly strikes after puberty, as it did for Tanya, it causes the person to grow tall but also generally to grow big, particularly in the hands and feet.

Angus said that her hopes and dreams of a happy, normal life are a distant memory now, like the old pictures that seem more like someone else.

"We don't know what her life expectancy is," said Karen Angus with tears in her eyes. "All her hopes and dreams seem to have disappeared."

'Experimental Drugs and Hope'

These days, Angus hardly walks more than a few feet, and generally she uses a wheelchair. Her mother's specially outfitted minivan is the only path to the outside world. But even it will soon be too small.

"Sometimes we have to use service elevators to get her through into doctor's offices, into bigger buildings," said Karen Angus. "Because they don't make the doors wide enough for a giant."

Her daughter says that at times she can almost feel the changes happening.

"My neck feels even different," she said. "It feels longer. ... I mean, I remember when I used to wear necklaces that were chokers. And now I can't even fit a choker around my neck."

Dreams, Fears for the Future

Vovkovinskiy now hopes to grow in other ways. He dreams of a career in law, of helping others the way so many have helped him. And his incredible size has made for a few bright spots -- one in particular he still can't believe.

President Obama called out Vovkovinskiy, a supporter, at an appearance in Minneapolis.

"The biggest Obama fan in the country is in the house," the president said. "Love this guy. Michelle has a picture where she looks like Sasha, thanks to this guy. He's a great supporter, and it's great to see you again."

But while Vovkovinskiy's growth has stopped, his pain is only getting worse. His joints hurt, his back pain is excruciating and normal life is an effort.

"My concern is that my pain is just going to get stronger and stronger, and that even if I do get my college degree that I might not be able to hold a full-time job, because I'm always going to be in pain," he said.

Angus' pain is dulled by heavy medication and one very real concern. She described her biggest fear.

"I guess that I'll leave this Earth really soon," she said. "Or go into a coma and not be able to come back out."

The bigger Tanya grows, the greater the pain and the more distant she feels from the normal young lady that used to be her.

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