Woman who couldn't stop growing dies at age 34

LAS VEGAS - A woman who suffered from one of the world's worst cases of gigantism passed away on Monday after a 13-year fight with the rare medical condition.

Tanya Angus, 34, from Vegas was a beautiful young woman who dreamt of becoming an actress when she was hit by a rare medical abnormality which caused her body to grow non-stop.

Before her 21st birthday, she was a normal 5-foot-11 (180cm), 115 pound (52kg) slender young woman who walked fashion runways, loved dancing and had a boyfriend.

However, when she hit 21, she began noticing that she no longer fit into some clothes, and her hands had become enlarged.

"Tanya was 21 when she started growing," her mother Karen Strutynski said. "She was perfectly normal, but by age 22 she had grown three inches."

"Nobody knew what was going on."

She added that the family noticed something was seriously wrong when Tanya's sister Susie picked her up at the airport in 2002 and noticed a significant physical change in her sister.

"Tanya was taken to a friend who is a pediatrician. A few days later, our family's lives changed forever," she said.

Tanya was diagnosed with a disorder called acromegaly, where a non-cancerous tumour causes the body to produce too much growth hormone. In children the condition is known as gigantism.

The tumour had become wrapped around Tanya's pituitary gland, causing it to release massive amounts of growth hormone into her body, The Daily Mail UK reported.

Her worsening condition got her fired from her position as a Walmart supervisor in Michigan, and heartbreakingly, her boyfriend broke up with her when his parents questioned whether she was actually a man.

Failed operations

Failed operations

Over the past 12 years, Tanya underwent three operations in an attempt to remove the tumour. However, the attempts were unsuccessful as the surgeons were unable to reach part of the growth wrapped around her inner carotid artery.

She continued to grow an average of half an inch to an inch a year, and as she ballooned to 7 feet tall (213cm) and 400 pounds (181kg), she was slowly being crushed by her weight. She was in such agony that the pool was her only relief.

She also suffered terrible depression as she lost hope at a normal life and her facial features gradually became abnormal. Symptoms of the disease include abnormal growth of the hands and feet, and enlargement of facial features such as the brow, jaw and nose.

"I felt unhappy with my appearance and spent a fortune on make-up. My figure also started to change and become more manly and my voice became deeper," she said in a 2009 interview.

The condition can also cause 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.

Left untreated, it can lead to death as organs such as the heart and lungs grow with the body and sufferers also face a higher risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

She attempted to search for alternative treatment options to halt her growth, but some treatment options did her more harm than good. One surgery nearly killed her and another caused a stroke that nearly destroyed her hearing.

"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 told NBC News Today Health with tears streaming down her face. "I feel so ugly."

But she picked herself up and began sharing her story with others, eventually inspiring an advocacy group called Acromegaly Community.

She wrote of her condition through her website and became an advocate for those with the disease - appearing on television shows, speaking and conferences and corresponding with people from over 60 countries in an effort to help them, Associated Press (AP) reported.

Helping others

Death

She wanted to help others get diagnosed before it is too late, her mother said.

"I read emails that people send in saying, "You're my inspiration," or, "You are so strong. If I am helping other people, I feel I can do anything,"' Tanya told ABC News.

Last year, the family thought they had finally found a treatment that was working. Doctors had told her she had finally stopped growing, The Daily Mail reported.

However, blood tests in October  showed that her growth hormone levels had shot up again.

She celebrated her 34th birthday in November - a birthday that her doctors said that she would never reach.

This year on Jan 14, she passed away at 12.25am. While the autopsy results are not out yet, it is believed she died after catching a cold and developing a tear in her heart, AP reported.

Acromegaly Community announced her death on their website: "It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing on of our beloved Tanya Angus at 12.25 am January 14, 2013, due to her heart and TIA. RIP dear one."

"Part of Tanya's legacy is her good work in spreading the word about education and early detection of the pituitary tumour Acromegaly," her grandmother posted on Tanya's website. "Tanya's heart's desire to spread that word will continue here."

Wayne Brown, the group's founder, said: "Her tremendous love of our community could only be matched by her generosity of spirit. No matter how tired or sick she was, you could always count on Tanya for a smile and a hug that was guaranteed to raise your spirits. Tanya's infectious laugh brightened up a room, simply by her presence. She always had time to say hi to one more person, even when she was too tired to do so. She was a hero to people around the world, simply because of her bravery and class, as she faced so many unknowns."

"Rest in peace, princess."

Read more on her fight by clicking through the gallery below: