Thursday, 3 June 2010

Cover me I'm going in......this is going to be a long post!

I try not to watch too much television as these days there is so much ‘filler’ TV, so much rot. I don’t think it’s very good for the soul and only seems to give people something to talk about with each other in the office. I’d rather not talk!! But last night I stumbled across another Bodyshock episode. Now this is real TV. This is stuff that is worth watching. It’s gritty, real, honest, shocking, true life. And that to me IS worth talking about.

The episode in question was called ‘I’m Turning Into A Giant’. It appealed because I am a tall girl. I currently stand at 5’ 10” and doubt I will ever get any taller, the only change in my height may well just be to shrink in old age, or so I thought…………….

I spent my childhood stooping and not standing up tall. Looking at my feet rather than into other peoples eyes. I started my high school as one of the tallest people in the school. It’s not the attention you want as a child. My height was being monitored as part of my Asthma care and I was told that I was expected to reach the height of 6’ 2” - to me that was just too much - I would worry at home - wondering if I put pressure on my head would it stop me growing. I didn’t feel like anyone understood me, I just always got told I should feel lucky to be tall. As the years went on my growing started to cause my legs to hurt but eventually I stopped growing, the pains started to subside and I started to love my height. I didn’t have to do anything to get noticed, sometimes just standing up would do it. But this is me, at 5’ 10” - hardly mammoth proportions now is it. I spent 4 years of my life recently being very sick, 3 operations in 2 years and endless medication. It really got me down but I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and that I would no doubt make a pretty much full recovery….and 4 years in a whole life time is nothing.

I’d heard about people with ‘Giantitus’ correctly called Acromegalic Gigantism. I had assumed this was some condition that developed in the womb or that a child had from birth. How wrong could I be. This Bodyshock edition followed 3 people with this condition. One had it from birth. One developed it in their late teens. One developed it in their 50’s…..yes, you heard me, in their 50’s……suddenly it’s not a condition you can forget about if you are not born with it. But that’s not the reason this interested me. As I am getting older I am becoming more and more aware of how human nature although beautiful at times, it can be the meanest thing on this planet - but you can’t let the reaction you get from small minded people stop you from living your life - but I am sure at times it must feel quite hopeless. Anything that makes you stand out can be used against you in the nastiest of ways. And my heart bled for these people when it was mentioned the things they can’t do, or will never be able to do or the lack of friends they have purely because of the way they look. I mean honestly - all 3 came across as truly lovely and articulate people. People I would proudly call my friend. But alas this is not the world we live in. This world seems to celebrate the masses, loves the mass produced, doesn’t like to waver off the line. Well ain’t that a shame!

The documentary starts with Igor Vovkovinsky who is 7’ 8” and wears a size 25 shoe. I personally thought he looked quite in proportion considering his considerable size. Can you just imagine trying to live your life when you are that size? No, of course you can’t really understand, but just about nothing from this world would fit you. Igor even had to have a house specially built just so he didn’t have to duck and stoop all the time. We’ve all fallen foul to playing up any issues we have for sympathy and I am sure we all know someone that has a disability that they play on, but not Igor. Through his life his school work had suffered, but rather than calling it quits he has gone back to school and is studying to become a lawyer. As much as I really commend him for doing this, I did feel a little angry that he was being made to sit at a regular size desk with a regular size chair. All hunched up trying to work. He didn’t want to make a fuss. He shouldn’t have to - his needs should have been accommodated just like a wheelchair users should be. I wish Igor all the success in the world with his chosen career and hope the world will accept him for who he is and not judge him for his condition.
The second person to be featured was a young lady called Tanya Angus. She stands at 6’ 8” tall, and weighs almost 32 stone. Again can you imagine just trying to be feminine at this height. My own height means I am deemed to be tough and don’t need help with things. Not always so! Anyway, Tanya has to wear men’s size 15 shoes but thankfully found someone that would make her nice feminine shoes, she also managed to find someone that would make rings to fit her fingers. They almost looked like babies bracelets due to their size, but someone made them for her. I found it hard to believe that so many places would not help her with this. Surely everyone can understand a woman’s desire to be feminine? It would obviously seem not. How very sad. Tanya didn’t develop this condition until a bit later in life - she had been living life as an attractive, fun loving, average sized young woman when things started to change.

Mary White was the last lady to be featured. She had been suffering head pains and started to notice a change in her facial features and was finally diagnosed with Acromegalic Gigantism. Due to having gone through puberty Mary didn’t have the same issues with height as Igor or Tanya but she was feeling the change in other ways. Mary had her tumour removed eventually and it is felt she will make a good recovery and that the changes to her body shape will start to subside. So I guess in a way, she’s one of the lucky ones!!!

Throughout all of this I was blown away at the determination and lack of self pity in all 3 people. Of course there would be times they have felt very angry at the world - I mean they are only human…let’s repeat that sentence one moment. Only human! I think we need to remember that next time we are faced with someone that doesn’t quite look the same as the rest of us. If someone seems pre-occupied or a bit cross one day you never know what they might be dealing with. To not pity someone that is different but to recognise the person within. If someone is different, don’t write them off, don’t give them special treatment, don’t patronise them, try not to stare at them, just see the beautiful person on the inside.

This condition can hit anyone and at any age it would seem. So just imagine for one moment if it suddenly happened to you! Would your partner stay with you no matter what? Would your friends still walk down the street with you? Would people be kind to you or treat you like a freak? Would anyone think you were capable of living a full life, or even deserving one? Would you be able to continue living - or is too much of you life about your vanity? If you really think about the answers to that you might surprise yourself.

You cannot help the face that you are born with or the face you end up growing up with but you can help the person you are.

Take away your looks and your posh frocks/suits and think if you had to wear over sized clothes and didn’t look the ‘norm’ would you still be able to function - would your personality be enough to shine through?

Never judge a book by its cover.

I saw a beautiful thing in the park the other day. Children were playing and a lady in a wheelchair with mild learning difficulties was out with her carer and was watching the children having fun and laughing. She smiled at them. Two of the children were staring at her. One of the parents encouraged the children to go and speak to the lady and tell her what they were up to. With a lot of shyness a huge dose of courage and their mom’s praise these children went over to the lady and giggled and smiled and said hello. They were no longer scared, still curious but now they had no fear. That’s a lesson I plan to pass on to any future children I have and will most definitely make me think twice when I hear someone make a derogatory comment about how someone looks. Take away the prejudice and this world would be a happier, nicer and easier place - and don’t we all, each and every one of us, want that.

This programme has taught me a lot. Not just about Acromegalic Gigantism and the trials and pain that every day life throws up, but also about 3 amazing people that are showing strength and courage in everything they do. Refusing to give up on their dreams or to give up on their lives. They are faced with agonising pain and restraints all the time but against all that they are trying to live their lives and live them well and I for one salute them.

If Mary, Tanya or Igor ever get to read this article then I would like to say to them that I admire and respect them - I appreciate their spirit - I wish this world was not so judgemental and I wish each of them every success in the world to reach as many of their dreams as possible and beyond.

I couldn't find a picture of Mary and hope the people who took the pictures of Igor and Tanya do not mind me using their photos.  I don't know who took the below photo but this is of Robert Wadlow who was 8' 11.1" and died in his 20's.  He has been one of the most famous faces of Acromegalic Gigantism and I think this photo really does show the extremities of this condition.


  1. beautiful article and summary of a show well worth the time to watch.
    Thank you for sharing their lives with me :D

  2. Thank you John that is kind of you. The production company behind the show have said they will try to pass it on to the people that were featured in the programme - which I really hope they manage to do!

  3. Hello! I was perusing blogs with Acromegalic content and came across yours, which I might add is one of the most sincere I've seen in a long time.

    I'm Tanya Angus' friend and webmaster. I was able to find a way to contact Igor, but have not had success contacting 'Mary' (yet!). I'm nearing completion of Tanya's website and I invite you to visit.

  4. Hello Tina - thank you so much for getting in touch and for saying that about the article I have written. I actually contacted the production company behind the show and they said they would try to pass on my article to those that participated in the documentary but I don't know if that ever happened. Please let Tanya see the article - even if it just highlights that people really do care. I'm checking out your website as we speak. ☺