But I admit, I considered subtitling this post "Where The Hell Are You?" Women with acromegaly are seriously hard to find; the Wikipedia entry of "notable cases" of acromegaly lists thirteen sufferers, who are all male. It's true that male celebrities with gigantism are, in most cases, famous for roles which they play because of their height; like many actors with disabilities or conditions such as gigantism or dwarfism, casting directors or scouts are looking at their physical attributes first, and their acting talent second. Yet there is a fair list of men with acromegaly who are famous for their roles in TV or film, or for their sporting achievements - and there are even a few male acromegaly sufferers who are famous for something completely unrelated to their height, such as Kevin Aucoin, make-up artist and the historic Pio Pico, last governor of Mexican California.
Yet the only famous women with acromegaly that I've been able to track down so far are famous for their height alone; they are record holders, they might be interviewed for the newspapers, but they don't get the acting roles that great height opens up for their male counterparts. They're not on television playing unusually tall people; it seems as though such parts are for men only. They're not playing sport. There's no female Andre the Giant or Richard Kiel; and yet, when it comes to actors with dwarfism, there are well-known female actors out there, even if they are in smaller numbers than their male counterparts.
Gigantism caused by acromegaly is an extremely rare disease, don't get me wrong - even rarer than acromegaly which develops in adulthood. But it is just as likely to occur in women as in men - so why is it that some male sufferers are able to exploit their illness in a way in which female sufferers are not? The symptoms of acromegaly, especially that which develops in youth - great height, large jaw, big hands and feet - are debilitating, but they also closely correlate with traditional physical markers of masculinity; and they're diametrically opposed to feminine physical ideals. Do women with acromegaly suffer greater discrimination than men? I'd be interested to find out.
Women With Acromegaly
Tanya Angus is an activist who raises awareness about acromegaly in the United States. She does a pretty good job of it too; she's been interviewed on the Today Show, featured on ABC News, and even made it across the pond with a story in the Daily Mail. Tanya's acromegaly has proved impossible to control with pituitary surgery or medication, and consequently she's still growing at age 33 and 6'6". After her GP consistently failed to acknowledge that there could be anything wrong, she was diagnosed only by the time that her pituitary tumor had grown to the size of grapefruit. Whilst there was some success in reducing her hormone levels in 2010 using bumper doses of Somatuline, they appear to have been creeping back up again in 2011; and in a country where there's no National Health Service, her medications and hospital treatment are hugely expensive. She speaks about the difficulties that acromegaly brings for female sufferers; she is frequently referred to as "sir" and still receives abuse even in her home town.
See her website at http://www.tanyaangus.com/
Sandy Allen was the world's tallest woman before her death at the age of 53 in 2008. Sandy was 7' 7 1/2" - for comparison, currently the world's tallest man is Sultan Kösen at 8'3" - only 8 inches taller. In her later years, Allen was restricted to using a wheelchair to get about; many sufferers of acromegaly gigantism find that as they age, their legs and back are no longer able to support their height and weight. She made appearances on film and television, and aimed to educate children about the importance of accepting differences.
Svetlana Singh is an Indian woman with gigantism caused by acromegaly; she was featured on a Channel Four documentary called The World's Tallest Woman And Me, although at 6'8" she is significantly smaller than the record holders. Married to a man who is 6'6", their child Karan was already 3'2" aged just ten months old. Svetlana was hoping to play netball for India at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, before a knee injury which failed to heal forced her to abandon a possible sporting career.
UPDATE: I've also written about famous people with pituitary adenomas here and here, and written specifically about famous people with Cushing's Disease.
*What is acromegaly? It's a growth condition caused by a pituitary adenoma (tumor) which releases too much growth hormone - this site has a good explanation of the condition.