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Little People, Big Laughs; 7 Feet Tall and Can`t Stop Growing
Aired October 4, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Tanya Angus was a 21-year-old woman with a bright future when her life changed forever. She began growing uncontrollably. She finally found a doctor who diagnosed acromegaly. At 33, Tanya is nearly seven feet tall and weighs over 400 pounds.
But the physical pain is constant, as is the fear of a catastrophic cardiovascular event.
But, Tanyalee Davis was three fee six inches tall. She was born with diastrophic dwarfism.
Don`t you dare feel sorry for this life-loving standup.
And don`t call comedian Brad Williams a victim either. His normal size dad would not allow him to engage in self-pity. Confidence and humor became his weapon against ignorance and his ammunition for building a successful career in comedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: And Tanyalee Davis and Brad Williams are with me now.
Brad, you actually credit Tonya Lee for helping inspire your career in comedy. Explain this.
BRAD WILLIAMS, 4`4 STAND-UP COMEDIAN: Yes. Tanyalee -- there were really not many dwarfs stand-ups. In fact, I can`t think of one. And we were just on TV. There were your Billy Bartys and people like that, but really not in the world of standup.
Tanyalee actually was someone that I could look to as, wow, we could actually do this and make a living at it. So, yes, I absolute credit here as an inspiration.
PINSKY: How long have you been doing it?
TANYALEE DAVIS, BORN WITH DIASTROPHIC DWARFISM: I started 22 years ago.
DAVIS: A long time.
PINSKY: You`ve been on the road that whole time.
DAVIS: I`m an old bag compared to Brad. He`s a cutie-pie.
PINSKY: Like Brad, do you -- is your comedy about the dwarfism?
DAVIS: Well, it`s basically my point of view, my perspective and like people`s perspective me, the situations I get into. You know, some people say you`ve got midget blinders on. But it`s life experiences.
PINSKY: You used the word midget.
DAVIS: I know.
PINSKY: Are these words OK to use these days? First, Tanyalee.
DAVIS: Well, I use it in my comedy. It`s not acceptable as a term for most little people. They prefer little person or dwarf.
DAVIS: Because it`s kind of like other words that, you know, other people don`t like. It -- there`s a sort of an angst that comes with the word. Growing, you`re only known as the midget. You have no identity. Look at the midget, oh, my God, there`s a midget -- midget, midget, midget. You`re just --
PINSKY: And those terms -- it`s not a word you hear much anymore. But as a child, you guys heard that.
DAVIS: Yes, growing up. It took on a negative connotation. And so - - but with comedy, with standup, it`s like -- it`s about our comedy work. And I do -- in my --
PINSKY: Comedy is taking hateful words and diminishing their power.
DAVIS: Right. And for me, I do let people know. Listen, you`re going to hear me say it. It`s not appropriate, but it is what it is.
PINSKY: Brad, how about you?
WILLIAMS: Yes. It`s a word that I was always told was bad. But then I use it on stage. I don`t really understand why it`s bad.
Some dwarfs are mad at me for using it in my act. I actually had one come up to me after a show one time and say when you call a dwarfs a midget, it`s the same as calling a black person the n-word.
And to that I said midget, please. No.
WILLIAMS: That`s not the same! You can`t compare those words! It`s not as powerful.
PINSKY: Brad, I`ve known you a little bit. Your attitude is inspiring. It`s your dad that you actually say really is the one that helps you really craft a sense of yourself in the world. Tell us about that.
WILLIAMS: Well, yes. My dad -- just to tell you, both my parents are tall. Dwarfs are not like gremlins. It`s not like you get one of them wet and four pop out. It`s not how it works.
My dad`s tall. And when I was born, he knew that I would encounter hardships in my life. So his philosophy was not to shelter me away from the world and hide from the hardships, but to make fun of me first. He would constantly make fun of me, but do it in a safe environment. All right. I just made fun of you, now hit me back. Get me with something.
So that taught me from a very young age that, yes, people are going to make fun of me. When they do, I can easily hit them back with a quick insult then they go, wow, OK, there`s a brain in that big massive head of his.
So I really credit him for installing -- instilling that attitude within me. And I find it quite sad that a lot of little people don`t have that. That they identify themselves as victims. Not just little people, but other people with disabilities.
And that`s really not the case. You can really use whatever hand you`ve been dealt to empower yourself and really make an impression on people.
PINSKY: Tanyalee, did you have somebody in your life like that as well?
DAVIS: I don`t think I had anybody specifically. Just from a young age I was sort of -- I was able to overcome stuff and just deal with and roll with the punches. People made fun of me, but I was able to come up with zingers. I was a little bit introverted.
Comedy was actually what really brought me out of my shell.
PINSKY: I`ve heard you say, though, as I`ve heard many comedians say, that comedy comes from a source of pain. Is that where you draw from?
DAVIS: Well, it`s funny, because I never aspire to be a comedian, and growing up, of course, I got bullied and made fun of. My bike got thrown up on the school roof and stuff like that. Kids are cruel.
DAVIS: Yes, I know. My tricycle.
WILLIAMS: Your bike got thrown on the roof? Why did they have to throw it on the roof? They could have just used a high table or something. That could have done the trick for you.
DAVIS: Exactly. You`re such a jerk. Yes.
PINSKY: Speaking of being a jerk, Brad, tell us if you wouldn`t mind sharing this story about a father that came up to you with his son -- tell us the story about you being one of Santa`s elves.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Here`s the thing. It`s almost impossible to offend a comedian, because we`ve heard everything. And especially being dwarfs, I`ve heard stuff way before I even started in the world of standup.
The only time I got offended was hen a dad once came up to me with his child. Now, the child had been staring at me. I don`t care if a kid stares at me. They`re blank slates. They don`t know. This is new to them, so it`s OK.
But he brings up his child to talk to me, which is exactly what you should do. That way you can get the answer from the source. And the dad opens his mouth first and says, yes, son, just like I told you, right sir? You`re one of Santa`s elves and you`re working undercover, wink, wink.
And I`m just sitting there like what? But I can`t get upset. Because then if I get mad, that child`s impression of all little people is going to be they`re angry. So I paused for a second, and I looked at the kid and I said, yes, I am one of Santa`s elves and I`m working undercover.
But don`t worry. You`ve been very good all year. You`re getting everything that you want. You`re getting an Xbox, you`re getting a new TV. Does your family have a pool? No, my family doesn`t. You`re getting a pool, OK? The only way -- the only way you`re not going to get a pool and everything that you want is if your dad failed to fill out the proper paperwork.
And the dad looks at me just like, what is wrong with you? I can`t do this. I can`t afford this. I was like dude, you opened Pandora`s box. Don`t be afraid of what comes out, man.
PINSKY: All right. We`re going to take a quick break. If you guys want to call us at 855-373-7395, 855-DRDREW5, talk to Tanyalee and Brad. We`re going to do another segment with them.
Taking what you`ve been dealt and using it to your advantage, flourishing under any circumstance. That`s what we`re talking about tonight. Be back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: I understand that most people assume I`m a midget. No, but you also assume I`ve got to have midget friends. Like there`s packs of us hanging around here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This is your happiness. Yes, this is happiness. Yes, laugh at the joke. The joke is funny. Well, if you see me after the show, (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That is Brad Williams on ComedyTime.tv.
Brad and Tanyalee Davis are little people how built successful careers as standup.
Tanyalee, you were telling us, though, when you were in I guess, high school, junior high school, they paired you up with other little folk?
DAVIS: Actually, I went to high school with one other little person. I went to a rather pretentious school. I don`t know why they thought this would be a great idea. They put two little people in the same locker. Two people that are hardly four feet, trying to reach in the four foot spate and you`ve got a completely empty half of the locker. We got put together for everything together. We have to do gym class together, the dancing, the whole thing.
It was like my only association with people and I`m like, get out of my face. I`m not used to seeing people eye to eye. I just wanted to poke him in the eye or give them a widgy (ph) or something.
PINSKY: And now you go to little people conventions right?
DAVIS: Yes. Well, now, it`s like -- you know, I`m in a different place of my life. People were like you have to be around your own kind or you`re never going to find a mate. I was like, are you kidding me? Yes, trust me, I can find a mate. I`ve got no problem in that department.
PINSKY: Brad, what is that? That people want to -- you know what I mean? Do people try to pair you up with other people that kind of play you as well?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Absolutely. Kind of similar to Tanyalee. I had a female dwarf going to my high school and there`s the Sadie Hawkins dance where the girl asked the guy. We actually played a little joke on the rest of the school where I wore a halter top and a wig and then she wore, like, a backwards baseball hat and a regular shirt.
And people would literally come up to her and say hey, Brad, looking good. It was ridiculous like -- it was nuts. Like we all look the same apparently.
PINSKY: Brad, you -- I`ve seen you with regular sized folk these days.
DAVIS: He`s a player. Player!
PINSKY: He`s a player. OK.
Let`s got to Mindy --
WILLIAMS: Well, I mean --
PINSKY: Go ahead, Brad.
WILLIAMS: It`s nice. It`s nice because, yes, I`m a little person. And thankfully many women have a bucket list.
PINSKY: So, let`s go to Mindy in California.
Mindy, what you got for us?
MINDY, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: Hey, Dr. Drew.
A quick comment to Tanya and Brad, I just wanted to say that both of you are such an inspiration to millions of kids. I knew a dwarf in high school that was one of my friends. She was constantly getting bullied.
It was only until she decided to turn it into humor and to go along with not the bullying but to make light of her situation, it not only made others happy, but it gave her confidence. And that`s -- laughter is the best humor and laughter is the best medicine. I think that you two are such an inspiration.
PINSKY: I agree with you, Mindy. By the way, this is not an uncommon condition, achondroplasia.
DAVIS: Well, he`s achondroplasia. I`m not.
PINSKY: You`ve got diastrophic --
DAVIS: He`s one of those with the big heads.
WILLIAMS: You see how there`s even fighting within the little people?
DAVIS: Yes. Hierarchy.
WILLIAMS: Like she`s going to be like, well, at least my head is not that big.
PINSKY: Well, tell me about that.
WILLIAMS: At least you can`t have a shadow puppet show on your forehead like Brad.
PINSKY: But tell me about that, Brad, there is a hierarchy even of heights and things. What is that all about?
DAVIS: It`s like any subculture. It`s the same sort of thing where no matter what group there`s always somebody that`s got to be the top of the rung. And as far as achondroplasia, they`re considered, like if you`re going to take a type of dwarf, they`re pseudo-achondroplasia.
PINSKY: Yes. That`s right.
DAVIS: I`m kind of the third. I`m like the bronze medal with diastrophic dysplasia. And they each have their own medical issues. You can kind of what -- these guys tend to be taller and they tower over us. Yes, you can show a movie on his forehead.
PINSKY: They tend to have more problems with the limbs and deformity --
DAVIS: I`m very long in the body, short in the arms and legs. Yes, our hands are -- this is called a star fish hand with a hitchhiker thumb. Just very diastrophic.
DAVIS: Yes. All diastrophic have star fish hands. You know, jazz hands.
PINSKY: Let`s go to Pam in Pennsylvania -- Pam.
PAM, CALLER FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, Dr. Drew, Brad and Tanya.
PAM: I`d just like to say that both of you are very inspirational. My cousin as a matter of fact is a little person. And he was part of the Barnum & Bailey circus. You`re not only an inspiration to little people but myself as well, because anything you face with, you come out as who you are. Then that inspires everybody.
PINSKY: Right. That`s right, Pam. That`s the whole point of the show today is that this is a specific phenomenon that you guys live with and overcome.
DAVIS: We don`t know any different. We`re just doing what we do. We`re capitalizing on it.
PINSKY: Well, it`s you. And you own it.
WILLIAMS: That`s the thing.
PINSKY: Go ahead, Brad.
WILLIAMS: This is normal for us. We don`t know what it`s like to be 5`8" and be able to reach everything. It`s not like we were 18 years old, woke up one day and went what happened?
PINSKY: But also, Brad, I think people think somehow you would be envious or wish you were. You own what you got just like everyone should own what they have, right?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Absolutely. If you came up to me with a magic pill to make me an average sized person, I wouldn`t take it. Because I`ve enjoyed this life so far. It`s really great. And there`s so much you can do with it.
Like when me and Tanyalee walk into a room, everyone instantly notices us. And we`re instantly drawn -- attention is brought to us. No one --
DAVIS: Because we`re like look at us!
WILLIAMS: Well that too.
PINSKY: Go ahead. That`s Brad that does that.
WILLIAMS: Yes. It`s just great. It`s just great because a lot of people would love to be able to walk into a room and have everyone notice them, and thankfully we goat to have that.
PINSKY: Brad, I have to say good-bye to you. I think you have to perform tonight. Any parting shot here? Go ahead.
WILLIAMS: Pretty much just that we all are different in some way. No one is normal. There is no such thing as normal. And we all have something that we have to deal with. Some are a little more obvious than others, but it`s how you deal with it. If you`re able to embrace it, that`s when you`re truly going to be happy.
When you acknowledge yourself as different as everyone else, that`s when you start getting depressed. But when you start looking at all the things you have to offer the world, that`s when you can really be happy with your life.
PINSKY: Thank you, my friend. Have a good show tonight.
DAVIS: Bye, Brad. Goo to see you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Dr. Drew. Thank you, Tanyalee.
PINSKY: And we will continue the conversation with Tanyalee Davis when we come back. We`re going to hear about her love life and how all that worked out with a regular size person.
DAVIS: Oh, yes.
PINSKY: You said you had no problem with that department.
And later on, we`re going to meet a woman suffering from a condition that caused her to grow continually. She`s now seven feet tall, 400 pounds. We`ll talk to her.
But, first, a quick break.
PINSKY: I`m back with comedian Tanyalee Davis, three feet, six inches of her.
Tanyalee, you`re married, though, to a six foot tall man.
DAVIS: I was. He was nuts over me. It was amazing.
PINSKY: How did you guys meet?
DAVIS: We actually met over the Internet. I was actually a seven foot blond.
Our typing is the same size so it didn`t matter.
Now, we actually it`s an online romance. We`d just meet when I moved to California and he came out and saw one of my shows and, you know, I captivated him.
PINSKY: How long were you guys together?
DAVIS: We`re married 13 years.
PINSKY: And just the usual --
DAVIS: Well, he`s 17 years older than me and that started to take its toll as I move into my 40s. And like a man in his pushing 60, it`s like New Year`s Eve. His balls kept dropping lower and lower.
PINSKY: That was enough for you.
DAVIS: Yes. I`m feisty. It`s a lot of work to keep up with me.
PINSKY: Was it -- I bet as a young woman, you have the stuff as every young woman puts upon themselves as an adolescent. What was that like for you?
PINSKY: Dating, body image, all that stuff.
DAVIS: Well, yes. Insecure growing up. Like I said, when I started doing standup --
PINSKY: How old were you?
PINSKY: You started early.
DAVIS: Yes. For sure.
PINSKY: That opened you up.
DAVIS: And when I moved to Los Angeles, which was about 1996, when I moved to L.A., it was funny because L.A. is the land of superficial people. I was going down the street and it wasn`t look at the midget. It was like damn girl look at that ass. I was like look me at J. Lo booty.
And that`s when I really started really working all my angles, and shown up the figure and realized that, you know, working your sexuality on stage even though I`m not by any means the ideal physical specimen. Nowadays, it`s work with what you got. Everybody can be sexy. That`s part of my act I really do like in a profession.
PINSKY: That`s a big message we`re trying to give out today. But you talk about stuff with a positive way. But I see a bit of pain in your eyes. What is that?
DAVIS: I think just growing up, finding myself. I mean, everybody finds yourself. I feel like in life you go through chapters. And up until the point of starting standup, when I started, you know, getting out there and being very honest on stage, that opened my life. And then --
PINSKY: Did you have depression before then?
DAVIS: Not really. No, I don`t --
PINSKY: Like adolescent depression?
DAVIS: Yes, like, oh why won`t boys like me? It`s teenage angst --
PINSKY: When will he call?
DAVIS: Yes, you know, boys, they don`t want to date somebody that`s like, oh (INAUDIBLE), or whatever it does. I had guys I went to high school with saying I really liked you but I couldn`t date you back then. What would people say? I would say, you`re such a pansy. So, you know, like you didn`t have the balls, I didn`t watch it.
PINSKY: Right. I bet you have stronger things to say.
Let`s talk to Wanda in Maryland -- Wanda.
WANDA, CALLER FROM MARYLAND: Hi --
PINSKY: Hi, Wanda.
WANDA: -- Dr. Drew and Tanyalee. I just wanted to say that you guys rock. Tanyalee, you`re wonderful.
And I`m a little person myself. I`m three foot tall. And I agree with you 100 percent, Tanya, that the word midget, it`s very offensive --
WANDA: -- in my opinion.
PINSKY: With the opinion that counts is the small person`s opinion, right? I mean, if it`s offensive to small people, that`s who should be telling us.
PINSKY: Even though Brad can twist it around and do funny stuff with it.
DAVIS: I still use the word. Don`t get me word. I mean, I`m not going to say, I use the word quite freely in my everyday life. I say it around my friends. I sort of --
PINSKY: Is that to try to decrease its power?
DAVIS: Well, yes. I don`t know. I`m such a smart ass. It`s a funny word. I say I`ve got to midgetize my apartment. You get a visual with what I`m talking about, you know?
But I don`t go -- I don`t believe in yelling it out in the streets to other people and stuff like that, and the way it`s being used in a derogatory fashion. I`m not for that. And I will punch you in the crotch if you`re going to say -- call me any names. You can call me a ton of names. But, you know, yes, it`s just the context. So I get where the pain comes from.
PINSKY: Well, thank you for joining us. I do appreciate it. It`s been an interesting jury knew to share with you. And Brad, of course, I appreciate him coming in as well.
DAVIS: Oh, yes.
PINSKY: Again, the message is -- do you mind the message? That you live -- you be what you are.
DAVIS: Yes. Own it.
PINSKY: Yes. Own it.
DAVIS: Enjoy life. It`s too short, people.
PINSKY: That`s so true.
DAVIS: Get over it.
PINSKY: All right. After the break, we`re going to go the other direction and meet another person, also a Tanya. Her name is Tanya Angus. And she is seven feet tall, 400 pounds. There she is right there.
She has an unusual condition where her pituitary gland began producing too much of growth hormone at a critical age, and we`ll talk to her about all that and what she`s dealing with when we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Tanya Angus was a 21-year-old woman with a bright future when her life changed forever. She began growing uncontrollably. Her hands and feet and eventually her whole body. She finally found a doctor who diagnosed acromegaly -- a brain tumor causes an overactive growth hormone.
At 33, Tanya is nearly seven feet tall and weighs over 400 pounds. After three brain surgeries, radiation, an experimental dose of a special drug, Tanya has finally stopped growing. But the physical pain is constant, as is the fear of catastrophic cardiovascular event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): Tanya Angus and her mom, Karen, are with me live tonight. All right. So, Tanya, you have pain all the time from this condition. Tell us about that.
TANYA ANGUS, SEVEN FEET TALL & 404 LBS: Hi, Dr. Drew. I -- it`s never-ending pain in my back and in my hips and in my knees. I mean, I get cortisone injections in my knees. And, it still barely takes away all the pain.
PINSKY: And Tanya, as I understand, you were a usual developmental experienced size until you were about 19. Maybe we can show some pictures of that. We`re looking at pictures of you in a salt water pool now which I understand is how you get relief from all that pain. You were normal. You were developing at 19, and then what happened?
ANGUS: And then, I would look at my hands, and I`d try to get my rings off, and my hands were swelling and they were getting longer. And I couldn`t fit my rings -- I couldn`t take them off. I had had to have them cut off. And, my feet were growing, my body was growing. I mean, I started lactating. My menstrual period stopped. And it was -- it was a nightmare.
PINSKY: And Tanya, I see your mom Karen getting upset just with the memory of that period. What was that like for you and how frustrating was it to go to doctors and not get any answers?
KAREN STRUTYNSKI, DAUGHTER SUFFERS FROM ABNORMAL GROWTH: Hi, Dr. Drew. It was very frustrating. It hurts.
PINSKY: It hurts. What I find kind of confusing about her case is she hasn`t -- she has a condition where the pituitary gland begins producing too much growth hormone. OK. And the result to that, if you`re already fully developed, you get something called acromegaly where your skull enlarges and your hands and your feet enlarge.
But if your growth plates on your long bones are still open, like say, you`re a young person, a child or an adolescent, you get something called gigantism. And it seems like Tanya was getting gigantism at a rather later age of life. Is that why they didn`t consider it?
STRUTYNSKI: Yes, it is.
PINSKY: And so, when they finally, you know, took their blinders and started thinking about it, what happened? How did they finally realize it and what did you think when they did? Karen.
STRUTYNSKI: Well, Dr. Drew, with any disease -- you know, sometimes they`re a little harder to find than others. And the doctors were just kind of skipping over what the underlying cause was. She had symptoms of this, that, and the other, and they didn`t put it all together. Once they did, it was oh, immediately rush her into surgery.
And then a year, later it had grown back almost as big. So, they rushed her back into surgery again. And we did gamma knife, daily radiation. And they thought, oh, well, OK, we got her out of the 4,000s. Now, let`s bring it -- you know, we got it down to 1,000. And we hit normal once this year. But we -- it went back up again.
PINSKY: You`re talking about your somatomedin metastatic (ph) levels or something you`re measuring or IGF-1?
STRUTYNSKI: Her IGF-1 level went back up again.
PINSKY: OK. I understand. And again, just to emphasize for people, Tanya was completely her normal developmental stuff. I think you were going to be a model, even when you were 19, is that right, Tanya?
PINSKY: There you are.
ANGUS: I had a lot of modeling companies asked me to model for them. And when my body started changing, I couldn`t do it anymore.
PINSKY: And it must have been scary for you, Tanya, to be rushed in for brain surgery.
ANGUS: Yes. I was very scared at the idea of brain surgery. I wasn`t -- I wasn`t optimistic. And the only thing I found on the internet was that Andre the Giant had this condition.
ANGUS: And, you know, I couldn`t read up about it because there wasn`t any studies.
PINSKY: And I`m looking at the brace you had on your face there. It looks like you had initially, at least, they did a transsphenoidal resection. Is that correct? They went in above your teeth here, right?
ANGUS: Yes. For the first surgery, I had a transsphenoidal.
PINSKY: Let me explain to people what that is. That`s where they go in right here -- I need my picture on the screen here for a second so I can show people -- they go here and they go up into the brain from here, from right above below the nose (ph), and they go to the pituitary gland and cut out these tumors that cause these problems.
Now, the show tonight, though, is about overcoming these things and how you manage them. How we deal with these things. So, we`re going to talk to somebody who Skyped us who has a similar condition to you, Tanya. We`re going to sort of talk about how she`s overcome it. We`re going to talk about how you`re dealing. And we`re going to take your calls at 855- DrDrew5. Be right back.
PINSKY: Reminder that we`ve been talking about overcoming extraordinary circumstances and owning what you got. I`ve been talking to Tanya Angus who has acromegaly/gigantism since the age of 19. There she is right there and is dealing with that now on a daily basis.
She is about seven feet tall, weighing 400 pounds. Having, at 19, been a normal 19-year-old girl, actually having been asked to have a modeling career, and this condition kicked in.
There she is at the age of 19. Joining me to discuss her condition is a special guest. Her name is Anne Bartleib. And she heard you`re going to be on the show tonight with us and wanted to Skype in. And Anne, you`re now an active duty -- did you say at Fort Bragg, is that where you are?
ANNE BARTLEIB, HAD SURGERY FOR ACROMEGALY: Yes, Drew. That`s right.
PINSKY: And you, yourself, had been diagnosed with acromegaly. Look at that. Well, let`s see if we can see -- there you are. Tanya, it says "I heart Tanya, acromegaly community hero."
ANGUS: Oh, my gosh. She always has surprises for me.
PINSKY: So, tell us what happened to you, Anne?
ANGUS: I love --
PINSKY: You love Anne?
ANGUS: I love her dearly.
PINSKY: So, Anne, tell us your story. You also were a young woman. You were in your normal condition and what started happening?
BARTLEIB: I had been struggling with symptoms that I didn`t know were actually acromegaly for a couple years, which is what`s very dangerous about this condition. And then, it -- about 30 days before I was ready to go on a mission is when they really started getting bad. Numbness and tingling swum (ph) in my hands and feet, a headache, and sweating.
And luckily, the numbness and tingling was causing me the most trouble, so they ordered an MRI thinking I had M.S. So, that`s what finally got the pituitary looked at, and they identified the tumor. So, I was lucky.
PINSKY: As I recall, the growth hormone secreting pituitary tumors are the second most common after the prolactin secreting tumors, and did they do, in your case, a transspheniodal resection as well?
BARTLEIB: Yes. I had my surgery on -- in December, on December 1st. So, I`m about nine months through my recovery.
PINSKY: That`s great. Again, a reminder that pituitary is the big gland of the middle -- sort of the master control gland in your body. And then, one of the things it produces is growth hormone. It regulates our growth. It regulates the adrenal glands. It regulates the thyroid gland. It regulates your ovarian function and testicular function.
And in this case, it begins producing too much growth hormone. The other tumor that can occur into the pituitary gland. The most common one is secreting prolactin. And the way they take these things out is by going in through here, right above the teeth, and digging up into the pituitary, and taking these tumors out. Anne, you`re cringing when I say that. Why, you had it done. You did it.
BARTLEIB: I`m still numb. I`m still numb on my nose and my lip.
PINSKY: That will probably come back. All right. Let`s take a quick call. Michelle in Pennsylvania -- Michelle.
MICHELLE, PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, Dr. Drew. I was diagnosed with acromegaly actually by accident about after ten years and 15 different doctors and specialists. They never saw or tried to figure out why. They just kept putting band-aids on the symptoms with either more medications or surgeries.
But being a teacher, my middle school and high school students always saw it. They saw something was off. My hands were large and I looked different. So, I would like to say as a teacher that I give my doctors a big red F for failing me, because really, if the kids could see it, why can`t the trained medical professionals see this and why do we have to wait ten years for a diagnosis?
PINSKY: Do any of the three of you have an answer to that, because I don`t.
STRUTYNSKI: Yes. I have an answer.
PINSKY: Go ahead. Let`s hear from Karen real quick. Karen, go.
STRUTYNSKI: The answer is, it`s getting the message out to the medical field and to the community, to the people, so that when they start recognizing it and the doctors go in and say hey, I might have this, because we have to be our own advocate.
PINSKY: I agree with Karen. I would caution people. The way I think about it is the following. Stop thinking in terms of symptoms and treatment relief of the symptoms. Think in terms of diagnosis. Why are you having recurrent carpal tunnel? Why are you having a facial nerve paralysis?
Why are all of these -- how do we tie all of these things together using something called Acom`s razor, the simplest explanation that takes all this together, and we don`t do that anymore. We`re busy just going, OK, you`re going to feel better. Let`s do this to you. And we don`t stop and think about that. I agree with you, guys. Wayne in Buffalo. Wayne, you got a comment.
WAYNE, BUFFALO: Dr. Drew, I actually want to say hello to three of my favorite ladies. I know all of them.
STRUTYNSKI: Hi, Wayne.
WAYNE: And when Anne put up the sign that Tanya is the hero of the acromegaly community, first of all, she is. And second of all, I`m actually the creator of acromegaly community. And I created it because like what Tanya said when I was first diagnosed, there was no information out there outside of the fact that Andre the Giant died from this horrible disease.
And, the great thing is -- and it`s a very manageable disease. And the key is to stay on your doctors, at least I feel, and when you`re complaining that you don`t feel well, just keep going back. Just keep getting yourself heard, because I complained for over a decade before I finally found the right endocrinologist who knew immediately as I was walking down the hall what was wrong.
PINSKY: Yes. Again, this is a great -- though this wasn`t the intention theme of the show which was, again, dealing with what you`re dealt, I agree with this theme which is, you know, keep going back, make sure you have an ombudsman that`s communicating with you, a primary care person, and you keep working things through until you get a firm, cohesive diagnosis.
Got to take a break. More with my guests after the break and your calls.
PINSKY: Tanya Angus was a normal 19-year-old girl, was actually being contemplating going into career of modeling, and all of a sudden, she started growing and growing and became seven feet tall, 400 pounds. She had a pituitary tumor that was producing growth hormone causing her to grow uncontrollably.
The condition is called gigantism. I also have Anne here who has a similar condition called acromegaly, which is how your body changes from the same tumor after your growth plates have closed. We`re going to go to some calls. Very quickly, ladies. Josephine in Illinois -- Josephine.
JOSEPHINE, ILLINOIS: Hi, Dr. Drew. I was wondering if it was hard for her to go through all this pain and accept it.
PINSKY: Tanya, how about that?
ANGUS: You know, I just -- I live my days from day to day. And I take a lot of medication, a lot of pain medication that my doctors have me on. And I say that God only gives you as much as you can handle.
PINSKY: You know, Tanya, that`s an interesting -- yes. I`m going to say it`s a piece that my little people in the first part of the show were not getting into which is how you handle things when they are tough. And a spiritual connection really can help, can`t it?
ANGUS: It does. It can. I mean, I believe that He gave me this knowing that I would be able to beat it. I mean, to be right on that line, to educate people, to educate doctors about this disorder, because like the last question you asked about sticking with the same doctor. For me, I went to many, many doctors and they all marked me down as, oh, she just gets headaches.
That`s it. You know? When it wasn`t, that`s it. I had to go to my old pediatrician who was a family friend and who knew me for over ten years for her to see me. If your doctors aren`t catching it, you need to see one of your other closer doctors.
PINSKY: Yes, Tanya. I think you`re right. The system, unfortunately, doesn`t serve -- physicians or patients now -- doctors don`t have time to sit and talk about these things the way we did at time in the past. Karen, Tanya`s mom, and Tanya, and Anne, thank you for joining us. I really do appreciate you sharing this story and bringing awareness.
Next up, I`m going to talk about an outrageous story I want to share with you. The grandfather of an Aurora shooting victim has been victimized himself. Be right back.
PINSKY: All right, now. A story that affected everyone on my staff, because we spent a lot of time covering the Colorado movie theater massacre. This little girl was killed in the shooting. Her name was Veronica Moser-Sullivan (ph). Her grandfather says this picture is the only one he has left of her.
That is because someone stole a camera from his home with a memory card containing over 40 photos of her. Actually, I don`t know if it`s from here -- his home or not. I just know that it was stolen from. I believe he had -- I believe his house was vandalized. That`s how this happened. Now, anybody, please, if you know who took this, Denver police want you to call crime stoppers at 720-913-7867. 720-913-7867.
Ah! That whole thing, we`re going to get back to that as the case unfolds. Obviously, just makes me sick. All right. Let`s get back to some of your calls. I`ve got Lisa in Canada. Lisa, what you got for me?
LISA, CANADA: I have a question actually. It`s about my son. He`s 14.
LISA: He has been diagnosed with anorexia and body dysmorphia.
PINSKY: Oh, goodness. OK.
LISA: And the province I live in do not have any in-patient treatment centers at all. And the ones that are out of province --
PINSKY: Hold on. I thought Canada had the greatest health care system on earth.
PINSKY: Listen, I actually worked with the Canadian government for short while because you didn`t have resources. They had to farm amount (ph) down here. It`s hard to get those kinds of sophisticated treatment programs that are comprehensive for eating disorder. A male at 14 with an eating disorder is somebody that really needs some more.
PINSKY: Yes. Now, will they let you have access to any of the other province`s programs?
LISA: Well, they will, but he`s in cue (ph). And it mean -- of course the people who are from their provinces get --
PINSKY: How long will they have to wait? This is the Canadian system, guys.
LISA: They don`t know. They could be up to six months. I`ve heard recently of a girl who is waiting for two years.
PINSKY: Is he OK now? Does he need medical attention?
LISA: No, he`s not.
PINSKY: Then you got to force the system to take care of him medically now. This is really serious at 14. This is not to fool around. Kids die of anorexia.
LISA: I know that. He`s very -- he`s at his lowest weight and he struggled daily. And his school is suffering. Everything in his world is crashing.
PINSKY: You have to bring him in. Unfortunately, there`s nothing more I can say to that, but you have to bring him in and force the issue. I know the way you do it here is, you say, we`re going to take legal action if you don`t pay attention. You make them aware of the liability. But they`ve got to take action. It may mean a psychiatric hospitalization rather than a comprehensive treatment program.
It may mean stabilizing medical issues and nutritional issues first, but don`t let him -- once you get in a certain danger zone, there`s no coming back. Do not let that happen.
Shonda in California.
SHONDA, CALIFORNIA: Hi, Dr. Drew.
SHONDA: My issue is, I just recovered from cancer and I`m grateful for that.
PINSKY: What kind of cancer do you have?
SHONDA: I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
PINSKY: Fantastic. OK. And you`re OK now. You`re free --
SHONDA: I`m in remission right now, but my big issue is, I fell into a little depression because I lost all my hair. And my hair was my baby. You know, and so, I`m wondering how do you get out of that? I don`t want to feel like I`m ungrateful.
PINSKY: Shonda, it will come back, right? They`ve told you that.
SHONDA: Yes, but it`s just -- I still -- I`m isolating myself in the house. I don`t like to go out around people.
PINSKY: Here`s the bottom line. The two things I would say, unfortunately, you`re asking a very complicated problem and I have just a few seconds left, but let me just say this. That having been through the chemo itself, having had the cancer can precipitate depressive symptoms, feeling of worthlessness, image issues, just the biology of your brain that it`s in can affect that.
That, with the loss you had with the hair, keep people that love you around you. Get the support of friends. You can fill yourself and start to get out in the world and celebrate. All show long, we`ve been talking about people overcoming adversity. They live with their whole life. You`re coming back. Get a wig.
Celebrate it for a little while and know in confidence the people love you are with you and that this will go away and you`ll have your full beautiful head of hair back in no time.
Thank you all for watching. Thank you for calling. I will see you next time. Nancy Grace begins right now.