An undiscovered pituitary gland tumor has turned a woman into a giant at nearly seven feet tall – leaving her towering over her family and her husband.
Aspiring model Elisane Silva, 26, from Salinopolis, Brazil, has been dubbed ‘Brazil’s Tallest Woman’ due to her standing at six feet eight inches. She is the tallest member of her family and towers over her husband, Francinaldo Da Silva Carvalho, 31, who is just five-foot-four.
‘Since I was 10 years old, I always noticed that there wasn’t something quite right as I was the only one in my family and class that stood at a staggering five feet nine inches,’ Elisane said.
Incredible height: Elisane Silva, 26, from Salinopolis, Brazil, is six feet eight inches tall
Taking after mom? Elisane’s husband, Francinaldo Da Silva Carvalho, 31, is only five-foot-four, while their three-year-old son, Angelo, is already three feet three inches tall
Love: Elisane and Francinaldo’s nearly two-foot height difference has never been an issue in their relationship
Her parents, Ana Maria Ramos and Luiz Jorge, had no idea that their daughter would grow to be nearly seven feet tall.
‘My mother is only five feet four inches and my father is just five feet seven inches, so it was a shock to our entire family when I was the tallest member at so young,’ she explained.
At 10 years old, Elisane began feeling an intense pain in her bones and had a build-up of pressure in her head, which she believes was due to the excessive rate at which she was growing.
She was already five feet nine inches tall, and her mother began getting concerned. She visited a medical professional who wanted to perform multiple tests to diagnose her condition, but the family couldn’t afford the costs.
‘A national television network approached my family after hearing my story, and in 2010, we flew to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I appeared on national television and had all my tests done for free on behalf of the network,’ she recalled.
Difference: The aspiring model towers over her mother, Ana Maria Ramos, who is only five-foot-four
Daddy’s girl: Elisane’s father, Luiz Jorge, is slightly taller at five feet seven inches, but he still has stand on a chair to be eye to eye with her
Shocking: Her parents had no idea that she would grow to be nearly seven feet tall
Looking back: By the time Elisane was 10 years old, she was already a staggering five-foot-nine
‘Although this was embarrassing, I was just glad to finally have an answer and to stop the pain that I was going through as a result of my height.’
Medics found that she had a benign tumor growing on her pituitary gland that had caused an overproduction in her growth hormone, leading to her excessive growth rate and staggering height that is known as ‘gigantism.’
Despite Elisane coming to terms with her diagnosis, her classmates at school began bullying her every day, calling her hurtful names such as ‘tower’ and ‘giant’ that caused so much pain, she decided to quit school.
‘I remember locking myself up at home as I felt so sick with the hurtful comments and words people were constantly saying to me,’ Elisane said. ‘I decided to give up and it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make, as I wanted to continue studying, but I knew that I wouldn’t last any longer in that environment.
‘At the time, I was 17 years old, so my parents didn’t have much to say on the matter and I was really lost about where to go next in life.’
Setback: Elisane visited a medical professional who wanted to perform multiple tests to diagnose her condition when she was 10, but the family couldn’t afford the costs
Opportunity: A national television network paid for her medical testing in exchange for her sharing her story on air
Diagnosis: Medics learned she had a benign tumor growing on her pituitary gland that had caused an overproduction in her growth hormone, a condition known as ‘gigantism’
Painful memories: Elisane was bullied so much in school over her height that she dropped out at 17
In 2011, Elisane met her husband and despite the nearly two-foot height difference, the two felt a connection and instantly fell in love. Francinaldo didn’t make any comments about her height and accepted her for who she is, which was important to Elisane.
‘I fell for him right there and then, as he was the first person to treat me like a human being and not some freak of nature,’ she said.
‘Although there is an obvious height difference, we don’t see it as an issue as we love each other just the way we are and wouldn’t want anything to change.’
The duo quickly got engaged and wed in September 2015. They went on to have a child, Angelo, who is now three.
‘We used to get comments from people in the street when we were walking together, I’m no longer the center of attention now we have our beautiful son,’ Elisane said.
‘Angelo is already three feet three inches at three years old, but I don’t believe he will grow to be as tall as me because I don’t think my condition is hereditary,’ she added.
Happy: Elisane met her husband in 2011, and they wed four years later in September 2015
Grateful: Elisane said her husband was the first person who treated her ‘like a human’ and not some freak of nature’
Goal: Elisane has embraced her height and is working toward becoming a professional model, a dream of hers since she was 15
Undeterred: Elisane said she hasn’t been signed by an agency yet, but posing for photos for her portfolio has helped build her confidence
‘I think he will grow up to be average height – but even if not, he should embrace the unique asset he has been given.
Elisane has also embraced her height, and she is working toward becoming a professional model, a dream of hers since she was 15 years old.
‘Although I haven’t been successful just yet, I usually go out and take professional photos of myself and add it to my portfolio to pass on to agencies,’ she explained.
‘Despite no agencies picking up on them yet, these photo sessions have helped my levels of confidence immensely and I have started to love myself for who I am.’
Elisane said she gets comments from people online who have branded her the ‘tallest woman in Brazil,’ but she noted that while it may be true, it’s not an official title.
‘I have learned to love myself for my unique height, as there’s no one quite like me and I think that’s rather special,’ she said. ‘I have found a good man to love, have a wonderful son, a beautiful family, and I am grateful that God has taught me to overcome these obstacles in life.
‘Don’t let people’s evil comments interfere with your life, as it’s not for them to judge you based on how you look or who you love – stay true to yourself and you’ll live happily.’
The ‘gigantism’ tumor: How pituitary gland growth can cause children’s height to soar
Gigantism is abnormally large growth due to an excess of growth hormone (GH) during childhood.
It causes excessive growth in height, muscles, and organs, making the child extremely large for his or her age. It may begin at any age before the bone growth plates have closed (epiphyseal fusion).
Other symptoms may include delayed puberty; double vision or difficulty with side (peripheral) vision; prominent forehead (frontal bossing) and a prominent jaw; headache; increased sweating (hyperhidrosis); irregular periods; large hands and feet with thick fingers and toes; thickening of the facial features; and weakness.
The most common cause is a non-cancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland that causes the body to make too much GH.
Gigantism can also be caused by other underlying conditions (which may cause a pituitary tumor), including Carney complex; McCune-Albright syndrome ; Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN-1) and type 4; and Neurofibromatosis.
In some cases the disease is caused by mutations in the GPR101 gene.
Treatment typically includes surgery to remove the tumor, which can cure many cases. Medication or radiation therapy may be used to reduce GH release or block the effect of GH.
If the condition occurs after normal bone growth has stopped (in adulthood), it is referred to as acromegaly.