Anne Barlieb was one of the top five women’s division finishers at the 2011 Fort Bragg Post Intramural Combat Cross Country meet last year with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 33 seconds, which qualified her for participation in the annual Bataan Memorial March in New Mexico.
Just eight months later, she would be diagnosed with acromegaly or gigantism, a condition marked by excessive growth hormone production. Before the diagnosis, Barlieb, a captain now assigned to the 5th Military Information Support Group, said the disease manifested itself in increased strength, speed and endurance.
“My body was producing so much growth hormone that I couldn’t burn it off any more,” she explained.
Eventually, other symptoms including excessive sweating, large feet and hands, sleep apnea, were easily written off as weight gain.
But Barlieb would not settle for a misdiagnosis, and said she went to about 15 specialists including a neurologist and otolaryngologist. Just 30 days shy of deploying to Bangladesh, she was finally diagnosed with acromegaly by an endocrinologist and informed of a pending surgery to remove a golf-ball size tumor on the pituitary gland, which controls the body’s production of growth hormone.
In researching acromegaly, Barlieb came across the name Tanya Angus, a young woman who shares the diagnosis. The two have since joined forces to bring awareness to the disease and on Nov. 27, Barlieb took Angus, who lives in Las Vegas more than 200 postcards and cards from Fort Bragg Soldiers and Family members to encourage Angus to continue raising awareness about acromegaly.
According to Karen Strutynski, Angus’s mother, the postcards and cards were very well-received.
“She was ecstatic and it means a lot because she knows the men and women are fighting for our country and yet they’re helping her through her fight,” said Strutynski, a former Fort Bragg Family member. “For them to be thinking of my daughter is so impressive. I wish I had the funds to fly out there to give everyone a hug.”
Raising awareness and inspiring kindness is something that Barlieb said she hopes to continue.
“Tanya and I are getting together to show the extreme spectrum,” Barlieb said. “I learned what it is to struggle with something that no one can see.”