POST 50
07/10/2013 09:25 am ET

Helen Stephens, 50, Suffers From Mystery Illness That Causes Incredible Hulk-Like Features

Moms are commonly referred to as superheroes, but one mom has more reason to than most.

Helen Stephens, 50, compares herself to the Incredible Hulk because she suffers from a rare disease that causes her muscles to swell up just like the comic book character. "I call myself the Hulk, Arnie (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or Rambo. I’m like a bodybuilder," Stephens told the Mirror. Similar to the Hulk (who turns from a mild-mannered physicist into a ripply muscled superhero by extreme emotions), Stephens swells in response to stress and commotion, among other causes.

Stephens' medical mystery will air on the UK's Channel 5 show "Extraordinary People" on July 11.

Now known as the Incredible Hulk Woman, Stephens started seeing symptoms after a car crash in 1991, the Mirror reported. Since then, agonizing muscle spasms have left her under 24/7 bedrest and receiving constant care from her family, according to "Extraordinary People."

Stephens suffers from a unique disease that doctors haven't been able to diagnose. For years, healthcare professionals believed she had stiff person disorder, an extremely rare condition that only affects one in 1 million people. However, newer, more sensitive tests revealed that she does not have the disorder. Stephens is reportedly in the last stages of the disease, but without a diagnosis, doctors cannot treat the root cause of the ailment. Doctors have told her that the disease will likely turn fatal.

"I was devastated," she told the Mirror of hearing the grim news. “I can die if I don’t have medication injected within minutes. My throat shuts down, my rib cage contracts, along with my heart, making it difficult to breathe and for blood to be pumped. My body is covered in scar tissues from where the muscles have been torn."

We hope Stephens' story has an ending similar to another woman who experienced previously unexplainable swelling. Last year the New England Journal of Medicine released a report of a 54-year-old woman suffering from extreme facial swelling for almost 10 years. The swelling of her "tongue, larynx, trunk and other extremities" began in her 30s and caused unsightly swelling that lasted anywhere between a few hours to three days, Fox News reported.

Doctors eventually diagnosed her with type III hereditary angioedema, a disorder that causes reoccurring episodes of severe swelling, most commonly in the face, airway, limbs and intestines. After three years of follow up and treatment, the woman's swelling episodes decreased, Fox News reported.

Also on HuffPost:

CONVERSATIONS