Our brave little girl’s gone through menopause... AT AGE FIVE!
This NSW couple’s adorable daughter Emily was just a toddler when she started becoming a woman
No mother truly understands the saying children grow up too fast better than Tam Dover. Her precious daughter Emily Mcauliffe had just turned two when she began developing breasts, strong body odour and suffering severe bouts of acne.
At four, Tam had to teach her daughter how to use panty liners when she started menstruating and now, at five, Emily is going through menopause, with the same debilitating symptoms as women in their 50s – hair loss, fatigue and mood swings.
“I have to try and play everything down and tell her it’s normal so I don’t scare her but there’s nothing normal about it,” Tam tells Woman’s Day as Emily plants kisses on her cheek.
“I mean, how do you explain to a five-year-old she’s going through puberty or menopause?
“It’s heartbreaking – I can’t buy her normal dresses because of her breasts. She’s more like a 15-year-old.”
After a trouble-free pregnancy for Tam, Emily was born weighing a healthy 3.6kg and was the smallest of her siblings – Tam’s children TJ, 20, and Trinaei, 22, and partner Matt’s children Connor, 17, and Phillip, 10 – before her growth spurt.
Initially Tam, Matt, 41, and the nurses at their local clinic put Emily’s rapid development down to the use of baby formula. Tam couldn’t breastfeed after testing positive to the breast cancer gene and undergoing a double mastectomy at 33.
EARLY WARNING SIGNS
But Tam began to suspect there was more to it when, by the time she was four months old, Emily was the size of a one-year-old. “I brought it up with the nurses at the clinic but they just put it down to genetics,” the 41-yearold recalls tearfully. “But I felt like something was very wrong with our little girl.”
‘I wish she’d had the chance to be a little girl’
Alarmed as she watched her daughter develop into a woman, Tam took Emily to see countless specialists, who dismissed her size as genetic and suggested diets.
To make matters worse, Tam, who works in admin, and Matt, a security guard, had to pay $500 for every appointment and doctors were still unable to pinpoint what was wrong.
“It was so frustrating going from doctor to doctor and it placed a huge strain on us financially because we couldn’t afford it,” Tam says. “No doctor could put their finger on the problem, so we weren’t entitled to a healthcare card or anything. One doctor told us to start feeding her a tablespoon of food at every meal – how do you explain that to a four-year-old?”
Last year Tam and Matt, from the NSW Central Coast, finally got some answers when a blood test revealed Emily had the same hormone levels as a pregnant woman. Now the youngster has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease, which means her adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, central precocious puberty, which causes early sexual development, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, autism and sensory processing disorder.
Tam recalls breathing a sigh of relief when Emily, who also suffers anxiety, began hormone replacement therapy in October to halt her growth, which gave her early menopause.
However, doctors have decided to stop the aggressive treatment so they can test Emily’s glands – a move Tam says will see her back in the throes of puberty.
“I never wanted my daughter to be a science experiment or guinea pig but that’s what she is,” Tam says. “Stopping and starting treatment on Emily’s hormones is crazy. Just when we get a bit of hope it’s taken away because doctors can’t collaborate on a plan. They don’t understand the constant agony she’s in.”
Weighing in at 46kg and wearing a size 16, Emily is aware she’s different to other girls her age but she doesn’t understand why.
Having witnessed her daughter being bullied at day care since she was a toddler, Tam is apprehensive about her starting primary school this year. “I’m worried about the bullying factor from her peers because of her size,” she adds. “But we’re also worried she’ll be having similar urges to boys in year six.”
But Tam says she couldn’t be more proud of her princess, who bravely takes on every challenge that comes her way. “She’s a beautiful girl with a heart of gold and she loves making friends,” Tam says. “I just wish she’d had the chance to be a little girl.”
Matt and Tam are proud of their little girl and just want her to be healthy.