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

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Real Life -

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.”

UN­CER­TAIN FU­TURE

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.

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