'How am I 15 and going through the menopause?'

Sheree shares her experience of going through the menopause aged 15.Video and words by Cree-Summer Haughton, ITV News' Here's The Story

Sheree will never forget the moment she sat in the doctor's office and learned the news that would ultimately change her life.

At just 15 years old, she was going through the menopause.Doctors said it could have started when she was just seven or eight.

"I was just so confused, like, shocked and really sad. How am I 15 and going through the menopause?" Sheree remembered."I was really, really upset about it at the time."Her diagnosis, she was told, occurs when the ovaries stop functioning as they should before the age of 40. It's known medically as Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).

And although Sheree admits she struggled with her mental health before she found out, she believes it worsened after finding out that she was infertile.

"Being told that you can't have children is devastating," she told ITV News."First of all, it's not even on your radar when you're 15, and then as soon as you're told that's the only thing that you actually can think about weirdly."She initially tried to hide it from her peers.

"I was so ashamed because I felt like everybody else had gone through puberty, had started their periods. I feel like the conversation was already finished," she said.

"So I just pretended, I just carried around tampons, pads..."

Sheree in secondary school.

Sheree, from Lancashire, was coming to terms with finding out she was different to the girls around her alongside coping with her menopausal symptoms, all while trying to focus on her GCSEs.

She described, before her diagnosis, not understanding why she would often lose her train of thought, which was brain fog - a symptom linked to the menopause.

She also regularly had hot flushes which would lead her to always feel the need to remove her blazer.

Sheree's dissertation 'Early Menopause: The impact of Westernised Stigmas' Credit: Sheree's Instagram: @lifeofpoi_

Sheree, who is now 21, also spoke candidly about a symptom not many women openly discuss - vaginal atrophy, which is the dryness and, in some cases, cracking of the vagina.

"I remember really vividly in school that I was sitting in the exam and you know, the English exams are like three hours long," she recalled.

"I was sitting in the exam and I was so fidgety and I just had to keep getting up and moving around because I was experiencing pain down there.

"I never told anyone because... I was like ashamed, I was embarrassed, like what if something's really wrong?"

However, with time and a Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) regime, Sheree has learned how to deal her symptoms and the way she felt.

HRT is a treatment to relieve symptoms of the menopause. It replaces hormones that are at a lower level as women approach the menopause, such as oestrogen.

In a bid to educate others, Sheree set up an Instagram page to help other women struggling with coming to terms with the menopause.

She said she also wanted to debunk some myths around HRT."A lot of people think it has this massive risk of breast cancer and blood clots and things like that.

"But a lot of women thinking about these myths have taken birth control their whole life and a lot of the same things are in them."

Sheree is not alone. Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is more common than you may think.

Rachel Anderson found out she was going through the menopause at 22.

Remarkably, her diagnosis came as a relief.

It was a signal of her life restarting after being worried her symptoms were to do with a cancer relapse.Rachel had Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was aged 16 and 20.

Rachel Anderson found out she was going through the menopause at 22.

As part of her treatment, she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy when she was 16, when she was 20 she had chemotherapy and a blood transplant.

The treatments were successful and doctors were able to harvest some of her eggs, giving her a higher chance of having biological children in the future.

However, finding out she may not be able to have children wasn't devastating for Rachel - she doesn't want them and was happy to be healthy.

Rachel took to social media to share her story.

She hopes to build a community of young women who are going through something similar.

Rachel describes her diagnosis and why she decided to share her story on social media

Rachel and Sheree are both now left dealing with this for the rest of their lives and although both of their stories are different, they both share the same message.

"You don't have to be a mum to feel like a woman," Sheree said.

"I'm definitely a woman and woman and I'm not a mum... but even if I'll never be a mother, I'm still a woman."

If have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, you can visit these sources of support:

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