HAMLIN, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Cori Holden from Hamlin is only five years old, but he is already 4 feet 4 inches tall. He can play and be active with most 10-year-olds in his town, but this is a concern as his body is developing at a rate almost four times faster than normal. His condition, known as ‘precocious puberty,’ is a rare one. It’s most commonly found in girls, and less than 1% of the U.S. population is known to have it.
“We started noticing different puberty things that shouldn’t be happening at four… So we went to the doctor, and his testosterone showed him to be a 19-year-old man,” said Cori’s mother Rebecca Holden.
Precocious puberty can be caused by a number of different things, and Holden said her son’s condition is even rare in that realm. The excess of testosterone is not caused by a signal from his brain but rather a separate function of his reproductive organs on their own. Because of this, hormone blockers are not able to treat his condition.
With this in mind, Cori’s parents made the difficult decision to sign him up for an experimental chemotherapy treatment in hopes of getting a handle on his growth. At five years old, his bone structure is more akin to that of an 11-year-old.
“When that happens, your bones will actually mend closed, and he’ll never be able to grow again,” Mrs. Holden said.
This condition is genetic on his father’s side, and his uncle shares the same diagnosis. Even so, little is known about how to treat it due to its rarity.
“He has a team of eight pediatric specialists… They’ve only seen one other case like him,” said Holden.
Instead of school work and sports, Cori is dealing with growth spurts and acne. These unusual experiences at such a young age are having an impact on him. According to his mother, he has been having difficulty coping with the complex changes that his condition is causing.
“We’ll be at home, and the kids are wrestling, and he hurts them, and he doesn’t know that he’s hurting them. He doesn’t understand why he’s stronger,” Mrs. Holden said.
He towers over his sister of the same age, standing about the same height as his 10-year-old brother. It can be costly to make frequent trips to Dallas for treatment and study. However, his community is coming together to provide support.
“He doesn’t need to be going through that. He needs to be worried about being a kid and having fun, and I just wanted to help any way I could,” said Hamlin Businessman and donor Tucker Teague.
Teague is one of a few local business owners who have stepped up to offer food and foot the bill for a fundraiser to help the Holdens cover their travel costs. A Friday event offered free burgers to the community, raising $6,765 dollars total. The funds raised were a combination of donations and contributions from Teague, who paid $15 for each person who attended.
“At the end of the day, we’re all family, and we’ve got to look out for each other… No matter what happens, who you are, we got each other’s back,” Teague shared.
Holden said even though the road ahead is uncertain, they are happy to have their community support them so enthusiastically. They added that Cori’s treatment will help others with his condition as well.
“The chemo is a study, a clinical study to see if they can treat others like him… We’re very thankful and lucky to live in a small town,” Holden said.
If Cori’s treatments are successful, he will be able to stop the rapid growth he’s experiencing, as well as the side effects of early puberty. As he approaches the age most children go through puberty, his doctors will work to ensure that his body is producing the normal amount of testosterone.