The series follows Shauna as she lives her life — getting a tattoo, drinking alcohol, taking pole-dancing lessons, and going on dates — and often showcases the stunned reactions of those around her who are surprised to see someone who looks like a child engaging in those activities.
The TLC series has been quick to capture viewers, and many are curious to learn more about Shauna Rae's condition. Keep reading for everything we know.
What medical condition does Shauna Rae have?
Shauna was just 6 months old when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. As a baby, she had surgery and underwent chemotherapy in order to stop the cancer from growing. While the treatments were successful in saving her life and setting the cancer into remission, the chemo also affected her pituitary gland, which was "rendered almost dormant" and consequently, irrevocably stunted her growth.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the pituitary gland is a "small, bean-shaped gland" in the brain that "despite its small size, influences nearly every part" of the body. Most notably, the hormones produced by one's pituitary gland regulate growth, blood pressure, and reproduction.
It would appear that the medical term for Shauna's condition is "pituitary dwarfism," aka "growth hormone deficiency" and "dwarfism," which occurs when the pituitary gland doesn't make enough growth hormone, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine and Kids Health. Growth hormone deficiency can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired, meaning it develops later.
Shauna's case seems to fall into the latter category. It wasn't until the age of 16 that the TLC star learned she wouldn't grow past her 3-foot-10-inch frame. "It was a very difficult time, it probably was the lowest time of my life because I always imagined that I would be tall. Getting that news was kind of like a hammer crashing into glass," Shauna said in a video interview with People.
Shauna explained that while she's felt like an outsider since early adolescence, the TLC series has opened her eyes to the fact that there are many others like her. "When the trailer came out, it was kind of like I was worldwide almost overnight," she told E! Online. "People have reached out to me; I have found other people with pituitary dwarfism, and it's really not only helped me, but helped them because now we know that we're not alone."
Shauna's mom worries her brain cancer is returning.
Shauna and her family are worried that the 22-year-old's cancer might be returning, according to a sneak peek obtained by People. In the Jan. 18 episode, we'll see Shauna go to the doctor for her frequent migraines, in order to rule out the possibility of the headaches being symptomatic of her cancer returning.
"After Shauna's surgery to remove the cancer, there was still more left — they couldn't get it all — so she had to do chemotherapy and you hope that it takes care of it all, you never know," her mother, Patty tells cameras. "But they did let me know that it would always be a concern, that it may come back."
I Am Shauna Rae airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on TLC.