When I was a little girl about 9, most of my hair fell out. It fell out in small patches rapidly until it was mostly gone. My parents took me to the doctors and we were told I had aloplecia areata, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicles causing them to fall out.
We were given steroid cream to apply and the offer of a wig but I was a happy-go-lucky girl and preferred to go without. Even after some mild bullying when my parents offered to get me a tutor to stay off school, I declined. I remember thinking, “I don’t want this spoiling my fun”.
To everyone’s relief, my hair grew back by the time I started high school. Just in time for me to embrace the popular early 90’s hair craze of a spray up fringe and perm (come on, you remember). I dyed it cherry brown and mahogany, grew a fringe, styled and delighted in my hair as every teenage girl does.
There have been a few re-occurances over the years but usually a small circular patch that grows back after a while. Nowhere near as drastic as when it first happened….until a few years ago.
I first noticed a patch of hair was falling out after we eventually sold our old marital home and I bought my own house. We moved in September and in the same month my son started nursery school for the first time. There was a lot going so I put it down to stress and didn’t worry too much about it.
When it didn’t grow back I went to the doctor for some steroid cream. To be honest I was very complacent and applied it infrequently, still thinking it would naturally run its course and return as it always had.
The patch started to grow in size and move from the bottom of my hairline upwards and around until the lower section of my hair was completely missing. By this time I had returned to the doctor and was waiting to see a specialist dermatologist.
It took a further nine months for an appointment with the specialist and unfortunately by the time it arrived I had lost nearly all of my hair. I shaved the last few sections off in Jessie J style in a bid to regain some control (with my son and my sister cheering me on).
We have tried various steroid treatments but to no avail. Apparently once all the hair has gone the chances of re-growth are drastically cut.
At first I was very self-conscience. Every woman will testify how important their hair is to them, it makes us feel feminine and attractive. However despite this, I could hear that little voice in my head again saying “I don’t want this spoiling my fun”.
So I experimented with wigs and found one that I love and feels like me. Sometimes I get slight variations like low lights for winter and highlights for summer. When my eyebrows and eyelashes followed suit and jumped ship last year, I got some great eye pencils and it seems all the girls are drawing their eyebrows on these days anyway.
My next appointment was scheduled for March but frustratingly t’s just been cancelled by the hospital and I’m on a waiting list for another. The plan is to try a new treatment whereby a potent lotion is painted on my scalp once a week with the goal of causing an allergic reaction for 24 hours to stimulate the hair follicles back into life. Sounds fun doesn’t it! However, I’m not going to grumble.
In the grand scheme of things, I still count myself incredibly lucky as my condition isn’t life threatening and I haven’t lost my hair through chemotherapy treatment. I’m well aware that there are a lot of people out there who would swap places with me in a heartbeat.
At the end of the day it’s just hair. I am healthy and I am happy and so is my son. I have learnt to see the positives in the situation, because I think it’s important to always try to do that in life.
I find myself often enjoying the perks of having no hair. I never have a bad hair day or regret a trip to the hair dressers. I take half the time to get ready to go out and if my hair gets wet in the rain, it dries like it’s been blow dried in a salon.
Although I have accepted my condition and happily live with it, there is a part of me that worries what is going on in my body to cause this. Autoimmune diseases can be hereditary and in my case this is true. My mum developed diabetes and thyroid issues in her 40’s and my younger brother was diagnosed with diabetes in his teens. However, how much does lifestyle affect the condition?
I recently found an excellent article written by an alopecia sufferer Jodi Weisberg who believes that her hair re-growth after 11 years of total hair loss, is down to following a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.
This article has made me stop and think about what I put into my body. Although I eat whole foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables, I have had a severe sweet tooth since I was a child. Refined sugar has featured heavily in my diet.
So I have decided to make 2015 a year for helping my body out, to give it a fighting chance. To help heal my body from the inside out by following an anti-inflammatory diet and reducing my sugar intake.
I began in January and over the last couple of weeks I have been delighted to discover the faintest hint of some hair re-growth which has given me the encouragement I needed to continue along this path.
Through setting up this blog and becoming an active twitter user, I have been introduced to another alopecia sufferer Mary Corrigan. Mary has also used diet to combat the condition and has written and published a book along with a website What’s Up With My Hair.
Following Mary’s recommendations in her book, on the 1st March I am embarking on a 6 week sugar detox. The aim is to clean up the gut which is the part of the body responsible for healthy immune function. This involves taking out ALL forms of sugar including fruit and even potatoes and carrots which contain small amounts of sugar.
It’s not going to be easy especially as it ‘s Easter during this period and all around me the world will be going chocolate mad. However I’m determined to stick with it and see it as an opportunity to learn more about food, try out some new recipes and ultimately grow my hair back!
And throughout it all, I will keep listening to that little voice in my head….because I won’t let this spoil my fun for one minute!!