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A community of people that are having breakdowns and need breakthroughs.
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Alopecia Zoom Room
Weekly meetings to talk and learn from each other.
Share ideas and fashion tips on wigs, lashes, and brows.
Work on the emotional side of losing hair and embracing the Baldness and the feelings that go along with it.
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Walking through the steps of finding what works best for you.
Basic wig education. Learning the ins and outs of shopping and finding the perfect wig at a perfect price for your budget.
Working through the pain and emotions together.
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My Journey with Alopecia
Isn’t it funny how you can go through years blissfully unaware of a medical condition that will dramatically change your life?
I had never even heard of alopecia areota. Or if I had, it certainly hadn’t registered.
But those are the two words the doctor uttered when he immediately recognized what was happening to me.
I had gone to see him after a co-worker had noticed a small quarter-sized spot on my scalp. “What’s that?” Chelsea had asked, as both of us were primping in the mirror after lunch.
“What’s what?” I’d responded.
“There. On the top of your head. There’s an empty patch.”
And so it began.
The dermatologist I visited in Wichita Falls decided to treat that initial spot with an excruciatingly painful steroid shot straight into the hair follicle and then sent me on my way, saying, “Let’s see what happens. Some people just get one spot and it grows back after we treat it.”
So, I really wasn’t too concerned at that point. I thought it would just be that solitary spot and after the injection—as painful and as costly as it was—that would be the end of it.
I was relieved a few weeks later when my hair in that maiden bald spot on the crown of my head grew back.
But then another spot emerged. This time a bit lower. And again, I received another dreaded shot, and again, the hair dutifully grew back in that area as well.
But then, the spots on my scalp were like an ant bed that just kept moving; he’d treat one area, and another spot would soon develop centimeters away. And they just kept getting bigger and more prevalent. And that’s when he told me, “You need to be prepared to lose it all.”
You know that Joni Mitchell song with the line, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?” That was the way I felt when I lost every hair on my head.
I’d never really fussed too much with hair styles, usually just grabbing a scrunchie and casually crafting a quick, low-maintenance ponytail. I was always on the run, both figuratively and literally, so that was just the easiest thing to do. There was always a workout to get to, or a few miles to run, and I’d always been the tom boy/athletic type. I wasn’t one to give hair too much thought.
But now, as my hair slowly abandoned me, I was increasingly sad and realized now how much I would miss it. All I could do was ask, “Why did this happen? And now what?”
I had been under a lot of stress in the years and months leading up to the discovery of that first spot, and that can be a significant factor in contracting alopecia. One doctor suggested I try yoga as a way to relax, obviously unaware that I taught yoga to help others find a way to relax!
I also went to see another dermatologist in Dallas, who specialized in alopecia. He told me that the stress I’d been under as my marriage dissolved and the thyroid issues I’d also been dealing with were inter-related. That made sense to me because they had both come on pretty much at the same time.
I continued to give alopecia a good run for the money, though, and tried various treatments for the next three years, including natural supplements and vitamins of all sorts. I also underwent a topical application with a burning lotion that actually resulted in enough hair returning that I could fashion it into a decent-looking short cut. But those new strands soon fell out as well, and I was left to ponder the reality of this new “normal” I had been given.
Initially, I used extensions and fake pony tails to augment what little hair remained on the sides. I’d pull it all together with a headband, and that sufficed for a while to mask what was continuing to happen to me.
My mother reminded me that her mother—my maternal grandmother—had an area on her head where hair didn’t grow. I had no recollection of that, largely because she’d become adept at covering it up. But alopecia can be a hereditary thing, and that fact has caused my daughter a modicum of anxiety as she wonders if what I’m going through might affect her or her children in the years to come. Hopefully, that’s something they’ll never have to deal with.
In recent years, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I’d need to about wigs, wig caps, paste, glues, and various methods for keeping my faux hair secure on my head. Some techniques proved better than others.
My artificial pony tail flew off one day when I was teaching a Zumba class at Midwestern State University. I was putting my students through their paces, when all of a sudden, a brunette Rocky the Flying Squirrel of sorts went sailing across the room. The pulsating bass of the workout muscle continued as a hush fell over the class. “Okay, guys,” I said. “Gather ‘round. Let me explain what just happened.”
My philosophy had been not to say anything about my alopecia unless someone asked me directly about it. But this was one of those proverbial “teaching moments.” So, I laid it all out to the women and men in that Zumba class that day. And they were sweet and understanding. There were few dry eyes in the place, and I couldn’t thank them enough for the compassion they showed me. It was another step in the long journey of acceptance I’d been traveling ever since that initial diagnosis. It was a good reminder to all of us that day that we are much more than our outward appearance… and that we often don’t have a clue what others are going through in their daily lives. We all have our crosses to bear. Some are visible. And others not. And some are only apparent when they fly off and force us to talk about them.
I’ve learned many things along the way that I’d like to share with others going through similar challenges and unforeseen circumstances.
First, I’ve learned that confidence comes from within. We all decide the attitude we want to have in the face of challenges. We all have an inner strength that gets tested—and stronger—as we go through life.
Second, I’ve learned to be both brave and vulnerable. Because that’s the key to helping others.
And finally, I’ve stumbled upon a new saying that I think can help others who have grappled with alopecia: “Hair today, gone the sorrow.” Losing my hair was my body’s way of handling the stress I was living with all those years ago. I’ve learned that none of us are perfect; perfection is a myth Madison Avenue peddles. We go forward when we let go and play the cards we’re dealt.
I wouldn’t want it any other way!