Two years ago I heard about Locks of Love, a charity that “provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.” Most of the children they help have alopecia areata, a rare autoimmune disorder that causes your body to think that your hair follicles are a foreign substance, and reject them.
Locks of Love is located right here in Southern Florida. I already had hair below my shoulders. And I realized that since I was blessed with lots of hair, I could do something to help out a child who wasn’t. I started growing my hair longer, longer than it’s ever been, and just a couple of days ago, cut it off. ALL OFF!! No, not all off. But I did give up almost 12 inches of it.
I really feel for these kids. Alopecia areata is emotionally devastating. It affects your self-esteem, career, and social life. This is especially true for children, when differences are reviled, not celebrated. I know because I have first hand experience with it.
I first began to lose my hair when I was fourteen. A trip to the doctor confirmed that I had alopecia areata. I was told to go home and stop worrying, there was nothing that could be done about it. I ended up losing about one fourth of the hair on my head, all in one big bald patch on the back of my scalp. After 6 months or so, it grew back on its own.
When I was in college, it happened again, only this time I lost over 80 percent of the hair on my head, as well as most of my eyebrows. This happened one week before the beginning of my sophomore year. The last-minute, mad rush of preparations to move back to school now had to include wig shopping. I found a dermatologist who knew a little about alopecia areata, and I got cortisone injections into my scalp for about a year and a half. I also tried prednisone pills, topical minoxodil, anthralin, and dinitrochlorobenzyne. Then my hair grew back, mostly on its own. I continued to have bald patches on my head, anywhere from the size of a quarter, to the size of the palm of my hand.
At the age of 24, it happened again. This time I stayed mostly bald for almost three years. This time I tried support groups in addition to the wigs. Eventually, my hair grew back on its own. And up until a year ago, I continued to have bald patches occurring spontaneously on my scalp.
I’ve been really lucky that I’ve had mostly all my hair for over 10 years now. And since going gluten free, I’ve stopped getting the tiny bald patches. My gastroenterologist says the only link between celiac disease and alopecia areata is that they are both autoimmune disorders. It seems that once you have one, you are susceptible to others. So it’s merely a coincidence that once I stopped poisoning myself, my hair stopped falling out, for now, at least.
Whatever. I’m just glad I had enough hair to share! And with a little luck, it will grow back again…