HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
Whoa, doggies. It’s finally the end of 2008. I have to say, I’m not sorry to see this year go. What I am sorry to see go is my hair.
I am in the two percent of the population who has alopecia. “What is that?” you might ask. Alopecia is an auto-immune disorder of unknown origin which causes one’s body to think its hair follicles are a foreign body and begin launching scud missiles to destroy the enemy. It is not hereditary, it is not contagious. It just is.
About six months ago, the day we had all those lightening strikes which set off the fires up and down California, I noticed a tiny bald spot on my scalp about the size of my pinkie. My first thought was, “That’s odd.” I didn’t know then the meaning of the word “odd.”
I speculated it was a bug bite or something of that nature. It got a little bigger, but then I noticed the fuzz of new growth so I ignored it. Within a few weeks it was about the size of a quarter, so I checked it out with my doctor who had no idea what it was, though she did rule out my latest ideas: ringworm or mange from my animals. My sister, who is a vascular surgeon, thought it could be a fungus. (How disgusting!) So I tried some anti-fungal cream on it. That didn’t help.
I decided I had been invaded by space aliens and it was a crop circle. I still kind of believe this is the case.
However, a few weeks later I went to my hair stylist, Julie at Tranquility Day Spa, and she said the magic word: Alopecia. I went home and scanned the Internet. Indeed, it did sound like that could be it. So I called the Dermatology Clinic at Stanford Hospital and trotted up there for an appointment.
Forty-five minutes and 40 cortisone injections in my scalp later I had a definite diagnosis: Alopecia Areata. And I had all the information on it as well: My hair could continue to fall out until I am bald (Alopecia Totalis) or until I had no hair at all on my body (Alopecia Universalis). It could never grow back. It could grow back in and never fall out again. It could grow back in and fall out again. It could grow back in white. In other words, no one knows what causes it, no one can predict its course at all, and no one knows really how to treat it.
Of course, in the big scheme of things, this is a tiny blip on the radar screen of life. After all, I could be losing my hair because of chemotherapy treatment for a life-threatening disease. Doesn’t this seem minor in comparison?
And it’s not like I have the greatest hair in the world. It is rodent-brown color (I refuse to dye it because I have liked the fact I have almost no gray hair) and hard to manage, being of several textures at different places.
I have been told (I kid you not) that it was a terrific fright wig (child at door on Halloween), that I was an example of what not to do because it was too dark for my age (colorist at seminar on cruise ship), and I was trotted around the floor of a famous salon in San Francisco because the stylist who had just finished drying my hair couldn’t believe that it had poofed out to ten times its wet volume even though I had warned him it would do that (name withheld to protect identity of the guilty).
But still, it is (or was?) MY hair. It’s disconcerting to sit patiently and wait to see how this will play out. I can’t help but check my pillow each morning (don’t see hair there…where is it going?) or the drain after a shower (not there, either). Just today I had sunglasses that snagged a hair at the temple and I actually yelled at the sunglasses…as if one piece would make a difference.
Alopecia usually manifests in childhood or the early teens. I am thankful I was spared that. At this time in my life I have lots of coping skills, and I really don’t give a rat’s behind what anyone thinks of me or my hair or lack thereof. But can you imagine what it’s like for a child? Oh, and I’m sure you wouldn’t get teased at all and it wouldn’t affect your self-esteem. Right.
I have found a couple of support groups on-line, Alopecia World and Bald Girls Do Lunch. I’m doing some research on wigs and scarves and just being bald. As of today, just to look at me, you wouldn’t know anything was going on, as long as the wind didn’t blow my hair up on one side. But that could change tomorrow.
If you or someone you know has or has had alopecia, I’d love to hear from you. I am a neophyte on this topic, though I hope to be knowledgeable enough to provide support to others over time. And I love that my first diagnosis came from a beautician and not a doctor! That indicates how little is known about this condition.
Remember to be kind to Realtors….they may be losing their hair!
Nants Foley is a Realtor at Intero Real Estate Services in Hollister. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.