“I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations, I am the soul that lives within.” – India Arie
There I was, standing in the shower in disbelief at the clumps of hair in my hands. At first I thought nothing of it, but as the days went on and the clumps of hair continued, I thought something was seriously wrong. This cannot be okay. As someone who does not like white coats (what I refer to doctors as), I decided I had to make an appointment to see what was going on. After numerous blood tests and getting referred to a dermatologist, it was decided that the best course of action was to have a biopsy taken of my scalp to test not only for thyroid cancer, but a few other things, with all signs pointing to the big “C.” Great I thought. Just f—ing great. Two weeks later, right before my birthday and Thanksgiving, there I was sitting in the white coats’ operating room getting the little hair I had left shaved, scalp sliced twice, and six stiches. Can you believe I passed out the second I saw blood?
After three tortured weeks of waiting, the results were in (insert a hopeful happy dance here). The results thankfully showed that I did not have the big “C,” but instead had a rare form of Alopecia Areata. Alopecia Areata…Alopecia Areata…what in the world is that? Alopecia Areata is a condition that does not discriminate. It knows no age, no gender, no skin color. Although there are a couple of treatments, there is no cure. It is a condition that mistakenly attacks the hair follicles causing them to become smaller or completely stunt hair growth all together.
Here I was, terrified to hear all of this alone in a room with a white coat, but most importantly terrified as an ethnic woman because we are born into a society that views hair as a sign of youth, good health and most importantly, beauty. It was also terrifying to hear that at the age of 30, the only treatment for this condition was a pill that would not allow me to have children. So that is where I was at. I had to make a decision to either endure to lose my hair or the opportunity to have a children naturally. I’ll tell you it wasn’t the easiest decision to make on the spot, but I found the words coming out of my mouth before I even knew what I was saying. I had told the doctor she could put that medication where the sun doesn’t shine.
So that is where things landed; an ethnic woman choosing children over her locks. I decided to live with clumps of my hair falling out in the shower. I would continue to see a ponytails worth of hair in the brush after a couple of days. I would continue to wake up to hair on my pillow. I would live with random bald spots throughout my scalp when all was said and done. I would live with the tears and unfortunately live with the awkward stares. I decided I would endure all of this because my hair does not define who I am. My hair does not depict my success. And it doesn’t for you either.
You may be thinking, girl why don’t you just shave it all off? I believe bald is beautiful, but I have tried that before. I grew up with a mother fighting breast cancer for 16 years, and two years before losing her battle, I decided to cut off all my hair so she wouldn’t feel alone in her journey. I am here to tell you it was not a good look for me (for real ladies).
So where does one go from here? Alopecia is a condition that I feel goes beyond the physical symptoms for a lot of women. Why? Hair has symbolically been tied to a woman’s identity and personality for decades. Thanks media. Screw thunder thighs. Screw stretch marks. Screw cellulite. Screw any tire around that precious belly. Losing hair as a woman is bigger than all of those things, and unfortunately it was one of my biggest insecurities for a long time until I found a way to deal with it. I am here to tell you that the key to coping with this condition is to value yourself for who you are not for how much hair is on your head.
I get it. Hair loss can be scary, it can be embarrassing and most importantly it can steal your identity and self-confidence, but only if you let it. I am not going to let it happen to me or anyone else. If you are a woman or even a man suffering from this disease I want you to have fun with it. Go out and buy yourself a fun scarf to wear around your head. Go out and try a wig of any length or color. Go out and get your head shaved. Go out and talk about it. Whatever that ‘fun’ is for you, go out and do it so that you don’t find yourself in a dark place. Go out and smile and know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE NOT YOUR HAIR.
Hair transplant for women is an option for those who are struggling with hair loss.