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Alopecia Areata is a serious medical disease Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your own body. Alopecia areata results in partial or complete loss of hair on the scalp and body, and it can have other symptoms as well.
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HEATHER’S STORY
HEATHER’S STORY
“It’s not a fashion choice, it’s alopecia areata.”

Heather recalls vividly how she felt when she first noticed her hair loss and gathered the strength to do something about it. “I remember that time period as one of slow terror.”

Heather was in her early 30s, in the middle of moving to a new city and starting business school to earn her MBA when she realized something was wrong. “I had a spectacular short Afro, and one day I started to comb my hair and felt air. There were quarter- and dime-shaped bald spaces on my head.” Heather knew there was something wrong, and for two months, she avoided looking at herself in the mirror.

Finally, Heather sent pictures of her bald patches to her mother, her best friend and her aunt, with a message: “Something is wrong with me.” When they replied with messages of love and support, Heather made an appointment to see a dermatologist. Her diagnosis: alopecia areata.

Acceptance

Heather tried some hair and scalp treatments that she hoped would work. But within two months, all of her hair was gone, including her eyebrows and eyelashes.

“I wore a wig for a few months, but one hot day, I was running late for work and forgot my wig.” She says her colleagues were very complimentary and supportive. “I have been bald ever since.”

Living with the Disease

Even with her decision to be a bald woman, alopecia areata affects Heather’s daily life. “Every day, I have to put my eyebrows on. I make sure I wear earrings, because without them, I could be mistaken for a man. Sometimes, wispy baby hairs grow, and I shave my head every week or two.”

Heather sees the impact to her self-esteem as being the biggest challenge she has overcome.

“It’s not a fashion choice, it’s alopecia areata. My identity has shifted to include alopecia areata. How do I want to show up in the world? I had to decide. Now people assume I am brassy and strong, thinking it takes courage to cut your hair off. Those are great qualities. This is how I choose to be seen.”

Though Heather knows there are new treatments in development for this autoimmune disease, she says, “I’m not currently taking any medication for alopecia areata, and I show up in the world as a bald woman.” Even so, she is encouraged and relieved that alopecia areata is attracting more attention and research.

For anyone who is earlier in their alopecia areata journey, Heather says “You are not alone. There is a rich, vibrant and beautiful life beyond alopecia areata. You can have this disease, but it’s just a part of you, not all of you. I’m a person who has alopecia areata, not a patient. I know you will see many people who don’t look like you, but there is not just one way to be beautiful. Include yourself in the term beautiful!”

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