“Most people think I have cancer… I don’t. And yes I am lucky that I am in good health. But the pain of losing my hair is not made any easier because I am healthy.”
That’s my mum.
She has a medical condition that doesn’t make you sick, lower your life expectancy, diminish your physical health or make you take sick days. But it IS shit to get diagnosed with and it deserves more recognition.
Alopecia causes sufferers to lose their hair. There are varying degrees of the illness, with some losing sections of their hair and others, like my mum, who lose everything. Her story inspires me every single day.
As women, our hair is a big part of our identity. So imagine losing that. Losing your hair, your eyebrows, your eyelashes. Sufferers face a monumental mental and emotional battle as they lose a key part of their identity, especially as women.
Mum found out about her condition 10 years ago. It started with some small hair loss, but then bigger chunks started to fall out and we knew something was wrong. She was absolutely devastated when she found out what was causing the hair loss – alopecia.
Initially, the hair loss was minimal enough that she could disguise it, but eventually it was too much to hide. I still remember the day we went to a wig maker. Mum was so incredibly brave, but I held her hand as the hairdresser shaved off what was left of her hair.
For the first few years after losing her hair Mum felt like her femininity had been taken away from her and that she was no longer attractive. It was hard to sit back and watch her go through this struggle. As a daughter, I think it’s only natural to see your mother as a beautiful woman, so it was hard to hear her self-doubt.
Another challenge Mum faced after her diagnosis was how she was going to deal with the illness. She had to decide whether she was going to be completely open about it and wear a headscarf, or try to disguise her hair loss and opt for a wig and some clever makeup tricks.
She chose both.
Amongst family and friends she wears a headscarf. However, in public and at work she wears a wig and applies makeup that hides the lack of facial hair.