And then there was none… hair that is. One year later…
Sometimes I don’t’ know how to react, or what to say, when others try to console me because they think I’m dealing with cancer. They cheer for me in my races, and they tell me I’m beautiful, and they tell me I remind them of their battle. I usually just smile and say thank you. Only when someone directly asks me about my cancer do I correct them and tell them that I have Alopecia. Most of them don’t know what that is, and most of the time I don’t feel like explaining it to them because of how inappropriate I think they were in asking me about cancer. Even if I did have cancer, I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask a perfect stranger about how they are dealing with it. I’m sure dealing with cancer is hard enough without having to explain it to strangers.
But I don’t have cancer. I have Alopecia Universalis. People ask me all the time about what treatment I’m doing for it. I’m not. I’ve tried all the treatments I’m willing to try at this time. I don’t want to take expensive drugs that cause more problems than what I already have. And what I already have is No Hair. Otherwise, I am perfectly healthy. Since I started losing my hair, I have done multiple 5K races, 10K races, a half marathon, and just completed my second triathlon. And all without hair.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my wigs, and they make me feel and look more like my “normal” self. It took me a while to get comfortable not wearing hair, but over the past year, it has pretty much become the norm for me. I wear hair to work, because I don’t want to take away from my patient’s experiences, and their time is precious. Their visit to my clinic is not about me, it is about them. I still remember the first time I went out to dinner without my hair or a hat. I had done it pretty much out of spite because my boyfriend had just told me that I HAD to wear my hair to one of his colleague’s weddings. I told him that he did not get to make that decision for me and what would he do if I decided to never wear hair again. I was heartbroken at his response: “Is that really an option? I don’t know”. Well, in my opinion, that was the most wrong answer he ever could have given. So the next time we went out, I didn’t wear hair. I was so uncomfortable and constantly looking around to see if people were staring or whispering. Surprisingly, they weren’t.
I have found that having Alopecia is a DAILY struggle- with myself. I see old pictures of me with hair. I remember fixing my hair. I hear others talking about hair. And all of this makes me very insecure about not having hair. But then there are other times, I have forgotten that I don’t have hair. There is nothing that I cannot do because I don’t have hair. Every day that I go out in public without hair, my confidence is building. Yes there are those people that stare, children that loudly yell to their parents, “that girl doesn’t have hair”, or those that approach me with their cancer stories, and it hurts my feelings, but then I just keep walking and going about my business. I don’t let it bring me down. When I first started losing my hair, a very good friend of mine kept telling me, “Jennifer, You just have to OWN it.” I really didn’t understand what that meant until recently. I just walk ahead, head held high, a smile on my face, and know that Alopecia is NOT going to bring me down.
I may not have hair, but I am still ME. Those that know me and love me, do not care about my hair. Those that don’t know, well, frankly, they don’t care about my hair either. Yes, I wish all my hair would grow back, because that was part of my identity. But I think at this point I would also be a little sad if it did come back, because I now have a new identity- and I think it’s better than the one I had before!