The start of my troubles happened on an otherwise ordinary day. I was a care-free nine-year-old who was playing with my brother when my mom called me downstairs. She was holding a clump of hair looking furious. She asked me if I had cut my hair and I said no, feeling a little scared at how mad she was. She walked over to me and ran her fingers through my hair until they stopped on a particular spot on my scalp. I will never forget the feeling of her cold fingers on my head or the look of fear on her face when she first felt it. She moved my hair out of the way and found a bald spot on the back of my head. We were horrified to see that it was almost as big as my palm. She told me not to worry and that we would be going to the doctor soon. That didn’t stop me from worrying non-stop for the rest of the week.
A week later we went to a dermatologist to see what the problem might be. The moment we told the doctor what was wrong she knew what I had. She explained that I had an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata. That means that my own immune system attacks my hair follicles and causes them to fall out. I didn't really understand what the doctor was saying so I started to zone out until I hear her say four words, “There is no cure.” I started to worry, “What if I lose all my hair and go bald?”, “Everyone will think I'm ugly and I won’t have any friends anymore”. While I was lost in my own thoughts, the doctor was explaining temporary treatment options. One of the most effective ones, the one that I used was called Intralesional Kenalog Injections, or Cortisone Steroid injections.
Another week later, we started my first treatment. The day of my first treatment is one that I will never forget. The first thing they did was to put numbing cream on my head and make me drink a weird purple-pink liquid. “It’ll calm your nerves,” said the nurse with a reassuring smile as I gulped down the medicine. Then, they had me lie face down on a table while they injected the medicine into my scalp. I remember crying because I didn’t expect it to hurt so bad. After the finished the procedure, the combination of the medication I had taken earlier and all the crying started to make me really tired and dizzy. I went home, got into bed and tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me. What did I do to deserve this? I prayed that this nightmare would end soon. Little did I know, this nightmare would continue once every 3 weeks, for the next year.
After 17 horrible treatment sessions and a year and a half of using topical steroids, I had finally grown back enough hair to stop the treatments. I was so relieved. We went to the doctor one last time and she said something that really stuck with me. She told me how lucky I was to get all my hair back. Many people do not respond to any of the treatments and just stay bald for the rest of their lives. I shuddered at the thought of having no hair for the rest of my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about this for the next couple days, I knew I had to do something about it. That’s when I found Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths Campaign. Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths Campaign is an organization that collects hair donations and uses them to make wigs for people who have lost their hair permanently. What really attracted me to them is that they send donations to a variety of people, including alopecia patients, cancer patients, and burn victims. I made a goal to donate my hair as much as I could to help the people who didn’t have any. To this day, I have donated 4 donations of 11-15 inches of hair. That would make about half of one wig. I hope to donate at least 7 times total so that I can make one whole wig, and change someone's life.
Alopecia really changed my life. It made me more aware of how blessed I am to have all my hair today. It has inspired me to help other people who are struggling the way I was a few years ago. Even though it was one of the most horrible times of my life, I would not trade my experience with Alopecia, and all of the things it taught me, for the world.