Apologies for the awful pun, I just couldn’t resist.
I wanted to share a little something with you. Something which I haven’t really talked much about elsewhere. I have alopecia. Thankfully, it’s not an extreme case, although I have new found admiration for the likes of Gail Porter, who completely lost all her hair. No, mine is a relatively small patch and in fact, if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t suspect a thing.
Now, admittedly you can see a bit of scalp here (if you look hard) but this was taken at the end of the day when my hair starts to get a bit lank. Normally, it’s not visible at all.
I have no idea how long I’ve had it, but maybe around 6 months ago, I bent down to pick something up from the kitchen floor and The Giraffe spotted it. I could have been there for days, weeks or months prior to that. I don’t go to the hairdresser often enough!
You’d think that if a large (and I’ll show you how large in a moment) patch of your hair fell out, you’d notice! Nope. I had absolutely no idea. This was it shortly after it had been discovered (to give some scale, it was about the same size as a 10p piece):
I can’t really describe to you how it felt when The Giraffe pointed it out to me. Repulsed, scared, confused, shocked. You name it, I felt it. A hundred questions jumped into my head, all with no easy answers. I tried to resist the urge to Google, but you know what it’s like, right? I stumbled upon a couple of forums where people with cases of alopecia much worse than mine talked over how they were dealing with it. But mainly what I saw was lack of hope, people who were struggling with it and absolutely no answers to my questions. I’m glad I didn’t go any further into those forums. In all honesty, I don’t think they’re healthy. I restricted myself to mainly the NHS site. I wanted facts and figures, not wails and moans. (I don’t mean that to sound harsh, I have complete sympathy with these people, it’s just not how I wanted to deal with it.)
The first couple of days after discovering it are a bit of a blur. I’m not an overly proud person, nor do I particularly care how other people view me, but the knowledge that I was missing a clump of hair completely threw me. I felt like everyone would see it and they would all talk about me, or worse pity me. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried. I cried a lot. The Giraffe was amazing. She let me take it all in and she was there for me for whatever I needed. I would have been a total mess if it hadn’t been for her.
Obviously, my first port of call on the Monday was the Doctor. By then, I was fairly sure I knew what he was going to say. Nobody knows why it happens, nobody knows if the hair will grown back, nobody knows if it will get worse. It’s a waiting game. He didn’t disappoint me. He did, however, send me for some blood tests to see if there was any medical reason behind it, but he wasn’t very hopeful that it would show anything up.
I think by now, it had all begun to sink in properly. It was only hair, for goodness’ sake! I like to think that after the first couple of days, I was fairly matter-of-fact about it all. You’ll have to ask The Giraffe if this is true or not, though. I had secretly decided that if it looked likely that it was all going to fall out, or if started to go in places that were really noticeable, I was going to shave it all off. I’d even begun wondering what colours of headscarves I’d suit, and I was contemplating how much easier my morning would be without having to wash and dry my hair! (That bit still sounds like a very handy side effect.) Separately, The Giraffe told me that she was going to shave her head if I lost my hair. I think I loved her even more at that moment.
I got a call from the surgery a few days later to ask me to come back in. I had myself convinced that they were going to tell me I had thyroid problems. There’s a family history and I do have a habit of being tired a lot. I knew it wasn’t my iron levels, because I’d given blood (not very successfully, I might add) a few weeks previously and they were fine then. So when the Dr told me I was anaemic, I was more than a little bit surprised. I was also relieved. It was an answer; it was something I could work on, something I could control. He offered me iron tablets but I politely refused. If you’ve had them before, you’ll probably understand why. I decided instead to try and work on my diet. I’m veggie, so iron isn’t the easiest thing to bring in more of. The Giraffe did a huge amount of research for me. She came up with new and strange things that I’d never heard of before that would boost our iron intake, make us less sluggish and, hopefully, restore my flowing locks. I have to say, it didn’t take long before I felt the benefits. More energy, no more 3pm crash, I felt more alive than I had in ages, without ever really knowing that something had been wrong. I had my bloods tested 6 weeks later and my iron was up at much more acceptable levels.
Sadly, it didn’t have the same impact on my alopecia. The patch got bigger as time went on instead of smaller. At its largest, it looked like this (again for scale, this was about the size of a tealight candle):
I hummed and hawed for ages, but eventually decided to go back to the Doctor. I wasn’t really worried about it, it wasn’t affecting my life and I didn’t really want to waste anyone’s time. But I figured that I might as well go and see what they said. I saw a different Doctor who took a bit of a different slant on it. She decided that it wasn’t anything to do with anaemia. She said, from the way it was presenting itself, it was more likely to be auto-immune related. (Basically, my white blood cells were attacking the hair follicles. My body hates itself!) She promptly referred me to dermatology.
My appointment for that came through a couple of weeks ago. The consultant I saw was very surprised at how calm I was about the whole thing. When he went to look at my head, I’m sure he was expecting to see a tiny little patch. When I moved the top layer of my hair, I heard him whisper “Wow!” He agreed with the Dr’s findings and suggested a course of steroids. This could have been done either by a creamy/foam type thing that had to be rubbed on every night for 8 weeks, or I could have a series of ten injections into the patch. I opted for the cream. Who wouldn’t?
So, we’re a couple of weeks into it and I’m beginning to feel some re-growth. I’m quite pleased that I can hardly feel my scalp anymore. It’s a truly bizarre sensation that I got used to in a morbid sort of way.
This was my head a few nights ago
It’s difficult to see as the hair is growing back in white (I’m going grey anyway, just slightly more quickly now…) but there’s something there. I think it looks smaller as well, but I can’t remember what size The Giraffe said it was.
Whether it’s the steroids getting to work already, whether it’s the increased iron in my diet, or whether it’s just that it decided to grow again, I have no idea. I doubt I’ll ever know. I’m just glad it is! It might never all grow back, and I’m unlikely now to ever go for a really short hairstyle, just in case. I just hope that if it ever decided to fall out again, it does it in a similarly well-hidden place.