Thursday 21 July 2016

Alopecia - My Continuing Journey and the Rise of the Brave Shavers

I have great admiration for all those who are Braving the Shave for Macmillan -, the hugely worthy cause for an organisation which does tremendous work in very difficult situations. 

The decision to shave one's head is not an easy one, for many reasons. One practical reason being that it does get rather nippy around the back of the neck. I slept with a bobble hat on for the first few nights.

I decided to shave my head after 9 months of significant hair loss through alopecia. I had got to the point of considering options - headscarves, hats or even a wig, before I questioned my reasons for hiding my condition. I came to the conclusion that, having made the decision to shave my head, I no longer had a problem with my hair loss. However, I realised instead that I wasn't sure how to deal with the prospect of my acquaintances struggling with knowing how to act and what to say.

This was highlighted when I went into my local greengrocers with my newly shaved pate. Neither of the two young female assistants were able to make eye contact with me and acted as if nothing had changed. My day was saved when their boss took one look at me and said "What's with the hair then?"

This was exactly the prompt I needed - someone grabbing the situation by the horns and saying it straight. I decided at that moment that this would be the best way forward for me. I needed to prepare the ground before I walked on it by having some scripts ready at the tip of my tongue. Communication was definitely the key to managing this transition effectively.

To ensure that my alopecia didn't become the elephant in the room, it was important for me to initiate conversations. And so, just as the Brave Shavers did, I spread the word around my tribe using all the means available to me - email, social media etc - not to attract attention but to forewarn them of my radical new look, and to reassure them of my health.

Being open and honest also worked well for me. A child asked me very directly what had happened to my hair. "It fell out," I replied. Her response? "Oh, OK." My grand daughter declared that she didn't like Nanny's new haircut. I told her that I wanted to have the same haircut as Granddad and she was OK with that!

Embracing my alopecia was an incredibly liberating experience for me. It meant that I could rock a brand new hair cut and funky colour, I bought loads of new earrings and scarves, and re-vamped my make-up and spent an amazing day having a complete make-over and photo shoot at Dream On . I rediscovered colour, sparkle and lipstick! It was as if the real ME had finally emerged and it made me realise how much I had been hiding behind my old mop of hair.

It is now almost 3 months since I braved the shave - and my bald patches are getting smaller! Having turned my back on western medicine's drugs and hair transplants, I just stuck to healthy eating, vitamin B12 supplements and acupuncture. Here's an account of a really significant treatment which I'm sure marked a turning point for me :

My journey is by no means over but it feels like I'm coming down the other side of the mountain now. It would be wonderful if my hair returns in its entirety, but if it doesn't, then I've already initiated Plan B - watch this space!

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