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*Article submitted to eParis Extra! by Maygen Kelley – 15 year-old at Chisum High School*
September is Alopecia awareness month.
What is Alopecia you ask?
To you, Alopecia is some really interesting word that sounds cool when you say it. To me, Alopecia means my white blood cells attack my hair follicles (thinking they are harmful to my body) causing them to fall out. There are two different types of Alopecia: Alopecia Areata is when your hair falls out in patches all over your body. Alopecia Totalisis is when you lose your hair completely. You lose everything: eyebrows, eyelashes, & even peach fuzz!
Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder. It has no rhyme or reason, no age limit, & no way to predict when your hair will fall out or grow back.
I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata when I was 3 years old. In my elementary years it was always something that could be hidden by wearing my hair a certain way. During the middle of my 7th grade year, almost to the date of my 13th birthday, ALL of my hair fell out. It was nearly over night. The patches that could typically be camouflaged by wearing a headband suddenly grew so large I had to begin wearing wigs. I got my first wig at the end of my 7th grade year & have been wearing them ever since.
Starting high school for any kid is a big deal. Try starting high school wearing a wig. It puts a little twist on things. Lucky for me everyone at my high school was kind and understanding about my Alopecia. They always asked to see my “real” hair, since I always wore my wig to school. I was never confident enough to show them, until this past year. I was the sophomore-starting catcher for our softball team who had made the playoffs for the second year in a row. It was on the hot bus ride to our softball game that the glue on my wig lost its grip, causing my wig to slip right off! It was such a relief to feel the cool breeze blow by my scalp. After a split second of freaking out, I decided not to attempt to put my wig back on. I’d just wear a bandana.
My team was so excited to finally see my real hair. Even though I felt vulnerable with the prying stares of the strangers at the ballpark, I also felt proud of myself for finally being comfortable enough to not wear my wig.
Long story short, after WINNING our playoff game, my coach (who is also bald, although not from Alopecia, but probably from the stress of coaching a girls sport) informed me that I would not be wearing my wig for our playoff game the following weekend. Apparently my bandana was our team’s new good luck charm! I was so excited until I realized that I would have to wear my bandana to school and to a pep rally where I’d be giving a speech!
That Friday at school I was preparing my speech. I was so nervous about showing the entire school my bandana. (Pre-K through 12th grade would be at this pep rally!) As I started to say a little prayer I saw my team walk out of the gym all wearing bandanas just like mine! This brought tears to my eyes! The support from my team boosted my confidence so high I felt invincible! I was able to talk to the entire school without even thinking twice about my bandana. I had been given the most generous sign of acceptance. After the pep rally I had multiple people come up to me exclaiming that they had no idea I even wore a wig. They were amazed at how easily I was able to speak and act myself without the wig on. Some even encouraged me to keep wearing the bandana!
This was an experience that I would have never gained without having Alopecia. Having Alopecia can be seen as a setback or a blessing. I see it as a wonderful, unique, and amazing blessing. I have had the opportunity to meet 3 other people in Paris who have Alopecia. They are Jacquelyne Blake Tucker (left), Carlee Perry (3rd from left), & Noah LaRue (2nd from left — Maygen Kelley is on the right). This was the first time for all of us to meet someone else who had Alopecia. (I guess little old Paris, Texas isn’t such a small town after all!) We talked about our experiences and thoughts about being bald.
We have decided to create a support group for people in Paris who have Alopecia and for others who are family members or friends of people with Alopecia. I am so thankful that I have met these wonderful people. We come from all different parts of town, are of all different ages, and have different interests, but I can speak for all of us when I say that we are thankful for having Alopecia. That is the one thing that brings us together as one. It has taught us all so many life lessons.
As for me, it helped me gain self-confidence and made me realize that beauty is not about the outward appearance. Beauty comes from what’s in your heart.
Happy Alopecia Awareness month!!
“Why blend in when you were born to stand out? BALD IS BEAUTIFUL!”
Photos by Lori Collins