Monday, January 7, 2013

the evolution of a bald spot.

this is the story of a girl and her hair follicles. if you pay close attention, and are very smart at maths, you'll even figure out how old she is.

13 years ago, when i was 19, i was diagnosed with alopecia areata. my hairdresser actually gave me the initial diagnosis after cutting off all my hair, in a move inspired by keri russell on felicity. unfortunately for me, i don't look like keri russell and the haircut wasn't super flattering. fortunately for me, i didn't have my own tv show and as a result, didn't have to deal with the wrath of fans who hated my new haircut. also, fortunately for me, my hair was just long enough to cover my bald spot. i saw my doctor who confirmed my hairdresser's diagnosis. he gave me topical cortisone and said it would likely grow back in a few months.

since then, i've gotten (at least) a couple of new bald spots each year. they always grow back within months and only proved to be mildly disturbing. although me being the skilled worrier that i am, on a few instances i sought out treatment that was slightly more radical than boring old topical steroids. one time i tried going on anti-depressants to see if it would help me cope with stress. it didn't reduce stress, but it did make me feel like a robot. then i tried cortisone injections. i was warned the series of 3 injections required could result in a dented scalp. i ended up with a dented scalp after the first injection, and i still had a bald spot.

a couple of years ago i ended up getting a bald spot at the front of my head that was a bit of a kick in the pants for me. if i can't see my bald spots, they don't bother me. as soon as a bald spot is staring back at me in the mirror, i kinda lose my shit. so i started seeing a naturopath. turns out i was low iron (but not low enough that i couldn't donate blood - sorry to anyone that might have become anemic from my blood transfusions). she suggested i rub onion juice on any bald spots twice a day. not surprisingly, the onion juice smelled a lot like onions and simmered nicely in the summer heat and under my bike helmet. i didn't notice astounding results, but i have read that onion juice does help hair regrow. i don't know why it would. i'm not a scientist. i also switched to using a natural, tea tree oil shampoo.

about a year ago, i developed two, really large bald spots at the base of my hairline. so large that they pretty much raised the base of my hairline by about 3 inches. at this point i started seeing a new naturopath. the larger spots weren't growing in, and i had 4 new spots (a new record. zing!). my naturopath did a scalp test and it came back positive for tinea. she had me apply an oil concoction (coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil and thyme) to my scalp every night to kill any fungal bacteria ickiness. i smelled like pizza and looked like... well i looked like i'd just rubbed oil on my head. after 3 months of this the spots started to grow in (even the two on the base of my hairline - although they started to grow in white. i'm not complaining).

i decided to take myself on a solo euro-vacation for a couple of weeks. while i was there, i noticed one new spot forming at the front of my head. a couple of weeks after that, another one started growing on the top of my head, and then another one, and another...

when you have alopecia, people tell you it's caused by stress. and then they tell you not to stress about it. this is a challenging thing to do (or not do). i should also mention that i know i'm lucky. other than a few drafty areas on my head, i'm healthy, have a job i love and am surrounded by some pretty sweet people. i do feel guilty and superficial for being upset about the hair-loss, and i definitely try to keep it all in perspective. after all, it is just hair. that doesn't mean i'm going to stop fighting to solve this problem. and it doesn't mean having 1 or 10 bald spots is any less jarring on the ego.

in december i saw a specialist who confirmed (again) that it's alopecia areata. by that point the bald spots on my head had spread a lot (and in a way that was different than before) and admittedly, i was pretty stressed about it. and then i was stressed about how stressed i was. the specialist gave me a new prescription for cortisone that i apply twice a day, and reassured me that i would likely never lose my hair. i also went to see a herbalist, who gave me "tea" to drink twice a day as a blood cleanse (did you even know there was such a thing?). it smells like dirt and tastes like nothing i have ever tasted before (in a bad way, not in a good way). it's also been known to make me barf.

when i saw my naturopath last week, she was worried about how much my bald spots had grown. and then i cried. and then she was worried about me crying. and then i worried about me crying. and then her very handsome naturopath supervisor came in, and then i cried more. but eventually i stopped and the next day i felt recharged and ready to keep trying to kick alopecia butt, and buy a new hat in case i run out of hair to cover up with. and that's what brought me here today.

i will likely never write anything this long ever again in my life. or on this blog at least.

i hope people are able to find support, inspiration or treatment ideas from this blog. or at least a laugh. or at bare minimum, a good old-fashioned eye roll.

my next posts will be more focused on specific treatments, will likely include photos (that may or may not be scary) and maybe sometimes, i'll write about dinosaurs.

i hope you check back. and i hope there's at least one you reading this.


  1. omg. you are hilarious! how are you doing now?

    1. Thanks so much! I think I'm pretty funny too. I'm doing well. I lost a shit ton of hair but fortunately it's coming back. Full update and photos here:

  2. Hey, I just read your last 7 posts or so after googling alopecia hair growing back and you came up! I'm totally in the same boat in that I have some hair growing back but it's white- but my baldy patch is a little larger- like you I now sport a new hair line comb over - it doesn't look bad and I'm the only one that knows what's underneath. Reading your blog really helped though, I don't let it effect me or get me down after all there are much bigger things in life but it's just an awkward annoying oh crap I need to worry every time it's windy and I can't go swimming kinda thing. Thank you for sharing and I loved reading and you should know that, and that you helped someone else out and made them feel more comfortable :) xx

    1. hi jess! yay!
      you're awesome. thanks for the super sweet comment and for making alopecia areata your bitch. i'm in the middle of writing a post about my current hair status and what i'm doing to not let it get me down (although sometimes it totally does get me down, but that's what chocolate's for). keep up the good work being a hair loss warrior and thanks for reading!