I'm Audrey Ball and I became a Trustee of Alopecia UK in December 2016
How did I get Involved with Alopecia UK?
I've known about Alopecia UK for years but it's in the last three years that I have become involved with the charity. I met with Jen first, a chance meeting and I liked her a lot and her vision of what the charity was doing. Getting to know the charity helped me come to terms and cope better with my own condition, I don't think I have ever been so open with it. Since that time I have helped to raise funds and raise awareness of Alopecia UK. I am a passionate sports person and was encouraged to take part in the British 10K London Run in 2015, my first Alopecia UK fundraising event. It was great and it felt good going out fundraising to family and friends for a charity that felt like my charity, my condition. At the 5K mark, I decided to remove my wig for the first time in public. What a feeling, a few well-deserved tears of joy and a moment I will never forget. It was also a watershed moment for me, and there is absolutely no way I would have done it if it hadn't been for the wonderful Alopecia UK running team.
What is my alopecia story?
I started to lose my hair when I was 5 and lost my hair completely at 18 years old. For many years I managed with small patches that appeared and then grew back again until I lost it all. Up until the point of total hair loss I lived with alopecia quite well. I had long hair and was able to cover up the patches and they came and went again quite quickly. I didn't experience any problems at school. As I got into my teens the patches did get wider and mapped out across the scalp more and they did take longer to come back. I was gradually become more aware of the condition but was unable to get any help for it, other than the usual "stop worrying". It was when I was about to turn 18 that I lost all the hair on my scalp and my body and as you can imagine it was life changing.
I became very secretive about my alopecia in later life. I wore wigs and they were so natural and convincing that I started to believe my own hype that I wasn't wearing a wig at all. This denial went on for years, which, now looking back, I don't believe was particularly helpful. I didn't want to admit to anyone that behind the scenes I was not coping with the condition. It took me a long time to ever truly accept the condition but it feels great that I eventually did.
What are my hopes for Alopecia UK
I hope that alopecia and hair loss becomes less taboo, I hope the condition and what it means seeps further into our society and deeper into our communities so that the journey can be made easier for many. I want the medical world to realise that alopecia is not a cosmetic issue but one that affects the person in many other ways which shapes their lives and who they are. I wish for increased funding and treatments and support services to help those who go through hair loss. I would like all children at an early age to become of aware of the condition and help normalise it for future generations. I would like all the people in the UK who suffer from hair loss, both temporary and permanent, to know that through making contact with the charity it can have a huge positive effect on how you cope, and how you see yourself and the condition. It can really make things easier.
Research into alopecia is so important and the charity already does an amazing job to initiate and support research projects but I would like to see more of this on a national and an international basis. I would like to see a multi-discipline approach in research as well using interlinked disciplines such as dermatology, endocrinology and trichology.
It all boils down to my hopes of increasing fundraising, building awareness and developing research opportunities, but most of all, supporting the charity to keep on doing what it already does so brilliantly.