Heather is a rugby union player who has represented England in a number of World Cups since 2009. She was part of England’s World Cup winning team in 2014. The team won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award for ‘Team of the Year’. Prior to her international rugby success, Heather also represented Great Britain in the bobsleigh.
“My journey with alopecia started when I was a teenager. I developed a couple of small patches. As a teenager growing up it didn’t really bother me too much as apart from the few patches, I also had a lot of thick hair. I never even saw a doctor.
As I grew older I went through a time in my life where I had a lot of change taking place. My parents split up, I had exams at university and I also changed direction with my sport and from here I began to get run down. I noticed that my patches became bigger and more visible.
In 2010 during the lead up to the 15s Rugby World Cup, there was a lot happening. Huge training loads, selection, competitions and squad training.
I was 25 years old when alopecia really started to impact on my life and began to affect me emotionally. I was upset when I would look every morning and find hair on my pillow. Maybe it was from the pressure of a World Cup, maybe it was just ‘one of those things’. I didn’t know. But I did know that it was falling out in clumps. I would get ready every morning and would not leave unless I had a hat on (come rain or shine!). Representing my country in a World Cup for me was one of my biggest dreams yet losing my hair bit by bit over a period of 4-5 weeks really knocked my confidence, at a time where I felt I should have been at my happiest. I struggled to look in the mirror and I felt ashamed. It took me a year to pluck up the courage to go out the house without a hat on.
But once I started to stand tall and be proud of who I was, I came to realise that it doesn’t matter whether I have hair or not. It doesn’t change who I am. Some people may stare. I recognise that my appearance makes me stand out from the crowd. However, I am determined not to allow my hair loss to stop me achieving in life.
My friends will say “H, you have a lovely round head, it doesn’t matter whether you have hair or not”. To me, having no hair does matter. I should have hair where there is none. But I do feel stronger about my alopecia now. I don’t let it stop me. I hold my head high and accept my condition a lot more.
Occasionally, as I’m sure others with alopecia find, I still have days where I find it hard. Recently my alopecia has become more severe and I have lost my eyebrows, eyelashes and body hair.
I have never worn a wig but it is something I would like to look into as it might be nice to mix up my look when going out in the evenings and attending events.
I am so excited to become an ambassador for Alopecia UK. It is a huge honour. I’ve wanted to get involved in something to help others with alopecia and really admire Alopecia UK’s aims around support and awareness. It’s a great charity that has a passionate team behind it. I hope to help those who struggle with “being different” and hopefully they can see that it’s ok.
Don’t let this condition stop you from living your life and reaching your dreams. Stand tall and be yourself!”