My name is Kelly. I am 23 years old and live in Olney, Buckinghamshire.. I have had bald patches on and off from two years old through to secondary school. I was in my 2nd year of university in 2013 when it all eventually fell out in clumps. I have had alopecia totalis for the past three years.
I didnít have much help from my GP to be honest. When I saw a dermatologist in 2013, I was prescribed Minoxidil. It didnít have any effect. When I was younger, I tried Corticosteroid injections and topical creams and I did experience some regrowth, but that could equally have been the nature of the condition at that time.
My biggest struggles were during secondary school. I experienced some hair loss during my GCSEs. I was absolutely devastated that on prom night I would stand out for all the wrong reasons. My hair was really thin and I was worried everyone would notice my bald patches. I was really limited by what I could do with my hair and felt quite envious of other girls in my school. I didnít feel Ďnormalí.
After my exams, my hair was incredibly healthy all throughout Sixth Form. Then in October 2012 I had the biggest bald patch Iíd ever had. It was massive and it was really hard to cover up so I decided to wear headbands. They became a bit of a fashion statement and helped to make me feel better. Finally, in Summer 2013, it was falling out quicker than ever. In just 6 weeks, it got so thin that I decided to shave the rest off. I felt a sense of relief after Iíd shaved my head. It had reached the point where I could no longer face waking up to hair all over my bed or it falling out in clumps as I washed it.
I was surprised at how well my flatmates took my hair loss. They encouraged me the whole way as did my close friends from home, my amazing parents and older brother. They tell me how brave I am and that Iím an inspiration but if anything I feel very overwhelmed to get this reaction. Everyone reminds me that I am beautiful regardless and I am starting to believe it!
I miss my ĎFrankieí hairstyle a lot. I had long brown hair during school but during my second year of Sixth Form I finally plucked up the courage to get it cut really short like Frankie from the girl group, The Saturdays, as I had idolised her hairstyle for ages before that. Everyone knew me for having that hairstyle and I worried how people would take my new appearance if I wore wigs. However, I no longer worry. I love trying on different colours and styles of wigs. Since losing my hair, I have been blonde and brunette, long and short, curly and straight. Iíve enjoyed mixing up the styles.
I think I miss my eyebrows and eyelashes the most but drawing eyebrows on nowadays seems to be the Ďiní thing so it doesnít bother my quite as much. I am always experimenting with different eye-shadows and lipsticks to make me stand out and take the focus off my missing hair.
Because my mum has alopecia and has been through this, itís helped me be less worried. She has been my security net the whole way through and still is. Mum has had alopecia areata since she was 8 years old. She then experienced regrowth and didnít have any hair loss until she she was in her late 30s and it developed to alopecia totalis. I think seeing Mum go through it made me realise that you can accept who you are as a person and overcome the difficulties thrown your way.
On the day I shaved my head I texted by Dad whilst I was at work saying ďGet your clippers ready, I want to shave my headĒ. That night I got in and shaved it all. After I did, I went upstairs and started crying but it was with a sense of relief that I didnít have to go through the shedding any more. It was liberating in a way to think I had done it. Since that day, Mum and I have been nicknamed ďDadís little Eggheadsí. Itís nice because he has supported us, accepted us and loves us just the same.
Since we have both lost our hair we have done various things for charities. Mum went into work bald for 'Alzheimer's Awareness', and her colleagues wore wigs for the day. I have recently gone wigless in work also for Macmillan's 'Brave the Shave' campaign, whereby my colleagues shaved all their hair to raise money for Macmillan. Being accepted by our colleagues has been a huge boost to our confidence.
My advice to anyone struggling with alopecia is donít let it hold you back. Hair doesnít define you, personality does.
Alopecia hasnít stopped me from graduating, moving to a new area, joining Olney Runners, personal training and all the other hobbies and interests I have. My running and fitness have helped me overcome my problems. I do get some days when I am emotional about my alopecia but I figure that this is only natural. The key is not to be hard on yourself.