A team of ladies with alopecia will be going up against BBC2's quiz brains, the Eggheads, on Thursday 17th March at 6pm.
Meet the Team Captain of 'A Clearer Head', Alopecia UK ambassador Sue Hampton.
The idea of putting together a team for Eggheads came about in late-2014 when I was watching an episode of the show and realised that a bareheaded team could:
- Raise awareness of the condition among viewers by offering a striking image on their screens of a group of people all with alopecia
- Encourage people with alopecia (and others who feel different or conscious for another physical reason) with a row of happy, smiling, confident faces
- Send out a message that as women with alopecia we don't have to hide or feel unacceptable - we think we're ok and we don't care what anyone else might think
- And, just possibly but only if there was a Z in the month(!), win a bit of money for the charity!
I've had alopecia universalis since 1981 with no regrowth since. There was no mention of 'autoimmune' back then. I was given anti-depressants which I threw away. I was later prescribed a steroid cream by a dermatologist. I paid for: ultra-violet and infra-red treatments from a trichologist, hypnotherapy, reflexology and homeopathy. I was once a 'guinea pig' for a Chinese herbal 'cure' through a clinic in Ireland but when that failed - around 1994 - I gave up on treatments that raised hope.
Before Alopecia UK was founded, I belonged to 'Hairline International' but my alopecia was a big secret I didn't really want on the surface. Then around the year 2000, everything changed for me as a result of writing a story about alopecia - The Waterhouse Girl. Michael Morpurgo read and praised it, and eventually I left teaching to become a professional author. Once this particular story was published (I now have over 20 published books), I abandoned my wig for good. I feel happier and stronger without it - and at my age, my skin has thickened considerably. I started to realise that many children, teens and adults with alopecia were reading The Waterhouse Girl and feeling supported by it - and understood.
That's why I became an ambassador for Alopecia UK, a charity which exists to support people with hair loss and make their lives easier. One 'hairy' year 8 boy who'd read my book wrote, "You made me a better person". Fiction is great for developing empathy.
In my capacity as an author, I visit schools to do workshops. If a student has alopecia too, I can stand beside that young person and make a difference, whilst also educating the rest; about the condition but also about respect, individuality and diversity.
I sometimes address adult audiences at fundraising events for the charity, and speak at Alopecia UK conferences or support groups about the power of stories and imagination and the C.S. Lewis idea that 'We have bodies; we ARE souls.' In other words, we are bigger than our alopecia!
I have done my own fundraising for Alopecia UK, raising over £800 by dancing non-stop for four hours! Two years ago I started a support group in my town of Berkhamsted, drawing in people from Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. We now have about 25 members.
I am very excited that our episode of Eggheads will finally be airing. We filmed our episode back in August 2015 and it seems like we've been waiting an age for it to be shown! It took eight months, dozens of emails, Facebook messages and many phone calls to the producers, Twelve Yards, to pull together the team to go to Glasgow in August. And although I nearly gave up on more than one occasion, it really was a wonderful experience and I hope it raises lots of awareness.
Thank you to Sue for pulling the 'A Clearer Head' team together! We can't wait to see how you all got on. Sue's opponent in her individual round was Eggheads-brain Lisa. Tune in on Thursday 17th March, 6pm to see how she got on!