Hair loss affects certain people as they age, both men and women. It affects those who are being treated for cancer, some more dramatically than others. Some cancer survivors discover that their hair never grows back after treatment as a side effect of certain chemotherapy drugs, such as Taxotere.
Most people are familiar with hair loss, even baldness, in these circumstances; however, there is a different kind of common hair loss known as alopecia areata that affects as many as 6.8 million people in the United States, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
This autoimmune disease often appears during childhood, affecting people of both sexes, all ages and all ethnic groups. Reader’s Digest recently published an article about one little girl with alopecia. In a 20-day period in January of this year, 7-year-old Gianessa Wride, from Salem, Utah, lost all her long brown hair and her eyebrows. When the family took her to the dermatologist they were told not to expect her hair to grow back.
The article shares how occasional taunting made Gianessa feel isolated from her classmates and at first she and her family tried to cover her baldness with wigs or scarves, but without success. Gianessa was uncomfortable in itchy wigs and she couldn’t keep the scarves on.
The heart of this story is about Gianessa’s embracing her bald head at 7, a thing many grown women with hair loss, whether drug-induced or with other forms of alopecia, struggle to do. We’ve written before about women finding the courage to take off their wigs and how they celebrated this huge step in their lives and the self-confidence it gave them.
Gianessa was prompted by the school’s “Crazy Hair Day” competition in April. With her mother Daniella, she decided not to hide her head but to show it off. They did this by decorating her bald head with sparkling scrapbook-sticker jewels. They made floral designs with the jewels and a pink and green owl on one side of her head.
“I was sad at first when I lost all my hair,” Gianessa told PEOPLE, “but now I love being bald. I can do things to my head that other kids can’t. I’m thinking now it might be fun to decorate my head with some sparkly butterflies and flowers.”
“They just fit her personality,” Daniella told CNN. “She’s so vibrant.”
“Your hair doesn’t make who you are — it’s what inside that counts,” Daniella told PEOPLE. “That’s what we tell Gianessa. People feel inspired by her, and that’s wonderful. We’re hopeful that she’ll show other bald kids that they can also embrace their baldness and can rock any look they want, in any way they can.”
Gianessa won the “Crazy Hair Day” competition.
National Alopecia Areata Foundation