During the month of September, which is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month, many people are telling their stories, not only encouraging others who suffer from this autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, but also introducing themselves to the public, hopefully helping to destigmatize baldness by sharing their personal stories of overcoming adversity.
The Suffolk News Herald allows Ericka Counts a platform to tell hers. Counts said she began noticing her hair loss during her freshman year in college. Alopecia areata affects people of all ages, but it often first appears during childhood. It is an autoimmune disease that can lead not only to complete baldness but also to total hair loss on the entire body.
There is no cure for alopecia areata. Treatments such as cortisone shots and Rogaine, which Counts receives, can sometimes lead to temporary hair regrowth.
“You just kind of treat the symptom and hope it will turn things around, but it doesn’t, because there’s no cure,” she said.
Counts shares about the depression that followed her diagnosis in 1996 and her struggles with daily life and with wearing wigs.
“I wasn’t active, because I felt people were looking at me because of this condition,” she said. “People were looking at the wig, not me.”
Four years ago, Counts decided to stop wearing wigs, which for her were a source of emotional discomfort. She says that she has finally found confidence. Now an active member of the Suffolk community, her neighbors describe her positive energy as inspiring.
“I just asked God to give me the strength to take the wig off, and He did,” she said. “I took it off and never looked back…. For the people suffering with alopecia, it’s OK if you continue to wear wigs or decide not to,” she said. “Just be comfortable being you.”
On her choice to go bald, Counts says, “People approach you and assume you have cancer, or assume you are sick in some kind of way,” she said. “But then, on a positive note, you have other women going through it that look at you as a brave person for doing this.”
Other women who are working through similar issues and band together to support each other’s courage are those who have found themselves permanently bald as a result of their Taxotere cancer treatment. These women expected their hair to regrow after chemotherapy, and when it did not found themselves for the rest of their lives mistaken as cancer patients.
Like those with alopecia areata, they struggle with depression and questions of identity and self confidence, wondering whether to cover up their baldness with wigs or not. They find strength in discovering that they are not alone through websites such as A Head of Our Time where they can share their stories year round and work to warn other women about the risks of Taxotere.
The Suffolk News Herald
A Head of Our Time