September is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month where many who suffer from the autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, often beginning in childhood, are reaching out to their families, friends and communities and telling their stories with the hopes of raising awareness and support for those who face the challenges of this disease. There is, as of yet, no cure for alopecia areata.
One young woman in Northern Ireland heard just such a story and was inspired to do something. Agriland reports on what happened when Nicola Edgar (24 years old) watched a local documentary about hair loss and spoke to a young girl of about 13 years old who shared her personal experience with alopecia areata.
“She started to tell me about how she got one wig for free from the NHS (National Health Service), but it was a basic one that always caused her to scratch at her head, constantly moving about and it was very hot underneath it making her scalp sweat,” Nicola told Agriland.
“She was so grateful to have had something from the NHS, but she needed something more suited to her needs. The girl was on a sports team and she was so frustrated that eventually she decided just to play without it.
“In the end she had to pay over £2,000 (€2,193) herself for another one – hearing that really inspired me to want to help,” Nicola said.
Nicola decided to cut around 15 inches of her hair to donate to “The Little Princess Trust” – a charity that makes wigs for children. When she told the members of her Young Farmer’s club about what she was planning, 11 young women wanted to participate, donating at least 7 inches as well. The youngest member to participate is 12 years old. The girls will not only be having their hair cut in front of supporters at a club meeting on Nov, 21, but they are also organizing an arts and crafts fair for Nov. 18 that will have baked goods and beauty stalls to raise additional financial donations.
“Once I started talking about what I wanted to do, so many other people have come forward with their stories – I’ve found out about girls and women who have been wearing wigs all their lives but never told anyone. We have had a lot of positive feedback about what we are doing and hope it will also raise awareness,” Nicola said.
They hope to raise money along with awareness, which they will donate to two local charities; Friends of the Cancer Centre and Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.
Alopecia areata isn’t the only cause of devastating hair loss. Cancer also is a well known culprit, although it is often thought to be a temporary side effect of treatment. This is not the case for all cancer patients. Some of those who have been treated with chemotherapy drug Taxotere found that they experienced the side effect of permanent hair loss and they have been raising awareness of this potential side effect and encouraging others who, like them, are facing baldness for the rest of their lives.