“It’s ok. I’m not sick,” I remember telling my friend Lindsay as I hugged her hello. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months, and I could tell the moment she saw me, she knew I was wearing a wig.
That was about 10 years ago, and the wig I wore then was pretty obvious if you had seen me with my natural hair. Lindsay didn’t know I had alopecia areata.
I was 25 years old when I was diagnosed. For me, I noticed patches falling out shortly after I had undergone radioactive iodine treatment for Graves’ Disease—an autoimmune disorder and form of hyperthyroidism.
For many years, I could cover the bald patches with some creative combing, a cute headband, and eventually, by coloring the bald patches with colored spray or powder. I know all the tricks. And eventually, the hair would return – hints of “peach fuzz” that brought hope that the rest would return soon.
Occasionally, the patches grew and grew to the point that all my creative combing and tricks just couldn’t hide my alopecia. Finally at 35, I broke down and bought a wig.
But with wig-wearing comes a whole new concern, as I learned through friends’ reactions. People who can tell I’m wearing one and don’t know me (or don’t know I have alopecia) assume much worse. They assume I am sick, most likely undergoing cancer treatment.
This has given me a completely new and surprising perspective on my alopecia. As inconvenient, and yes, even downright unfair I feel it can be at times, I am not sick. I have had many friends who have battled their way through chemo and radiation and horrible effects from cancer treatment (of which hair loss is just one). These women are true
warriors and have fought hard to come out healthy on the other side. I’m not worthy to even be considered in their same category. (And ironically, most of my women friends who have lost their hair to cancer treatment chose to go bald rather than enduring the discomfort of a wig.)
But times have changed since I saw Lindsay 10 years ago, and the quality of affordable wigs has improved dramatically. Now, I get compliments on my “new hairstyle” and I’m faced with the dilemma, “Do I tell them it’s a wig?” I finally decided I should tell. Because there are so many women affected by alopecia that wearing a wig (or a scarf, or even just
going bald) shouldn’t be shameful. It’s a part of who I am and my appearance just as much as the glasses on my face.
Do you have alopecia? How do you manage your hair loss?
Annie McManis has enjoyed a long-standing career in marketing and communications. She is an Allusions customer, but we are also one of her clients. Who better to understand our business and tell our story, than a client?