Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re doing a completely mundane, everyday task and suddenly life throws you a major curve ball?
Yeah. It happens.
It happened to me just a few days before Christmas. I was brushing my 12-year-old daughter’s hair when I noticed a nickle-sized bald spot. BAM! Right there, staring me in the face. A. Bald. Spot.
After inspecting her scalp I found several more and then the panic set in. I immediately Googled “bald spots on teenage girls’ heads” (because of course Google is where we all get medical information). The results weren’t what I wanted to read.
A call to the pediatrician resulted in a diagnosis – Alopecia. And a blood test for thyroid disease because that can also cause bald spots. (I am not afraid to admit that for
a split second a day I actually hoped it was her thyroid because, well, that’s “fixable.”)
Alopecia Areata is an auto-immune disorder that results in the loss of hair on the scalp or other parts of the body. There are several types of alopecia – patchy, totalis, or universalis.
Once we had the preliminary diagnosis panic mode set in (for me). I immediately starting reading EVERYTHING I could about the disease and (of course) imagining the WORST CASE SCENARIO. Because that’s what moms do, right?
I cried a lot of tears (not when my daughter was around). I was
angry pissed off. I actually said “Dear Universe – Are you freaking kidding me right now?” out loud. (OK. I didn’t use the word “freaking” but you get the idea). Because you know, dealing with severe food allergies isn’t enough now my kid is GOING TO LOSE HER HAIR?
And then I made a decision that we were going to do everything we could to not allow the alopecia win. If her hair was going to fall out we would buy beautiful headbands to cover the bald spots. If all her hair was going to fall out we would buy fun wigs.
I did more research. I found out that Miss California 2015 has alopecia. I talked to Olivia and made her understand what was happening. She was very zen about all of it. We decided on a mantra – it’s just hair.
After an appointment with the dermatologist – where we met a wonderful nurse practitioner who also has alopecia – we had a much better grasp on what we’re dealing with.
We found out that Olivia isn’t going to lose all of her hair – she has the “patchy” version of alopecia areata. Since it is an auto-immune disease AND she has allergies which is related to the immune system she is at a greater risk of developing other auto-immune diseases. This means she also needs to have her thryoid check every year. From now until forever.
There is no cure for alopecia, there is just treatment. For now that means topical steroids applied to the bald patches twice a day for six weeks. Then we use the steroids twice a day for two weeks every month until the hair grows back.
The good news is some of the hair is growing back. The bad news is there is no way to determine when or IF another cycle will happen as was evidenced by the discovery of ANOTHER new spot a few days ago. Olivia was very matter-of-fact about it – “Mommy, I think this is a new spot.” I had a mild internal freak out. But we move forward and we deal.
Our goal is to keep stress at a minimum in Olivia’s world – which is SO EASY when you’re talking about a Type-A, over-achieving, ballet dancing, junior high honor roll student who is quickly approaching her teen years.
Yeah. No stress there. 😉
We’re dealing with this one day at a time – just like we deal with everything else. We haven’t told many people (until this blog post). Olivia’s friends don’t know. Most of my friends don’t know. If it reaches a point when a friend asks a question we’ll talk about it.
It just goes to show – you never know what the universe is going to throw your way.
Update: On February 24 Olivia just had her 6-week re-check and we have some encouraging news. It looks like there’s more regrowth than hair loss right now (the nurse actually said “she’s growing it faster than she’s losing it)! Most of the new hair is barely a centimeter or two in length, but it’s THERE and that’s what matters! Also, some of the hair growing back is white, but I told Olivia that’s just too cool – people actually pay to color their hair white! Current course of treatment is to continue the topical steroids and continue to keep the stress level down. Onward and upward!
If you want to learn more about alopecia areata visit the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.