Fringe Benefits

I've found a way to manage my alopecia...

Published by: Dawn Murden
Published on: 7th July 2011

All eyes were on me as I walked down the supermarket aisles - sniggering teenagers, staring women, and blokes with mouths wide open.
I did my best to ignore them, but I was reaching for a bottle of shampoo when I heard a voice behind me.
‘What’s she going to do with that?’ whispered a bloke to his mate.
Red faced, I ran out to my car in tears. Why couldn’t people leave me alone?
But looking in my rear view mirror I saw why – my scalp was shiny and red, with just a few lifeless strands where my thick and glossy curls used to be…
A bald woman just didn’t look right.
It all started when I was 50. I’d been going through the menopause for a couple of weeks when I woke up to find something black and hairy on my pillow.
‘Is it a caterpillar?’ I’d squealed to my hubby Stephen, 64.
‘No love,’ he’d frowned. ‘I-it’s a clump of your hair.’
Worried, I’d visited my doctor. ‘You’ve developed a condition called alopecia,’ he’d explained. ‘It’s caused by a hormonal imbalance, and will probably just go away.’
But over the next year it had got worse. Every time I’d brushed my hair, clumps had fallen out, until I was left with a bald patch the size of my palm.
One night I’d been going out for dinner, had spent hours back-combing my hair, trying to cover it over. Then I’d jumped in the shower and a huge lump had fallen out - my bald patch was twice the size it had been.
‘I can’t go,’ I’d sobbed. ‘I look hideous.’
Stephen had looked at my head sadly, then smiled. ‘Love, you look beautiful to me,’ he’d whispered.
Reluctantly, we’d left for our meal. But at the restaurant the waiter had spent so much time staring at my scalp he’d even got our order wrong.
Devastated, I went back to the doctor, but he told me there was no treatment, suggested I try a wig – but they were so uncomfortable and would slip, revealing my secret.
Feeling ugly and worthless, I kept myself hidden at home, only going out once a week at 3am to do the shopping. Still people stared.
‘You can’t let it ruin your life,’ Stephen worried. ‘Treat yourself, book a hair appointment. You never know what the professionals can do.’
I’d avoided going to the hairdressers for years, but things had hit an all time low. What did I have to lose?
Nervously, I booked an appointment, turned up with a scarf across my head.
‘There’s something you need to know,’ I told my hairdresser, revealing my shiny scalp. I waited for her reaction, but she just smiled.
‘Alopecia?’ she asked. ‘We’ve another lady with that. She goes to an Alopecia Clinic.’
The what?! I got the number and booked an appointment right away!
‘The follicles on your head have died,’ the doctor there explained. ‘Your hair will never grow back, but we can volumise what’s left to cover the bald patch.’
They glued a mesh to my head, and pulled my remaining hair through it, and added some extra human hair too to bulk it up. It took an hour and was painful but worth it!
‘Wow!’ Stephen said when I came back. ‘You look amazing.’
Now I go to the clinic monthly for treatment, and can leave the house without feeling embarrassed or scared.
The only thing that happens in shops now is Stephen sometimes loses me because he doesn’t recognise my full head of hair!

Visit or call 0161 320 8333 for more information
Jane Naylor, 69, Oldham, Greater Manchester