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The Heartache of Alopecia: One Teenager's Battle Against Sudden Baldness

Updated on August 9, 2014
GarnetBird profile image

Gloria taught for many years, and also worked as a mental health group facilitator.

Kayla Martell(Miss Delaware, Miss American contender) with members of a local Alopecia Chapter. She is an amazing inspiration!
Kayla Martell(Miss Delaware, Miss American contender) with members of a local Alopecia Chapter. She is an amazing inspiration! | Source
Kayla Martell with and without her lovely custom wig. Always beautiful!
Kayla Martell with and without her lovely custom wig. Always beautiful! | Source
How it usually presents: coin shaped pattern baldness.
How it usually presents: coin shaped pattern baldness. | Source

This is my niece's story: Camille is a gorgeous, stately teenager in her sophomore Year at a prestigious Charter High school. Active in the Color Guard Flag-Girls League and always busy with her studies, Camille's life took a shocking turn when she started to lose her hair. First shreds of her yellow cornsilk hair began to fall as she brushed--then chunks were soon to follow. The Family assumed stress was taking its toll and advised her to eat more sensibly and to take vitamins. Within a few weeks coin-shaped areas of baldness appeared, which she artfully covered with hair ornaments, such as bows.

Still parading and preforming with her fellow Flag-Girls, Camille covered her scalp with a scarf. If you were to visit her Facebook Page, you would read the usual teenager chatter, delightfully fresh and goofy, always entertaining, filled with the trials of Geometry tests and spats with friends. Soon some disturbing artwork appeared: sketches of herself in a cage, leaning against a dark wall. The esteem-killing work of Alopecia was beginning to assert itself.

When the diagnosis came, the family was shocked and saddened: alopecia is an autoimmune disorder and tends to appear in families where other such diseases are present. Camille's Mother suffers from Multiple Sclerosis,(also an immune disorder), and can no longer walk without assistance. We were all frightened that this might be a portent of more serious things to come.Today, as I write this Hub, Camile and her Dad are shopping for wigs {The only suitable one for her cost 400.00--the rest were deemed too artificial looking}.

What exactly is Alopecia? This disease belongs to the class of auto-immune disorders,which possibly may be linked to thyroid, glandular dysfunction and allergies. It typically presents as small coin-shaped areas of baldness and may progress, as my niece's did, to total baldness. It also may affect the eyebrows, eyelashes and beards. As my photos illustrate, it need not keep someone in the closet of shame, as Kayla Martell, who suffers from total baldness due to alopecia aptly demonstrates. (Miss Martel is a Contender for Miss America, 2011).

Treatment for this disease can include injections of steroids into the scalp itself: this is not something many people, let alone a teenager can tolerate. Other less invasive treatments include Clobetasol, Steroid Creams, Cyclosporine and even Chinese Herbs. Loss of self-esteem due to sudden baldness can cause social phobias and depression, especially in the young.

There are two wonderful websites to visit if you or someone you love has this disease: One is Alopecia World and the other is The National Alopecia Foundation. Many chat rooms are available and blogs for those who need moral support and an understanding friend. As for Camille, she continues to preform with her Color Guard, marching proudly, looking more like a Model from Seventeen Magazine than someone with this heavy burden to bear.

Footnote: Camille's hair grew back and she is now in college, still enjoying the rigors of Color Guard.


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    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      5 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you so much!!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      this was a wonderful read. I hadn't heard of this before and i'm sure it would be such a shock, but it was great to read these stories about these inspiring girls and how they were able to prevail!

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      5 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      As of 2013, my nieces' hair has come back, and is nearly to her shoulders! Hurray!

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      5 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      So sorry that your family is going through this.

      THANK you for caring and commenting. This Hub gets very little attention and it is an important issue. So far my niece still has hair!!

    • profile image

      aaronooski 

      5 years ago

      I have twin boys who are 14 and have had Alopecia since they were a year old.

      Strangely, it's never been very much a topic of discussion. No one seems to care that they are bald, including them. I was freaked out when it first happened to one and then was frantic for answers after the second twin also became bald. There are no answers for us. When it starts early and is total hair loss there is very little prospect for regrowth. One used to regrow hair in the summer in a few spots. But that stopped several years ago and the other has never had any regrowth. They know that and accept it and don't let it take up space in their head. It's likely much easier for boys. They are both gifted students and athletes and compete in team and solo sports and thus are busy from morning til night most days.

      Glad to hear your niece has regrowth. Hope it remains. But there are many cases where nothing regrows and people waste time and money looking for cures that don't exist. We've never pursued a cure but I did offer them wigs if they ever wanted them. I promised to spare no expense and get them the most natural and secure hair I could buy. They thought I was nuts. So bald they are and bald they will remain.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      6 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you so much!!! Yes she has her hair back--it is shorter but thicker than before. She is doing a lot better. Thank you for your wonderful comments. God bless you in your journey.

    • landscapeartist profile image

      Roberta McIlroy 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am really glad that you published this hub. I was diagnosed with alopecia shortly after my son was born. They told me that it was because my body suffered a shock to itself, partially due to my age (at the time I was 35 at the time) and the fact that I had a boy. I don't totally understand the latter reason. I have only had a serious thinning of the hair along with my hairline has receded about 1/4 inch in 12 years. I fully understand how she feels. After 12 years, I am still dealing with depression over the hairloss. It even changes the texture and feel of it.

      I am really glad your niece is feeling better and has regained some of her hair. I do find your hub very informative and inspirational.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      6 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you, Hyphenbird. My niece has regained some of her hair now--it is short, but it appears to be growing back as the stress in her life lessens..

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      How is she now after these months? I learned about this disorder and actually wrote a Hub about it. My 8 year old boy is growing his hair for Locks of Love right now. The discrimination and harassment that child has suffered is unbelievable. But he knows it is to help a person feel better so he is determined. He says as soon as this ponytail is cut, he will begin again.

      This is a great Hub. I pray many find it inspirational and informative.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you for reading this--giving up does make things worse--you're so wise! God bless you.

    • profile image

      AlopeciaTeen 

      7 years ago

      Hi im 13 and i have alopecia... i know how hard it must b 4 ur niece.. tell her dont give up it'll only make it worse!

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you for your comment. You must be very strong!! My niece has reduced some of the stress in her life and some small parts of hair are trying to grow back. Live in hope, as they say! Best regards to you, always!

    • profile image

      Rachel 

      7 years ago

      I am 13yrs old- i hav had alopecia 3 times!!!!

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you, Tony!! I appreciate your support and comments!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Sad but beautiful. I think it is wonderful that your niece is being so strong. I guess she needs support and love so much. Thanks for sharing her story and I really hope she goes from strength to strength. If my wishes could do anything she surely would.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      THANK you--she's very stressed. She is hanging in there--having a Mom with MS has made her sensitive to the illnesses of others also. Thanks for reading, Jen!!

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      7 years ago from Delaware

      GarnetBird, I do believe this piece is invaluable for all who are connected in some way with this disease. It never ceases to amaze me what can happen when autoimmune diseases are evident. Parents have a hard time thinking their genes may be responsible for their child's illness, but that is such a waste of time and energy. I am glad your family is tackling this head on and allowing your dear niece the privacy she needs at this time. She truly sounds like an amazing young woman!

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      The photos are of Kayla Martell,A Miss America contender, but my niece DOES kind of look like her! Camille (Not her real name as her Mom wants to protect her privacy)had very long blond hair, long "model's" legs and a similar face shape to Karla's. THANK ALL of you for writing and reading this--I would love to put Camille's real photos online, but we feel she needs her privacy right now in order to heal.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      GarnetBird.

      Your niece looks really attractive and friendly with, and without her hair. I hope it grows back completely. Since she is so young , I think that outcome is more likely.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      What a beautiful tribute to your niece. I did see the Miss Delaware on the Miss America telecast, and she mentioned her hair loss. Very brave of her to reveal such a private matter, I applaud her for that. My friend's daughter had Alopecia, and her hair did grow back, but it was with the aid of those scalp treatments. Very good hub GarnetBird.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      THANK you for your lovely, educated comments--it really made writing this worthwhile!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      This hub is a beautiful tribute to your niece and I'm glad you wrote it. I will create a link to it from my own hub about Miss Delaware, Kayla Martell. Although Kayla didn't win the Miss America competition, she was voted as the People's Choice and looked absolutely stunning in a blonde wig.

      I agree with Camlo's comments and feel the diagnosis of alopecia is most difficult when it's made during the teen years when being just like everyone else is one of the primary concerns of an adolescent. However, your niece seems to have entered her teens with high self-esteem and it sounds like her involvement with the Color Guard will help her continue to be accepted by her peers. Perhaps, like Kayla, she'll eventually develop higher self-esteem than most people ever achieve, and won't let alopecia impede her from becoming anything she wants in life.

      Kayla cited family support as the critical factor in her acceptance of her own baldness, so don't underestimate the positive influence that you and your family have to reassure your niece that she is beautiful with and without her wig and can still go on to achieve any dream she may have for the future.

      It is true that some people who suffer from alopecia do have their hair grow back so having hope that this may happen to your niece is based on reality.

      I do not know of any studies that show wearing a wig could decrease the chances of hair regrowth.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Thank you for reading this--your comments gave us HOPE!!

    • camlo profile image

      Camlo De Ville 

      7 years ago from Cologne, Germany

      Hi Gloria!

      A dreadful thing to happen to any woman, but particularly so for a teenager; these are the years when we are especially concerned with our appearance. I can well imagine the problems this must be causing your niece and the sheer horror.

      As I say in my reply to your comment on my Hub, I have known a couple of women who have suffered alopecia, and their hair did grow back - let's hope this be the case for your niece.

      Good wigs certainly are expensive. There are some great bonded hair systems available which act like real hair, but I wonder if they could impede new hair growth. I'd be interested to know.

      A great Hub illustrating the nightmare of hair loss.

      All the best, Camlo

    • Zaiden Jace profile image

      Zaiden Jace 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      I've never heard of alopecia. Good for your niece for not letting it stand in her way. You don't need hair to be beautiful :)Great hub

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