Alopecia is a deeply personal condition, something we must eventually come to terms with and, hopefully, accept within ourselves. Alopecia has been a part of my life since I was a teenager, and despite an internal hope that each episode will be the last, 20 years later, the condition looks like it’s here to stay. I’ve circled many times through having small patches of hair loss, undeniable baldness, complete regrowth and everything in between over the years. I’ve tried every treatment available but it’s now, ironically, with alopecia universalis that I’m finally able to find some peace with my condition.
Without any hair to lose, knowing that I’ve tried every treatment avenue, I feel more free. I no longer have the constant, humming fear in the back of my mind that a seemingly innocuous cold or distressing life event might cause another bout of hair loss. As I approach the unwanted but accepted one-year anniversary of being completely bald, I have realised that I cannot put things on hold, waiting for my hair to regrow and to feel like myself again before I fully re-engage with life.
I don’t always feel my best without my wig, but choose not to wear it regularly because it can bet hot, uncomfortable and my need for coffee that draws me to my local café each morning is stronger than my desire to make sure my wig is on straight! The decision not to wear it, though, is always accompanied by the knowledge that today might be one of those days when I’m asked how my cancer treatment is going, regaled with stories from strangers of loved ones going through such treatment, or given pitying looks and given a wide berth on the footpath – because who knows if I’m contagious? Overwhelming, though, people give my hairless state not even a glance, babies still smile at me and, most importantly, I’m starting to feel more comfortable with myself without any hair.
I’ve decided to channel my energies away from the exhausting search for a treatment that could work for me and a reluctance to accept my condition, and focus instead on doing things that make me feel good about myself – yoga, swimming and, with the help of my AAAF Sponsorship, playing tennis again. Re-engaging with the activities that I used to love doing, but avoided while coming to terms with my alopecia, is helping me feel like myself again.
Nellie is being sponsored in Tennis through the AAAF Sponsorship Program. The program is now closed and is not accepting applications, but can be read about here.