January 18, 2010

Alopecia History, Part 3

I realized it has been quite a while since the last installment of this story. I guess I've been trying to find a good time to put it together, especially since it covers such a broad amount of time. So many things have happened since that final year of high school. I went off to college for two years, found my dream guy a lot quicker than I had ever thought possible, we got married, became and Air Force family, had kids, and all the while, my hair had a mind of its own.

After I graduated from high school, I headed 3 hours south from my hometown to study at Southern Utah University. It was a great experience being away from home, and I really started to be comfortable in my own skin. My hair situation hadn't acted up in almost a year, and I had no reason to think it would change.

I ended up being wrong about that, but thankfully, things could have been a lot worse. My eyebrows started thinning a bit, and I had to start penciling them in. I think it had something to do with the hormonal birth control I was taking for my complexion. (I've posted my theory about that here.) Gratefully, as soon as I noticed the pill having a negative effect on my hair, I stopped using it and my eyebrows stopped falling out for the time being.

With all the new people I was meeting, I became very shy about my hair situation. I didn't voluntarily share about my problem unless I knew there was no way it could be avoided (i.e. sharing a dorm with 5 other girls doesn't make for many secrets). My shyness definitely kicked in when getting to know members of the opposite sex. Things were slow-going when trying to get to know new boys because I felt like I was back in high school - worried that boys wouldn't like me if they found out about my hair. I'm grateful that I had the friends and the roommates I did because if it weren't for them, I probably would have stayed in my dorm my entire freshman year due to my shyness.

After my freshman year, I moved back home for the summer. My dermatologist had told me of a new treatment for Alopecia - applying Squaric Acid Dibutyl to my scalp - and I was really excited about the success rate it was having with other patients. The one major downside was the main side effect, though. The treatment consisted of applying an acid (of sorts) to the bald patches on my scalp, allowing there to be an allergic reaction on the areas where it was applied, which was supposed stimulate the hair follicles, thus causing hair to grow. Man, what an allergic reaction it was, too. The itchiness was on verge of actual pain. I remember sitting at work, scratching my head, not getting any relief. It would ooze and scab over, and then do it all over again when I would scratch away the scabs. (TMI, sorry.) Despite the pain and discomfort (and huge financial cost), I was hopeful. I just had a feeling that this time I was going to see results.

After 3 months, it was time for me to go back to school. I felt like I was starting all over again because none of my friends from the previous year were going back to SUU. I started out in a new apartment with new roommates, new job, and everything. I probably had a little more confidence just because I knew that since I did it before, I could do it again. I was still doing the scalp treatment, but not as often. I was starting to see a bit of fuzz in a couple of spots, but nothing quite substantial, so I pressed on.

The year continued on much like the previous school year - I made friends, I dated, I worked, and went to school. After about 6 months, I really started to see results from the acid treatment; hair was coming in spots that I hadn't seen hair for a very, very long time. I was ecstatic! I often joke that I was finally blessed with hair so that I could attract my future husband, because it wasn't long after the hair started coming in that I met Brett. For all he knew, my hair was there to stay.

Just before we got married, I had the most hair I had ever had since it all fell out the first time. I thought that I was finally going to be completely normal and that I wouldn't have to worry about my hair for years to come. I thought I would finally be able to get rid of my extensions because I had enough hair of my own. Boy, was I wrong. Yet again, I believe hormonal birth control took that away from me.

Shortly after our nuptuals, my hair started falling out again, and quite rapidly, too. Brett and I were married in August, and by November, I had to remove my extensions not because I had enough of my own hair, but because I no longer had enough hair to hold them in place. It was devastating. This was the first time I started wearing a wig and I haven't ever been able to go back. I also wore hats and bandannas a lot. I had a little bit of hair that could stick out from underneath the hats, but it wasn't enough that I could go without them. I couldn't believe that all my hopes were gone in such a short amount of time.

And that's how I've been for the last 6+ years. After the first couple of years of wearing wigs, I finally let go of any hope I had of ever having any hair and shaved my head. I let the little patch on top of my head grow back, just to realize it was wishful thinking, and shaved it again. I've been doing it every 2-3 weeks since then. Sadly, it wasn't just the hair on my head that I've lost. Around the time I had my first baby, my eyebrows started falling out. Try as I might, injection after injection, I finally gave up and I don't have an eyebrow to my name. After my second baby was born, I started losing my eyelashes, and thankfully they have slowed to the point where I at least have my top lashes.

I don't know if or when I will ever try any other treatments. I think I'm just not meant to have hair in this life. My only sense of comfort is that in the scriptures it says, “And even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body” (Alma 11:44). So it probably won't be in this life, but at least there's hope in the next!

11 Happy Thoughts:

Allison said...

I think you look beautiful both with the hair, and without. You are so brave to have gone through this, with all the insecurities and fears, and that's something to be proud of! Thank you for sharing this story.

Erin said...

Wouldn't it be great if you could take hair donations from people with too much? Maybe one day...You are such a brave girl. I really admire your positive attitude and how you have embraced yourself with or without hair! And man, you still look great! I think the wig idea is pretty intriguing as well. i think you should try going blue or pink sometimes!

catroller83 said...

You are still hot Amber and I love ya! You are a strong person to go through this and it is what makes you....you! I miss ya girl!

Tenecia said...

You're gorgeous! With lots of hair or no hair, YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL! Your husband and children are so lucky to have you. The challenges you've faced have given you a unique outlook, a particular insight into life. <3

Michelle said...

I'm always amazed at how beautiful you look no matter what condition your hair might be in. You are amazing and brave, I don't know if I could have had the same great attitude that you have managed to keep all of these years.

I would trade you my hair for your long gorgeous legs any day of the week!

Tristen said...

I always thought you were beautiful in college! We did have some good times that's for sure!

Kimberly Giardino said...

Amber, I love reading your story, so inspirational!! I think you are beautiful and I am so grateful I got to know you while you were in Colorado!!! Keep you head up!!! Hugs!

Erica said...

I agree with everyone who has said you are beautiful with hair or without. You've always handled your hair situation with such grace and poise and I've always admired you for that. I know I wouldn't have been as brave and strong as you!

PS your wigs are so cute and I love all the different colors and styles you get to try :)

Colleen said...

Wow Amber, you have had a struggle...but you are beautiful and hair does not define a person.
Like some others said you can sure have some fun with different styles.
Also have to say...your recent photos are beautiful! You really have an eye, love, love, love the playground shots!

Take Care!

Stefanie said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, and (in between kids pulling at my legs) noticed the part you said about birth control playing a part. I was on the pill for 12 years...and was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) shortly after going on the pill. Within two days of going off the pill 7 years ago...have not had a single bout of IBS since!!! I believe the hormones can wreak havoc.

Saundra said...

Amber, I just read your entire story about your hair. Wow, what a road! I admire your courage and your outlook about not being perfect in this life. We each have our own challenges, don't we? It's comforting to know that we have a Savior who understands and can raise us up when we're feeling low. You are amazing!