Shanice come here! I need to brush your hair!”
I hate when she brushes my hair. She always brushes too hard! I got up from up the couch, tired from staying up all night from the night before. I walk down the hallway, dreading what’s to come for me. My mom is already in my room, brush in hand, ready to brush out all the knots from my crazy bed head. I sit in front of her on the floor, preparing myself for the pain. My mom begins to brush away, pulling hard to get knots out. I feel like my hair could fall out at any second. Suddenly she stops brushing.
“What the hell?!”
“You have small bald spots….”
My parents took me to see the doctor the next day. The car ride was silent. I was sitting in the back seat, looking out the window, daydreaming away. My parents and I did not know what was going on with me. I honestly didn’t care. An 8 year doesn’t care for too much. They don’t worry about these kinds of things. They only worry about the next time they’ll be able to play with their friends outside. Once we finally made it to the hospital, I got out the car and held my mom’s hand. She looked upset and very worried. She didn’t know what was going on with her daughter, she felt helpless. I never liked going to the hospital, it always scared me. I always thought everyone just died at the hospital. But walking in between my parents made me feel better. We make our way to the entrance of the building. They have the spinning door, which were my favorite. I went and spun around in them a few times. Laughing like I was on my favorite fair ride. My parents called me to come inside and sit with them. The wait for the doctor wasn’t fun. As an 8 year old, I had a hard time staying still. I have too much energy in me to try and keep down.
“Come this way please.”
I followed the nurse, as if I were a little puppy, my parents followed right behind us. The nurse showed us to the doctor’s office. She did the normal nurse check-up; check my temperature, check my height and weight, ask if I was in any pain.
“You’re all good Shanice.”
“The doctor will be in shortly.”
The nurse leaves the room and closes the door behind her. Again it is silent. I always hated when it was quiet. To break the silence, I started asking my dad what everything in the room was and what it was used for. My dad knows a lot. He was always someone I could ask if I didn’t know something. But there was one thing he didn’t know.
“So dad, what’s wrong with me? Is it something bad?”
“I don’t know Shanice. The doctor is going to check you out and let us know. I bet you it’s not bad.”
My dad always made me feel better about everything. When he’d say “You’ll be fine” I always believed and trusted him. Suddenly the door opens. An older man, about my mom’s height, bald, wearing glasses, and wearing the normal doctor get-up, walks into the room. He introduced himself to my parents, shaking their hands, and then turned to me.
“Hello Shanice. I’m Dr. Hirota.”
After about five or ten minutes, Dr. Hirota finishes my check up. Then we finally got the answer we were waiting for. When Dr. Hirota told my parents what I had, they were shocked. I sat there, confused out of my mind. I was only 8; all this doctor language was foreign to me.
“She has an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata. It causes her white blood cells to think that her hair cells are a type of germ and attacks them. As a result, it causes hair loss. There are treatments to try and help her hair keep growing and not fall out, but there is no definite cure.”
From then on, my life changed forever.
As the years continued, my hair kept falling out more and more. When I was in 5th grade, I wore a bandana to hide my bald spots. It gave me that feel of safety. Still I felt different from all the other kids at my school. By this point I understood what I had and what it was doing to me. But I didn’t try to let it bother me too much. The end of my 5th grade year, my hair was gone. Nothing left but my little ponytail I kept in a plastic bag as a memory of my hair.
My middle school years were the most rough out of all my years of school. In 6th grade, I wore a wig for the first time. It felt so different. Felt out of place, heavy, hot and itchy. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt like I was living behind a lie as a different person. But I thought to myself, couldn’t just come to school with hair one day and be bald the next. I went through so much verbal bullying because of my Alopecia. Different things like “Ew, you’re bald that’s gross.” or “You wear a wig? You’re bald!” or people would make up stupid rumors like “She has cancer.” or “It’s contagious! Run!” Even kids would threaten me that they would pull off my wig at school so everyone could see and laugh at me. I hated school with every fiber of my being. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to just stay home with my parents and sister, not having to worry about those stupid kids at my school. I would always talk to my older sister, Nakia, about what happened in school.
“You can’t let those kids get to you Shanice. You’re much stronger than this. If you leave, you let them win. Prove to them that your Alopecia isn’t going to stop you from doing whatever you want to do.”
“Yeah – I know.”
“Don’t make me or mom come to your school.”
“I got this Kia.”
I took those talks with my sister and even with my parents to heart. I didn’t want them to win. I couldn’t let them win. I went back to school, feeling stronger than before. I walked through the hallways with my head up high. Though kids still picked on me, I didn’t let it bother me as much as it did before. But once 7th and 8th grade came around, I was older and more worried about my appearance as any other girl would. My self-esteem was very low, as if it went through the floor. I hated having Alopecia. I hated it so much. I would always cry at night, not loud enough for anyone in the house to hear, wondering and constantly thinking about it.
“Why me? Why was I the one to get this? What did I do wrong? I hate this! It’s not fair!”
Months past and during this time I went through all the different treatments that were available to me for my Alopecia. I hated taking all of them. Most of them caused me some kind of pain. Some treatments would give me a rash on my head that would itch and burn so much. It was so hard not to itch it. I’d always have to put a cold rag on my head to cool the rash down. Some treatments changed the color of the skin on my head to a darkish color that looked like patches. It honestly scared me when that happened. But luckily the color went back to normal. But the treatment I remember the most, the one that caused me the worst pain, the one that I never want to take again, the one that made my hair grow back were the injections I got in my head.
I never felt such severe pain like that before in my life. I remember that day so clearly, no matter how much I want to erase it. It repeats in my mind like a horror movie, the part that scared you the most. That day, my parents picked me up from school and we went all the way up to Seattle to go to the Seattle Children’s Hospital. I remember going into the doctor’s room and lying down on the bed, holding my dad’s hand. I was so scared. More like terrified. The nurse came in, went to counter and got the needles ready. She told me I wouldn’t feel any pain. That was a lie. I felt everything. Every needle, every poke and even the blood running down my head. I was screaming my lungs out, squeezing my dad’s hand with a death grip. My mom hated seeing me in so much pain. What could she have done? She knew I wanted this but still. What kind of mother would want to see their child like this? A few weeks after the injections, my hair started to slowly grow back. Then eventually I had a full head of hair. I was so happy! I had hair again. I felt normal again. I didn’t feel like that bald freak. But then I got bad news. My doctor told me the only way to keep my hair from falling out; I’d have to continue with the injections. That’s where I drew the line. I stopped with all the treatments. I was tired of being some little guinea pig. I told my parents and the doctors I was done.
“I’m done. I’m done with all these different treatments. I’d rather live my life with no hair, than go through this pain anymore!”
“Are you sure?”
Now I’m high school and still bald. Each year has made me a better person and helped me deal with my Alopecia. I’ve told my most friends about my Alopecia and what I’ve gone through. Most of them say it doesn’t make a difference to them if I have hair or not, I’m still me and they’ll always be there for me. They have been my support system since I first came to high school. I honestly believed that high school was going to be worse than middle school, but I was wrong. It’s much better. I have people here that help me build my confidence. Even though I’m not ready to come to school without a wig, I know someday I’ll be able to forget about needing one and just be me, the real me. My family has also been there for me through all of this. I don’t know how I’d be now if I didn’t have them or my friends to help me along. Someday I want to talk to younger people who also have Alopecia and tell them my story. Be about to help them with it. That is a goal I know I will reach.
A poem my mom wrote for me:
Beautiful to Me
To my daughter
When you first came into my life
You were beautiful to me
When you smiled and had only two teeth
You were beautiful to me
As you grew older and become your own person
You were beautiful to me
When you asked me, if I lost all my hair would you still love me
I told you that I would love you forever and that
You were beautiful to me