My body was killing my hair

An ac­count of an almighty bat­tle with alope­cia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion -

IF you’ve seen me on TV in the past year or so you’ve prob­a­bly no­ticed some­thing a lit­tle strange: A bald spot in the bot­tom left cor­ner of my head.

OK, I know no one has been pay­ing that much close at­ten­tion to me. And rightly so.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I was struck with a sud­den bald spot on the back of my head back in Fe­bru­ary of 2016. Now, it’s not a nor­mal bald spot, it isn’t due to male pat­tern bald­ness – or at least I hoped it wasn’t – it was about the size of a coin and it was just above where my hair­line started on the back of my neck.

It was first no­ticed by my ever help­ful hair stylist who, upon shav­ing my head, said with com­plete non­cha­lance, “Dude, you know you’re go­ing bald back here?”

To which I re­sponded with dig­nity and grace by shriek­ing.

Af­ter I stud­ied the bald spot for sev­eral min­utes, forc­ing her to hold the mir­ror up so I could see it, I re­alised she hadn’t sim­ply shaved a spot in my head just for fun – as my hair stylist is apt to do. So I im­me­di­ately went on the In­ter­net to look up what could be caus­ing my ail­ment.

If you’ve never looked up an ail­ment on the In­ter­net, let me be the first to ad­vise you to never to do that. The In­ter­net will give you ev­ery hor­ri­ble rea­son you may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any symp­tom, and what the In­ter­net taught me is that any symp­tom could be caused by every­thing from a com­mon cold to some hor­ri­ble uber rare virus.

So when I looked up what could cause a bald spot the size of a coin on my head, I was sur­prised, and re­lieved, to find no other causes for it other than some­thing called alope­cia areata. This con­di­tion is marked by clumps of hair that fall out leav­ing a smooth bald patch about the size of a coin. It’s an au­toim­mune dis­or­der where the sub­ject’s im­mune sys­tem for some rea­son tar­gets hair fol­li­cles as in­trud­ers and kills them.

My body was killing my hair. Or at least a very small por­tion of it on the back of my head.

I went on to learn that alope­cia is usu­ally ge­netic and is some­times trig­gered or wors­ened by stress; also, that in 10% of the cases, it can be per­ma­nent or lead to the alope­cia spread­ing so that one has patchy bald spots all over one’s head, although usu­ally the hair will grow back in a few months.

Stress was not a good idea so I de­cided not stress about it. Be­sides, it was on the back of my head. I never saw the bald spot any­way. It would grow back if I just for­got about it.

So I went to work. Which is usu­ally about be­ing filmed.

On some shoots, the cam­era guys would try to shoot me from an­gles that would not show­case my alope­cia. In other shoots, the makeup artist would colour it in with a dark pen­cil, but at all times I never stressed. Well, I didn’t stress un­til I had been walk­head ing around with a bald patch on my for eight months. When­ever I got my hair­cut I’d ask my hair­dresser for an up­date, and the re­ply was al­ways, yep it’s still there like a hole in the back of your head.

It’d be gone soon, I said. But it wasn’t. Soon proI grammes was in were air­ing on TV where there was no ef­fort to hide my alope­cia and I would see it glar­ing at me from back shots. In el­e­va­tors with three mir­rored sides, I would be shocked to see just how big the bald spot was. In short, I was start­ing to stress.

The doc­tor un­der­stood and pre­scribed steroid cream which I be­gan rub­bing into my baby-skin smooth bald patch at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. And the bald spot ac­tu­ally got big­ger.

Part of my cam­paign to not stress over my bald patch hinged on peo­ple not bring­ing it up, ei­ther be­cause they didn’t no­tice or they were be­ing po­lite. But my new en­larged bald patch was all the rage. Pro­duc­ers I’d been work­ing with for months were sud­denly ask­ing me what the thing on the back of my head was. Peo­ple who had known of my plight with alope­cia were look­ing alarmed as they told me it was get­ting big­ger.

But all I could do was rub more steroid cream on it. Per­haps less vig­or­ously.

And this month, my hair fi­nally grew back. One year and half af­ter first notic­ing it. My alope­cia is de­feated.

Is there some les­son here? Was it my sheer willpower? Or my cool abil­ity to stay calm? Or just my men­tal for­ti­tude that helped me get through this or­deal?

No, it was the steroid cream. If it ever comes back, I won’t wait a year to use it. Catch Ja­son God­frey on In­spir­ing Homes on Life In­spired (Astro CH 728).

Photo: CAROLYN P. SPERANZA/Vis­ual Hunt

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