Guess the se­cret all these women share

There’s no cure. It can make them too de­pressed to leave home. Some even hid it from their hus­bands. Now — over the page — they coura­geously re­veal all...

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - By Jill Fos­ter and Eimear O’Ha­gan To Do­nate to the Woman War­rior hub, visit: just­giv­­fund­ing/panachegroup­cic For sup­port with alope­cia, visit

The youngest is just 14 and the old­est 64. These ten beau­ti­ful, con­fi­dent and strong women have dif­fer­ent life sto­ries — but they all have in com­mon one dev­as­tat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: hair loss.

It af­fects around eight mil­lion women in the UK and is be­lieved to be an in­creas­ing prob­lem. And yet the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact of hair loss (or alope­cia) can be un­der­es­ti­mated by the medical com­mu­nity.

Of­ten, women are left to strug­gle in si­lence with the stigma and shame that comes with what they per­ceive as a loss of fem­i­nin­ity.

Now, a brave group of women are de­ter­mined to bring alope­cia cen­trestage and prove that be­ing bald doesn’t mean you are any less beau­ti­ful — and that those who suf­fer are far from alone.

These are some of the ‘Women War­riors’, mem­bers of a sup­port group that started af­ter teenager el­isha Ap­pleby posted on­line a heart­break­ing film of her mother shav­ing off the last of el­isha’s hair.

The video was spot­ted by Jo­lene Casey, who owns a wig com­pany in the North east. She was so moved that she of­fered to give el­isha, then 15, a makeover, to help her feel good about her­self again.

Sur­prised by the dif­fer­ence she made to the teenager’s self es­teem, Jo­lene ap­pealed for other alope­cia suf­fer­ers to come for­ward, through her lo­cal news­pa­per. And out of this, the Women War­riors sup­port group was formed. Jo­lene, 40, a moth­erof­five from Sun­der­land, says: ‘Seven­teen ladies

turned up to our first meet­ing, all with very dif­fer­ent sto­ries. Some were with­drawn, sad and hated their bald heads. Some had gone through can­cer treat­ment and were very weak. We wanted to help them get their zest for life back.’

Eight of the women re­cently ap­peared on This Morn­ing, where they re­vealed their bald heads live on tele­vi­sion. Jo­lene says the response has been so phe­nom­e­nal that there are now plans to find a per­ma­nent meet­ing place, where any­one suf­fer­ing from hair loss can meet oth­ers in the same sit­u­a­tion and get sup­port.

The causes of hair loss are of­ten un­clear. It can be ge­netic, the re­sult of ex­treme stress, which leads to the body’s im­mune sys­tem at­tack­ing the hair fol­li­cles, or a side-ef­fect of medical treat­ment. The con­tra­cep­tive pill may be a trig­ger in some cases, and diet can have an im­pact, too.

It’s more com­mon af­ter the menopause, but can even af­fect very young chil­dren. There’s no re­li­able treat­ment and, al­though some women find their hair grows back — ei­ther with the help of med­i­ca­tion or by it­self — oth­ers have to come to terms with the fact that they will be bald for the rest of their lives.

Here, Fe­mail speaks to some of the Women War­riors about why hair loss doesn’t have to de­fine you . . .


Han­nah Cranston, 14, lives with her mum Julie, a re­cep­tion­ist, dad rob, an NHS worker, and sis­ter Emily, 12, in Dud­ley, in the West Mid­lands. My Mum has suf­fered with alope­cia through­out her life, so I knew what it was, but noth­ing can pre­pare you for when it hap­pens to you.

I was about seven when my hair started com­ing out.

We think it was down to the stress of ap­pear­ing on stage in a panto, but ge­net­ics are thought to play a role. Six months later, I was bald. I was very se­cre­tive about it: at first, I wore ban­danas, but from the age of ten, I started wear­ing wigs.

Tak­ing off my wig on live TV was one of the scari­est, but best, ex­pe­ri­ences of my life. Hav­ing all the girls with me gave me the con­fi­dence.

I’m the youngest of the Women War­riors: it means I can help other young­sters feel­ing lonely. We’ve had so many mes­sages from peo­ple who say we in­spired them. I hope we can go on to help so many more.


nikki Smith, 40, lives in Ben­ton, new­cas­tle upon tyne, with hus­band Paul, 52. she is a full-time mum to their chil­dren, am­ber, ten, and twins Lily and Lo­gan, six. THE Women War­riors were the first peo­ple out­side my im­me­di­ate fam­ily to see me bald. Even Paul, my hus­band of eight years, had never seen me with­out a wig, head­scarf or hat be­fore then. Af­ter I lost all my hair aged 15, I strug­gled to ac­cept my alope­cia. In my teens, I was des­per­ate for a cure. I saw doc­tor af­ter doc­tor and tried every rem­edy that I could find. I even took a course of steroids, which just made me gain weight, fur­ther dam­ag­ing my self-con­fi­dence. My fam­ily were in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive and my mum and dad bought me a wig. But, at the end of the day, I still had to take it off and face my re­flec­tion in the mir­ror. Join­ing the sup­port group and find­ing my­self among other women who know how it feels has made such a dif­fer­ence. I now feel I owe it to my chil­dren to be a good role model when it comes to ac­cept­ing how I look. I’ve started go­ing out with­out my wig. I do get stared at when I walk across the play­ground on the school run, but now I hold my head up high. I want my chil­dren to see I’m bald and proud. Paul is so proud of me, too. It’s only strength­ened our re­la­tion­ship.


Shan­non Pea­cock, 23, lives in Far­ring­don, sun­der­land. she is a carer and has a baby son, robert, with part­ner owen, 23. Growing up, my am­bi­tion was al­ways to be a hair­dresser and I even started a hair­dress­ing course af­ter I left school.

But it was so bit­ter­sweet, styling other women’s hair when I had none of my own. My con­fi­dence was at rock-bot­tom and, sadly, I gave it up.

I lost my hair when I was 14. I had a dif­fi­cult home life and doc­tors told me the stress was the cause. I moved in with my grand­mother, who was so sup­port­ive, but my hair didn’t re­turn.

un­til this year, I wouldn’t have even hung wash­ing out with­out my wig on. It took me a year of be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship with owen be­fore I let him see me bald.

Even then, it was very hard to do, as I wor­ried that he might find me unattrac­tive. But he in­sists that I’m beau­ti­ful with or with­out my wig.

The sol­i­dar­ity of the Women War­riors group has boosted my con­fi­dence — so much so that I was happy to ap­pear bald on live TV — and, in the past month, my hair has be­gun to grow back.

I’m con­vinced that my body is re­spond­ing to this new­found pos­i­tiv­ity and it will cer­tainly be won­der­ful if my hair con­tin­ues to grow.

How­ever, if it falls out again, I know now that it doesn’t make me any less of a woman.


Danielle Gil­bert, 20, lives in stan­ley, County Durham. she is a full-time law stu­dent at Durham Univer­sity. Swim­ming at a na­tional level has been a life­saver for me. I can’t swim with a wig on but, in the pool, I’m judged only on how well I per­form, not what I look like.

I was only two when my mum no­ticed a penny-size bald patch on the top of my head.

Alope­cia can start at any age and, by pri­mary school, my hair had fallen out.

I was teased and peo­ple called me ‘baldy’.

Mum brought me up to be strong, but I’d be ly­ing if I said the taunts and stares didn’t hurt at times — es­pe­cially af­ter I turned 14, when my eye­lashes and eye­brows also fell out, too.

The worst thing was feel­ing so alone. But now, I’m part of this in­cred­i­ble group of women who all un­der­stand each other — and those feel­ings have com­pletely gone.


Ca­role Ca­vanagh, 64, is a com­pli­ance ad­min­is­tra­tor and lives in Lob­ley Hill, Gateshead, with her hus­band Paul, 57. she has a grown-up daugh­ter and two grand­chil­dren. Over ten days this Jan­uary, I went from hav­ing thick, sil­ver hair to be­ing bald. I be­lieve that it might have been caused by a re­ac­tion to an­tibi­otics.

At first, I felt guilty about be­ing so up­set.

It was ‘just’ hair — but I now know that it’s un­der­stand­able to feel dev­as­tated. It felt like I’d lost a piece of my­self.

When I saw a der­ma­tol­o­gist, I hoped I’d meet women like me. I craved sol­i­dar­ity, but there was no one. So I leapt at the chance to join the Women War­riors.

Whip­ping off my wig on TV was so lib­er­at­ing. It needed to be done, to bring fe­male bald­ness out of the shad­ows.


shan­non Holme, 23, is a re­cep­tion­ist. she lives with hus­band Jack, 25, who is in the army, and their daugh­ter olivia, three, in new­cas­tle. When I was preg­nant with Olivia, my hair started growing for the first time in ten years, prob­a­bly due to the hor­monal changes.

And, while I’d longed for it to grow back, when it did I didn’t like it. It felt greasy and odd. I’ve been wear­ing wigs for so long, I now en­joy ex­per­i­ment­ing with them.

My hair started fall­ing out just be­fore my tenth birth­day and co­in­cided with my mum and dad’s divorce. I’d al­ways been a daddy’s girl and the stress of it all got to me. Within two years, I had no hair on my head.

Psy­cho­log­i­cally, it was very tough. I was just about to hit my teens and won­dered if a man would ever find me ‘sexy’.

Jack and I met when we were both serv­ing in the Army. We were friends be­fore we got to­gether and he knew about my alope­cia, yet I al­ways wore a wig with him.

Then, one night, my wig came off and I woke up bald next to him. I dreaded his re­ac­tion, but all he said was: ‘It’s OK.’ Now, he tells me how sexy I am all the time and says he prefers me with­out a wig.

Be­com­ing one of the Women War­riors has been won­der­ful. I was sick of hear­ing: ‘you’ve got a pretty face for a bald per­son,’ so it’s great that we can prove it’s pos­si­ble to be beau­ti­ful and sexy with or with­out a wig.


El­isha Ap­pleby, 16, lives in sun­der­land with mum Kelsie, 35, and brother Jack­son, ten. When I feel ner­vous about go­ing out wig­less, I re­mind my­self that if I can do it on This Morn­ing, I can do it anywhere!

My straw­berry blonde hair be­gan to fall out last April, on my 15th birth­day. I be­lieve it’s linked to im­mune sys­tem prob­lems. By De­cem­ber, I had only a few patches left. At school, peo­ple stared and asked if I was dy­ing of can­cer. I’d hide at home af­ter classes.

even­tu­ally, I made a film of my mum shav­ing off the last of my hair, which I posted on Face­book. Jo­lene casey saw it and in­vited me to try on some wigs. The Women War­riors group was born af­ter she re­alised what a boost it gave me to be around oth­ers with alope­cia.

Thanks to her, I’ve met so many amaz­ing women. I do have days when I think: ‘Why me?’ — but I’m in­creas­ingly find­ing the courage to be wig-free and proud.


han­nah McKay, 30, a sales ad­viser, is sin­gle and lives in south shields, Tyne and Wear. This time last year, I had thick, dark hair, which stretched half way down my back. It was my pride and joy. But, in July 2017, a tiny bald patch ap­peared at the front of my scalp. By De­cem­ber, I was bald. I was di­ag­nosed with an auto-im­mune dis­or­der, which had killed off my hair fol­li­cles.

Peo­ple think once you have a wig, the prob­lem’s solved. Or that be­cause you don’t have a se­ri­ous ill­ness such as can­cer, you don’t have the right to be dev­as­tated.

But they don’t see the im­pact it has on men­tal health. Be­fore meet­ing the Women War­riors, I’d spent six weeks too de­pressed to leave the house. I didn’t even speak to any­one on the phone.

Now, I go out with­out my wig, us­ing dra­matic make-up and big earrings to help me feel glam­orous. I’m tired of be­ing la­belled ‘the girl who lost her hair’. Be­ing bald is a part of me, but it’s not who I am. Kay Fisher, 31, works in cus­tomer ser­vices. she lives with part­ner Ryan, 29, a self­em­ployed driver, and their son Leo, 14 months, in sun­der­land. Af­ter I started los­ing my hair, aged nine, I tried every treat­ment in a bid to get it back. I’d al­ways thought hair is what makes a woman look fem­i­nine. I was bul­lied so badly about it that I was even home-schooled for a while.

In 2013, my dad passed away and I re­alised I needed to worry about my mum, not hair loss. I ac­cepted I’d just have to live in wigs.

When I started dat­ing Ryan, I was ter­ri­fied of re­veal­ing the truth. But he couldn’t have cared less.

I’m al­ways show­ing our son my bald head. I want to teach him to be re­spect­ful to­wards every­one, no mat­ter what their ap­pear­ance.

Thanks to the Women War­riors, I’ve come to re­alise there’s more to fem­i­nin­ity than hav­ing hair.


Liann Lind­say, 39, is a full-time carer for her youngest daugh­ter, who has autism. she lives with her fi­ance Da­mon, 34, a fac­tory man­ager, and four chil­dren, Josh, 18, Daisy, 15, Wil­liam, 12 — from her first mar­riage — and har­mony, four. Nearly ten years ago, I went through a trau­matic divorce and ended up home­less with three young chil­dren. The stress of try­ing to man­age it all — along with my floristry busi­ness — meant I ended up in hospi­tal. I was di­ag­nosed with stom­ach ul­cers, arthri­tis and a thy­roid con­di­tion. My hair was also fall­ing out.

even though I have since turned my life around, in times of stress I still lose my hair. Join­ing the Women War­riors was life-chang­ing. When I first saw so many women who knew ex­actly what I was go­ing through, I burst into tears.

Now I have friends I can text or call when I’m feel­ing down. I hope to take a coun­selling course, so I can sup­port oth­ers. If I can help just one per­son, it’s worth it. BUL­LIES FORCED ME OUT OF SCHOOL


HAN­NAH M, 30 LIANN, 39 KAY, 31

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