Archive for September, 2012

BARING IT WITH HEART: Alopecia? Why ME? What to Do Now???

September 27, 2012

Described as the smart girl with glasses and long hair, I wore my shoulder length hair washed and pressed, in braided and twisted pony tails from the time I was school aged.  I was particularly proud when I was allowed to start wearing it “down” in Junior High School, alternating between the flips, bobs, and buns. It was common to be complimented and told by peers that they wished they had my hair.  Even adults would ask me “where’d you get all that pretty hair from?” So imagine what it felt like to realize that I might be losing my hair in my mid-twenties.

My mother’s  hair was of average length, however she and one of her slightly older female cousins’ had a thinning crown area.  Being shorter and worn in tighter curls it wasn’t too obvious though. My maternal uncle, and seemingly the men on that side of the family had  bald spots but they were men.

Almost all of the female cousins on my father’s side had long hair, which was much thicker than mine. My father had a receding hairline (he died at the age of 50 so I didn’t really know would’ve happened had he lived longer) and his brother and nephews didn’t show any signs of baldness. So why was this happening to me?

Although many insist that the thinning was due to the chemicals of the relaxer I received at 18, I have very clear memories of experiencing tenderness in the top of my scalp at various times, even as a child.  I remember telling tell my mother when this would occur, and her saying “Oh your head is just probably not closed good”.  I wondered what was that suppose to mean?  It was in the same area of my scalp that I  would later experience the same tenderness, and in which the thinning would begin.  (I would later discover that my father’s oldest sister had the same pattern of baldness which I eventually developed.)
                                        

I would wear varying hairstyles to camouflage and cover up the increasingly thinning to balding spot at the crown of my head.   The first was a layered cut of my relaxed hair, to decrease the weight and give more body and fulness  to the curls at the top.  When that no longer worked, I decided to have it cut all over, ear length ,and wear a short and flat press and curl until the relaxer grew out completely. From there a curly perm which, which although it took some getting use to, worked quite well for a couple of years or more. Over the next 2-3 decades, I donned slicked down to the scalp with gel styles, upswept braids, spray-on “fillers”,  partial weaves,  clip ons, head wraps (still one of my favorites) and finally full wigs.  Being the  Stevie Wonder fanatic that I am, I even declared I was going to start a new fad by wearing my hair in braids like his.  😀

I was told by sympathizing friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, about different hair “restoration” products and remedies, but never felt compelled to pursue them, spending money on things which had what I believed to be false promises.

Once I got use to them, wigs actually became fun accessories for me, and another object of my “retail therapy”.  Instead of buying new shoes, I’d go buy me some new hair.  😀
It got even better when I discovered the hairdresser who did my hair when I lived in another city during the 80’s, and who was a gifted artist when it came to cutting, now resided in the same city as me.
She would custom cut and style all of my wigs to fit my face, and it was ON then!  😀  I loved to  experiment between different colors, styles, types and qualities of hair.

As much as I liked experimenting with my different “personas” with the wigs, being the free-spirited person I am, I began to feel trapped, hating the feeling that I was “hiding” something, not being my authentic self, and having the fear of being “exposed”.  Because of the embarrassment I had of the bald spot which had now extended to all but a small patch of hair at my forehead, I almost always kept my head covered, even when indoors,

I adored the shaven look I would occasionally see women wear, but wasn’t sure if I had the courage to do it myself. When my best friend Val experienced hair loss from undergoing numerous rounds of chemo for breast cancer, I decided to support her by taking the clippers to my own. We were sisters, and she was the only one to see it as I didn’t wear it in public. Val, on the other hand, once her fine, newly grown hair began to grow out wore it beautifully and freely, though  still fighting “the pink ribbon thing” as she would call it.

Five years after Val’s passing, the part of my hair which would grow had grown back to shoulder length. I thought about how much Val loved life, and if she had continued to live “pink ribbon-free” how she would probably would have continued to freely wear her fine hair, saying to me “Gurrrrl, I’m from L.A., and you’re grown!”  😀

After a series of events, which confirmed for me that it was TIME, the final call came earlier this year when I “accidentally” turned to PBS and saw and heard the beautiful Ms. Sonya Renee Taylor*, a beautiful, full-figured, African-American woman who literally “flipped her wig during a spoken word presentation”! 😀  I KNEW , there was no doubt in my mind and in my spirit, that it was a green light from God. So on the eve of Independence Day this year I decided to free myself: I went to the local barber college and requested a razor shave.

Only two months later, with the support of women from all over the world I’ve met through AlopeciaWorld.com I believe I now know WHY me as well as WHAT to do, as I continue follow my heart and walk in purpose.  
   

Please join me this Saturday, September 29th at 10AM Pacific/12Noon Central/1PM Eastern. as I close out National Alopecia Month on my internet radio show, “HEART Talk with Ms. E”  with “Alopecia Awareness: Embrace Your Glory When Your Crown Is Gone”. www.blogtalkradio.com/hearttalkwithmse

My special guests will include:

My “Shero” Ms. Sonya Renee

Founder of The Body Is Not an Apology;  Internationally Acclaimed Performance Poet, Actress, Educator and Activist, heralded as a “force of nature on stage” and “humanity in action”, who has been seen on HBO, CNN, BET, MTV, Oxygen Network; performing on stages from New Zealand to Scotland to New York.

Ms. Sandra Gibson Dubose, Author of “My Crown and Glory, It’s NOT About the Hair”, 2011 Winner of the Mrs. Black North Carolina Title; Speaker, Radio Host, Performing Artist, and Internationally recognized Empowerment Specialist, proclaimed as the  “Bald Beauty Queen of Self Esteem”

Ms. Stacie Ferrell-Tucker, Founder of Sisters Living With Alopecia, and designer of the soon to be released  2013 National Alopecia Beauties Calendar, for which yours truly has been selected to appear.  😀

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BARING IT WITH HEART: What Is Alopecia?

September 18, 2012
The first time I ever heard the word “Alopecia” I was a young woman in my mid 20’s, making my second visit to a professional to find out why my shoulder length hair was becoming so thin at the crown.
 
The first visit had been a few years earlier to a “hair loss specialist” referred by a male friend who was experiencing early male pattern baldness. After scraping my oiled scalp with a wooden tongue depressor-like instrument, the “specialist” told me that my hair follicles were being blocked by the layer of oil on my scalp and that I needed to wash my hair 1-2 times daily with a special shampoo to be purchased from him.  Disappointed, frustrated, and even slightly insulted, anyone who knows anything about African-American hair care can understand how I would leave there feeling like this had been a total waste of my time.

This visit, a few years following the first, I’d been referred to an African-American female dermatologist by my hairdresser.  (This dermatologist is now frequently referenced in Essence Magazine). After taking a health and family history, and blood work, her conclusion was that I had Alopecia of unknown etiology, which was probably hereditary since my tests all came back normal, showing no vitamin or immune deficiencies which can sometimes contribute to the condition.  Therefore she had no recommendations.

So although I still had no idea of what to do about it, at least I now had a NAME for it:  Alopecia. However, when I looked it up, basically all I found was

 
  “loss of hair, esp on the head; baldness”
 

This was before the days of the internet, so I couldn’t just go to the computer, as I can today, and “Google” it to find out more information.

Approximately 5 years later  I became more self-conscious about the obvious spreading of the thin spot in the crown of my head, and I somehow found myself engaged in conversation with a co-worker who shared with me her experiences with 1-2 year cycles of Alopecia during which her scalp hair would come out in patches, eventually leaving her bald and requiring her to wear wigs.  She told me about an organization in S.F.  through which she received resources and support.  I did look them up and call them to request information.

I learned that there were various “types” of Alopecia, from various causes, however as I recall there was a greater emphasis on “prosthesis” for those who had total baldness, and even then primarily from the side effects of Cancer treatment . Since at the time my condition wasn’t as pronounced or “drastic”, I pretty much concluded that I should just be grateful to have the hair I did and not have to wear a wig or deal with some of the other issues some people were experiencing.

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BARING IT WITH HEART: A NEW ATTITUDE and “DO”—IT’S TIME TO RECOGNIZE!

September 4, 2012

I love to celebrate and acknowledge people and events which have personal significance to me and those I care about. I’m also known to be one who can talk a lot.  However I don’t like talking about just anything, to anybody, at any time.  

I like talking about things which inspire me and others to learn, grow, laugh, and be of help to others with those who share my interests.  Therefore, what better time than during a special, designated time of recognition and celebration?

Most people are aware of my personal love for Hearts, Children, Foster Care, and Adoption; and are familiar with my annual celebrations of “HEART” month (February); National Child Abuse Month (April); National Mental Health Awareness and National Foster Care Month (May); and National Adoption Month (November).  Well you can add one more to the list.  

 

I just recently learned that September is INTER National Alopecia Month.  You might ask what is Alopecia?  And why would I want to celebrate it? 

Throughout this month I will share with you the new attitude, new “do”, and new insights I’ve gained  through my OWN 30+ year journey of disbelief, camouflage,  embarrassment, cover-up,  frustration and finally acceptance and embracing of Alopecia!

If you, or someone you know has faced the challenges of Alopecia, or any other condition which has caused you to question your sense of identity and/or acceptance as an open, attractive, and confident woman, please stay tuned to my blog (sign up if you haven’t already) and let me hear from you.

So how ya like me NOW? 

Photo by Curtis Jermany
www.gzphotoz.com

Make-Up By Miss Kiya B

www.mkbthemua.webs.com

 

 


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