Meghan was diagnosed with alopecia at age 10. Her hair loss happened whilst she was starting secondary school and she experienced a lot of bullying. She is now studying at university and considering trying topical immunotherapy treatment for her alopecia.
Meghan was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was aged 10. A pattern of bald patches in her hair were noticed when she was having her hair cut at her childminder’s house. Her hair loss was fast and she lost a lot of hair over the next two months. This was an incredibly upsetting time for Meghan and she can remember waking up with clumps of fallen out hair in her bed. She found it very hard to adjust to alopecia at the same time that she was undergoing painful and stressful treatments. Bullying at school in addition to the treatments and their side effects, such as migraines, meant that Meghan missed out on a lot of school. Her hair loss impacted at a difficult time when she was moving from primary to secondary school and she lost some friends who were unkind about her alopecia.
Meghan has tried different treatments in the past for her alopecia, including steroid creams and injections into the skin on her head. The injections made her scalp bleed and were incredibly painful. Meghan and her mum agreed to stop the treatment when the suggestion was made to move on to photherapy (light therapy) because it was too upsetting and the hair did not seem to be growing back. Meghan has had a mixed experience with dermatology appointments so far. The first consultant she saw while she was living at home was very understanding. In stark contrast, she once saw a second dermatologist at a different hospital and this was one of the worst days of her life. At this appointment, the dermatologist ushered her out of the room without giving her time to put her hair extensions back in and get ready to leave. Meghan has recently looked into other treatments and would like to try topical immunotherapy; however, not all hospitals offer it and she is hoping to be transferred as a patient to another nearby hospital for treatment.
Alopecia has a massive impact on Meghan’s life, particularly in terms of school, friendships and confidence. Meghan found school very hard as she was bullied by her peers. Some of the other children called her names and spread rumours such as that she had cancer and that her condition was contagious. Her school tried to help but were limited in what they could do as she felt that the whole school was laughing at her. For many years, she didn’t have many friends and felt unable to do normal’ things. Meghan thinks that alopecia and the negative impact on her self-esteem played a part in her developing depression and she says that it’s important for medical professionals to understand the emotional side of alopecia. Things started to improve in college for Meghan and this has continued at university. Although she finds relationships difficult to maintain because she sometimes lacks confidence, Meghan has a good friendship circle of people who are accepting and understanding. She thinks that people her age have now matured more and that the clique-ness of school has gone.
Meghan spends a lot of time getting ready so that she feels OK with going outside including by styling her hair to hide bald patches. She began experimenting with brightly coloured hair dyes and make-up in secondary school when her hair first started growing back. She also used make-up to fill in part of her eyebrow when the hairs began to fall out. Meghan has been asked recently whether she has an undercut’ as this is a fashion trend in hair styles and she sometimes goes along with it if she doesn’t want to explain about alopecia. She worries about what her future may hold with alopecia and tries not to think about the possibility of a wig too much as she finds it a scary thought.
Meghan knows that stress can trigger her alopecia. She tries to cope as best as she can but finds there are many stressful events, such as exams, that she cannot avoid. She has a very close support network of her parents and closest friends. They have always stood by her, giving practical and emotional support, and she says that she can’t praise them highly enough. Meghan did not feel ready to talk to anyone about her hair loss when she was first diagnosed 10 years ago but now feels more able to. She finds that most people do not know what alopecia is and sometimes has to briefly explain about hair loss.