love it and let it go
by verta ayanna
i have come to learn that alopecia is the medical term for balding. like so many things, using the term alopecia alone is not descriptive enough. it does not encompass or adequately define the various types of alopecia that exist. when i returned for the results, dr. jones told me that i had two forms: androgenetic alopecia and scarring alopecia. i am not a doctor, however, experience is making me more expert at understanding my alopecia.
androgenetic alopecia is in essence pattern baldness. yes, my eyes got wide too. it generally affects men and women differently. for me it started with the shedding/thinning hair i was experiencing. i would literally have large amounts of hair in my hands after running my fingers through it. over time this form of baldness will likely lead to thinning hair mostly at the crown of my head and eventually could lead to baldness in that area. scarring alopecia, as i understand it, is a relatively rare diagnosis and it can only be diagnosed with a biopsy. there are several forms of scarring alopecia and symptoms usually include burning, itching and pain in addition to hair loss. the hair follicle is destroyed under the scalp in scarring alopecia and in its end stage results in smooth, clean, bald surfaces on the scalp (scars) that can be raised. to prevent permanent hair loss it has to be treated pretty aggressively.
since my diagnosis in 2013, i have received several injections in my scalp. i am being treated with kenalog, a steroid solution. this is injected directly into my scalp and it hurts. i started with injections every six weeks. then every three months and now every four to six months depending on how i am responding. eventually i will only need the injections once a year. according to dr.jones and no second occurrence of balding to date, i am responding well. in fact, hair has actually grown in places on my scalp it was not present before.
alopecia, while ego threatening, is not life threatening. i chose an aggressive treatment because i still cannot and currently don’t have to imagine life as a bald or balding woman. shortly after i was diagnosed i decided to dye my hair blonde. my new motto on hair is “if i may lose it anyway, then no regrets” i have long adored dark skinned women with blonde tresses. my entire life i felt i could never pull that off. i was wrong. alopecia taught me that. currently my hair is exactly representative of who i am becoming on the inside. a more bold, more honest, more open and more confident version of myself.
alopecia is teaching me to let go of some of the external things i use to define myself. i am being forced to slowly let go of hair as such a strong definer because it is deciding to slowly let go of me. alopecia is a reminder that i am meant to grow. that with each passing day, every cell in my body is growing older, just as it should. i, just like you, am miraculous in this way. i am not ready to lose my hair, yet i know that i will one day. in accepting this inevitability i get to use my hair to weave whatever identity i choose to or not. i get to love it and let it go.