My Alopecia Story
By: Yusuf Ijtaba-Garcia, London, United Kingdom
When I was 34….
It all started in 2015 well, June 23rd 2015 to be precise, a date imprinted in my memory.
I woke up one morning with a semi-circle missing on my left eyebrow, at the time I didn’t think much of it, I just went about my day, telling myself nobody would notice and indeed, nobody did.
About a week later, semi-circle still there I found myself on google (they say the devil makes work for idle hands!)
“Over night bald patch”, “eyebrow suddenly fell out”, “why is my eyebrow falling out?” were some of the searches I typed in. While many reasons came back there was one that kept appearing: Alopecia Areata. “What on earth is that?!” So that was the next fateful search. Imagine a Hollywood film, the slow motion typing, the dubbed clicking sound and then the inevitable search results. With it my heart sank: “An Autoimmune condition. Some people lose some hair, others lose all their hair including body hair”
“Some”?? “Others”?? I’m a computer scientist! I need statistics, I need figures, and I desperately was not getting these from the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
My next port of call was Alopecia World Forums and that was when it really began to sink in, and with it depression and anxiety. I tried to bargain with myself: “I have no other patches, nothing on my scalp. It can’t be alopecia areata. I don’t want to lose all my hair.” I found myself shut away, constantly googling people’s alopecia stories, and they all seemed to have a version of “It started off as a patch and quickly turned into full Alopecia Universalis.
I was scared to go to the doctor as I didn’t want my self diagnosis confirmed, but I was dragged along by my wife. The doctor looked at my eyebrow and examined my patch free scalp and looked puzzled. His exact words were “It could be fungal, it could be alopecia areata, but my working diagnoses is alopecia areata…”
My first thought “Why is he so calm about this?! I’m about to loose ALL my hair.” I vocalized this immediately to him. He looked at me with a puzzled expression “This maybe as bad as it gets,” he said to me. I wasn’t listening. I persisted: “I go online and all I see is that this isn’t going to be as bad as it gets, this is the start of AU!!”
He very calmly said to me “I’m yet to treat anyone with alopecia areata who’s gone on to lose all their hair.”
Still I wasn’t listening, I left his office in a bit of a depressed daze.
The New Year came and my results from an appointment with the dermatologist came back: no sign of fungus! By now my eyebrow regrowth was starting to come in, so I put this whole ordeal to the back of my head (not forgotten, just not thought about every moment of the day). My eyebrow grew back, no other patches appeared so still not entirely convinced I have Alopecia Areata I just put it down to “one of those things” and moved on with my life.
When I was 36, September 8th 2017 to be precise, again a date I really should never forget.
I was in the bath, with my longish locks lathered in shampoo, when my wife walks into the bathroom
“I’ll be quick, just need to get some…… hold on! You have bald patches?!” she exclaimed
Resting heart rate suddenly went tachycardia. She dutifully took some photos with my phone, I could already see in the preview what was to come… Two bald patches, one was the size of my thumb print and its tiny neighbor (or garden extension as I later referred to it as) about the size of my index finger print.
I got out of the bath, and all the feelings that I had two years prior came flooding back…. This isn’t fungal, who was I kidding? This IS Alopecia! And this time it’s on my head, last time I got ‘lucky’ this time I’m going AU those were my thoughts. I began to shake.
My bald spots were on the top right side of my head, very easy to hide, I didn’t even need to change my hair style.
That wasn’t the point however, I ‘knew’ I was going to get more, that I was going to be one of those stories I read on alopecia world “I woke up one morning, all my hair was on my pillow….” , “One day I blinked and all my eyelashes came out….”
On the day I visited my dermatologist, I was a total wreck! She looked at my patches and her words:
She gave me a topical steroid cream and told me to apply it twice a day for two months and return. After two months I returned and she was pleased, “You have regrowth and no signs of any other patches!”
It’s been six months since that day and while the patches are not completely gone, they have a good amount of regrowth.