What Came From One Tiny Bald Spot on My Daughter’s Head
I vividly remember hearing the word “alopecia” for the first time. My husband and I were at the hair salon with our barely 3-year-old daughter when our hairdresser asked us if her bald spot had been there a long time. “What bald spot?” we asked as we jumped up to take a closer look. What we saw was alarming. Right smack dab in the center of the back of her head was a perfectly round bald spot the size of a nickel that looked and felt like the skin of a peach. Our hairdresser suggested it could be alopecia, something she had seen only once before in her many years of being a stylist.
I immediately grabbed my phone and googled alopecia — except I spelled it “alopeesha” because it was a word so foreign to me at that time. I read alopecia is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks a person’s hair follicles and causes the hair to fall out. It affects one in 1,000 kids, and currently there is no known cure or effective treatment for it. Although it is not damaging to physical health, alopecia can have severe effects on quality of life and emotional health.
As parents, we immediately worried about what this would mean for our daughter in the years to come. How would this shape her and affect her self-esteem? We worried about bullies and judgement from strangers, about whispers behind her back from her peers and questions about cancer and chemotherapy from strangers. We worried she would be singled out because of her appearance at times throughout her life. And we worried if we, as parents, were equipped to support her in an unknown and sometimes cruel world.
Over the following few months, that one tiny bald spot on our daughter’s head accelerated into the loss of the majority of her hair. We’d find it everywhere: on our clothes, in the carpet, on her bed, in the bathtub. Fine beautiful locks of shiny golden blonde hair that no longer had a home. At night, she would wake up in tears from the unknown tingly sensation of her hair falling out. In the morning, there would be blood stains on her clothes and pillowcase from scratching the bald spots so hard they bled. It broke our hearts.