" Baldness is part of me but doesn’t define me"
My name is Karen, I’m 47. When I was a child at 11 I lost my mother and unbeknown to me also a patch of hair at the nape of my neck. No one told me about the hair, same as no one mentioned why Nana had a polystyrene head in her room, and why it was naughty to draw eyes on it. The patch apparently grew back in time.
When I was 24 and planning my wedding, my hairdresser found a bald patch at the nape of my neck. I asked my doctor about it who told me not to worry as it would return. My hair was longer then so it didn’t show and it did grow back 2 months later.
After only 3 months I discovered the relationship was over, he’d had an affair. I felt devastated, it was over and so was my life I believed, stupidly. I describe the shock as that if come one held a gun to my head in a robbery, I’d not have had more stress and shock. I was constantly sick to my stomach. I shook for days, weeks, lost 2 stone, but steeled myself and did not even have a day off work. Something had to give and within six weeks all my hair had fallen out. I’m not one to take things without some fight so I had some one cut the half head of hair that’s was left off, I was thin and scrawly, half a head of hair was not a good look. I once said “I look like Fagin”. By this time, it being winter I wore a woolly hat indoors and out.
I’d bought a wig as a contingency, it was awful, a local shop had a limited selection.
Once I’d done the “no going back” cut, my doctor had put me onto Frobisher’s. The first wig I chose was pretty awful, but you don’t know what to choose, you go for a familiar look. I was trying desperately to be the same as I was and that hadn’t really worked. It was over 20 years ago. I wore it the first time Christmas day 1995. Just to make everyone else comfortable with the balding girl in the room.
Shortly after that the guy left, and I began to rebuild. I went back to Frobisher’s with my new me confidence, and with help from the ladies I selected a neat bob, a bit like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction I’d decided. It was the big film then. It did me for a while, a couple of years (the style not the wig!!) and then, by this time I was trying all styles and colours, and chose something a bit longer, wavy. I could tie it back, wear it down, choose various colours, I even swapped colours each day. I have a customer facing job but one where you have a stable customer base. My customers were all very good and even on a windy day they just made me feel comfortable. Most are aware but none make and fuss about the wig. Some have even come to me for advice when a relative has needed help with hair loss. This makes me feel very proud.
How had it affected me? Well I was horrified, but slowly pieced together the fact my Nana had alopecia as a young lady, so had my mum, but no one had “mentioned the hair”. I accepted it was always going to happen. Theirs had grown back fully, black and thick, but my shock had gone too deep, too long. Hey ho I figured, if it came back, I’d only worry it would go again, and doing your own hair takes so blimmin long!!
My doctor steered me to Frobisher’s, more easily than most did, others I have helped through hair loss have had really bad wigs waved at them to choose, or not been told about NHS wig prescriptions. There are differences as to what hospital gives what for a prescription, some like to see you some don’t. I just go along with the rules and choose my new hair.
My friends have been excellent, but they are my friends. Boyfriends have been a challenge but more so for me to let them see my bald head. I’m mostly ok now with it, though it’s always a deep breath first time they see you. That’s natural. At first, I felt it was a scar showing my weakness at dealing with life. None of them have really had an issue. One was embarrassed once that it came off, but I was very tiddly and tripped over a tent guide rope. I saw it more as funny. He did after a bit. I think he was trying to be protective. I believe a sense of humour gets me through most things in life.
I get two wigs each year, funded by the NHS, they pay most of the cost but I choose Stevie, a lovely long style, that’s is a bit more than the prescription value so I top it up. It’s still cheaper than hair, in time and money, and products.
I have had hair dressers not spot my wig. I had my eye brows tattooed on, this is very popular with “hairys” now too. You need eyebrows or no one knows when you’re really cross!! My eye lashes went for a few years and I missed them hugely. I wear glasses so could hide it a bit with makeup, but when they came back, I knew I was winning the fight. I still put falsies on for evenings out, glam up a bit. Good enough for Girls Aloud, good enough for me!!
I joined a gym to put weight on, and once was in the changing room with my hat on (I wore a cap for boxercise) and some of the children from the dance class after me came in, lined up, and stared. I turned and said can I help you girls? They went shy and I said “Oh….you want to see my bald head don’t you?” they nodded, so I showed them, and one touched it. One of them one day might lose her hair, for whatever reason. The days of my Nana never mentioning her hair loss are long gone.
I found Frobisher’s by the phone book but my doctor put me onto them with the prescription system, once I was bald beyond hairy. There were some wigs in the local co-op, but not more than five styles. Frobisher’s is like a shoe shop for the head. Everything you need to look a million dollars. I have been known to drop my hair on the seat upon entry and just try them on, to see what suits, just like a shoe shop. At the same time, they have really nice cubicles if you want some privacy trying a new look.
I now know what to look for, a mono top (looks like a real parting), good fixings on the sides, and never blond, it doesn’t suit me. I usually go for brown or reds, today I wear a Stevie (long layered style) in a hot red colour, that’s looks amazing in the sun. They fit me well but other styles Frobisher’s have tailored to my head shape – I have a small head.
The staff at Frobisher’s are excellent, they have been doing this for years. You don’t get pitying looks, you get solutions to your style aspirations. I have seen wedding hair done for a girl who was marrying right in the middle of her hair loss. I never saw the pictures but the hair was amazing. No sitting in front of a hair dresser for four hours for her!!
I tried a real hair wig – once. Great to do so. Truthfully it drove me mad to “do my hair~” every day after the previous “shake, squirt, brush and put on” five-minute exercise I had with a synthetic. The fibres are so lovely now, I prefer fibre. They can be hot in summer so that’s why I wear Stevie, it’s the coolest one I found. At home or about I wear a head tube or hat the rest of the time, and don’t worry If its plain I’m bald. That’s comfort comes with time. The most important thing is to cover up in the sun. Never let your head see strong sunlight, or if you do, wear factor 50. If I put the bins out or meet the posties, I’m always hairless, I answer the door, and don’t fuss about my bald head, though I used to. Its so common now. After over half my life as an alopecian, Baldness is part of me but doesn’t define me. I’m only miffed I still have to shave my legs…