Just over a year ago, my youngest daughter’s hair began to fall out. She was not quite three years old. At first it was a gradual thinning, but it quickly turned into a shed. My beautiful little girl’s hair was all over the house. The strands of gold and apricot that highlighted her blonde bob were on her pillow, my pillow, strewn over the couch, across my keyboard. I couldn’t bear to brush her hair because the brush would be filled with her precious locks. Within a few short weeks, 85% of her hair was gone. The hair that remained was lank and lifeless. Dead.
Our GP was very sympathetic, if not very reassuring with her chirpy, ‘Ooh, I haven’t seen this before,’ comment and constantly referring to my daughter’s ‘Alopecia’. This was very scary. A good friend’s daughter does have Alopecia so I knew that there is no cure, no successful treatment, no real idea what causes it. But it does mean periods of your life when wearing a wig is the best option, particularly for a self-conscious teenager. But I was very grateful that my little girl was too young to actually realise that her hair was rapidly falling out.
We left the GP’s with orders for a full blood count and an appointment to see a Paediatrician within the week. Waiting for the test results and appointment was excruciating, even a few days is a long time when you have voices in your head. Accusing voices that simply won’t listen to reason but have their own agenda; you’re her mother this is your fault. How had I caused this? I scoured her diet. Not enough fruit and vegetables, too many cheese crackers, hot chips, Jatz and chocolate. Or was it the vodkas down at the snow when I hadn’t realized I was pregnant? Or maybe I’d been too old to have a baby at 44. Maybe my egg was a little blurred round the edges, not so viable after all. My daughter was losing her hair because of something I had done, not done; was or wasn’t. I beat myself up, blamed myself with every tress of hair I collected from the rugs or helped tease off her lips.
I refused to Google Paediatric hair loss and I didn’t want to listen to the advice or read the emails of concerned friends and family who had. I would wait it out and listen to the Professional diagnosis. And it was hard. Apart from the irrational voices of blame, there were other more insidious voices. Voices that whispered to me in quiet moments of cancer and other illnesses. And I would hug my little girl closer and try to wrap her in a protective layer of my love. Shouldn’t that be enough? The sense of dread and the feeling of powerlessness were like being stuck in a black pit with the walls pressing in. But I constantly reassured myself that we would cope.
My husband and I talked through the what-ifs and maybes. We discussed our fears and nightmares. Our levels of concern, our apprehension, the need for an answer, were on the same level. But he never blamed himself or thought for a moment that he was in any way responsible. That was my territory. Together we went to every doctor’s appointment and test.
The paediatrician was far less chirpy than our GP, but very thorough. Our daughter’s blood test revealed nothing at all sinister, in fact she was perfectly healthy. Just losing all her hair. She delicately examined my daughter’s scalp and discovered an area of fine, white downy regrowth. Like blossom buds emerging after a long winter, it was a sign of renewal. She had Alopecia, but not Alopecia Areata. It wasn’t an official diagnosis, but the best we’d get.
My daughter’s form of Alopecia was probably the result of a particularly nasty tummy bug that involved projectile vomiting in the back of the car on the way to the Angelina Ballerina Concert. Sometimes when the body is under stress, it diverts resources away from the non-essential, like hair, to fight the disease.
A year later, my daughter’s hair has all grown back, but it has taken most of that year. It’s darker and lacking the beautiful highlights that glimmered a soft strawberry blonde in the sun, but I really don’t care. She’s happy and healthy, if a little too obsessed with Princesses and I am incredibly thankful that I had only a glimpse into the pain that parents of truly sick children must go through.