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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.

So, we did what any parents would do. We researched and tried anything and everything we thought might help our daughter’s hair loss, from the steroid cream prescribed by our dermatologist to the essential oil mix a friend lovingly made to the vitamins recommended by an online forum. We even had neighbors reach out to us with different shampoos to try and naturopaths recommending specific types of diets. And while none of these treatments have stopped her hair from falling out, what’s been made super clear since that life-changing appointment at the salon six months ago is that she already has everything she needs: a family that loves her, friends that support her and a community that accepts her for who she is.

Total strangers have stopped us in the grocery store to share their own experiences with alopecia. Family members have dropped off fancy new hats and scarves for her to wear. Kids from her daycare are already growing out their hair to donate to charities that help kids like her. Mattel sent her a bald Barbie in the mail who was specifically made for children with hair loss. Old friends we haven’t seen or talked to in years have shared our daughter’s story on social media to help raise awareness for alopecia. And the hairdresser — the one who found that first spot — she became certified to work with a children’s charity offering free wigs for kids so that our daughter could receive a custom-made hair piece of her own.

Little girl posing with bald Barbie

Just thinking about how all of these acts of kindness came from one tiny bald spot gives us so much hope for our daughter. Hope that alopecia will not define her. Hope that she will grow up and know her worth. But most of all, hope that she will take the love, kindness, support and acceptance provided to her throughout this journey and pass it on to others in need.

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