Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Just When You Least Expect It...

100_3412.jpg by klsterndahl

The most unexpected things can happen without any warning at all. You can be a fanatic about eating right, get lots of exercise, and follow all the recommended preventative care advice, but there are no guarantees. A friend of mine wrecked his motorcycle on his way to share Thanksgiving dinner with us last year. He's OK, but he's certainly gone through a lot of pain and unexpected changes in his life over the past few months. In my case, the surprise was autoimmune disease.

First, I discovered that I have Celiac Disease. Apparently, I've had it most of my life. At least I can look back and say I've had symptoms since I was very young. There's no cure, but it can be controlled by not eating the gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley.  It took quite a while for me to re-learn how to eat in a way that wouldn't make me sick, but now, four years after diagnosis, I've pretty much got it under control and don't even miss the gluten stuff any more - except when an old classmate of mine puts his photos on Facebook of the loaves of wonderful homemade bread he's just taken out of the oven. I swear I can smell it across the internet and a whole country away!

My next autoimmune surprise was Alopecia Areata. Or I guess it was coming first but I had no idea what was going on. I kept finding these little circles on my head where I had no hair. They would be there for a while and then the hair would grow back. Later, I would find another one in a different area of my head.  A few years back, the hair quit coming back and the bald spots continued to expand.  I went through all kinds of lotions, creams and painful shots to my head. The dermatologist kept telling me it was stress, but I really didn't have any stress in my life - except the shots she was giving me in my head. I'd finally had enough and told her so.

I bought some wigs. I decided that if I had to wear wigs, I might as well have fun with it, so I bought a blond, a brunette, and a redhead wig. As the weather warmed up - don't forget that I live in Mexico - I realized just how horribly uncomfortable a wig can be. It soon became apparent that I would rather hide my naked head in the house than go outside if I had to wear one of those things. Fortunately, I have a wonderfully supportive boyfriend who encouraged me to just accept it and forget wearing the wigs. It was really hard venturing out bald at first, and even worse when I also lost my eyelashes and eyebrows - every single hair on my body!  After a while I realized that I didn't mind the bald head so much, but I'd be really happy if I got back my eyelashes and eyebrows. You can't even imagine how difficult it is to try to figure out exactly where on your forehead to draw eyebrows if you have nothing to start with. 

I did get lucky with the brows and lashes, but I've come to appreciate the advantages of being bald - no shampooing, no conditioning, no blow-drying, no straightening or curling, no brushing, no messed up hair.  It goes well with my laid-back lifestyle! And I always remind myself that there are much worse health problems out there than being bald.

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