Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No, I Do Not Have Cancer!

I discovered last night that a few people have actually been Googling "Does Kathy Sterndahl have cancer?" I would hope that If I ever do, Google willl not be the place I find out about it. I decided to address the matter here so that the correct answer will come up if anyone ever Googles it again.

I Do Not Have Cancer!!!

I have an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata Universalis. For some reason, my immune system decided that my hair was something foreign and attacked the hair follicles all over my body. It started with a nickel-sized bald spot in about 1996. That one went away, but another one showed up about a year later.

It went on this way until about five years ago when I suddenly had multiple bald spots that began to enlarge rather than go away. I wasted about a year trying to fight it with Rogaine, prescription lotions, painful shots to my head. Nothing worked.

I finally decided that the (unsuccessful) effort toward a cure was much worse than just giving in to the disease. During a trip to the US, I bought three wigs - brunette, blondish, and redhead. I thought if I have to go through with this, I might as well have fun with it.

Blonde? Redhead? Brunette?

By that time my hair was so thin that I just shaved the rest off. When I returned to Mexico, I was wearing the brunette wig, and everyone thought I'd just gotten a great color and cut! I couldn't believe that no one realized it was a wig, but I decided to go with the flow and just thanked anyone who commented. And since they thought the first wig was my own hair, I put the other two away.

I wore that wig whenever I went out in public for the next six months. I kept it ready right by the door so I could quickly grab it if company showed up. The problem is, wigs are very uncomfortable on a bald head!

I realized immediately that I could not stand to wear a wig when I was at our beach house; it was just to hot and humid there. So I began to bear my baldness the two weeks of each month that I was there while still wearing the wig while at my home in Chapala.

Going Natural

While some people were quite rude, many more were very supportive. A few of our friends also travel back and forth between the two places. They saw me bald and got used to it and generally kept my secret back home. Until one of my best friends "outed" me on Facebook by posting photos of us all at the beach!

By that time, I was so sick of the wig that I found myself not wanting to leave my house rather than wear it. The Facebook "outing" was just what I needed to give up the wig completely. I made sure that I explained to as many people as possible so that the truth would get around (hopefully) faster than any rumor that I had cancer.

Three+ years later, no one remembers what I look like with hair. My friends all swear that they forget that I am bald. One of my best friends actually turned to me once with a hairclip in her hand to ask if it was mine before she realized how unlikely that would be.

Will It Ever Grow Back?

Considering that I have the most radical version of Alopecia, there is very little chance that it will ever grow back. And you know what? I don't care! Can you even imagine how much money, time and effort I save being bald? No haircuts. No shampoo. No conditioner. No washing. No drying. No styling. No shaving. No waxing. Do I need to go on?

For a few months, I didn't even have eyebrows or eyelashes. I really hated that part! (A girl's gotta draw a line somewhere.) And that may happen again. If it does, I'll deal with it.

Now that you know my story, I hope that you can be understanding when you run into someone who is bald. Don't automatically assume cancer. Curiosity is OK. Asking questions, too. Staring, not so much. Of course, these days it might just be a "lifestyle choice" as one young woman in Portland thought

1 comment:

  1. Kathy, thank you for clarifying that. I have often wondered but would not ask.