Friday, December 28, 2012

The Woman Who Made Me Beautiful

It was definitely a relief that I had finally found a treatment that seemed to be working. No more bouncing around doctors and I  could finally have hope that one day I may look normal again. However, it certainly wasn't a quick fix. My hair was growing back extremely slowly. Worse than that, the bald spot on top of my head had grown so large it could no longer be covered with head scarves. At first I had found ways to comb my hair over to the side and pin it in a way that covered everything. As long as I used a lot of hair spray and the wind didn't blow, I could maybe pass it off. However, now that was no longer an option either. It was hats or nothing.

Months ago I had come to the realization that maybe I would need to shave my head and get a wig. At this point, I was thinking that was probably inevitable  I could not go through wearing hats every day for the next year... or however long it would take for my hair to grow back. You know, if I had to shave my head and get a wig, maybe I would have a head shaving party to take away the sting. As I began planning what that party might look like, the reality sank in even further. At 28 years-old, I was really talking about shaving my head?

The more impossible it became to cover up my bald spots, the more emotional I became. My husband tried his hardest to console me, but it was to no avail. At least once a day I would break out into tears. Sometimes it was in the bathroom at work after I glanced in the mirror and saw the baldness sticking through my hair. Many times it was in the car on the way home from work. Once, I even began crying at my desk when I saw an older picture of me on Facebook and thought I may never look like that again.

See, there is something people... well mainly MEN don't realize about us women. Our identities as women are very closely tied to two things: our breasts and our hair. These two things allow us to celebrate our womanhood as well as our personality and our self-identity. We dye our hair, cut it, wear it in different styles. We buy products to make it curly, to make it straight. When we have a good hair day, it starts us off in a great mood that carries us through the rest of the day. Our hair is the reason it takes us over an hour to get ready. When we lose this, it leaves us lost. It leaves us wondering where to go from here. How do I celebrate myself, celebrate my womanhood without my hair?

So I began an online search for wig stores. Where else to start? I might as well use Google. I had noone else to go to for advice or help. I was on my own. I knew I had to go somewhere that would help me determine the best type or style of wig to get. I couldn't do this anymore on my own. I really needed some help. I found a place in downtown Dallas that seemed to focus on wigs for cancer patients. That may be a good route to take. But almost as soon as I began my search, I realized I was in for a hefty task. Wigs were so expensive!! How could we ever afford this?

After hours of searching, I suddenly came across a salon in McKinney that claimed to have a specialty in helping cancer patients with wigs. Well, this place was just down the street. Maybe I could pop in for a consultation. That would at least give me an idea of what I would be dealing with.

I walked into Shear Image by Rene completely nervous. I didn't have a grand to drop on a wig and I didn't want this woman to think I was wasting her time. Rene walked up to me with a warm smile and a friendly greeting. She gestured me to the back of the salon where she had a separate room specifically for wig consultations. "Most of my clients like the privacy because they aren't comfortable with others seeing," she explained.
"I really appreciate that," I replied. I slowly took off my hat to reveal the baldness I was dealing with. I held my breath and waited for... I don't know what I was waiting for. Would she jump into a sales pitch and bring down a $1500 wig that would make me look like a completely different person? Would she ask me to shave the rest of my hair off?

"Well you still have a lot of hair left," she said. "That's great!"

"It is?" I asked. Maybe she wouldn't suggest I shave it off then.

"I know exactly what you need," she exclaimed. She began rummaging through drawers and finally pulled out  what looked like half of a wig. "Well, this isn't the one I would recommend, but it is close. Actually, the one I would recommend has holes in it so you can pull your hair through the top to help it blend really well. I used to have one of those, but I had a lady come in last week with a similar issue that you have. The one I had in the shop was her exact hair color and she just begged me to purchase it right then because she was leaving on a business trip. I just couldn't say no."

"Ok," I said. She was talking so fast and it was all a blur. You mean, there is someone else around here with a similar problem to mine? It wasn't just me? She came over to where I was sitting in front of the mirror and she placed it on my head.

"Now, we can style this however you want. We can dye it to match your hair color, we can cut it to help it blend, we will make it look so natural. You won't believe how great this will look." I looked at myself in the mirror and I really didn't recognize myself. It had been so long since I had seen a part on top of my head. It had been a long time since hair had framed my face.

"How much is it?" I asked, afraid of the response.

"The cost of the hair piece is $300. I know that is a big pricey, but it should last year more than a year. I will include the cut and style at no cost." Compared to the prices I had seen for full wigs, this was a steal! And, I wouldn't have to shave my head. I'd actually get to style my own hair!!

Two weeks later, I walked back into the salon, ready to finally feel like a woman again. Rene approached me with a look of apprehension. "Unfortunately, we had a patient come in and he is still back in the consultation room," she said. "Would you mind terribly if we at least just washed your hair out here in the salon?"

I instantly got a knot in my stomach. For a while, I had been thinking I needed to be more open about my disease. The stress and the tension I experienced every day, wondering if someone could see my bald spot, was not healthy. And, maybe if more people knew about this, talked about this disease, it would be a lot easier for others to find answers than it was for me.

"You know," I said, "Let's just do the whole thing out here. Wash, dye, style, let's just do it all out here."

"Really?" Rene asked. "Oh my gosh, that would be great. The girls at the salon have never seen me do this before and I would love for them to see how this is done. It would be really great for them if you really don't mind."

"Let's do it," I said with confidence. "And I want bangs too. I've wanted to have bangs my entire life and I never could because my hair was so fine. Well, I definitely don't have that problem now, do I. so, I'd like to have bangs."

As she began to work, my excitement began to grow. I got a few strange looks and experienced some whispers in the salon, but the employees were fantastic. They asked me questions, told me how fantastic this was going to look. I felt like I was in the middle of family even though I had never met anyone. One older woman was getting her hair washed and she whispered to the lady washing her hair, "Why is that girl up there bald? Is that a new hair style kids are doing these days?" I almost burst out laughing and I saw the stylist was holding back a chuckle as well.

"No, ma'am. She has something called allopecia. It causes her hair to fall out. We are getting her fitted with a wig today."

Another woman came up to me as I waited for my hair dye to settle. She grabbed my hands in hers and I felt her place a small laminated card into the palm of my hands. She looked me straight into the eyes and smiled. "You are so brave. Thank you for letting us share this moment with you. You are absolutely beautiful and I am going to pray for you everyday and ask God to make that hair grow back." Tears began to well up in my eyes. I looked down at the card in my hand and it was a prayer, something I could recite to God during my lowest points. I was so touched.

As Rene fitted the wig on my head to do the final touch ups, my chair was surrounded with people commenting about how beautiful I was. So many women, all asking me questions, telling me how brave I was, telling me they would pray for me. I felt so at home.

Just as she was finishing, a couple walked in that were definitely regulars. They began chatting near my chair and the woman began commenting on my hair color and how much she liked it. Rene looked at my and smiled, then turned to the woman. "Looks like her natural hair, doesn't it?"

The woman's jaw dropped to the floor and she looked confused. "What do you mean? That isn't her hair." My heart leaped with joy. People thought this was my real hair!!! I was back. I was a woman again!!

Thank you Rene. Not only did you give me back my confidence, but you did that in an environment that was so warm and welcoming, I can't imagine ever going anywhere else. You truly changed my life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turning a Corner

As more and more people began to find out about my "condition," I started to realize not only how difficult it was for me, but also how difficult it was for the people around me. My husband has been fantastic. There are times when my feelings are hurt because of a look I took the wrong way or because I wanted him to respond a certain way and he didn't. Through all my crying and all my anger, he kept me sane and grounded.

The effect I had on other people was something I had never experienced before. Perhaps those of you who have had to tell people you have cancer, or ms, or some other much more awful disease can relate. When you tell people what you are going through, they just don't know how to react. They don't know what to say. And the truth is, there is no right thing to say. When someone tells you they are going through something painful, do not think you have to find the "right" thing to say. Often, just say what is on your mind. Feel free to ask questions, feel free to say "I'll pray for you." The truth is, we have no expectation of how you may or may not respond. Many times, I was telling people not because I was hoping to receive certain words in response, but because I was trying to explain why I was wearing a hat in the office or why I refused to take my hat off in the water. I didn't need a response, I just wanted people to know so that I didn't have to see the looks of curiosity. 

However, I will recommend that you do not say something along the lines of "It's ok. Everything is going to be fine." Don't say or promise something you don't know as truth. You see, those are words of hope and those words are reserved for those closest to us. When I am at my lowest, and I'm curled up in a ball crying on my husband's shoulder; these are the words I need him to say to lift me out of that dark hole. When strangers use words like that, it sort of dilutes the power of those words and subsequently they lack strength to pull us out of distress. 

When people reacted to my news, I was pleasantly surprised by how many people offered words of help. I had several people offer up possible solutions and treatments they had heard of. One friend even found a local support group to help me through the emotional strain I was under. I was surprisingly shocked by the words of encouragement and support I received. One day, my mother-in-law approached me with some interesting news. It turns out, a cousin of my husband's had been dealing with alopecia and was receiving treatment from a doctor in downtown Dallas. She was seeing improvement and passed the doctor's information on to me. 

I was nervous to visit Dr. Cruz. So often I had been told there were no answers and no solutions. I was scared that another disappointing visit would plummet me into disrepair. I sat in the patient room, waiting for him to walk in. My feet were dangling from the bed and I stared at them with apprehension  What if he told me the same thing as everyone else? This was my last hope. 

I looked up as the door opened and in walked... wait... was that the guy from Hangover? 

No... this man was a bit older. But the silver dragon chain around his neck and the wild, dark hair, certainly had an uncanny resemblance. I was supposed to take this guy seriously? He walked straight up to me, looked down on my head, and then stood back, wrapping his arms around his chest. 

"You have something called alopecia," he said. 

Oh, great. Really? Thanks, genius. Tell me something I didn't know. 

Then, he really did began to explain something to me I had never heard before. "You see, we don't know much about the disease. Many researchers have tried to find out more, but nothing has been definitive  I will tell you what I believe based on my findings and the most credible research I have read. This is an autoimmune disease. Your white blood cells are supposed to attack foreign substances. They are supposed to protect you from illness and things that are attacking you. However, for some reason your white blood cells are attacking your hair follicles. We need to change that behavior, so what we will do is put a chemical on your scalp that will cause your white blood cells to attack it and thus leave your hair follicles alone. I will leave you with some paperwork to read over and come back in a few minutes to find out if this is what you want to do." 

With that, he left the room. I was stunned. Wait a second, someone just actually explained what was going on with me and it made sense. But then, what was that? A chemical on my head? I looked at the two pieces of paper in my hand. I picked up words like "no guarantee" and "redness," "blisters," "itching." My head started to become foggy. Was this for real? Is this a real treatment? Or, are they going to try and milk me for money? What do I do? 

He soon came back in the room and just stood there and looked at me. "Well?" he asked. 

"Umm..." I replied. "Yea. I'll do it. I don't really have a choice. You're my last hope," I said. I guess I expected him to say something reassuring, but he just said ok, turned around and mumbled something like "Jeanette will be in" on his way out the door. 

I once again sat alone in the patient room waiting for something, I don't know what. I don't think I had ever met a doctor with a worse bedside manner. My nervousness began to overtake me. What had I just agreed to? I had just allowed a complete stranger to douse me with a chemical! Had I become that desperate? I realized then that there were no other options. I really wasn't lying to Dr. Cruz when I told him he was my last hope. If this didn't work, I was finished. I would officially begin planning to shave my head. 

But then, in walked Jeanette. She was like a ray of light. She introduced herself with a broad smile on her face. She saw the tears in my eyes as they began to flow down my cheeks. Her hands were filled with chemicals and giant q-tips. For all she knew I was just scared it would hurt. But no, Jeanette understood me. I didn't have to explain why I couldn't stop crying. 

"Now don't you worry one second, sweetie. We have had a lot of patients in here and know what we are doing. We are going to fix you right up." 

"This is my last hope," I said through sobs. "I have nothing left." 

"That isn't true," she said. "You have everything left, even a lot of hair," She laughed as she stroked what hair I had remaining on my head. "We are just going to get the rest of it caught up. It will grow back and it will be so beautiful and soft. Just wait until you see it." 

Of all the people I had met during this journey, no one inspired more hope and encouragement in me than Jeanette just had. She didn't coddle me. She didn't tell me I was beautiful. She just handed me a tissue and told me that she was going to fix me. She told me to have faith. She said it so matter-of-factly, so confident and convicted in those words. It was hard not to believe her.

That day, Jeanette put a chemical on my head that caused my scalp to blister, itch, peel, and all around burn. It was a sensitivity test, the highest concentration possible, just to make sure I was susceptible to the treatment. If the puss coming out of my head was any indication, this might actually work. 

"Really?" She said with encouragement when I explained all the itching and blistering I experienced after the first treatment. "That's great!" I looked at her in disbelief. "That means you are really allergic to this chemical so you have a greater chance of success. We are going to fix you, baby!" 

Jeanette's joy, her hope, her faith, the way she made my pain seem insignificant compared to the larger picture... for the first time in months I had started to see light at the end of the tunnel. I started to realize that it could be worse. 

"Some people that come in here," she said, "they have lost all their hair, even their eyebrows. Your case, honey, that is going to be easy to fix. Just be patient." 

Last week I went into the office for my sixth treatment, 20 weeks after I first met Jeanette. She came into the room and looked at my head. She stopped dead in her tracks and exclaimed, "Is that hair I see?!?!?" I had a small amount of white fuzz on my scalp. She grabbed me instantly and gave me the biggest bear hug. 

The warmth I experience every time I walk into the UT Southwestern Dermatology center is something I haven't experienced at any of the doctor's offices I have tried. I am extremely grateful for Jeanette and her ability to lift me up when I was at my lowest. Every time I leave the office, I feel like it's just a matter of time. I feel like I may actually get my hair back one day. 

Her ability to give me hope when I thought there was none left, that made Jeanette the first person during this journey to change my life. I look forward to introducing you all to the next fantastic woman. Because without the two of them, I would still be in a dark hole today. My next treatment with Jeanette is the day after Christmas. I have just a few weeks to decide what to get the woman, the complete stranger, who lifted my spirits more than she will ever know. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Hardest Part

I began my search for answers doing what any person raised in the dot com era would do - I googled it. I was surprised by how little information I actually found. I'm not referring to the number of hits, but more to the vagueness of the information out there. 

According to my search results, I could have alopecia totalis. I will lose all my hair, even my eyebrows!?! Or, I could have Alopecia Areata and just lose my hair in this one spot and it will grow back. Hmmm... Is something causing this? Am I allergic to something? Do I have a thyroid problem? Lupus? 

I walked away from the computer with more questions than I had answers. I didn't even know where to start looking for an explanation.I told myself it wasn't so bad. I doubt it would grow much bigger. I just needed to take better care of my hair. That was it. I wasn't working hard enough to take care of myself. I had never done one of those "hair masks" I heard about on tv. I didn't get my hair trimmed every 6 weeks like you are supposed to. I always bought cheap shampoo and conditioner. It's my fault. I just need to work harder. So, I drove down to Ulta and began perusing the "expensive shampoo" aisle, the one I had avoided for years because it just seemed absurd to pay $34.00 for a bottle of shampoo. 

I walked straight up to an employee and stated, "I need your recommendation on a shampoo. I am missing a small patch of hair and I need to regrow it." 

"I have just the thing," She said. "Try this." She handed me a small bottle of shampoo for $24.00. "We have a lot of cancer patients that come in after chemotherapy and use this to accelerate growth. I would also recommend you use these organic products in your hair. That will really help." The total I would spend on this visit began to climb, but I didn't care. If I had to spend over a hundred dollars on hair products to fix this, then fixed it would be!

A month later, I checked my hair's progress and compared photos.

My God, it had gotten bigger!! I had taken better care of my head than I ever had in my life and my bald spot was growing. I needed answers and I needed them now. 

To be honest, the waiting for answers is the hardest part. When you go through something difficult, something scary, it's the unknown that frightens you the worst. You start thinking to yourself, "What if." Two innocent words, that when put together, make even the sanest person ready to jump off a cliff. "What if I lost all the hair on my head? On my body? What if there was no cure, no treatment? What if people found out and started treating my differently?" The problem with "what if?" is that your answers are never positive ones. You always begin thinking of the worst possible thing that could happen to you, and actually begin to think that it actually will.

I knew I needed to call in reinforcements, needed to find a professional. The next day after taking this picture I made an appointment with a dermatologist in the area. They specialize in skin, right? They have to have the answers!
"It's alopecia areata," she said. "To be honest, we don't know much about it. But it's usually caused by stress. Have you been stressed lately?" 

"Well, I just started a new job, I'm getting married in two months... Oh, and my HAIR IS FALLING OUT! Yes, I am a bit stressed," I replied with the tightest smile I could muster.  

"There's only one known treatment for this," she answered. "Steroid injections." 

"Like juicing?" I exclaimed. 

"Well, not really. I mean, yes, but a little different. We will take a small needle (4 of them) and inject steroids into your scalp. It doesn't hurt too badly."

I didn't feel I had much choice at this point. "Do it." I stated. I will try anything. I was desperate. And, it wasn't the last time I would feel desperate this year. 

Well, the good doctor lied. It hurt, and it hurt really badly. Needles pushing their way into your head, is just torture. Weeks later I still hadn't seen progress. The spot continued to grow. 

My next stop was a general practice doctor. I had my blood tested for everything that had ever been associated with alopecia. I told her that if she had any thought it may be related, just test for it. My blood tests all came back normal. "You know, I hear alopecia is brought on by stress," she said. Go figure. 

Frustrated, I went to another dermatologist. I needed another opinion. Same response, still no answers. The anger and the hopelessness really began to weigh heavily on me. No one understood. No one knew the fear I was feeling inside. I was still able to cover my spots with creative hair styles (my hair was permanently in a side pony tail), so it was easy for people to think it really wasn't that bad. I mean, I looked normal to them. But, I was dealing with something completely out of my control. I felt like I was falling off a steep cliff, grasping for a rope to hold onto, but hitting air with every swing of my arms. 

By this point, it was nearing my wedding. The BIG day, the one we had been planning for a year. I was running out of time to find answers. I just needed a solution. The baldness was still isolated to the top of my head and was about the size of a Christmas tree ornament. If I could get extensions added to cover just that area, then maybe, maybe I could look normal on my wedding day. I went to several salon specialists, with little hope for a solution. I finally landed on clip-in extensions. I could pull my hair to one side and the clip-ins would cover it. It was something at least. A lot of hair spray and a little creativity, I may just pull off an entire day with no one noticing. 

On our honeymoon, I thought just maybe my stress would finally start to dissipate  Maybe that would spur my hair to regrow. We were halfway into our week of bliss when I received the one-two punch. I was sitting across from Zerek at dinner, my head down to peruse my menu. 

"You have another spot," he said. The wind was completely knocked out of me. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know the next step to take. I had no plan, I had no answers, I had no solution. Not even happiness and love could cure what was going on with me. 

We returned from our honeymoon and a few weeks later I had to go to a salon to get ready for a friend's wedding. I joked with my girlfriends that maybe I should trick the stylist and act shocked when she brushed my hair, ask her what she did to my hair. Behind my jokes and laughter, however, I was nervous. I didn't let anyone see my bald spots. Most of the time, I even tried to hide them from my husband at home. The thought of a complete stranger running her hands through my hair, it was frightening. 

The stylist was really understanding and actually had a machine that took a microscopic look at my scalp. "Good news!  Your hair follicles are still intact, so we know you can definitely regrow hair," she said. She sold me some oils she was sure would work, and began to work my hair into something beautiful. I could see her reflection in the mirror as she stood over me, studying my head. I saw her face go white and my heart sunk. 

"You have another spot back here," she said pointing to the back of my head. "And another one here," she said pointing to my right side. Would this ever end? Why was the growth accelerating? Why couldn't anyone give me answers? 

As the spots began to grow, I found creative ways to cover my head. I bought fun hats and scarves and received many compliments about how "cute" I looked wearing them. The compliments felt like fire pokers stabbing me in the gut. I knew what they were really thinking, "Why is she wearing a hat all the time?" 

Four. Four patches, four bald spots and I still had no answers. Every day they grew. The oils the salon sold me didn't work, the steroid injections, reducing my stress, fancy shampoos... nothing was helping. It was hopeless. I was fighting a losing battle. I had been fighting, searching for answers, praying for a miracle, and I was tired. 

When the realization hits you that there are no answers, that you've lost, that's when bad goes to worse. Little by little my confidence had begun to crumble, and my self worth right along with it. When I looked in the mirror, I didn't see me staring back. I saw a bald, ugly, pathetic loser. It didn't matter that my sweet husband told me I was beautiful. And it didn't matter that I was surrounded by a great support system. Inside, I felt disgusting. The sad part is, when your emotions become that low, you start turning into the person you see in the reflection. I had stopped taking care of myself. I no longer worked out. I didn't eat well. I gained weight and now weigh more than I ever have. But, why did it matter? I was already ugly. I no longer looked like a woman, let alone a sexy one, so what's a few more pounds? 

And, it didn't just affect the why I saw myself physically. This disease had caused me to waste so much money. Between the treatments, the "solutions," the doctor's visits, the hair extensions... I had spent so much of our money on things that didn't work. I now felt like an awful wife. This wasn't the person that Zerek had married. He deserved better. 

It all culminated one day when we were out on the boat. I had been wearing a hat all day, as was typical for me now. I had spent the entire day wondering if anyone had seen my bald spot or the fat rolls under my one-piece swimsuit (two pieces were out of the question). The sun was setting and I was so hot, so tired, and so fed up. I felt suffocated and the heat was more than I could bear. I finally just gave up. I decided I would just take off my hat. It would be the first time I let my friends see the real me. They had only seen the smiling, positive woman that kept joking and talking about how things would get better. Now, they would see the ugly me, the real me. As the boat began to speed over the water, I leaned back in my chair and removed my hat. 

I was hit instantly with a sense of release. The cool breeze spreading over my bare scalp was absolutely refreshing. The heat of the day slowly began to escape as I leaned back and relished in freedom I felt for the first time in months. Something as simple as my hair blowing in the breeze - I hadn't let that happen in 5 months and it felt so good!!

Then, reality sank in. It was pitch black outside, but I feared that soon everyone would notice my hat was off and they would begin to stare. I couldn't look at my friends. I could only stare straight ahead. Tears began pouring down my face. I didn't put my hat back on. I was frozen. All the emotion of the recent months overwhelmed me at once. I couldn't stop crying. The conflicting emotions of freedom and fear were more than I could take. Was this how I was going to live the rest of my life? How much worse was it going to get from here? When would Zerek give up on me? I had already given up on myself. Was this what rock bottom felt like?  I was living in isolation, a mental isolation. No one knew how hard it was for me every day, not even my husband. I had no idea where to turn. 

But, like most things, answers come when you least expect them. Soon after I hit rock bottom, I met the two people that would change my life. More about that in the next post. Thanks for listening. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

When it all began...

Hi friends! I know it's been a while since I've posted. I will get back to the food soon, I promise. Cooking is my heart, my passion, but this year I've been distracted from cooking and distracted from a lot of things in my life. I'm going to steer away a bit and write about what I've been going through. I don't come to this decision lightly, but if I can help even one person by sharing my story, then it will be worth it. Last week Zerek and I were driving back to Texas from my hometown of Kansas City. We were all set for a long road trip. We had on our "comfy pants," t-shirts, no shoes, and my hair was pulled back in a pony tail. We loved being comfortable settling into each other as the trip went on. A couple hours from home we decided to stop to grab a bite to eat. We pulled into the McDonalds in Atoka, Oklahoma and I was eager to indulge after six hours in the car. As Zerek handed payment through the drive-thru window, I reached into the glove box to see what condiments I had stashed in there. As I began my search, I heard Zerek's breath catch slightly. He turned, looked at me, and stopped short. I could see in his eyes that he wasn't sure he should say something.
"I think they are staring at you," he said.

I looked at the drive-thru window, and a teenage girl stared back at me. Her eyes bore through me and I instantly felt exposed. She then turned away and whispered something to a friend. The friend instantly looked at me and they both started to snicker. The two girls went around the corner and grabbed a third friend to come look at the "woman in the car." The laughter and snickers are something I will never forget. I felt naked, exposed.

I looked into the rear view mirror, and I just saw me staring back. But it wasn't the me I showed to the public. It wasn't the me I showed to friends, or even family. Very few people saw the me that stared back at me now. I had let my guard down for the first time in 11 months and it took three high school girls laughing at me to make me realize that it wasn't right. It wasn't ok for them to make a complete stranger feel so small. And it wasn't ok that I had kept all my emotions in for so long. My friends had told me that I was so strong and so positive. But what they didn't know is that I was depreciating on the inside. My confidence, my self respect, my self worth had slowly begun to evaporate and those girls sucked what was left right out of me.
But, I couldn't let that happen. I had too much. I was worth too much. So, I decided to share my story. Maybe by doing this, I will reach someone else who has been through something similar. Someone who needs to know they are not alone. And maybe, maybe it would make me feel less isolated and alone. So here it is. Here is how it all began.

December 31, 2011
I am in front of the vanity, getting ready for a wonderful night filled with celebration and friendship. I look forward to celebrating a wonderful year that has passed, but even more, the wonderful 2012 I am about to embark upon. I am getting married! In just four months, I will be walking down the aisle, marrying my best friend. As I begin blow drying my hair, thinking about the excitement underway, I notice something very strange on top of my head.

A small spot had formed on my hair line. Had I burned myself with a curling iron? Did something fall on my head at some point? I started thinking about what could possibly make this happen. Did I switch shampoo recently? Was I having an allergic reaction to something? I instantly ran into the living room to get Zerek's opinion.

"What is it?" I asked him with a look of horror on my face. He kind of chuckled. Ok, he didn't just chuckle. He laughed.

Thinking I was exaggerating as usual, he replied, "It's nothing. It's barely noticeable."

Despite his reassuring words, though, something just felt wrong. I asked a lot of people at the New Year's Eve party what they thought. I received every opinion from an allergic reaction to my shampoo to something called alopecia. I had never heard of that before. I was on a mission. I had to figure out what caused this squared centimeter of hair to just disappear from the top of my head!

For those of you that know me, you know I am a determined person. When I decide to accomplish something, I will GET IT DONE! On January 1st, I awoke with a mission. A mission to fix this tiny bald spot. I parted my hair slightly farther to the left and then got to work...