by Megan Adair
It was a Tuesday. I was 15 years old, and like every Tuesday, I would go to the doctor, receive my treatment, and then go home. On that particular Tuesday, however, something different occurred. I didn’t follow my normal routine. It was a strange day for me. I had that routine memorized like the back of my hand, but that Tuesday was the day it all changed.
I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. I had always hated the plain gray walls that began to blur when you stared at them for a long time. I hated the faint whisper of the ticking clock that held a meaningless melody. I hated it all. I laid my head back against the gray, and gently I closed my eyes... I thought back to that first day when I entered the office. I remembered it like a bad dream one longs to escape the memory of. I was ten years old. I lived a simple life until I entered that prison. Up until then my life was carefree, uncomplicated and filled with laughter. Little did I know that something was happening to me that would change the course of my life forever.
“Mom, what’s wrong with me?” I asked. “Nothing sweetheart, you’re perfect. We’re just here to find out what’s going on.” She gave me that loving smile that always comforted me. I sat there waiting anxiously for the doctor to call me back to the examining room. This is a strange place, I thought to myself. I didn’t like the way it reeked of old people and bad candles. It was cold like a frigid ice box. I hated it, and it was only my first time. “Megan Adair,” called a nurse from behind the door. She was a short lady with short gray hair. She fit right in with all the other senior citizens. I approached her and walked through the door. I was beginning to get nervous. I was shaking and my heart began to race. I could hear it like the rhythm of a drum. “Dr. Poinsette will be with you in a few moments,” the nurse said in a quiet voice. Again, I waited. I was so curious to finally figure out what was happening to me. I couldn’t understand why my hair was falling out. Why was this happening to me? I couldn’t remember if I had made mistakes for which I hadn’t been forgiven. Did I deserve this? “Hi there Megan, I’m Doctor Poinsette.” She was a middle aged woman; she had midnight black hair, with a few gray ones mixed in. She had a friendly face, and I instantly began to warm up to her. “What are you here for?” she asked. I explained that my hair was falling out in the shower and when I brushed it. I told her I had noticed that strands of my hair were everywhere. She asked me a series of questions, which were all followed by the answer “no.” She asked me if she could take a look at my head, and I willingly agreed. As she ran her fingers through my straight, honey kissed, brown hair, I felt her fingers run across my bare scalp. I knew it had come to this, I just knew it. A tear cautiously slid down my cheek. She lifted my head and looked at me. She let out a sigh, and spoke, “Megan, I am so sorry to tell you this, but you have a spot on your head with no hair.” No hair, no hair, no hair. That phrase repeated itself like a broken record in my mind. I began to weep. She told me I had a disease called Alopecia Areata.
Alopecia Areata is a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, which is where hair growth begins. The damage to the follicle is usually not permanent. Experts do not know why the immune system attacks the follicles. It cannot kill you, and there is no cure. She told me everything that came along with this disease and how apparently I wasn’t alone; a lot of people had it. She talked about the different forms of treatment. I began to tune out what she was saying. My mind was running wild. I came back to earth when she asked me what I wanted to do about it. I didn’t know what I wanted, or even what to say. The only thing I did know was that I wanted to get rid of it. We chose a treatment in which I would have shots of cortisone injected into my head where the hair was, well, non existent. She handed me a piece of paper and said I’ll see you next week to start treatment. As I slowly trudged out of the building, I turned and looked back. There was no telling what my future would hold…
I opened my eyes. My flashback was over. I was sitting in Dr. Poinsette’s examining room. I wondered how I got there. When did I get up and start walking? I guess my mind was so focused on my past that I had no clue what I was doing. Her room was so boring. It was one color, white. White desk, white walls, white bed, everything was white. I was always so cold sitting on that stiff medical bed. And like every Tuesday I would wait. But today was different for me. Today I was stopping my treatment for good. And the only thing I could think about was how my whole life had been altered by this disease. I closed my eyes once again. I tried to remember the days following my first appointment, but my mind wouldn’t allow me to. I couldn’t see the faint picture of the memory of my life four years ago. Four whole years of my life had been erased. Like a drawing on a desk that eventually gets cleaned, my drawing had disappeared. I began to have another flashback. I went back to last thing I could remember, my first day of high school…
As I crawled out of bed I looked at myself in the mirror. “Today’s the first day of high school,” I said in a nonchalant tone. As I looked into my reflection I saw big brown eyes the size of boulders. I saw cherry red lips and pale cheeks. But I also saw a girl with no hair. Yes I had other features, but the only thing I could truly see was a monster. I was a freak. I placed my wig firmly on my head, brushed it to the tips, and stared. You could tell. I knew you could tell it was a wig. Everyone was going to figure it out. So I grabbed my brown, worn down beanie and gently slid it over my wig. I was safe under my hat. It was like a baby blanket protecting a child. I was now ready to face the day and go to school. “Mom,” I yelled as I walked downstairs. “Yes honey,” she answered. “Ma what do you think they are gonna say?” I asked. “They will probably be jealous that you are allowed to wear a hat and they’re not,” she replied. “Yeah I guess, but what if they all stare and make fun of me?” “Then you can remember that I love you, and that you are beautiful,” my mother said sincerely. I gave her a smile, and with a tear resting in the corner of my eye I headed to school.
As I approached the rusted doors of Daniel High School I began to second guess my confidence, and I began to quiver. I couldn’t do this! What was I thinking? I was scared to death for what awaited me inside. I stood outside for a moment, and where I found the courage to go inside, I will never know. When I walked in I could feel every single eye in that building peering at me. It seemed they were waiting for me like an animal waiting to kill its prey. But honestly I can’t say I blamed them for that. To them I was the new freshman, who mysteriously wore a hat to school. Truthfully I was a fourteen year old girl who was hiding a big secret under a simple brown hat. “Um, do you have permission to wear a hat in the building?” Was the question I received most that day. All those teachers must have thought, wow here’s another hoodlum that we have to deal with. My replies were, yes ma’am, I do or yes sir, I do. I went through most of the day being called names like hat girl, or people asking me how the Chemo was going, and when I was planning on kicking the bucket. I tried to ignore their snickering, but it was so hard to escape from their evil comments. I left school that day torn to pieces. When I got home I lay down on my ivory carpet and cried. I did this for the next three months. Everyday I cried. Crying soon became second nature to me. I often found myself begging my depression to please cut to the chase and end. I could be summed up by three words, depressed, hated, and miserable. Until one day my mother said to me, “enough of this, I can’t bear to see you hurting yourself like this any longer.” My second nature kicked in and I began to sob. “Mom,” I said. “I’m ugly, I miss it, I miss being able to play sports and swim. I miss the wind through my hair. I can’t even remember how it felt to have the wind through my hair. Why can’t I look like everyone else? How come they all got lucky? Mom, I hate that school and I hate myself. I can’t do this any longer. I just don’t know how.” Silence was all I received. I knew my mother didn’t even know what to say. No one could possibly know the right thing to say, because no one truly understood how I felt. So she wrapped me up in her arms, and cried with me.
I started my new treatment a few days later. It was an ointment that I would have to have put on my head by the doctor every week. It was called DCPC. It was a clear, odorless liquid. It burned as if it was a toxic poison that was slowly taking someone’s life. With one touch to my scalp my whole body would ache. It was like a mixture of poison ivy and sun burn. Painful, oh yes, it was hell. But at that point I was prepared to try anything to make my hair grow back.
I visited the doctor once a week, every Tuesday for a year. Nothing happened; not a single hair grew back on my head that year. I was quickly labeled, not only as a human experiment because I had tried every single treatment there was, but also as a helpless case because none of those treatments were able to cure me. I was incurable.
I finished my freshman year completely bald. As summer approached I was given a gift. In my eyes it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Fifteen inches of real human hair and it was mine. It was long and dark and everything I had always dreamt of. When I slid the beautiful, silky wig onto my head I was transformed from a monster into something beautiful. I loved it, and for the first time in a long time I was actually happy. And with that happiness off my hat came. I didn’t need it any more, because I felt normal again. After that, it was hard to be envious of someone else. Now other people where envious of me. They all wanted my hair. And it felt good to feel like I finally belonged; it was like I had a new place in the world.
After summer, and my fifteenth birthday, I went back to school. I was confident. I had no hat, which brought no jokes, and no more malicious whispers. I was a normal high school kid. I did not have any hair, but I was content with my life. I looked beautiful, and my disease was almost a thing of the past. Yes, I still dealt with it every day, but I could actually look into the mirror and see that the person staring back at me was pretty and no one could take that away from me.
As I opened my eyes and adjusted them to the light, I realized I was back, back to the same old white room which had consumed my life for 5 years. “Knock, knock,” said Dr. Poinsette as she entered the room. “How did you react to treatment last week?” she asked with hopeful eyes. “Nothing happened again, big surprise,” I rolled my eyes. I was so sick of this let down every week. “I’m… It was hard to say what I was trying to get out, but my words were stuck in my throat like glue stuck on paper. “I’m stopping my treatment.” I hated giving up, I had fought for so long, but I knew this was what I had to do. She gave me a confused look. “Dr. Poinsette,” I began with a soft voice. “I have been coming to you for five years and nothing has happened. It’s not worth it anymore. I’m just gonna let it be, and see what happens. But I want to thank you for never giving up on me, and trying to heal me.” I began to cry. “I think its time for me to heal myself,” I said. “You are the strongest person I know, Megan Adair. I can’t wait to see what you’re meant to do for the world. You were given this disease for a reason, but you have handled this battle beautifully, and I look up to you. Come back and see me in a few months,” said Dr Poinsette. “I will,” I promised.
While I walked out I said goodbye to that office, and goodbye to the place that changed my life forever. And I said goodbye to someone who never lost hope in me, even though I saw none in myself. While I drove away I thought quietly, now I just have to trust in fate and trust in myself that I won’t give up. If my hair comes back, that’s great. If it never comes back, that’s okay. I know that I don’t need to have a full head of hair to be beautiful. I am a fifteen year old girl with no hair, and I know who I am. So, think about it, who are you?
When I look back, losing my hair was almost a blessing. Most people would probably say that I am crazy for stating that. It’s true though, having no hair has taught me amazing things. It allows me to see qualities in people that others tend to overlook. If I have learned anything in the past five years, it’s that you are not defined but how you look or by what you have. You are defined by who you are and what you do with yourself. Life is not given to us so we can spend it hiding behind our own insecurities. We are all fools for caring about what other people think. Trust me; I spent days and weeks worrying about what everyone thought of me. When all along I should have been paying attention to the person I was becoming, and I wish I could have seen all the people I was hurting by hating myself. Don’t let something take over your life. Set yourself free from the opinions of others, and allow yourself to see people for who they truly are. For the record, I will probably never have a full head of hair ever again, but that doesn’t matter. I am me. And I am free.