Support Group Leader Spotlight - Sonya Bowman
Sonya Bowman, leader of our Stanford, CA support group, shares her thoughts about being there for her community.
“Now we know we are not alone!” This significant sentiment is frequently shared with me by families who attend their first alopecia areata (AA) support group with us. Hearing those words gives me such joy as I know firsthand how healing it was for our family to come to this beautiful realization when our dear daughter, Anna, was first diagnosed with (AA) 14 years ago at age three and a half.
Helping people experience that others too are on a journey of learning to live with alopecia areata is a primary goal for me as a support group leader for NAAF’s Stanford group. For over 13 years, I have been privileged to help create an environment where families with children with AA as well as adults with AA can come learn together and support one another.
We have been blessed to have support from Stanford University's dermatology department. The head pediatric dermatology nurse, Lisa Taylor, helps educate Stanford’s dermatologists about our group. They, in turn, inform their patients about the support we offer, and they also attend our meetings. Having a dermatologist present at every meeting ensures the integrity of our group. The dermatologists answer medical questions as well as dispel any causal/treatment myths. In addition to having a dermatologist present, our group also has a guest speaker at each meeting. Our guests include doctors who have discussed what AA is, researchers who are performing the latest studies on treatments for AA, veteran fellow alopecians, wig stylists, and psychologists. In August, our guest speakers will be makeup artists from high-end department stores. These artists are highly trained in using makeup to frame faces with no hair. In short, we try to provide medical knowledge as well as emotional and practical support too.
By learning from our well informed guest speakers and by connecting with others in the AA community, our attendees can be educated and experience healing and develop resilience. This has been true for my family as well, most importantly for our daughter. Our daughter, who entered kindergarten with much trepidation due to her AA, will be soon entering college with a core of emotional strength and resiliency as well as compassion for others. Anna's development of these vital qualities is in large part due to the experiences she has had with the other children, loving adults, and helpful speakers in our group.
We are thankful for everyone who has come to our meetings as fellow families on this journey or as professionals who generously donate their time. After each meeting we come away enriched in our understanding / skill level in learning to live with AA.
Our group meets on Saturdays, once per quarter, at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. If you are in the Bay Area during one of our meeting weekends, please join us!