Hi, I'm Amy. I'm 31 years old and I have alopecia areata. My husband (at the time my boyfriend) first spotted two small bald patches in November 2007 when I was 24. I went to see my GP and was given a diagnosis of alopecia areata. My only reference point of alopecia was the TV presenter Gail Porter. I was a little bit worried that I might lose all my hair but was told that it rarely gets to that stage. Indeed, these two small patches filled back in within a few months and I thought nothing else about it. I didn't think that my alopecia would return. I was wrong!
In February 2010, my hair started to fall out in clumps. I quickly developed a large bald patch at the front of my head that I could not hide without wearing headbands. As the patches developed further, I started to wear full headscarves. By July 2010, I made the decision to shave off the remaining few straggly bits of hair that remained. A couple of weeks later, I lost the majority of my body hair including my eyelashes and eyebrows. This was the ultimate blow.
My first year with alopecia was a dark time. I felt alone, angry, scared, upset and much of the time I felt like a freak. I thought I was the only one. I truly believed I was the only bald 27 year old woman, not only in the UK but the World! I know that might seem daft but I would look around and not see a single other person that looked like me. I became depressed and struggled to get out of bed and continue with work, family and social life.
I had a fantastic support network around me but I didn't feel anyone really understood what I was going through. I'd look at my friends with their flowing locks and think "you just don't get it". I started to reach out and try find others. I found a small charity called Alopecia UK who had an online forum. On this forum, I talked to people with alopecia for the first time. This really started to help me. I started to feel less isolated. I started to get the idea there were plenty of other people like me who knew what an impact hair loss could have on their life. A year after I lost my eyebrows, I got some semi-permanent make up and having some eyebrows again helped with my confidence. I was able to look in the mirror again and recognise the face staring back.
It was more than a year later that I first met others with alopecia. It was at a photography exhibition called 'The Alopecia Project' by Daniel Regan. He put on an opening event for others with alopecia which I had seen advertised on Alopecia UK's website. I travelled down to London from Yorkshire on my own and was pretty nervous. It was the BEST thing I did. I met lots of women with alopecia, many of a similar age to me. I even met another Amy with alopecia! (I now realise there will be MANY Amy's with alopecia but at the time I thought that was pretty amazing!).
Six months later, I started to volunteer for Alopecia UK. Mainly I got involved in helping with their social media. I am really keen to raise awareness of alopecia areata. I am confident that the more people that are aware of what alopecia is, the easier it will be for those with the condition to live with it and the greater the opportunity for research.
So I was happy to join Victoria's project for the Pretty Bald calendar. Or I should say, I was happy when I thought it was a calendar which involved wearing clothes. When I found out the calendar was a nude one, I pretty much instantly pulled out of the project. I certainly didn't want the world to see my wobbly bits!! But a bit of gentle peer pressure and tugging on my heart strings, meant I was back on board.....albeit very reluctantly!! ;-)
I'm really hoping that this calendar has a big impact on raising awareness of alopecia areata amongst the general public (and hopefully some much needed funds for Alopecia UK), otherwise I spent an awkward day with my kit off for nothing! I want people to find Alopecia UK earlier than I did so they don't have to struggle for as long as I did. Currently there is no cure for alopecia areata but the charity can provide much needed support, information and advice.
A little bit about me rather than my 'alopecia story'. I like Will Ferrell (superfan!) rainbows (and anything with rainbows on it!), unicorns (not sure how this started), holidays (to far-flung destinations), gin (any, I'm not too fussy!) and chocolate (see my gin comment). If, as a result of this calendar, any of the big gin, chocolate or travel firms want a new face, I'm available! Think that pretty much sums me up. Oh, and I recently built a toadstool garden. Complete with giant gnomes and over 50 handpainted toadstools :-)