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Carly Severn first noticed a change in her hairline at age eighteen.
Just over a year later, she had lost all of her long dark hair to alopecia, followed by her eyebrows and eyelashes.
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Her first wig after chemo was “long, blonde, and fabulous,” but after months of not wanting to be seen without it, “I took it off. ” These days, as her hair begins to grow back, a wide-brimmed sun hat lends striking new proportions to a gamine pixie. “Hair was one of the things that made me feel feminine,” she says of life before cancer.
When I originally went to see my GP in 2007, I had two small bald patches about the size of a 50p.
I was given a steroid cream and told to apply twice daily. I experienced so many different emotions: grief over the loss of my hair and sense of identity; anger that this had happened to me; frustration that nothing could be done; sadness about being a bald woman and feeling like a freak. It was many months later that I reached a turning point.
But my dermatologist handed over the prescription with a warning that it was quite likely it would have no effect as my hair was falling out so rapidly. My dermatologist was the one to break the news that there is no known cure for alopecia areata. I found it really hard to adjust to my new appearance but the hammer-blow came a couple of weeks later when my eyelashes and eyebrows fell out too. I attended an exhibition by photographer Daniel Regan called “The Alopecia Project”, which was advertised and supported by the charity Alopecia UK.
These days, her wardrobe of head-skimming hats is matched only by her skill with a brow pencil.
“This marks my tenth anniversary without hair,” says Severn. As far as twin anniversaries go, that’s a pretty good one.” Maggie Kudirka, a ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, found the perseverance and strength she needed to make it as a dancer.