answers & options for alopecia

alopecia big patches.jpg

talking about alopecia to other people is now a part of who i am- it is my story and i’m probably going to be on this journey for a long time. i mean, i could be bald tomorrow, actually. 

so the most effective way for me to cope is to share my story &  listen to other stories. 

i share. i listen.

i give advice. i take advice.

i try. 

i fail. 

i try again. and the journey continues.

i absolutely know i've grown & transformed as a person since Superbowl Sunday [the day my first official bald patch appeared, the day my life changed forever]. since that day, my journey has been filled with great & terrible adventures- hospital visits, bloodwork [ew], doctors’ appointments, experiments, tears, companionship, love.... some things work, some things don’t. i’m on my own personal journey to find healing, not just for my alopecia, but for my anxiety. [maybe the story of my journey will benefit you, because let’s be real. all of us struggle.]

this journey has shown the true power of the act of sharing stories- what an incredible gift that we can collaboratively help each other learn and grow- it is truly amazing.

with that in mind, here's a story about a little yorkie named Ferarri and her owner, Joanie:

i was referred to Joanie by my landlord/family friend/dearest barista- Joanie is a stylist at a salon in Buffalo, NY that specializes in hair replacement solutions. i’m not gonna lie, after jumping from doctor to doctor and receiving no answers, i walked into her salon feeling doubtful and hopeless. 

the negative feelings dissipated instantly as soon as i walked through the door- i was greeted by a tiny yorkie who waddled up to me and pawed at my foot.  i kneeled down to pet the yorkie, and took notice of my surroundings: the pink dog tag with the name “Ferarri”, the Buffalo 716 pillows, the jars of cookies, the keurig with the plethora of k-cups, and then, THE WIGS.

Whoah…the wigs.

needless to say, i was a little more than WIGged out [pun totally intended]...right before i reeled into full-blown panic, a beautiful blond-haired, blue eyed woman walked into the room and swept me up into a hug and introduced herself as Joanie & introduced her yorkie [who i'd already met], named Ferarri. 

Joanie's salon was comforting, it made me think of my older cousin's home [with the exception of the mannequin heads covered in wigs]- she explained how she wanted her customers to feel at home, despite what they may be experiencing. i followed Joanie & Ferrari into a private room where we all sat together [the yorkie in my lap], surrounded by mannequin heads & wigs.

and we shared our stories.

it is not my place to share Joanie's deep and powerful story, that is for her to share, it is her story. it is what makes Joanie the beautifully compassionate and warm-hearted woman that she is.

but this story, my story, i can share with you: Joanie sat patiently as i stumbled through my recollection of the past three months- she gifted me with words of comfort and support while i cried tears onto Ferarri who snuggled against the crook of my arm. and, by some miracle, Joanie gave me some answers.

this woman pulled me away from the edge i teetered on- she gave me answers, she gave me OPTIONS

options- WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORD!!!!

option 1: toppers- these are basically like mini-wigs that are used to cover up patchy or thinning hair- i thought they were very similar to extensions. Joanie was kind enough to let me try on a human-hair topper- you'd never know i was missing patches of hair and the topper itself was so realistic, it was completely undetectable. this option is my #1 because it felt nice and cozy on my head, and it made me feel pretty...also, very affordable.

option 2: wigs- the wigs originally freaked me about because, holy smokes, they did NOT look like the wigs at Party City. these wigs were SO real, in fact, most of them were created from real human hair. i was too afraid to try one on [maybe next time,] but Joanie suggested i touch the wigs and look at the inside caps- she calmed my nerves and, should i lose all of my hair, i won't be so afraid to try a few on and have some fun with them, especially with Joanie and Ferarri by my side.

option 3: non-surgical hair replacement- this procedure is a bit complicated to explain and made me think of a cartoon version of Frankenstein when Joanie described it [it didn't scare me, it honestly made me laugh a little...laughing is important during times like these]. a thin layer of [insert substance name here] is put on the scalp that forms a membrane that, Joanie described, acts as a second layer of skin. this membrane is implanted with human hair, customized to create a match with the patients' hair. pretty wild stuff. incredible.

after talking with Joanie, learning her story, and hearing my options, i breathed a big sigh of relief. it's the first sigh of relief i've breathed in three months. and i could literally hear these three words ringing in my mind: 

you're. not. alone.

Joanie reminded me that beauty truly comes from the inside. She took loving care of my mind and my self-esteem. she provided the support and options. she built a safety net for me. she listened.

Joanie's pure resiliency and her passion is a gift that she attributes to her faith- her work is not just a job, it is her vocation, her mission is to help human beings with their self image:

 "in helping them," she says, "i truly believe it is a such a blessing to BE a blessing to others".

A Natural Image Studio for Hair is located on Sheridan Drive in Buffalo, New York. 
Please visit their site: http://anaturalimage.net/

& visit the [CONTACT ME] page on my site for any questions/requests. i am happy to know your story and help in any way that i can.

Stay tuned to learn more about Joanie, her partner Paula, and Ferarri the yorkie!

xo, Clarisse