I have sat and thought for such a long time about how to start this post. It’s not often I get speechless but after the events of this month I have been lost for words. BUT, have no fear, I am going to give it my best shot!
This was the first year that Alopecia Awareness Month even came onto my radar. I don’t know anyone with alopecia and until this year I had hair so why would I have been aware? But, I decided that this year, because I have been affected by alopecia and now totally understand the effect it has on people, I needed to help Alopecia UK and spread as much awareness as possible. I said from the start that it wasn’t about raising money per say, it was all about awareness. Alopecia is so unknown to so many people but is an illness that needs to be talked about more openly and honestly.
Each day I posted a photo on my social media linked to alopecia, nothing held back, some funny insights, some informative and some showing the raw emotion that alopecia can bring. That was my way of helping to spread some awareness. I had mentioned in previous blogs that some people may want to get involved but I didn’t expect people to get so on board!
Firstly, mum and her amazing aqua ladies had a Sassy Hat Saturday and all wore fun hats in the pool for their aqua lesson! The video footage was brilliant and they also, so generously raised over £100 for the charity. They are such a brilliant bunch of ladies, so supportive of me but also to mum which I am ever so grateful for. I know that many of them have been a listening ear and given many needed cuddles since I’ve become ill. Mum has been a pillar of strength to me and has rarely let her true feelings come out because she feels she needs to be strong for me, I wish she wouldn’t but I know why she does. So, thank you aqua ladies – you are stars!
Dad also organised a Fun Hat Friday in his office and once again, everyone participated with enthusiasm and also amazingly raised £60 along the way. As with some of the aqua ladies, many of dads colleagues I’ve never met, yet still they joined in and helped raise awareness and money, thank you, you’re a brilliant bunch of people.
Throughout the month I wanted my blog posts to be a little different. You’ve heard about my experience with alopecia and will do in the future. I wanted to offer a new perspective which is why I asked mum and dad to guest blog and also a friend, who for personal reasons wanted to stay anonymous. Now, I know for all three, writing the blogs was a difficult process. I think I’ve become used to writing my blog now and not being afraid to hold back and be truly honest, for me it’s therapeutic. I no longer think about how many people will read it and what they will know about me, but for people who haven’t done that before, I can understand why it was a bit daunting. The anonymous blog, as I’m sure you’ll agree, gave a different perspective on alopecia, it was someone else’s story and it was a very raw and honest piece. I must admit, when I read both mum and dads contributions, I cried. I think we all know deep down, how each other have felt over the past year, but seeing it in black and white, reading how what I’m going through is deeply affecting my two best friends, well, it was hard. I’ve tried to be brave and positive, not just for me but for them too, and reading how hard it is for them was heartbreaking. However, luckily, that’s what families are for and I am just so blessed to have the family I do.
This month I also did something I never thought I’d be able to do. I went back to my old secondary school and gave a talk in front of the whole sixth form about alopecia. I’ve stayed in touch, well no, that sounds too basic..I’ve become great friends with an ex teacher of mine, Nick, and she took on the mammoth job of organising a whole sixth form alopecia awareness day at school. There was no pressure for me to go in, I’d made power points that could be used but I just thought, you know what, grow a pair Hannah. All these people are organising things for Alopecia UK but in the main, for you, because you’re their friend.
It was so bizarre going back to school. So much had changed, including the name. We walked over to the brand new sixth form block which was a world away from the hut we used to have! I felt so very nervous but the students were amazing, they seemed interested in what I had to say and gave such a warm reception. It’s not often I would ever say this, but on this occasion I did feel proud of myself. I’d stood, bald, in front of a whole room of people and talked about my story. I must admit, I was digging my nails into my hand at one point, It was like an out-of-body experience. I’d made the power point but when I clicked onto the next slide and saw, projected onto a huge screen, the photo mapping the progress of my alopecia, it hit me for the first time – that’s me, that’s my hair story and here I am now with no hair. I even said to the students – I stand out because, here I am, the only bald person in the room, and that hit home hard and I felt overwhelmingly sad. But then, as I left, and after receiving messages from Nick over the following days about feedback the students were giving her, I felt proud. Out of this whole yucky scenario, I was able to do some good.
Then, what can I say, on Thursday 29th September, it seemed like alopecia took over a vast majority of various parts of the world! My gorgeous friend Carly, had organised a Fun Hat Thursday at my school in Dubai. To put this into context, each year group from nursery to Year 6 have 14 classes, most with 26-30 children in. It took a lot of organising from not just Carly but many other of my lovely friends and colleagues. I guess I hadn’t really thought too much about it until the messages started to come in. The posters around school included my has tag #hairlesshannah and I started to get new comments on my blog and Instagram that provided me with so much sunshine I can’t even explain.
Then came the photos and videos – wow! Seeing literally hundreds of children and staff in their crazy hats – some even with balloons with Hannah written on them, one with a note saying – get well soon Hannah – it was just indescribable. To know that nearly 3500 people in Dubai were being educated about alopecia and thinking about me – what can I say? Just so moving. I had a text from one friend saying that in a lesson the children were talking about animals and they had a picture of a bald eagle on the screen. The teacher had asked about why they thought this particular bird had no feathers on it’s head. The response from a little girl was simply priceless – “Maybe it has alopecia!” I mean, come on!! How amazing is that?! She’d listened and learnt about alopecia and linked it into her following learning!
However, I think some younger children got confused and made Carly slightly excited that I’d arrived for a surprise visit! A guest speaker who also has alopecia went into school to do a talk and some of the younger children obviously saw her. They then ran to Carly – “Miss Dean, Miss Dean, Miss Green is in school!” Carly, a little confused, explained that, as she’d told them, I was in the UK, but they were still convinced. It wasn’t until Carly was told they’d seen the visitor that she put two and two together – it’s just made me chuckle that whenever these little ones see any bald women for a little while, they will be convinced it’s me!
When the communication from Dubai started to die down, and my tears of happiness had started to subside, then came the influx from Nick and all the work they’d done that day also! Fun hat photos were amazing and the cake and sweet sale they did raised £148 for Alopecia UK. They also involved the lower school and did a, decorate the egg head activity which looked like brilliant fun. All that organisation had paid off. It’s just crazy to think how many students both in the UK and Dubai have now been educated about alopecia – now that’s what a call spreading awareness!
Then, to finish things off, on the last day of the month, I held a Mad Hatters Tea party. It was lots of fun, with games organised by my gorgeous friend Jen. We played musical hats, heads or tails and then finished with a team game of ‘pimp my weave!’ One team member had to don a swimming cap whilst the other team mates, in 5 minutes, had to pimp it out! It was messy, glorious fun with hilarious outcomes…and my team won! Again, so much awareness made and £55 raised for the charity, fab.
I want to finish by mentioning Megan, a beautiful little girl who I taught in Dubai. I became friends with the family and have stayed in touch as we are now all back in the UK. I couldn’t believe it when I opened Facebook on the 3rd of September to see photos of Megan having her hair cut short so that she could donate her hair to The Little Princess Trust. For such a young girl to do something like that is what I call inspiration. She was so selfless in that act, and some lucky little girl will now be able to have a human hair wig because of Megan’s generosity and kind heart. I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again, the Hart family are a bunch of truly genuine, caring, wonderful people and they should be very proud of Megan because I know I am.
I just cannot say thank you enough to every single person who has shared my story, talked about alopecia, done an event or raised some money. It means more than you will ever know and has lifted my spirits no end. It’s helped me become more confident in my new skin, it’s helped me start to like myself again, it’s helped me realise that hair or no hair, I am still me, I still have friends and family like no one else – and that is priceless.
So, although awareness month is over, don’t stop sharing the blog and talking about alopecia.
Thank you again to everyone who has supported me this month – you are all super stars.
Lots of love and sunshine (may as well finish the gushing blog with some more cheese!)