on losing, and growing [hair & otherwise]

Considering that the past two times I’ve been out of the country [Nov/Dec 07 – Philippines & China, Sept. 08 – Vietnam] I’ve lost big chunks of hair to apparently stress-induced alopecia areata, I am anxious to see if it will happen this time too – I hop on the plane for Dhaka, Bangladesh in 8 days.

Both instances after losing my hair, I had about a dozen steroid injections into my scalp to promote regrowth. Not the best feeling ever, but thankfully, in both instances, it grew back! I was lucky too that for the most part, the bald patches were semi-easy for me to hide. With exactly a year since my last steroid treatment, I’m now rocking my normal uber-thick head of hair :D

HM, just read this on Google, go figure it is linked to eczema:

“Full recovery of hair is common. However, some people may have a poorer outcome, including those with:

  • Alopecia areata at a young age
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Long-term alopecia”

Anyhow, I remember the first time it happened when I was in Charleston, SC, about to head to the Philippines. At first I was in denial and didn’t tell anyone I thought I was losing abnormal amounts of hair in the shower. It was really scary. And when I finally did share, we were half way through our stay in the Philippines. I carried down an entire fistful of my hair from the shower drain to show my leader. From then on I was trying to be brave for everyone else who was freaking out when they saw it or my scalp. They talked about having me not go on with the internship team to China but I couldn’t think of anything worse.

The second time, the following year, I was in denial that is was happening again. I unfortunately waited too long to go see the doctor and the damage had really been done – again.

That being said, even with this trip, I think the risk is worth it. It was, and it will be. At least now know if it is happening I won’t wait as long to see the doctor! This trip is also different in a lot of ways from my past trips…I will be going with work to see and observe, not to do mission-type work; I will go with one colleague I know really well [as well as respect and love] after a year and a half together, not with a group of ten people I don’t know at all; I am going for a week, not for two months or two weeks; I know what I’m allergic too this time…although I’m not sure I’ll be able to avoid the rice completely…

For all of you who have had a moving experience, be it with travel, a camp, a relationships that influenced you, [insert yours here], it can be hard to express it, put it in words, and convey to others just how and why it is/was so important. If you’ve never seen the popular “Where the Hell is Matt?” video[s], I think it somehow does a good job representing my feelings towards travel. Watch it here.

Something else kind of similar and cool, the Starbucks Love Project: people in 156 countries sing the same song [All You Need is Love by The Beatles] at the same time to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa. Watch it here.

A few pictures of the first alopecia exprience in Manila, Philippines:

Doc said I needed to cut my hair so the weight wouldn't contribute to the hair loss. Before pic.

The salon. I was treated like a princess. They all had compassion on my situation, and I even talked with a trans-gender woman who was suffering from alopecia too. All but probably two of the employees were women-used-to-be-men. That is a whole other experience to tell!

Getting the treatment! Massage, pedicure, hair cut - simultaneously. That is the way to do it.


My stylist. Great guy.

This picture holds more meaning for me than almost any other. At the peak of my struggles, I taught these kids, and reminded myself, of the Hokey Pokey: "...AND THAT'S HOW WE PRAISE THE LORD!"

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God…”

One Comment on “on losing, and growing [hair & otherwise]

  1. this is such an awesome story. i feel like there must be some magazine out there looking for hip/young/travel/philanthropy stories like yours…
    your fan sj

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