'I somehow felt embarrassed and upset I was barely dealing with it': Edinburgh woman's inspiring journey as she raises awareness of living with hair loss
An Edinburgh woman has spoken out about the importance of self love as she raises awareness about living with alopecia.
Fiona McDonald lives and works in the Capital, and now spends a lot of her time fundraising for Alopecia UK after her initial struggle with the condition.
She was first diagnosed with alopecia two years ago after her finding a bald patch on her head and explained: “That moment was when it all changed.... in that moment I felt sick, upset, angry and panicky.
"My first reaction was before I even knew much about it due to doing my own research was will I go bald?
"For me going bald seemed like the worse thing ever however a far off scenario but I was pleading with this doctor to let me know if this would not be the case.
"His words I quote were ''we cant give this answer we just don't know everyone is different.''
Alopecia is a condition where the immune system attacks the hair follicles leading to hair loss.
This hair loss can be on the scalp, the eyebrows, the eyelashes and other parts of the body.
There is no cure for alopecia, but there are treatments that can help encourage regrowth.
Fiona worked hard to stay strong, despite her anxiety about the diagnosis.
"This is something I pride myself in everyday,” she said, “ however and I didn't realise I would need this strength every day going forward.
“Don't get me wrong, I have my wobbles.
" I am not a robot and I wake up most days either with a tear in my eye or sobbing.
"This is the part I struggle to deal with - the part where I don't feel like me, like my hair was a part of my identity it made me who I was somehow, I didn't feel like Fiona or Fee as everyone knows me as.
"The hair loss was getting slowly worse, the patches were becoming more and more noticeable and I tried my utmost hardest to cover them, headscarves and headbands were becoming my best friends.
“I remember washing my hair and a simple task like this became my biggest fear.
“The hair was just coming away in handfuls more and more each day.
"Then one morning, and this is the morning I remember the most, a morning of crying and seeing the hair on the floor.
"Many reasons why many women who suffer this feel like cutting or shaving their heads takes back some kind of control and I can now understand why.”
Eventually, while visiting her parents, Fiona’s mum gently suggested that it was time to cut it off, to allow the hair to grow back evenly, and to make it more comfortable for her to wear wigs.
Fiona explained: “This immediately sent me into a blind panic and fear.
“If my dad had his way I would end up with an army buzz cut, but my mum just took the scissors straight across and the hair fell away leaving a very short almost skinhead bob.
"It wasn't till the very last snip of the hair that I burst into, not so much tears, but a loud wailing sob.
"My dad gave me the biggest hug ever, something which I will forever be grateful for - I was still his girl with that huge beaming smile.”
Fiona didn’t tell a lot of her friends and family at the start. She said: “I somehow felt embarrassed and upset I was barely dealing with it so didn't know how others would.
"At the time I couldn't take that on whilst battling with it myself it was too much.”
However, now, Fiona is vocal about her condition, sharing pictures and accounts across social media, getting involved in alopecia support groups and doing her best to raise awareness, adding that she wishes that she was pointed in the right direction of support groups when she was first diagnosed.
"Why did the doctor not tell me this and why is there no emotional support?” she wondered, saying: “I am on the waiting list to be referred to a dermatologist and whilst on the phone I asked is there emotional support/therapy I can attend - the answer was no.
"This frustrates me as the alopecia support group has been amazing and is a non-profit organisation, without them I couldn't of coped.”
She is also raising money for Alopecia UK through her Facebook page.
When asked what she wants people to truly understand about living with alopecia, Fiona said: “People joke about baldness but having hair can be a big part of who you are.
"I want people to know just because I am fighting a battle with alopecia doesn't automatically change who I am.
" I'm still the determined, bubbly, smiley and vibrant person I always was with or without hair.
"I want people to get clued up on the facts like anything if people knew more about it they would be less likely to judge.
"I also want people to know that this is not life threatening and as the saying goes I will survive and if anything lockdown should of taught is to be kind.”
"To everyone fighting this battle we will get there and no matter what your outcome is be it if you are bald, half your hair or patchy its your smile and outlook on life which makes you you!
"Just remember the saying if you do go BALD - which I now see as standing for brave, amazing, loved and determined.