Embracing the Change
Elinor Kinnier is familiar with this hair condition. "I've been without hair on and off since I was 18 years old," she explains. "I have alopecia areata and have tried injections into my scalp and prescription treatments, but nothing has worked."
When Elinor became pregnant with her oldest son 17 years ago, her hair came back "pretty fully," as she describes, and again seven years ago when she was pregnant with her second son. "Other than that, I had 'spotty' recovery," she says. Although the doctor believed the hair growth Elinor experienced during her pregnancies was a positive sign, she has since stopped treatment. "I haven't had any significant regrowth [since my pregnancies]," she attests. "I stopped all treatments—they were expensive, messy and frustrating."
More frustrating, Elinor has no idea what's causing the hair loss. "They say alopecia areata can be caused by stress, but no one's really sure," she explains. "There doesn't seem to be any concrete explanation other than my hair follicles seem to stay in the 'telogen' (falling out) phase too long." Some have told Elinor her problem might be the result of an auto-immune deficiency but, again, no one is certain.
"I have resigned myself to the fact that I won't have hair and frankly, I've told my children and family that while it certainly isn't ideal or what I would ask for, there are many worse illnesses with much worse outcomes than this," she points out.
These days, Elinor wears a wig. "As a single mother of three busy children—two under the age of six—not having to do my hair is sometimes a blessing," she says. Although Elinor admits to being very careful on carnival or amusement rides, the situation has helped her become a little more humble. "We've had crazy times when my wig has flown off [during] a conversation or when I slipped on ice and fell ... once on a jet ski that flipped," she recalls. "While humiliating at the time, I look back on it all and have a laugh."
Elinor believes the situation is also a great learning experience for her kids. "They're curious and are sometimes embarrassed when I take my wig off," she says, "but those have been good moments for me to teach them that it's not nice to make fun of someone. I've been able to teach them to accept people for who they are not what they look like."