Family matters: how this mother with alopecia inspires her daughtersHair loss is a difficult problem for many women to face. Unlike men who have a 50% chance of balding by the time they hit 50, alopecia is still comparatively rare for women. Because the standard norm for female beauty is long glossy hair, baldness can have a traumatic effect on self-confidence and be quite isolating. For one California resident the problem was tripled when not only did she lose her hair but then both her daughters followed suit.

Rachel Regal and her daughters Callie and Ellie all suffer from alopecia areata. The condition can strike at any age and usually starts with coin sized bald patches appearing at random points on the scalp. Sometimes these disappear but often they will begin to expand until most of the hair has been shed. Often at this point many people just decide to shave the rest off, which at least returns a modicum of control back to them.

Doctors were baffled by the alopecia

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the body literally attacks the hair cells and there’s no single trigger for it. Some research has pointed to anxiety and stress being a cause but there may be other environmental factors at work such as diet. In the Regals’ case doctors are baffled about the causes but the fact that all three females in the family have the problem does lend credence to the theory that the problem is genetic.

“I used to sit with her at lunch so she didn’t feel alone”

Rachel’s approach has been pragmatic and supportive. Realising that there’s not a lot you can do about the disease she set about providing as much help for her daughters as she could. Worried that life in the playground with other children might be difficult, she gave a talk in class about the disease.

Ignorance of the condition often leads people of all ages to the wrong conclusions and sometimes cruel or pitying behaviour. She admits that often when the three of them are together people assume they have cancer. Rachel even went so far as to sit with her elder daughter at lunchtime to help deal with the isolation.

Rachel and her family are an inspiration to everyone. Although she admits to occasionally shedding tears in the shower she has practically approached the problems and her daughters have followed suit, all just getting on with it. There is a glimmer of hope for the family too. Alopecia areata can sometimes disappear as fast as it arrives, although it can reoccur without warning.