A Hair-Raising Experience

A Hair-Raising Experience

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

A Hair-Raising Experience

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.

Ralph W. Sackman

As an only child to two adoring parents, I grew up believing that life was good. Especially when my mom washed my long black hair. I loved it because I always got great head scratches! But on one particular day, a huge clump of my long hair fell out in my mother’s hands, much to her horror. She thought she had done something terribly wrong. Little did we know this was the beginning of a nine-year odyssey.

Over the next six years, I lost large amounts of my hair and was always trying to shield these bald spots from the world. None of the doctors could figure out the cause. Many theories were explored: allergies, vitamin deficiency, stress, lack of hormones, etc. I was even taken to Children’s Hospital for a battery of tests, where they put me in front of 200 medical students to discuss my case. Along with the many theories explored, we also attempted numerous remedies: cortisone injections into the scalp, daily scalp massages, mega-dose vitamins and oils and creams, but I just kept losing more and more hair. By age 13, I was completely bald and finally resorted to wearing wigs. As a young teenage girl, this was an extremely devastating event. Kids wondered if I had some contagious disease or if I were dying. Being called “Kojak’s daughter” or being asked “Where’s your lollipop, baldy?” was no fun either. I either ignored their teasing or laughed with them until I got home, then I cried my eyes out!

The worst part was that wigs weren’t made like they are today, so it was obvious that the wig was not my real hair and people always stared at “it” versus looking me in the eyes when talking to me. Fortunately, my Dad and Mom taught me to hold my head high and realize there were other children who had much worse conditions. But as a typical 13-year-old girl who was very active in sports and wanted to rough-house like everyone else, the situation led to some very embarrassing moments. The most embarrassing event in my life involved David Lane. I was totally in love with the 15-year-old, dark-haired, handsome older brother of one of my church playmates.

On Sunday evenings, the church-group kids all got together and went roller-skating at the local rink. We looked forward to this weekly event because our parents dropped us off for three hours. On this particular Sunday, the “whoopie” was announced 30 minutes early—a game where three people held hands while skating and when “whoopie” was yelled everyone had to change directions. The moment had come! Kimmie and David Lane and I were going to skate together. This meant holding David’s hand! I had heart palpitations just thinking of it. Three “whoopies” into it, an out-of-control skater suddenly came straight for me, collided with my head and my wig went flying 50 feet down the skating rink! I was completely mortified as I stood beside David, and he looked at my bald head! The entire skating rink came to a standstill as one of my friends picked up the wig and plunked it back on my head. In her haste she put it on backwards so the long curls were hanging past my nose and the bangs were at my neck! What a sight! I was immediately surrounded by all my friends as they shuffled me off to the ladies’ room to fix myself up.

Once I was in that restroom there was no getting me out! I didn’t want to feel the stares and hear the questions or, even worse, see David Lane’s expression of revulsion! I immediately used the restroom phone, and through passionate sobs, asked my dad to come get me. To this day, Dad says one of the hardest things he has ever done was answering, “No, you wash your face of tears, straighten up your hair, and go skate the rest of the night away.” I was completely devastated! My dad had always been my hero. Why wouldn’t he come rescue me? Thirty minutes and three pleading phone calls later, the reply was the same, “No, you get back out there and skate.”

It was then, as I sat in tears on the bathroom floor, that David Lane appeared. He just skated right into the ladies’ room, grabbed my hand and asked me to come back out to skate. I wiped my face, held my head high and skated the rest of the night away with the boy I loved.

A few months later, a young doctor said I had “alopecia” (baldness caused by an allergy to the chemicals released by my own hair follicles). As an allergic reaction, my hair fell out. The doctor said that when I started menstruating, my chemical makeup would change and I would most likely get my hair back! Finally, a name to what was happening and a logical cause! Sure enough, at age 16, I started menstruating and my hair started growing! Within six months, I no longer had to wear a wig.

Today I keep my dark hair very long down to my waist, making up for all those lost years. In fact, when I asked my husband what was the first thing he noticed about me, he sincerely said, “Your long, beautiful, dark hair!”

I have not had contact with David Lane for over 15 years, but if he reads this, I want to tell him and my dad, “Thank you. Your rescue of a 13-year-old bald girl transformed a memory of a most embarrassing moment into a memory of kindness and love.”

Debbie Ross-Preston

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