I Am Not My Hair

What if you suddenly didn’t have hair? Millions around the world are faced with hair loss as a result of sickness/treatments, genetics, male pattern baldness and aging (just to name a few).

Think about it: we all spend time and money for our hair to look its best. Whether it’s by investing in weaves, straightening methods, dyeing, wigs, growth pills or constant haircuts, hair is very much a statement about who you are.

When my friend Diem Brown battled cancer for the third and what would be her last time, she made it clear she did not want to loose her hair again. This always stuck with me, so I set out on an exploration to understand what hair means to us, and what are the most cutting edge, affordable methods and options for natural looking hair replacement?

Diem was beautiful with, or without hair. She was not her hair. What I’ve grown to understand during this journey is when someone looks in the mirror and sees their hair suddenly gone, or slowly falling out to the point where they are forced to shave their heads (Diem bravely documented her journey on video and in essays) the world now looks at them as being sick. Even someone who was as bold as my best friend, didn’t want to walk down the street with everyone looking at her like she was sick. Their private battle is no longer private.

We tried wigs for her and during her second cancer battle, she got a lace front wig. It cost a lot of money and she went through many years of synthetic ones before being able to afford one that looked more natural. In my mind, there had to be better options than having to take off your wig at night, only to once again be reminded of your struggles.

My journey exploring this led me around the world. From speaking with men in their twenties who experienced male pattern baldness and feel 20 years older than what they are, to women suffering with alopecia, to people who are experiencing thinning hair with aging, to of course those who are going through cancer treatments, or whose hair has not grown back as a result of treatments, I hope to shed a light on semi-permanent hair alternatives.

I am not sure if Diem knew about the CRL (Cesare Ragazzi) system, but I wish I had when she was alive.

When I visited their laboratory and clinic in Bologna, Italy, I was initially skeptical. How could hair that looked so real on the client, last for years, and only need to be taken off every few months when the client visits a partner center to have their scalp cleaned and their hair washed and styled — really work? There had to be a catch, right?

Turns out, I was wrong.

After the second day of my visit, when I got to speak with actual clients, watch a demonstration of how the scalp prosthesis is applied (with human hair dyed and cut to look like your natural hair), see the technology, plus witness the rareness of a big business that operates like a family company (it’s not often you get to see heads of a major corporation interacting with their clients in an open door policy setting), that my skepticism eradicated.

I thought about how it may have felt to Diem and countless others to wake-up, do anything they wanted to do in life: swim, ride bikes, run, just go out and about, without having to think about hair loss, or putting on a wig. This isn’t an ad. I am not being paid. I just want to shine a light on affordable, realistic options for people struggling with this. In this series, “I Am Not My Hair,” I explore the different methods men and women use to address hair loss.

Since I’ve only experienced this second-hand, I thought it best to interview someone affected by hair loss.

In part one of the series, I present Donna’s story . . . .

My hair loss started in 2010 when I was diagnosed with a Grade III anaplastic meningioma.  It was an aggressive type of brain tumor that invades the part of the brain that it is closest to.  The tumor was removed surgically followed with several weeks of daily radiation.  The total number of Gray I absorbed, permanently destroyed the hair follicles in each site.  I was on Facebook and I saw a presentation for the CRL system. I watched the video and made an appointment for a consultation.

I started wearing wigs and also had steroid shots injected into my scalp monthly for almost a year.  The injections didn’t help in the areas that no longer had follicles, therefore my hair appeared quite thin.  The wigs weren’t really effective as they had to be clipped on the hair to stay in place.  I tried using a wig cap. That failed as the cap would also slide back by the end of the day.  I then tried a hair transplant, also not successful as my hair was still too thin.  The doctor suggested a second transplant after two years.  It was also unsuccessful as I was eventually told that I didn’t have enough “donor hair” to transplant . . . wish I knew that before spending $10,000.  The only option was to keep wearing the wigs, which are expensive as well.

The system is measured specifically for everyone’s head.  It doesn’t move or “shift” which occurred with my wig as I didn’t have enough hair to clip it on to.  I never have to worry about my hair on a windy day, blowing to show my bald patches or the wig falling off.  I work out without being asked questions about my hair loss.  I swim, shower, wakeup with my hair now and can look in the mirror and see ME, not who I became after my hair loss, which I associate with being sick.

I was so hopeful after my surgery and radiation, the worst that could happen had happened, until I realized I would never get my hair back. It was difficult to accept.  I still looked “sick” and not me.  I wore scarves or wigs all day, every day.  I didn’t like what I saw and didn’t want my family, my husband, to see me either.  I would go to the salon as the first customer so no one there would see me. The salon owner was so nice to me. I became concerned the other clients may think she is a horrible stylist when they saw my hair.  I have been asked so many questions regarding my hair loss from tension, to alopecia, to weaves, to cancer.

With my CRL system I feel “normal.” I am very happy with it.  I receive many compliments from strangers regarding the cut, color and name and location of the salon.  I go to bed and wake up with hair.  I never worry if my hair is crooked or too far back. I have been on boats and bikes with no worry.  This may all sound vain, but hair frames the face. Without hair, it’s like a window with no curtains.

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www.facebook.com/cesareragazzilaboratories/  & http://www.cesareragazzi.com/