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Personal Essay on Running With Alopecia

The Inspiring Story of How 1 Woman Accepted Her Alopecia and Ran With It — Literally

Sept. 6, 1990, I was born with a head of beautiful red hair. But then by age 2, it began to all fall out. First it was in small chunks, but then within a few weeks I was completely bald. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called alopecia, causing total body hair loss.

It was tough growing up without any hair and always using a wig to "hide" my bald head. I was so ashamed of having no hair. I never felt like I was pretty or worthy of love, happiness, or joy. I would look at all of the beautiful women I was surrounded by every day at school, on television, and in magazines with their beautiful heads of hair and think if only I could have hair. I would come home from school crying all of the time; kids were so mean to me, always making fun of me, calling me names like "baldy" or telling me I was a boy. I had no self-confidence and was so ashamed, I never made a comeback or told anyone, because they were right . . . I was bald. I didn't know anyone else who had alopecia and felt like I was alone with no one to talk to. I was an outcast in so many ways. I wanted nothing more than to fit in and be like everyone else.

In college was the first time I truly took off my hair around my peers, and I remember the exact feeling — it was so freeing.

I can still vividly remember the time in gym class when a boy pulled off my hair. It was my worst nightmare come true. I can still see the faces of kids in my head. There I was, exposed and vulnerable. I always wanted to hide my alopecia and never wanted anyone to know about it, because girls were pretty when they had hair. I thought this was the most important thing in the world.

I was very fortunate to be blessed with athletic ability. It was in my later elementary school days that I discovered the game of basketball, and little did I know this game and sport would help shape and change my life.

I fell in love with the game from the first time I shot the ball. I remember sitting in my driveway for hours every night pretending to make the game-winning shot, and the crowd would go wild and chant "Lindsay, Lindsay." This was my escape from having alopecia and being bald. I felt normal and worthy of everything I always wanted.

Basketball became everything to me. I had big dreams to play in college and felt so empowered through this sport, I could do anything! I began to become known as the girl who was good at basketball, not always the bald girl. When kids would make fun of me, I would turn to basketball to help me cope and use it as my outlet.

Of course, this didn't stop kids from making fun of me. In fact, I think it may have gotten worse with the way kids treated me, but it became easier for me to deal with.

I was blessed with some great coaches and teammates through AAU and high school who really believed in me and pushed me to work hard every day not only in sports, but in school and life. I received many accolades at my high school and went on to play college basketball, a true dream come true.

In college was the first time I truly took off my hair around my peers, and I remember the exact feeling — it was so freeing. It was like a secret I had been hiding for so long and had been so ashamed of had been lifted. I had some great friends who didn't care that I didn't have hair, but instead loved me for who I am as a person. It was also through my faith that I was able to accept being bald, slowly but surely. I began to focus on important things in life: being a good person, helping others, giving back, and being a hard worker. My sophomore year in college, through encouraging friends, I was able to look at my bald head in the mirror for the first time in my life and say, "I am beautiful," and truly mean it. It was an emotional turning point in my life. I slowly began to focus on the positives in everything and the characteristics I loved about myself.

My senior year of college, I had a new dream: to run a marathon. I thought I would just run one race to cross it off the bucket list and that would be it, but I was wrong. I will never forget the feeling of crossing the finish line: so empowered, strong, and like I could conquer the world. It's amazing what running 26.2 miles will do to your mind! But, being the competitive person I am, I knew I could get a better time and be better. My new goal was to run 27 marathons before I turned 27. I felt at age 27 was the "adult" age where you're not a young adult still, but also not 30. This past June I completed my 27th marathon in San Diego. I remember crossing the finish line and putting my arms in the air as my eyes welled up with tears. I had accomplished one of my biggest dreams. And now I have run 29 marathons, which is so surreal when I say it out loud!

Running has changed my life. When I run and the breeze is blowing past my bald head, I feel strong, determined, and so blessed. Three years ago, when I really began running seriously, I started to not wear my wig truly for the first time in my life. It is HOT in Charlotte, NC, and wearing that piece of hair was a nightmare; the sweat was atrocious. I love the good-luck head rubs I get before races and run clubs. I am known as "the bald runner," and I love it! I love educating others on alopecia and everything that goes along with being a bald young female. Running has helped me love, accept, and embrace my alopecia and bald head.

I am truly thankful for my alopecia when I look back at it. If I didn't have alopecia, I don't think I would have been shaped into the empathetic, loving, caring, and kind person I am today. When you are different from others, it makes you really appreciate what you have. It puts life into perspective for you. Alopecia has been the greatest gift I never knew I needed.

If you would have asked me five years ago if I had alopecia, I would have pretended to not even know what that was. But now, today, I proudly walk around with my bald head showing off and a huge smile on my face and say, "YES, I HAVE ALOPECIA, AND I LOVE IT!"

Image Source: Lindsay Walter
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