By PATTI S BORDA
The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Kayla Campbell turned a loss into a gain after her hair fell out.
It took several years to get past the discouraging disappearance of her thick, wavy brown locks.
“It’s emotional to watch it fall out,” Campbell said. “I felt like it was perfect hair.”
“She was our Hawaiian princess,” said her sister, Kristin Cheeks, who has straight, blond hair.
Campbell, who is now 21, tried to hide the fact that she had alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes scalp hair to fall out in patches. It can leave almost the whole head bald.
A variant of the condition, alopecia totalis, does leave the head entirely bald, and alopecia universalis causes all body hair to fall out. Hair might regrow and fall out again.
When Campbell was about 9, small bald patches appeared on her head, and then more, the sisters recalled. Almost all the hair on her head fell out, and twice it has grown back.
Campbell thought about being home-schooled to keep her condition a secret, and she suffered from depression and panic attacks. The lowest point was when she was on the high school basketball team.
She played basketball from seventh to 10th grade. When she could no longer put her hair into a ponytail to hide the condition, she said she quit the team she loved.
“I let alopecia take that from me,” she said with regret.
Cheeks saw Campbell through the emotional upsets and stood by as she learned to deal with the condition.
“She’s been my support,” Campbell said.
The last time her hair grew back, Campbell decided to shave her head and stay bald to avoid the unhappiness of watching her hair fall out again. Some of her family and friends questioned the decision, but Cheeks shaved Campbell’s head to empower her sister.
“I felt like I was taking control,” Campbell said. “I’m all about embracing it now. … Mondays and Thursdays are my shaving days.”
Confidence radiates from the face with penciled-in eyebrows and bright blue eyes. She has put hair in perspective.
“It could be way worse,” Campbell said. “It’s such a blessing.”
From confidence to outreach, and a fundraiser named “No Hair, Don’t Care.”
The sisters are planning a 5K run and 1-mile walk June 15 to benefit the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. The Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club is sanctioning the race, Glade Valley Allsports is printing event T-shirts, Walkersville donated use of Heritage Farm Park, and Wal-Mart donated craft activities for children.
Campbell and Cheeks have help from Ashley Zink, who has alopecia, and they hope to meet others ready to restore confidence.
“It’s so important for us to relate to people,” Campbell said. “We’re going to start our own support group.”
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)