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Brave Kayleigh reveals childhood secret to raise Alopecia awareness
Alopecia UK organised flash mob event earlier this month to raise awareness of the disease. Kayleigh Winter spoke to Dani Webb about why it was important to her to join in.
AS she removed her wig for the first time in front of a watching crowd a sense of relief rushed through her body.
Scared but happy as tears rolled down her cheeks, Kayleigh Winter had just done something what 12 months ago she would have regarded as impossible.
“I wasn’t going to do it at first but I wanted to help people that are scared,” she says, as her eyes glaze over just thinking about it. “The adrenalin got me through it and people were clapping us for being so brave.”
Kayleigh was one of about 70 people who took part in the flash mob event in Liverpool city centre earlier this month, which was arranged to highlight Alopecia, a disease she has had since she was 11.
“I first noticed patches of hair missing but I was able to cover them up by wearing my hair in different ways,” she says. “But when I was 19 it all fell out. It was a shock but I always thought it would grow back then I realised it wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do.”
Alopecia is a hair loss disease which affects about 1.7 per cent of the population and both men and women are equally affected.
According to Alopecia UK it is not damaging to physical health but can seriously affect quality of life and emotional health through its impact on confidence and self-esteem.
The exact cause remains unknown but it is believed to be linked to the immune system, have a genetic component in some cases and be possibly connected to stress.
24-year-old legal secretary Kayleigh, from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, spent years hiding her hair loss from everyone but a handful of close friends and her family. It was only in January when she had pictures taken for an exhibition raising awareness about Alopecia that her confidence began to grow.
“It was really scary but I think it made it easier because I didn’t have to see people’s reaction when they looked at the photographs,” she says.
She then used the images from the photo shoot for the Alopecia project, which took place in Scotland, to reveal her secret.
“I decided this was the time to put myself out there and stop living in silence about my Alopecia,” she adds. “I wanted people who are in the same position I was a year ago to realise there is no need to be afraid.
“I put the pictures on Facebook. I got a really good reaction, a lot of people were surprised because they just never realised. I have never had any horrible comments.
“People don’t take that much notice to other people really. They have their own things to worry about.”
Her confidence grew from that point and it was this that spurred her on to take part in the flash mob, which kicked off Alopecia awareness month.
She says: “I didn’t know any of the people taking part but I had spoken to about five or six online. After the flash mob we handed out leaflets and people were asking us questions. It was really nice that people were interested.
“I think part of the problem is people don’t understand Alopecia. They see someone with no hair and automatically think it is cancer and tell you they hope you get better soon.
“I would sooner people approach me and ask questions than just stare. I would love to educate people more.”
Kayleigh now hopes to help others to feel more confident about Alopecia and raise awareness. She is also backing a petition which aims to get the Government to fund research to find a cure.
She associates her hair loss with stress but she knows from speaking to others than this does not apply to all cases.
The petition needs 100,000 signatures before October 11 for the issue to be discussed in the House of Commons. To sign it visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/40068
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