DEVOTED dad Steve Hall is getting on his bike to back daughter Naomi, who suffers from alopecia and works to raise money, awareness and support to help fellow sufferers.

Mr Hall, 55, who runs Halls fish and chip shop in Bedale is planning to do the 150 mile coast to coast bike ride in one day on June 10.

For daughter Naomi, 27, the disease came totally out of the blue. She said: “I had just finished university, I was living at home, nobody died, I was happy and content. I have a vivid memory of my 22nd birthday – I pulled out this huge clump of hair.”

Within weeks doctors revealed it was Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune condition which causes the immune system that normally protects the body from foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, to mistakenly attack the hair follicles.

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Naomi said: “I did find it really hard, I was concerned people would not look at me the same, no one is going to want to date me, how am I ever going to be fine with this. I have days when I think I have beaten this and I am alright and then I have others when I think I am never going to leave the house again.”

After wearing a wig and eye lashes for years Naomi says it wasn’t until last year that she felt confident enough to go out without them. After starting work for Alopecia UK, she has now joined two other sufferers to share their stories in a documentary called Shedding which has been nominated for a charity film award.

She added: “The film was designed to bring greater awareness and highlight the psychological impact that living with a visible condition can have. It features the stories of three people who have Alopecia Areata.

“It can be an extremely challenging condition to deal with. It often presents itself with little or no warning and currently there is no known cure. Alopecia affects people of all ages, race and gender and can have a detrimental effect on self-esteem and confidence.Those featured have found managing their condition much easier since being in touch with the charity, Alopecia UK.

“It is a small national charity working to improve the lives of those affected through Support, Awareness and Research. The charity has a network of local support groups across the UK, we run national events bringing together large numbers of people with alopecia and has a website packed full of information and useful resources. I was really overwhelmed when my dad said he was going to do the coast to coast, everything that raises awareness and funds helps.”

Steve said the family had been left shocked and traumatised when the disease hit totally out of nowhere. “It came out of nothing, it was just a speck on the back of her head initially.

“For my wife Maureen and I it was traumatic, you just want to help your kids, but that pales into insignificance as to how Naomi felt when it was first diagnosed.

“The mental anguish of it all is horrendous. Naomi says in the video they made ‘is this what is going to define me.’ It took a long time to be able to cope with it.

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“Now she is working for Alopecia UK and we are so proud of what she is doing, so I thought what can I do to try and help, and this bike ride is a way of raising money and awareness. It is so important to give the charity that support because it really can make a difference.

“I have been in training, the most I have done so far is 70 miles in a day, it is hard work and I have never been that big a cyclist but I’m determined to do the whole thing. And it means if I do it in one day I don’t have to take time off work.”