Living Abroad With Alopecia

September 10th, 2014

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Guest Blogger Alexandria Moree shares her experience living in a foreign country with alopecia.

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We have all traveled with our wonderfully exposed domes around the United States, whether for business or pleasure, I hope more so for pleasure.  Whilst travel itself poses a many challenge, ‘where on earth is that cupcake shop mom told me to go to? or ‘is it exit 22A or B?! Quick!, there always remains the comfort of knowing the language, culture, and general customs of the people around.  After all it is still one’s home country! Regrettably this means that the endless questions of ‘how is treatment going?’ or ‘what’s with the haircut’, or have you put sunscreen on?’continue to impede our daily lives. Honestly who hasn’t sat around, martini in hand, thinking of all the witty - okay  - potentially spiteful responses you could have dished out to the overly interested lady in the checkout counter?  Personally, I admit guilt on several occasions.

 

So if this is intense being around a population of similarly spoken and cultured people, what must it be like to shed the comfort of a known language and social ques and delve baldhead first into another country?  My answer….wonderful!

 

Firstly, I in no way speak for every country round this great big beautiful world, nor for that matter all of Europe, however if you’re thinking about a trip to the ‘City of Light’, I can absolutely illuminate you as to what living here has taught me.

 

While the questions about my lack of hair have all but ceases after moving to Paris, I did fin that Parisians seemed  much warmer than I had anticipated. Being that I do stand out so much physically, I am instantly recognizable, however not in a way you would think here in Paris.  Every morning I frequent the same cafe for a double espresso and a croissant, where after a week I was on the first name basis with the owner. This may seem normal for Americans, but here in France, I assure you it is nothing less than a big deal. Charlotte, the owner, affectionately calls me ‘chouchou’, knows my order by heard, and has invited me to her house when I didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas.  The lovely gentleman who helps me every Sunday at the market warmly welcomes me with ‘bonjour ma belle’ and always throws me a orange to enjoy on the walk home. At my favorite crepe restaurant, I need but walk in the door and two chefs start my order and and come around the counter for a ‘bisous’ no matter how long the line may be.

 

I have been told time and time again, “je suis toujours content vour ton sourire!” ( I am always happy to see your smile).  Alopecia has given me the gift of self-confidence, a trait which for many is the goal at the end of a log, hard emotional roller coaster. Perhaps at first I was recognized because I was the only bald client to walk through the doors on a daily basis, but today it is because I have established relationships with these people and I am always greeted with a smile and warm welcome. I am the American girl who likes to practice her French at the market or the girl who likes double espressos who always wears bright colors. Having alopecia defines us; it is something that shapes how we grow and eventually who we become.  The hardest part is remembering that it is only as definitive as we allow it to be.

 

Another country, a different language, an entirely new culture and I am NOT ‘the bald girl.’  I’m me and that is all the definition I need.

 

-Alexandria Morée

“Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.”

 

Sharing my Greatest Lesson

June 20th, 2014

 Guest blogger Heather O’Brien Walker is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and coach who empowers women by helping them expand all positive things in their life while minimizing perceived challenges. Her book, “Don’t Give Up, Get UP!” has received endorsements from jack Canfield (Chicken Soup For The Soul Series), Les Brown (World’s Greatest Motivational Speaker), Olympic athletes and more.  Visit www.heatherobrienwalker.com to learn more about Heather.

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You are sitting there reading my words and wherever you are, the beginning, middle or end of your challenge, I want you to know you are not alone. I too have faced frightening words from the mouth of a doctor as he moved to his next patient.  I had to let the diagnosis settle in. Believe me, as someone who has had every dream and physical ability stripped from her in the blink of an eye, you are stronger than you think you  and you can make it to the other side of your challenge.

You ask, how do I get to that other side and look back on this experience  as I go on down the road of life? Let me share with you one of the most valuable lessons I have learned after sustaining two brain injuries in less than 40 days. The injury left me like an infant but in a woman’s body. I was unable to walk, talk, process information or take care of my own basic needs. When you are in a situation where you must be dependent on others, it’s important to respond quickly by calling out to your support network as soon as possible and ask for help!  I call this process: “calling on the troops”.

I recognize that some of us are private and don’t want everyone to know what is going on in our lives and especially don’t want others talking about our personal business. Also, I know that asking for help can make you feel weak or incapable of handling life.  It’s a normal tendency to feel this way.  Is your natural instinct to face these situations like Goliath facing the Giant or crawl in a hole and pull dirt after you?  After all, your parents and family always taught you that this is “bootstrap operation” and you need to find the strength to tackle whatever comes your way alone.  The other coping mechanism commonly used is to completely shut down and hope that the storm passes quickly.

I can tell you that this line of thinking is the fastest way to have this THING (what you are facing at the moment)  completely take over your life. It takes a village to raise a child and it take an army to take down a challenge.  You need to reach out and ask for help.  Even better is to actually help someone else by being a positive influence on them.  Yes, I absolutely mean that- while you are down and out try helping someone else.  I know the idea  might seems a bit crazy but it may be SO crazy that it actually works.

Think of the last time you held the door for someone, smiled at a stranger or sincerely thanked someone for their service. How did it make you feel?  Pretty good, I’ll bet! That is what I refer to as being HELPful, full of Hope, Encouragement, Love and Positivity. There is no better way to get you back on track again when you are overwhelmed with worry and fear.  Honestly, I have not found a better way to reconnect with my own power to face challenges. At the point where I was unable to touch my own nose, I was still able to share a smile with my nurse or hold the hand of my friend while listening to her describe what she was going through.   Through these small acts of kindness, I began to heal and find strength to face my own challenge

Being HELPful will  put you back in touch with your own personal power and better fuel you to face your challenge. In addition, you will  continually be building your support network. As a result,  when the next challenge comes your way you will have plenty of people to call on to HELP you!

Heather O’Brien Walker

June beaudiva!

June 1st, 2014

 Meet Carol, our June beaudiva!

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For several years I had been gradually losing my hair, despite my using all sorts of supplements and natural miracle hair creams. I still have enough hair to make a ponytail a quarter of an inch in diameter, with large swathes of scalp showing through. I’m perfectly healthy, and was diagnosed with alopecia; it wasn’t exactly a surprise, because a great-aunt experienced complete hair loss, and wore a wig for as long as I knew her. When I saw videos of myself taken at a choral conducting workshop last July, I realized that it was time for a change. In September I purchased a wig and began wearing it. The wig was fine for work and activities such as church and choral directing and singing, but had some limitations. I couldn’t cook or bake in a wig. Synthetic wigs, even high quality ones, tend to melt and frizz when they are exposed to a blast of heat such as opening an oven door, leaning over the steam from boiling water, etc.  Not only could I not wear it when cooking, but I also wasn’t comfortable swimming, hiking, camping, exercising, or wearing a bike helmet with the wig.

After some research, I found the Beaubeau website. While I still wear the wig for work for the time being, the rest of the time I much prefer the comfort and security of the Beaubeau. The lining is soft and breathable. The size covers my hair loss both at the top and around the back bottom edge of the hairline, and the tail gives the illusion of long hair and can be make into a bun, both of which are very flattering features. There is no issue with it looking “fake” the way a wig can when it is tugged off-center. Thanks for making this great product!

Carole, June beaudiva

When not to go bald!

May 16th, 2014

baldies1.jpgThe other day I came across a very honest and humorous blog about a guy who shaved his head  at a charity event for children’s cancer. This decision came after a few drinks when ideas of this nature tend to sound better as the night goes on.  We read about people doing this all the time for friends, charities and other causes.  In fact there is a worldwide organization called the St. Baldrick’s Foundation  that hosts “head shaving” events to raise money for children’s cancer.  All walks of life line up for their chance to go bald for a cause.   They’ve been shaving heads since 2000 and have raised an astonishing $100 million in childhood cancer research grants.  They have one goal:  to cure childhood cancer.  There is no comparison to losing a head of hair to losing a child to cancer.  It is not surprising that the organization is so successful.

I often wonder how the newly shaven volunteers feel after the excitement of the event is over and the visual results of their actions take hold.  I distinctly remember those early days of adjusting to the alien-like person staring back at me in the mirror.   Are they peppered with questions about their newly shaved head?    Are they shocked at the attention (somewhat unwanted) a bald head can generate?  Are they constantly cold (like I am) or afraid of sunburn? Did they think they would get this much attention for participating in a charity event for such a good cause?  Probably not - just ask my husband.

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When I first lost my hair to alopecia, my very supportive, handsome husband came home one day - completely bald. Much to my horror, he decided to shave his head in solidarity.  I could not believe my eyes!  What was he thinking?  His motives were pure and simple however bald was not his best look.  He had hoped that his bald head would draw the attention away from me. WRONG. It had just the opposite affect. His bald head became a terrible distraction and generated more questions that inevitably led to my condition.

A word to all the bald seeking supporters -there are many ways to show your love and understanding.  Trust me, going bald is not all it’s cut out to be.  I greatly appreciate the support but watching my friends and loved ones deliberately alter there looks in such a drastic manner is not necessary and only another reminder of my condition.  I say, enjoy your hair - I much prefer to look at you with all of your follicles. Please don’t take away my opportunities for hair envy!

Susan M. Beausang

President, 4women.com

Wig Tutor || Lesson #1: All About Caps in a Snap

May 8th, 2014

Shopping for a wig can be stressful, especially if you’re a newbie. 4Women.com, Inc.’s resident wig tutor, Lana Moriece, is here to the rescue! Her new blog posts, “Wig Tutor,” will teach you all you need to know about wigs! 

 Lesson #1: All About Caps in a Snap 

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1. If you can see a wig’s wefts, it should be left.

 ”Weft” is the term for sewing loose hairs into rows.  Hair does not grow this way. A quality wig can be made using wefts, but the only place they should be visible is the inside of the cap. Look for wigs with hairs tied into knots in the monofilament.

2. Don’t assent to bad monofilament.

“Monofilament” is the micromesh to which hair strands are sewn to or tied. Look for quality and durability. Monofilament is also what gives the illusion of a natural scalp. You do not want it too dark nor too light and ensure the “part” is not too large nor absent.

3. Go ahead, be knotty.

High quality wigs are created by hand-knotting strands of hair to the monofilament. The less hairs per knot, the higher the quality. The finest wigs have as few as 1-2 hairs per knot.

4. A little breeze, please.

Sweating is great–but it has a time and place. Hopefully, that is not daily dripping down your face! Modern wigs let the scalp breathe, which is essential for both comfort and hygiene. Plus, good ventilation will allow the hair to move in multiple directions permitting better styling and movement.

5. Don’t commit hairline crime.

The hairline being too high or too low is often a problem of fit over quality. Your natural hairline is typically for finger-widths from your brows, but there are always exceptions; for example, model Tyra Banks is a five-head and reality star Teresa Giudice is a three-head.

6. Mind the gap.

A wig should fit your head snuggly. Sure, adjustments and additional security can be provided with tapes and tabs–but they will not compensate for a wig that’s too large.

I hope you find these tips helpful, beaudivas!

Love,

Lana Moriece

lana@4women.com

I’m not sick, I have alopecia!!!

May 1st, 2014

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Having had alopecia for 12  years, I should be quite accustomed to people entering my personal space with comments about my lack of hair.  After a very long work day, I decided to go to Home Depot for some spring flowers. Honestly, I feel so normal in my beaubeau scarves that I often forget that I’m wearing one UNTIL I either get the oogling stare or when someone decides to  ask inquiring questions about my “condition”.  While looking for my credit card,  the clerk asked me if he could “lay his hands on me”.  I was quite taken back and was  unsure of what he meant until he asked if I was “fighting the fight” - then I knew I was once again being mistaken for someone who is undergoing chemotherapy.

Well, the only battle I’m fighting is to try and educate people about alopecia and hair loss. What does it take for the public to be made aware that chemotherapy is NOT the only cause for hair loss?

Susan M. Beausang

President

December Beaudiva

December 13th, 2013

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Thank you so much for considering me for this honor.

 On October 21, 2011, I found a lump in my breast. It was cancer. I was supposed to have a lumpectomy and five days of radiation. Unfortunately, the biopsy of the tumor revealed a progesterone, estrogen and hertz positive tumor that needed to be treated with two rounds of chemo, a year of herceptin and six weeks of radiation.

 When my hair began to fall out, I tried a few different styles of wigs. I felt like a child playing dress-up. I also tried a variety of scarves, hats, etc. nothing seemed to reflect me until I tried the beaubeau scarves.

 I was “challenged” at tying regular scarves and the beaubeau had the elastic and a scrunchy. I watched the videos how to change the look and…wow…I could do this! Then I looked at the colors, patterns, materials. Neat! I can choose to turn something bad into a chance to accessorize! I could even go swimming with the Swimbeau! Now I have beaubeaus in every color, many of the prints and most of the exercise offerings.

 I went through the treatments and expected to have my hair grow back. I had been thinning on top prior to cancer, but now was very bald on top. I was diagnosed with lichen plano pilaris which is a result of the chemo, and alopecia. I am under a dermatologist’s care and have some regrowth but not enough.

 I’m blessed to be alive! I’m blessed with my wonderful family! My husband Pat, my daughter Kelsey, and my mother are in the picture below. I am also blessed with amazing friends who never failed to help, from preparing meals when I was so sick, to sending cards, and being my cheer section. I am blessed with my doctors who were always kind and masters in their field.

 The beaubeaus are a great blessing in my life. They let me feel a confidence in myself that I had lost when my hair fell out.

 Thank you so very much!!!!!

 Maureen

4women.com and the beaubeau scarf gets newsworthy!

October 31st, 2013

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Recently I was interviewed by Fox Small Business Center as a spotlight interview in recognition as a company that is making a difference in women being treated for breast cancer.  We like to think of our company as one that cares and it’s always nice to be recognized for those efforts.  Read more here…

BRCA2 Postive and Alopecia - a recipe for helping others.

October 15th, 2013

 Teppi Jacobsen is a blogger for Chicagonow.com.  In honor of breast cancer awareness month, she is highlighting the stories of women affected by breast cancer.  Here is her highlight about my story.

“Susan Beausang comes from three generations of breast cancer survivors. She also suffers from Alopecia Areata, or total hair loss. She has two degrees; one in Fashion Design and one Political Science after her career path deviated to the world of financial markets.

After coming to terms with her hair loss, Susan put her fashion design education to work and designed her own solution, a head scarf that unites the worlds of fashion and medical head wear. With strong personal connections to many women who have lost their hair to either Alopecia or cancer treatment, Susan knew she had to share her solution.  The BeaubeauR, “Beautiful Scarves for Beautiful Heads,” was born and Susan founded her business, 4Women.com, both to make them available to women and girls worldwide and to advocate for a deeper underSusan: BRCA2 positive and Alopecia. Finding a way to help others in the face of her own crisisstanding of the emotional impacts of medical hair loss in society at large and among the medical professionals that serve women and girls.

Today, Susan Beausang resides with her spouse and labradoodle in Sarasota, FL.  With five grown sons spread out across the country, she dedicates herself full-time to women in need of emotional support, an advocate, or a fashionable head scarf.  Her website is www.4women.com

Written by Susan Beausang

Before there was Alopecia, there was breast cancer.

As a little girl, I knew that there was something unnatural about my grandmother’s upper body.  It was never talked about in front of me or my siblings, but having had a super-radical mastectomy, her disfigurement was hard to hide.

Having undergone an aggressive breast cancer treatment that removed her breast tissue, lymph nodes, chest wall muscles and part of her rib cage, doctors were able to extend my grandmother’s life. Then it was my maternal aunt, still in her 30’s and diagnosed with breast cancer.  She underwent the same radical procedure, resulting in the same disfiguration.  Reconstruction was not an option in those days.   Ultimately, both my aunt and grandmother had recurrences and eventually died from the disease.

It didn’t end there.  At the age of 62, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This was the 1980’s.  Mom’s breast cancer diagnosis was not openly discussed in front of us, but we knew.  She had a modified radical mastectomy without reconstruction.

Then came my younger sister Mary, diagnosed at the young age of 29.  Then Paula at age 45, then Mary again, this time in the other breast.  Needless to say, I was convinced that with me, it was simply a question of when, not if.  I was desperate to do something other than wait for that day.

I convinced my 7 siblings to enter a study at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, one of the first to test for genetic mutations that predispose us to breast and ovarian cancer.  We learned that 5 of us (4 sisters and 1 brother) had the BRCA2 mutation, which translates into an estimated 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer over a lifetime.  Those were odds I just couldn’t live with.

I opted to have both my breasts and ovaries prophylactically removed, as did my one sister who had not yet been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I wish that were the end to our cancer story, but it seems cheating, living and beating cancer is in our genes.

In between, there is Alopecia Areata.  Just 10 months after my prophylactic surgeries, my hair started falling out at a shocking pace.  In just 3 short months, I was bald, but not just bald.  My eyebrows were gone.  My eyelashes were gone.  All of my body hair was gone.  I cheated cancer, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at me.  All my efforts to avoid cancer and the subsequent side effects (hair loss) were for naught.

Alopecia knocked me down for a while, and I’ll forever be a passenger on the Alopecia roller coaster, but once I designed the beaubeau®, life as a woman with hair loss improved greatly.

So whether you’ve come to 4Women.com raw with the emotions that come with Alopecia areata, female pattern hair loss, or unexplained hair loss, or you’ve come to 4Women.com with the fear and pain that comes with facing, fighting and beating cancer (and losing your hair to boot), I understand what you are going through.  If I can validate your feelings and help you to feel more self-confident, pretty, stylish, or joyful, then all that’s come before in my life has value.

Susan M. Beausang

President and Founder of 4women.com

October Beaudiva!

October 14th, 2013

 Each month 4Women.com chooses a beaudiva of the Month.  Meet Betsy - Our October Beaudiva of the Month!

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I have pretty  unique, extremely light blonde hair.  It became clear to me early on that there was no chance I’d find a wig that came anywhere close to my actual hair color - so I started look for alternatives.  I was excited when I discovered the beaubeaus because they’re honestly - pretty- not just “good enough” or “not ugly” or “ok if you have  cancer” - but actually cute. I’m a school leader responsible for 500 teenagers every day and I take pride in dressing well to set a good example.  I’ve actually enjoyed the challenge of coordinating my school outfits with my beaubeaus and the kids love them too. I get lots of compliments.  You know your style is on point when a 15 year old girls take notice.

The experience of totally unexpected cancer diagnosis at age 36 and all that comes with that has been challenging and just plain weird. The hair loss had the potential to be pretty awful for me…But it just hasn’t been so bad. I think the beaubeaus have made a big difference because I don’t feel like I look sick, therefore people don’t react awkwardly to me.  I can just be myself.

I guess the other part of my story I’d like to tell is that I finally figured out how to respond to all the lovely, sincere offers to help.  I didn’t really need anyone to make me dinner or drive me anywhere.  BUT I did need more beaubeau options.  I gathered the courage and made a wish list for my friends.  Fifteen beaubeaus later - now I have options for every day.

Betsy