One of first things that most people do when diagnosed with any medical condition is to rush home and Google it. The practice is, of course, a double-edged sword – for every piece of reassuring advice that things aren’t as bad as they seem, there will be two painting things in an entirely different and usually more worrying light.
What most of us are looking for is someone exactly like us to tell us that everything’s going to be alright: if you’re a nine year old with hair loss, Northampton schoolgirl Erin Walker is exactly the person you need.
Erin has the autoimmune condition Alopecia Areata, a relatively common complaint that affects up to two per cent of the population and is the second most common type of hair loss after androgenetic alopecia. It typically strikes quickly and without warning, and is characterised by the appearance of bald patches on the scalp. These sometimes increase in number, leading to more patchy hair loss and sometimes total baldness.
Hair loss when she was seven
Erin’s hair loss began two years ago, pictured here, when she was just seven years old. Initially, her parents were terrified that the sudden disappearance of her shoulder-length hair might be a symptom of a more serious medical condition.
When doctors told them that Erin had Alopecia Areata and that this disorder was the result of her own immune system attacking her hair follicles, they were naturally relieved it wasn’t life-threatening, but they were equally stumped as to what they could do to help.
Talking to ITV.com, Erin’s mum Hannah said: “The worst part is not knowing: is my hair going to fall out? Is my hair going to grow back? These are the answers your doctors can’t give you and that’s the hardest part about the condition. Until you’ve accepted that you aren’t going to get those answers it’s very difficult, but once you’ve accepted that, then you’ve learned to live with it – which is what Erin has done really well.”
Blogging to help others
Erin’s solution was to start blogging about her hairloss: she says she wanted to do so both to express what was going through her mind about the condition and also to inspire other people.
Today, her ‘Me And My Alopecia’ blog has been something of a lifeline to other young people with Alopecia Areata, some of whom Erin has gone on to become pen-friends with.
One of Erin’s recent postings details the fund-raiser she did for Alopecia UK, the popular charity that has proven a great support to the Walker family during the past two years. “Because so much of my hair has fallen out now I wanted to shave it,” Erin writes. “Dad said he would shave his too so I wouldn’t have to do it on my own.”
The family set a target of £100 to raise but were thrilled to see the total amount pledged hit £500, then £800 and finally, at the time of writing, an impressive £1,176.57. Although they have already absolutely smashed their original target, Erin and James’ JustGiving page remains open and is still receiving donations.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.