One of Britain’s many bright hopes for an Olympic gold at Rio 2016 has opened up about her hair loss that has been caused by the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata. Heather Fisher, one of the likely stars of the Team GB rugby sevens squad, has revealed that even now six years after first losing hair her condition is still a struggle.
Talking to the Daily Mail, the 32-year-old said that her hair first started falling out in 2010 around the time of that year's Rugby World Cup. “I remember walking to a meeting room and I only had strands of hair left and my friends said, ‘You need to just shave it off completely.’”
is a far-from-uncommon disorder that leads to sudden, patchy hair loss when the body incorrectly identifies healthy hair cells as foreign bodies and attacks them. It is thought to affect around two per cent of the population, and while it can often be improved with a bespoke alopecia areata treatment course, it sometimes has a pernicious way of coming back without warning.
People with the condition particularly dislike the way it leads to uneven hair loss, which makes it difficult to cover up although one young woman recently made the most of the current trend for elaborately-shaven head designs to artfully turn her bald patches into a rather dazzling hair-do.
Many people with the condition feel they have no choice but to shave off all of their remaining hair and try and embrace the bald look. Heather says that this is the route she took, but that it was so difficult for her that she couldn’t look in the mirror for almost two months afterwards.
“I felt really ugly,” she tells the Mail. “And to a certain extent I still do. You just don’t feel attractive because as a woman you want to go out and do your hair. I don’t have that.”
Her shaven head, coupled with her muscular shape, she says, mean that she is often mistaken for a man. “I’ve started saying, ‘Actually, it’s madam,’” she tells the newspaper. “It’s taken me a long time to get to that stage.”
The psychological effects of Alopecia Areata are frequently overlooked by doctors, something that 23-year-old Emma Nelson from Yorkshire recently addressed in a short film she made that called for more help for people like herself who were living with autoimmune alopecia.
It’s something that Heather Fisher is keen to help with too. Today, she is an ambassador for the leading hair loss charity Alopecia UK, and is keen to help show people that they don’t need to be defined by their hair. She told the Daily Mail: “I thought if I struggle, other people are going to struggle, so it was my way of saying it's OK to be different, to look different, it doesn't mean anything.”
Heather has also recently been photographed naked by Women's Health UK magazine as part of a series of images of female athletes to promote body positivity and self-confidence regardless of shape - and hair, or lack of it.
Team GB’s rugby sevens campaign begins on Saturday 6th August 2016.
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