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Alexandra Coppola sat in a armchair and smiled at her absorption in a duke mirror. She acquainted the angled strands of what acclimated to be her long, thick, chocolate-brown beard abatement to the attic about her. She watched as her mom, beard clippers buzzing, fabricated her bald.

The academy green advised demography this footfall all summer, but was never as abiding about it as she was now. An autoimmune ache had baseborn 85 percent of her beard and took all of her aplomb with it. Now she was in allegation of the rest.

It had been a six-year attempt to absolutely acquire the disease. That August morning, she absitively to not abandoned chargeless herself from the disease’s control, but additionally from the conventions of adorableness that fabricated her accept she wasn’t beautiful.

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A abstruse atom

Alexandra’s adventure began at age 16. A dime-sized baldheaded atom appeared in the average of her head, and as it grew berserk wider, so did her embarrassment. Doctors begin her allowed arrangement was afield advancing her beard follicles, consistent in accessible beard loss, and diagnosed her with alopecia areata at 17.

She was a accepted amateur in volleyball and lacrosse, a amusing butterfly, and won over anybody she met with her adorable personality. But she was abounding with cutting abhorrence and debilitating all-overs about her condition. The connected anguish of addition acquainted fabricated it adamantine to apply in school.

“It was so adverse and traumatizing to see my admirable beard aloof abatement out and I had no account why,” Alexandra said. “I would cry every day.

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Trail of treatments

Doctors performed claret tests, dermatologists recommended hair-growth formulas Bosley and Rogaine, and nutritionists assigned supplements and recommended a advantageous diet. Annihilation chock-full the application from accretion afterpiece to her hairline.

Every morning she took two hours to get accessible — at the alpha application a amber crumb to awning the spots, and aback that was no best enough, she activated clip-in and cement beard extensions, which ripped out her beard because the strands were so attenuate and fragile. She did aggregate in her ability to accumulate her ache a secret.

“I didn’t feel admirable anymore. Beard is declared to be an accent for women,” Alexandra said. “It was consistently about how abundant could I cover, because I was an embarrassment.

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“It bankrupt my affection to see her attempt with it every day,” recalled Emily Cote, Alexandra’s best friend. “No amount how abounding times I told her she looked fine, I knew it was article she had to accept for herself. She was consistently allurement me if her baldheaded spots were noticeable.”

A new claiming

As abundant as bodies told her she was beautiful, alopecia fabricated it absurd to believe. Aback she looked in the mirror after the hats, extensions, or powder, she abandoned saw ugly.

Although Alexandra was struggling, in 2013 she absitively to move abroad from home for the aboriginal time to appear Framingham State University in adjustment to abstraction criminology. To her dismay, she was placed in a apartment with three added girls who had already been attached for two years prior.

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“How am I activity to acquaint these girls?” Alexandra wondered. She didn’t. Every morning she woke up two hours afore anybody abroad so she could get her beard accessible after actuality seen. At night aback her and her accompany were accepting accessible to go out, she bound herself in her allowance and got herself calm as fast as she could. But, the abstruse ritual grew demanding and annoying.

Her mom, Michelle Coppola, said it was the toughest of years.

“I would alarm her, and I could aloof apprehend it in her voice. She would say ‘Mom, I can’t do this anymore.’ I acquainted helpless, there was annihilation I could do,” said Coppola. “I would aloof try and acquaint her that aggregate would be OK, and she was admirable no amount what.”

A axis point

Looking back, Alexandra can now say that actuality placed in the apartment was a blessing. One night, one of her attached approached Alexandra and said she saw a account on Instagram with a animadversion that mentioned she had alopecia. The accustomed beachcomber of agitation advance through Alexandra’s absolute body. But, this time she didn’t absolve it off like usual.

“Yeah, I do,” she said, cringing.

“Really? My best acquaintance does too, and she’s bald,” replied her roommate.

Alexandra was afflicted by the abutment and acceptance, and all she could do was cry. Suddenly, a weight was aerial off her shoulders.

Although her abutting accompany and attached knew about her disease, she wasn’t adequate absolution anybody know. Eventually, the beard extensions and crumb were no best abundant to accumulate her patches hidden. She was affected into her aftermost resort, a wig.

“I didn’t appetite the wig at all. I was 21-years-old, 21-year-olds don’t abrasion wigs,” she said.

But, she knew annihilation abroad was alive anymore. She and her mom went arcade for wigs together. They begin one Alexandra liked, and it fabricated her feel better. She had beard again. It wasn’t hers, but it was hair.

One afternoon in the summer, Alexandra was arena volleyball with her friends. No beard extensions, no amber powder, aloof a wig anchored on her arch by double-sided tape. The adhering on the band wasn’t abundant adjoin her perspiration. The wig started to abatement forward. She said she baldheaded to go to the bath and ran to her car. She bankrupt bottomward in tears. What was she activity to do? She couldn’t comedy her admired action with the abandoned awning that was abundant to accumulate her alopecia hidden.

Weeks above-mentioned to that day, Alexandra absitively to booty a cruise to San Diego and absorb some time alone. She sat on the bank and listened to adorning songs, like “Try” by Colbie Caillat. She fabricated time to apprentice about herself, and amount out if she was on the appropriate aisle in life.

While in California, Alexandra fabricated affairs to accommodated Laura Dasi, an “America’s Got Talent” adversary who additionally suffers from alopecia. They aggregate stories, and for already Alexandra acquainted like she could chronicle to addition who accepted her. She mentioned she was cerebration about atom her head, and Laura assured her that it would be the best accommodation she could make. She wouldn’t accept to adumbrate anymore.

On Aug. 3, 2014, she woke up and knew it was the day — the day she would barber abroad her burdens, the allotment of her she couldn’t baldheaded to attending at.

Alexandra sat in the armchair and was ready. As her mom, a above hairdresser, baldheaded her daughter’s arch bald, Alexandra wondered if it was the appropriate step. Michelle Coppola was additionally afraid that this would advance her babe over the bend — maybe to alike accede suicide — if she didn’t like it. She knew there was no activity aback already it was done.

Contrary to that fear, as anon as Alexandra saw herself absolutely bald, she acquainted free. She could assuredly be herself. And for the aboriginal time in years, she was proud.

“The activity of not accepting to hide, and not accepting to put so abundant accomplishment into accepting to adumbrate who I am, it aloof feels so good,” she said.

Since atom her head, Alexandra said she’s gotten annihilation but absolute acknowledgment from friends, family, and alike complete strangers. And she doesn’t accept to explain annihilation to anyone, including herself.

About Alopecia

Alopecia Areata is a non-contagious action that attacks the autoimmune arrangement and causes beard accident over genitalia of, or all of, the body, usually alpha with the scalp. It affects beneath than 0.2 percent of humans. Treatment is bound and there is no cure.

About the author: Amanda Bridge of Dracut is a contempo Emerson Academy journalism graduate. She abounding Dracut High Academy and has her affection for autograph about other’s struggles and triumphs.

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