Real Life

From blonde to bald

By Andrew McNulty

It's been nine months since Alice arrived in Janine Antram's life, and in a hair-raising six weeks, turned the mum of two from blonde to completely bald.

Alice is the nickname Janine gave the bald patch that suddenly appeared on her head in February and grew until every single hair had disappeared from her scalp.

As well as her long blonde hair, the fitness instructor from Waikato also lost her eyelashes, eyebrows and all her other body hair due to alopecia universalis, a rare and untreatable hair loss condition that affects one in every 100,000 people.

"I went to get my hair done and the hairdresser noticed a small bald spot, about the size of a thumbnail. When the doctor confirmed it was alopecia, I immediately went into a panic," says Janine (38).

"over the next six weeks, it became a horrible mangled mess that didn't even look like hair. It kept coming out, as if it had died. When I brushed my hair, huge clumps of it would fall out."

Janine's two daughters, Samantha (19) and Sarah (15), were shocked to see their mum going through such a harrowing ordeal, and Janine came up with the nickname Alice to make the condition feel less scary.

"Sarah would say, 'oh oum, I can't look at it,' and get upset. If the girls saw me crying, they would ask me if Alice was growing and I'd say yes. I would ring my own mum every second day, crying my heart out. It was devastating and the worst thing that has happened to me."

Alopecia isn't the first physical hurdle Janine has faced.

In her twenties, she weighed 89kg, and through dieting and exercise managed to drop to 57kg. With her new trim physique, she became a competitive body sculptor, as well as a bikini model.

Now, with her hair gone, Janine has had to adjust to life as a bald woman.

Her family and friends are used to her new look, as is has her partner of eight years, Grant.

"Now they don't really care, and think I look good without hair," she says. "Grant has been absolutely fantastic and so reassuring throughout it all."

Janine has accepted going bald, but has decided to wear wigs as a way of feeling more feminine. However, she discovered there wasn't as much choice in shops as she had hoped for. So she started her own wig company, SS Hairwear (www.sshairwear.com), to give women experiencing hair loss more options and a bigger range of styles.

"If your hair looks good then your day is good," she says. "That's the same whether it's a wig or your own hair."

While Janine would love her real hair back, she admits having no hair definitely has its benefits.

"I only take 15 minutes to get ready now! I have saved a lot of money on fancy shampoo and hairdressers," she laughs.

"It has made me really think about what's important. I can only imagine what women with cancer - who lose their hair due to chemotherapy - have to go through. So many women have it much, much worse than me. I'm healthy - I just have no hair."

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