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WES WALTON

Universalis Alopecia

TELL ME YOUR STORY

"I haven’t had alopecia my whole life. I had hair all the way up until I was 18 years old. It was an extreme onset of Alopecia Universalis. Alopecia comes in three parts. There’s Alopecia Areata, which is just patches on your head. Alopecia Totalis, which is just losing hair from the neck up. Then there is Alopecia Universalis, which is full body hair loss. I have Alopecia Universalis that came over the course of like a week or two, and lost all of my hair. My doctors have said that it’s primarily anxiety and stress induced, which makes sense because when I lost all of my hair it was during the ACT’s in high school. I was super stressful. I remember taking them that week and then when I went to get a haircut, the lady told me I had a huge bald patch right above my ear.

 

I got some cortisone shotes which is a steroid needle and it’s supposed to kind of spike your immune system to grow your hair. The cortisone shots were working for a little bit, but not a long time.

 

So flash forward, I wanted to serve a mission. So as I am preparing to leave for my mission, I had clumps of hair coming out. I thought “okay, this is weird, but it’s probably not gonna be a big deal”. It started getting bad when I would wake up and there would be clumps of hair in my bed. That’s the point where I knew that I needed to go see a doctor again. So I went to the dermatologist and they started giving me cortisone shots in my head. So I had seven or eight shots in my head, but they can’t go directly so they have to go in at an angle. It was super painful. Anyways, so I am leaving on a mission in 3 or 4 days. I’m crying and wondering what is going to happen to me. My friends were amazing and they said, “hey if you’re going to shave your head, we’ll shave your head with you”. So they shaved my head and shaved their heads. It’s definitely been a growth experience at this point. That was in 2016. I felt fortunate for when it happened because I went on my mission and all the people that I knew on my mission never knew me with hair.

 

About four months into my mission, I started getting line in my eyebrows. At first I was like, oh it’s kind of like a hip trend. One day, all the elders are going to get haircuts and I never had a haircut. One of the ladies sits me down in the chair and she said she wanted to henna my eyebrows. So she did it, but when she peeled it off my whole eyebrow. None of the henna stuck to my eyebrow, so I essentially had my eyebrows waxed. Eyebrows are the only thing that I wish I still hard. When I take my glasses off, it’s very noticeable that I don’t have them. So I mainly wear glasses just because it covers them and gives me a little more frame.

 

My mission was not an easy time. I served for six month and then I tore my ACL. I finally had a chance to go home two months later and then wasn’t released until 6 weeks later. Eventually I was able to go back out to my mission. It was really hard though. I felt like I had given up so much to go on my mission and I didn’t feel like I was being blessed. But before I went on my mission I applied for BYU and didn’t get in, but at the end of my mission I applied again and got in. I was studying Marketing at first, but didn’t enjoy it so I switched over to Advertising. I feel like all these events lead to where I’m at today though.

 

Hair is a big part of your identity. I’d say I’ve grown into it a little bit. I was never very social, but upon losing my hair and serving my mission at the same time, I was like “well I have to compensate”. I had to branch out and be super excited and more empowered. So it’s given me some sort of a sense of confidence and it’s increased my interpersonal skills. I’m able to relate to people a little bit better."

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST CHALLENGE?

"My self image. I still struggle with that a lot. It’s affected my confidence and a lot of time I’m able to put on this outward persona, but on the inside I really struggle. It’s something that I have had to learn to accept. It’s still tough though."

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED?

"Accept who you are. This is the hand I’ve been dealt, so I can either fold them or go all the way in. Also, it’s allowed me to recognize that there’s so much more to a person than the surface looks. You never know exactly what somebody is going through. If we can just be a little more sympathetic and a little more open to dealing with that, I think it would change the world."

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST BLESSING THAT HAS COME FROM THIS?

"My relationship with my parents. We weren’t super close in high school, but since I’ve been diagnosed they have truly become my best friends. They’ve been through it all with me."

IF YOU COULD SAY ONE THING TO SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH THIS NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

"Right now things don’t make sense and it’s frustrating, but give it time. God has a plan for you. You have to realize that something will happen each day that will make you improve. So rise with the sun each day. When you accept yourself, that’s when you’re gonna realise that others will accept you."

CHARITIES

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