'I want people to know the real me': Inspiring story of girl, 14, whose alopecia inspired her to write book about life without hair
Losing one's hair at any age would be hard to cope with. But high school years, already blighted by teenage insecurities and potential bullies, must surely be more challenging still.
Now one young alopecia sufferer has described exactly what it feels like to go through life without hair.
Olivia Rusk, 14, from Fishers, Indiana, has told her inspiring story in the new book, Just Your Average Teenager Who Happens To Be Bald.
Personal experience: Olivia Rusk, 14, has has described what it feels like to go through life without hair in her new book, out next month
Of course the high school freshman is far from average. Despite her tender years, she has already won praise for her work as a motivational speaker and has her own talk show on Radio Disney.
And if that wasn't achievement enough, she has even done some modelling too.
Olivia, who has been bald since the age of two, says she hopes her book will encourage
people to be more accepting of those that are different.
'I go to public school, so I've seen bullying first-hand – it just needs to stop'
Though she herself has never been
bullied, she knows many others with alopecia who have, and is not
prepared to accept such behaviour.
She told IndyStar.com: 'I go to public school, so I've seen bullying first-hand. It just needs to stop.'
Olivia also explained why she proudly refuses to hide her baldness.
She said that as a child she initially
hid her condition from her peers, but after several years of wearing a
wig, she elected to take a different approach.
Raising awareness: Olivia hopes to publish her book next month, and with the help of corporate sponsors, give 20,000 copies away for free
'When I was 8 years old, I got a custom
wig,' she revealed. 'No one knew I was bald. It looked completely
natural. But one day I woke up and said, “Mom, I'm not wearing my wig to
school. I want people to know the real me.”'
WHAT IS ALOPECIA
Alopecia refers to the loss of hair from the head or body.
It can refer to male pattern hair-loss and the side-effects of chemotherapy, as well as alopecia areata, which affects 5million people in the U.S.
The latter condition is thought to be an auto-immune disorder, with the immune system -the body's defence system – turning on itself.
Some studies have linked it to stress, which is believed to prolong symptoms.
Experts say there is no way to predict in an individual case how quickly hair may fall out or how long the symptoms could last.
They estimate that in approximately 20 per cent of cases, hair-loss either recurs or is permanent.
Though many afflicted with the same
problem might have a hard time accepting it, Olivia's attitude remains
'Something that could have traumatized me has actually given me so many opportunities that I would have never had,' she told the site.
Naturally, her mother, Sandy, could not be more proud of how her daughter has turned the situation around.
'She's one of the strongest and most determined people I've known,' she said. 'She's been that way since she was little.'
And Olivia has won more formal plaudits too, winning awards for her work on alopecia awareness from the likes of race car driver Danica Patrick and Coach Lin Dunn of the Indiana Fever.
Olivia, who has self-published her book, hopes to release it in February, and with the help of corporate sponsorship, would like to distribute 20,000 free copies to young people.
For further information on Olivia and her book, visit Olivia's Cause on Facebook