Two years ago, when Victoria Currie was 18, she began to notice her hair was falling out – just a few strands at first, but quickly escalating to full handfuls.
In her second year at the University of Guelph at the time, the Etobicoke Collegiate grad had no idea what was wrong with her – and neither did the scores of doctors and dermatologists she went to seeking help.
“It was a really frustrating diagnosis because I went to doctor after doctor and dermatologist after dermatologist and there was never a clear diagnosis,” Currie, now 20, said of the experience. “One of them said the word ‘alopecia’, but I’d never heard that word before.”
After a trip to consult with her allergist, Currie learned about a specialist at Sunnybrook Hospital named Dr. Jeff Donovan.
It was he who finally gave Currie her diagnosis with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system, for unknown reasons, to attack the hair root and cause hair loss.
A self-conscious teen, Currie had lost nearly three-quarters of her hair at that point, and was using hats and wigs to cover up her hair loss.
Luckily, she responded positively to the DPCP (diphenylcyclopropenone) treatment Donovan prescribed for her, and her hair grew back quickly.
At the same time Currie was going through her alopecia ordeal, her mother, too, was losing her hair – but for a different reason.
In the same week Currie received her alopecia diagnosis, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which quickly spread through the rest of her body.
Their paralleled experience helped Currie put her own condition into perspective and helped her look beyond her concerns about her appearance to the more important things in life.
“When I was first going through it, I was angry that I was so caught up in losing my hair when my mom was going through something so much more serious and hard to face, so that really helped me put things in perspective,” she said. “It made me think about what I really value in life – is it really my hair? I think there’s something wrong in society if we care that much about what we look like. So I had a bit of a mind change.”
Now facing a recurrence of her alopecia, this time around Currie is trying to use that new perspective to put a positive spin on her condition. Currie will host an Alopecia Awareness Skate Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Colonel Samuel Smith Park skating trail, 3131 Lake Shore Blvd. (at Kipling Avenue).
All are invited to come out and enjoy a winter night’s skate on the figure-eight shaped trail, and learn about alopecia and how to support the Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation (CANAAF).
“Last time I didn’t tell anybody what I was going through, but this time I know it’s not something to be ashamed of. If anything, it’s something that people are going to benefit from if I share my story,” Currie said of her desire to host the awareness skate, noting the positive response she’s gotten from family and friends.
“I’ve actually never gotten so many nice and inspiring messages before – everyone is just so happy that I’m taking something that can be so negative and making it something positive.”
To learn more about alopecia or to donate, go to the CANAAF website at canaaf.org Donations to CANAAF will also be collected at Tuesday’s Alopecia Awareness Skate.
All funds raised will go toward research and endeavors to raise awareness about alopecia, which affects about two per cent of the population. Tax receipts will be issued for donations $15 and over.