Beaconsfield’s Tammy Lobato has lived with Alopecia, a rare auto-immune disease, for her entire life.
The former State Gembrook MP lost all of her hair as young as age three, and has been forced to wear wigs which proved especially difficult during her childhood and adolescence.
“Alopecia causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles as if they were the viruses and bacteria they are meant to destroy in order to protect the body,” Tammy explained.
“The immune system becomes somewhat confused about its function which leads to hair loss in varying degrees, from small patches to the entire head and or body.”
Tammy told the Gazette she was victimised by bullies throughout primary and secondary school and even in her early days of employment.
“I never wanted to expose my Alopecia and did everything I could to hide it as a child, as a teenager and an adult. I felt as if disclosure would reveal my weakness, my difference, my problem,” she said.
“As a child my ‘problem’ was revealed often in the school yard, as a five year old, my wig was torn from me by the big school bully and the back of my head was often a temptation by those curious and cruel.
“I have for 40 years experienced frustrating, sad and humiliating times in various wig shops with rude and impatient sales staff, being sold inappropriate, unflattering wigs shoved in brown paper bags; made with an appalling lack of quality and sold by people taught to sell, not to care.
“Alopecia made me a stronger adult, more compassionate and empathetic, driven by a desire to create change and right wrongs.”
Tammy was inspired to launch a wig boutique of her own and for the past 12 months has helped other women through what is often a traumatic period in their lives.
She said many of her clients also have the highly unpredictable disease with varied degrees of severity.
Some have complete baldness while others have patches. Sometimes it grows back and, just as rapidly, it can fall out again.
“Many theories are presented as to why this occurs with so many varying factors and triggers and no conclusive determination except that ‘stress’ is always a part of the diagnosis,” Tammy said.
Alopecia Awareness Week was from 13 to 20 November.
For more information, visit http://www.alopeciavictoria.org.au or aaaf.org.au
Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.