I have suffered with alopecia since I was at primary school. From the age of nine, I started wearing wigs. Unfortunately, wigs available from the NHS at that time were of very poor quality and I experienced quite significant bullying at secondary school where I would be called ‘wiggy’ and on one occasion I had my wig pulled off. I was also taunted by pupils from a neighbouring secondary school when playing netball which made me feel really inadequate. My wig came off during a netball match, which was very traumatic for me and really affected my confidence and self-esteem. After that incident I stopped playing netball which is one of my biggest regrets. Wearing a wig restricted me and made me feel vulnerable but I never felt that not wearing it was an option for me.

In 2014 I tried going to 'Back to Netball' with a friend. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to wear my wig (i'd feel too hot and worry about it coming off) but didn’t feel I had the confidence to go bald so I wore a headscarf. Sadly, I felt that I stood out too much, due to my lack of confidence, so I didn’t feel able to carry on. This was nothing to do with how the other women made me feel but more about how I felt about myself. I have had to take real baby steps with my alopecia and somehow wearing the headscarf felt less scary than going without it. The headscarf was like a comfort blanket but equally I didn’t like how I looked in it either.

When I turned 30 and my daughter was 6 months old, I decided to give 'Back to Netball' another go. Again, I didn’t feel able to go alone so took another friend with me and since then I haven’t looked back! In the summer of 2017, I attended a charity netball tournament where I finally ditched the headscarf and braved my bald head – I think turning 30 made me want to take control and not allow my alopecia to dictate to me or hold me back! I think I may have talked myself out of doing this if it wasn’t for me going along with a friend who supported and encouraged me - sometimes we need a friend at our side!

I wanted to conquer my fear and through going without a head-covering for netball, I was then able to challenge myself to go without my wig in other areas of my life. Before, I felt like the wig dictated to me, as if I had to wear it. Now I feel like I have a choice. I find that I now wear my wig less as I find it uncomfortable and won’t think twice now about going out when its warm without my wig and going to gym classes bald.  It has been such a liberating experience and has taken me a long time to get to this point. I wish that I had done it much sooner. I find that people are much kinder and accepting than I gave them credit for.

Netball has given me a new found confidence, a new friendship group and has helped me to accept and embrace my alopecia. For a  number of years now I have been part of Pumas Netball team and we play in two different leagues each week. I can’t put into words how addictive netball is or describe the buzz I get from playing, it’s like nothing else! It’s not just a game of netball as I have made such wonderful friends who have all been so supportive and encouraging. We spend time together outside of netball and have recently been to Bognor Regis for a netball tournament and hen weekend! As a mother to two young girls, it’s also been an outlet where I can dedicate time to myself.

I hope that by sharing my story I can help other people with alopecia who lack confidence to find the strength and courage to really pursue anything they want to do. I am now a support group lead for Alopecia UK, with a group in Nottingham, and I feel passionate about supporting others with alopecia. You can also follow me and my team on Instagram: @alopeciaalice and @pumas.nc