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         Alopecia Areata
(al-oh-PEE-shah air-ee-AH-tah) is a highly unpredictable, autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. This common but very challenging and capricious disease affects approximately 1.7 percent of the population overall, including more than 4 million people in the United States alone. Due to the fact that much of the public is still not familiar with alopecia areata, the disease can have a profound impact on one's life and functional status, both at work and at school.

In alopecia areata, the affected hair follicles are mistakenly attacked by a person's own immune system (white blood cells), resulting in the arrest of the hair growth stage. Alopecia areata usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth bald patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).

Alopecia areata occurs in males and females of all ages and races; however, onset most often begins in childhood and can be psychologically devastating. Although not life-threatening, alopecia areata is most certainly life-altering, and its sudden onset, recurrent episodes, and unpredictable course have a profound psychological impact on the lives of those disrupted by this disease.

National Alopecia Areata Foundation. NAAF Newsletter - Number 102. May-June 2001.

Editor's Note: We are extremely thrilled to have renown character actor Barry Corbin as our 2001 NAAF Conference closing speaker, as well as our spokesperson for this year's Alopecia Areata Awareness Annual campaign in September. Barry has graciously extended his assistance to NAAF to help raise public awareness of alopecia areata as well as funds for research. Please join us at the annual conference June 21-24 in Oakland, California, where Barry will share his personal experiences in coming to grips with his alopecia areata.

With permission, the following biographical material was taken from Barry's Web site. Please log on to
www.barrycorbin.net to see further information on Barry's acting credits and achievements, and to listen to audio clips and visit his photo gallery. Accompanying this piece is a letter Barry recently sent to the NAAF office addressing all those affected by alopecia areata. In the letter, Barry shares some of his personal experiences after being diagnosed with the disease, and he discusses his decision to join our efforts in raising public awareness.

Dear NAAF Friends,

I'm glad I'm associated with NAAF, not just because I happen to have alopecia areata, but because maybe in some way we can bring alopecia areata to the attention of the general public. I, like many people who are diagnosed with having this disease, thought I must be the only one who was afflicted. Everywhere I went I had to explain to make-up people, directors, producers, and friends what alopecia areata was. People were constantly asking my daughter how I was feeling, assuming I was taking chemotherapy. I even saw in print that I had cancer, and that can hurt a fella's career in my line of work. They have to insure actors, and I wouldn't be a good bet.

Maybe together we can spread the word, so the next kid who is diagnosed with alopecia areata will know what it is and that he or she is not the only one who has it. The reality of alopecia areata is frightening when it first happens. In my case, I lost hair behind my ears so I was not aware of it immediately. It was brought to my attention by a hair stylist on the set of a series I was working on. At first it didn't bother me because it was only the size of a nickel. It began to progress, however, until I lost all the hair on the back of my head, as well as most on the top and sides. Soon after, I noticed that my beard was disappearing in spots as well.

I finally consulted with dermatologists and hair experts and nobody could tell me anything. When we discovered it was alopecia areata, I was told there was nothing that could be done. So, I shaved my head and have been bald ever since three years now. I have a wig that I can wear when necessary, but it's cumbersome and difficult to put on. I've recently come in contact with someone who specializes in hairpieces for people with alopecia areata. I'm looking forward to having a wig made for me, as I'm sure it will be more comfortable and easier to wear that the theatrical wig I currently have.

As I said, I'm glad to be associated with the Foundation because there is strength and encouragement in numbers. I'm sure if enough of us band together this condition will become better known and hopefully there will be some strides made to figure out why we reject our hair. It's not so hard for me personally, because I'm an old man and would probably have lost my hair eventually anyway. But I can imagine the devastation that a young woman or a young man would experience with such a loss.

Ya'll keep up the good work getting the word out. I look forward to meeting all of you at the conference.

All the best,

Barry Corbin.

NAAF's Public Service Announcements
PSA 1: Barry Corbin
30 Sec. QuickTime

1,125 Kb.
PSA 2: Barry Corbin
60 Sec. QuickTime

2,098 Kb.
     

National Alopecia Areata Foundation. NAAF Newsletter - Number 104. September-December 2001.

The closing sessions of NAAF conferences have long been characterized as a touching reflection of the weekend. Bringing a close to the reunion of old friends and the meeting of new ones is difficult in any setting. The environment that we strive to create during the three days that we all have together lends itself to a difficult farewell.

For many, it is a time to say good-bye for another year to a huge tangible part of our soul, and for all it is the moment that we realize we must pack our bags, catch our planes, and take all the strength we have gained from our weekend together back to our own realities.

Knowing how emotionally challenging the two hours devoted to closing the conference can be, we made the decision to lighten it up by inviting Barry Corbin to be one of our guest speakers. With his undeniable poise and his infectious charm, coupled with his honest experience with alopecia areata, there was no better way to create a roomful of smiles to combat the tears.

Barry opened his speech with a common story shared by many sitting below him: the awareness of the first patch. Since Barry was a character actor on the straight road to stardom one might assume that the main setback associated with this realization would be the impact it presented to his career. But like many of us, Barry's first concern was his health.

After being educated on the meaning and implications of alopecia areata, Barry was quickly able to put his diagnosis into perspective; he had spent many years watching his grandson courageously battle scoliosis and cerebral palsy and was therefore not going to take for granted his clean bill of health, or the way his young grandson looked up to him as a source of support and strength.

At first his managers, however, were shocked by his sudden change of appearance. having scheduled Barry for numerous commercials and appearances prior to the onset of alopecia areata, they were skeptical about the reaction of their clients. Corbin, on the other hand, displayed a positive attitude and keen sense of humor regarding his new look, openly admitting he did look like a "possum with mange" during an ad he did for Nike.

Unfortunately, the ad never was seen on television, but Barry's confidence didn't falter. He took to wearing wigs that matched the physical descriptions of the characters he portrayed, an option that he now views as an asset to his career as an actor.

Barry closed his speech with an eloquent recitation of a soliloquy from Shakespeare's "As You Like It." Proving to an attentive audience that the scope of talent of this Texas-grown actor extends far past countryside roles and cowboy movies, Barry moved us all with a perfectly appropriate insight into the course of a life and the importance of choice in deciding how to live it.

"As You Like It"

"All the world's stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school. And then the lover, sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like a pard, jealous in honor, sudden, and quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined, with eyes severe and beard of formal cut, full of wise saws and modern instances. And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts into the lean and slippered Pantaloon with spectacles on nose and pouch on side, his youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide for his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, that ends this strange, eventful story, is second childishness and mere oblivion. Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."





 


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