‘I don’t remember the first time that well. I was only 4 when they found a tumor in my kidney and my spleen. In the oncology department at the hospital, all the kids were bald, so it was nothing special. When I look at pictures from that time, the first thing I see isn’t a child that’s bald, it’s a child that’s critically ill. Now that I’m expecting a little boy, I can imagine how hard that period must have been for my parents.
I still remember the second time I went bald. I was 9 years old and was in the fourth grade. I was crazy about my hair. My mum would always braid it or put it in a ponytail or a bun. When she married my stepfather in July, it started to fall out all of a sudden. I was really scared: was it something serious again? My hair kept getting thinner, and by October I didn’t have any left. Doctors are still not sure if I have Alopecia because I don’t have those typical bald spots, and I still have hair on the rest of my body. It might have something to do with the treatment I had when I was 4. Whatever it is, early on as a child I thought: okay, this is who I am then.
At first, I mostly wore bandanas and I thought they looked cool. Later on, my grandma knitted me some beanies and we attached some extensions inside them. My mum often let me go to the Chinese shop to pick a fake hairpiece. I usually went for long and blonde hair. Really fake, but I thought it was beautiful. In the sixth grade, I started wearing a wig too. They started bullying me around that time. I remember being so angry at a girl one time that I threw my wig on the table and clenched my fists - bring it on. That’s what I did when wrestling with my little brothers too: wig off and let’s go. I couldn’t care less. In middle school I had a fresh start. From then on, I always wore a wig. I didn’t talk about it to my classmates, the school principal was the only one who knew about it. I wore synthetic wigs until the eighth grade, and man did they make me sweaty. The hair didn’t feel real, my hairbrush didn’t go through it smoothly and I couldn’t blow-dry it or style it. That’s why my grandpa gave me a human hair wig in the ninth grade, and it was completely custom-made. Because I could glue it on, I could even swim and sleep in it. It was ideal, but insanely expensive and after two years, it was worn out. Because I didn’t have 4,000 € lying around to buy a new wig every other year, I started looking for alternatives. Stichting Haarwensen let me pick a wig twice. They make good human hair wigs but only for children under the age of 18.
My mom was my rock and my anchor, she never gave the impression that she personally struggled with it. She also didn’t find me different or pitiful. That positivity really helped me. She even entered me into a Radio 538 raffle. I was sitting in the car with my whole family when, all of a sudden, I heard the DJ say that my mom had to call the studio. Once she was on the line, she passed me the phone. I was on the live broadcast when they told me that I could pick a new wig at their expense. So awesome.
Knowing other girls with Alopecia on Instagram is another thing that has been really helpful. It makes such a difference to know that you’re not the only one. Veronique is one of the people I met on there. Seeing how happy she looked in pictures with a shaved head made me decide to shave my own head too. I shave my head bald every summer, and in winter I don’t do anything to it.
I’m wearing tailor-made wigs again these days. The second one has been ordered and paid for, but I’ve been waiting for it for a year because of COVID-19. They made a silicone mold of my head in the Netherlands, which was then sent off to China to make a hair net around it.Once I’ve tried it on in the Netherlands, it will go back to China and they will tie it. I don’t think I need to explain how expensive that is. When I ordered it last year, the health insurance reimbursed me 1,000 € for it. They only reimburse you half of the cost. I think it’s ridiculous. A wig is incredibly important for your self-image. When I met my husband, I held him up on the first night. The next morning, I explained the situation. He thought it was totally fine. I’ve been sleeping bald next to him ever since. That way it’s nice and airy.