A 9-year-old girl who was taunted at school after her hair started falling out bravely rose above her bullies and had it all shaved off.
Briel Meadows, of Wilmington, N.C., began developing bald spots in January and by June, had lost around 55 percent of her long blond hair through alopecia.
The third grader said her classmates at school would stare, laugh and chant: “You have bald spots, you have bald spots.”
Briel’s mom, ICU nurse Patricia Meadows, 34, said it was hard when her little girl came home in tears and she felt unable to help.
Meadows feared she was pulling her locks out due to stress.
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But in May, a diagnosis confirmed Briel had alopecia.
Alopecia areata is a disease which causes the immune system to attack cells in the body.
It causes hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body and affects as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S., according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Doctors prescribed an ointment containing steroids to help her hair regrow, but Briel says she disliked applying the medicine.
Last week, the headstrong youngster told her mom she wanted to stop using the ointment and to have all her hair shaved off instead, so she did.
Since her trip to the salon on Wednesday, Briel has taken to decorating her head with stickers and headbands.
“I feel extremely happy. Not everybody can rock a bald head,” she said.
Briel’s hair is unlikely to ever grow back without treatment. She made the decision after her classmates’ taunts began bothering her.
“At school my friends started laughing at me and were trying to touch my head,” she said. “They said, ‘Look at your head.’ It made me feel very sad and angry. I went to the bathroom and saw it and didn’t know what it was.”
“Last week I decided to shave my head because I don’t feel comfortable having spots but I thought I would feel comfortable having no hair,” she said. “I thought it would look cool. Having it shaved off tickled and it wasn’t quick. It look at least 30 minutes.”
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“When I looked in the mirror I was happy. I was really excited to go and tell everybody,” she said. “I want people to know that it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what other people say.”
“At first we thought she was pulling her hair out,” Meadows said. “It started with a small patch which became extremely large and then she developed other small patches around her head.”
“Between January and May she ended up losing about 55 percent of her hair,” she said. “It is hard because as a mother your job is to protect your children and you wonder if you could have done something differently. It was hard having her come home from school crying from kids bullying her.”
“The children were staring and laughing at her bald spots and they would try to touch her, so she would wear caps to school,” Meadows said. “They were singing and chanting and saying, ‘You have bald spots, you have bald spots.’ She would say, ‘I’m weird,’ and I would say, ‘Weird is different, different is good. You are beautiful regardless.’”
“She has always been very outgoing and vivacious but losing her hair made her become insecure and there were these hesitations,” she said. “The doctors gave her an ointment to rub on her head with steroids in in the hope it would regrow, but she would say, ‘Mommy, it isn’t working.’”
“She said, ‘I don’t want to do it anymore. Would you care if I just shaved my head?’” Meadows recalled. “I said, ‘You do whatever you want to do.’”
Briel went to Studio 39 in Wilmington to have her head shaved last Wednesday.
“He made her feel like a princess and said she was beautiful and brave. She loved it,” she said. “She wanted to go to the store the next day to buy headbands and metallic tattoos to put on the side of her head so she could decorate it. She’s back to being that vivacious little girl.”