1-Week Post-Op…Looking back
It seems it was only a few weeks ago that my girlfriend, aware of my growing concern with my hair loss, was saying “just go and research it, find out how much it is…”. And here I am today, one week post-op, excited about my new hairline, but still feeling aggravated by the discomfort associated with the surgery. Needless to say, “No pain no gain” is what my girlfriend (who is also my nurse) keeps telling me to help me get me thru this temporary phase. At this point, not only am I looking forward to seeing the new sprouts grow abundantly on my head to create the hairline I always wanted and which Dr.Rahal so elegantly designed, but I’m also dying to be able to feel the back of my head again, and to having a good night’s sleep in my own bed, in a normal position.
Truth is… it DID happen that fast. My hair loss. My research. My appointments. My decision. Although I’d lost an alarming amount of hair in the last 2 years (something I attribute to extreme life stressors that probably activated my genetic predisposition to alopecia), I NEVER would have thought I’d be getting a hair transplant before the age of 40. After all, I had managed to stabilize my hair loss by using Proscar for over a decade (since my early 20s), and even after having stopped the medication, I still had not seen anything truly alarming… until last year (2011).
One day, I was glancing at my “wall of fame” – a place at home where I like to hang photos that depict professional milestones in my career as a performing artist. It was then that I first really noticed how dramatic my hair loss had been in the last year or so.
“Was that really me? How could it have happened so fast? Seems I just shot that commercial! Seems I just did that musical! Oh my god, I’m starting not to look like my headshots anymore! What am I going to do?”. The guy on these pictures had a lot more hair than the man I was now seeing in the mirror.
At this point, I began to panic for my career and for my personal life.
Professionally speaking, I knew that losing my hair at this stage would negatively impact my work opportunities. I was currently being marketed as a young man with shaggy hair and a perfect smile – and the jobs I was being submitted for were characters I wanted to portray. I certainly didn’t want to be forced into a new category of roles, such as older balding men, when my career was just taking off. “There’ll be plenty of time for that in my later years!”, I thought. Furthermore, all my headshots reflected this youthful edgy appearance and I certainly didn’t want to invest in a new photo shoot. I was faced with an urgent dilemma because as a performing artist, your headshot is your calling card and you are expected to look like your picture when you show up for an audition. If I wasn’t willing to get new photos and accept a “new look”, then I would have to find a way to quickly reverse, slow down, or discreetly mask the situation.
But facing work-related doom wasn’t the only area where I felt anxiety: my personal life was also at risk of taking a hit. For one, I was still single… and having always been complimented on my hair by the opposite sex, I felt that women might not be as attracted or interested in me anymore. Secondly, one of the simple pleasures that come from having a girlfriend is being able to experience her fingers running thru your hair – that’s a perk I most definitely did not want to give up! Finally, I’d always been a “hair”guy, a metrosexual man who likes to do his hair in the morning and make regular visits to salons and spas. I’d always been proud of my hair styles and colors. Since my teenage years, I’d had it straight, permed, textured, colored. I’d worn it long, short, and everything in between. Just like fashion, hair was fun for me because it allowed me to express myself in so many ways. I didn’t want to lose that!
Needless to say, on that dreadful day when I realized how much hair was gone (possibly forever), my self-confidence began to crumble. I didn’t like my self-image anymore. I began to feel embarrassed, ashamed, and depressed. My self-esteem began to wither away, and ultimately, my self-love too.
Adopting the “Go Getter” Mindset
Doing the research
I wasn’t about to give up. I had always told people “When I get old, I’d rather look like Richard Gere than Dr.Phil” and I meant that with every hair on my body. So, I decided to use my hair loss anxiety to fuel my research into finding a solution for myself. I hadn’t kept up with developments in the hair restoration industry over the last decade so I began googling optimistically. Every day over the Christmas Holidays of 2011, I obsessively read every post I could find in online forums related to hair loss.
The first thing I discovered was how unregulated this industry is and how many scams are out there, promising a miracle solution to those willing to sacrifice their hard-earned money. The more I educated myself by reading reviews and testimonials from real people, the more I thought “thank God I did my research and didn’t buy into that”! The next thing I realized was how many women are affected by hair loss. Gosh, I had no idea. Finally, I discovered the promising advancements made using low level laser therapy (LLLT). This intrigued me so I investigated further. I found out about laser clinics in my area that would charge me thousands of dollars per year to go in for 20 minute treatments, three times a week. I also discovered the hidden truth that you need to keep doing this every week for the rest of your life in order to maintain the hair you “might” grow back using LLLT. That’s a lot of money.
My research then led me to discover the existence of portable laser devices such as the laser comb, which I almost made the mistake of purchasing. While LLLT can give good results (there are many positive testimonials out there), certain specs must be considered when evaluating a portable device’s effectiveness in treating hair loss. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what puts a portable laser device on par with the industrial machines used in laser clinics. It also seems that LLLT yields its best results when combined with other elements of hair loss regimen, such as monoxidil, but lots of people are unaware of this and expect to yield miraculous results from using LLLT only. I hate to say it but in hindsight, I was one of them.
Trying out Plan A
Once my research was complete, I had a plan. First, I got rid of all my commercial shampoos and opted for more natural, sulfate-free shampoos and a few ones designed specifically to battle hair loss. The only commercial shampoo I kept in my regimen was Nizoral. Second, I bought Polysorbate 80 to put on nightly. Third, I started taking supplements designed to fight hair loss. Fourth, I purchased my own custom-made laser helmet containing an impressive 350 laser diodes (same ones as used in the clinics) in order to bring home the same LLLT used by the clinics, but without the ridiculous price tag. Finally, in order to mask the hair loss and maintain the normalcy of my work opportunities, I ordered DermMatch, which I began to wear religiously whenever I went to work in front of a camera.
It was now Summer 2012, and after 6 months of sticking to my regimen, I did notice some vellous hair (as did my hairstylist) but not enough to convince me that I’d ever have a head full of hair again. During this time, I chose to visit one of the laser hair restoration clinics in my area in order to get a professional assessment of my hair loss. Besides finding out that I was already a Norwood Class 5 (how depressing!), the microscopic digital images revealed a number of very shiny areas which, I was told, represented spots where hair would never grow back, not even with laser.
Time for Plan B – Bring on the Transplant
Now I was really depressed… and for the first time ever, I began to consider a hair transplant, an option I had intentionally overlooked when doing my research a few months earlier. All I knew about transplants (besides the fact that my father had one during his 50s) was that they left questionable results along with a big scar, and probably cost much more than I could presently afford. But here I was, 6 months into my regimen, lacking the results I was hoping for, finding myself covering up my head every day with DermMatch or a hat, obsessing over my appearance first thing in the morning and last thing at night. My hair loss was consuming me so much that everything else in my life became secondary.
I was comfortable sharing my hair loss anxiety with my girlfriend (she could tell this was really bothering me) so when I told her that I thought a hair transplant was the only solution, she encouraged me to take action. At this point, I had no idea how much it would cost or how I would pay for it, and no idea when or where I would get it done. I honestly figured I’d just start saving up for my hair transplant and accept that I’d be living with this problem for years before I could afford the procedure, but she insisted I begin my research anyway. And whenever I felt sad about my deteriorating condition, she would smile and say with her thick Asian accent: “Don’t worry baby, you will soon have a hair.” A hair. Yes, hopefully a lot more than just one! And hopefully very very soon, or else that’s all that will be left standing on my head!
When I look back, I see how following her advice in August 2012 was the turning point. The moment I started to investigate all my options thoroughly (reading testimonials, booking consultations, looking at results, etc), is when everything picked up momentum and all the pieces began to fall in place very quickly.
It is now October 2012 and I’m one week post-op. Within 3 months of starting my research on hair transplants, I got answers to all my questions, found the best option for me (Rahal), and went thru with it.