Alopecia sufferer calls on NHS to make medical tattooing available after she says new eyebrows changed her life.
Brenda Finn, 30, says losing her hair at the age of 14 destroyed her confidence and left her suffering anxiety and depression after bullying forced her to leave school.
But now after her family paid for her to have eyebrows tattooed on she says she finally feels able to face the world with more confidence – but says having the procedure earlier would have made a huge difference to her life.
Crucially she feels it would save the NHS money to make the treatment available to alopecia sufferers, who may then not require expensive counseling or ongoing treatment for anxiety and depression.
She says: ‘ Getting my eyebrows back has done for me overnight what psychotherapy and anti depressants could not.
‘It has made me look more ‘normal’ and feel more accepted because I don’t look so different anymore.
‘I had forgotten what a difference eyebrows can make to a face and only wish I had access to this treatment years earlier. It could have saved years of anguish.
‘The incredible difference it has made to me is why I think eyebrows should be available on the NHS and I hope that I can help make a difference to other sufferers.’
Miss Finn says she does not consider the treatment to be cosmetic, but reconstructive.
The children’s entertainer from London was 14 when she was diagnosed with alopecia universalis.
She woke up one morning to find hair on her pillow and when she scratched her eyebrow it fell out.
She explains: ‘ Mum thought I was playing a trick on her to get off school but when she realized I was telling the truth she panicked.
‘I could tell she thought there was something seriously wrong and rushed me straight to the doctor.’
After blood tests Miss Finn was told she had alopecia and within weeks had lost all of her hair and nails.
It was then when she started wearing a wig to school that the bullying started. She explains: ‘ I was nicknamed ‘ cancer girl,’ despite the fact I did not have cancer and my wig would be torn off my head to be used as a football or flushed down the toilet.’
She endured six traumatic months before her teachers and parents agreed she should be home schooled.
Miss Finn says: ‘ The bullying was so bad that I had just shut down mentally. I wasn’t learning anything at school at all anymore because the bullying dominated everything.’
She says she became very reclusive and rarely left the house for the next three years.
‘Looking back I was likely suffering agoraphobia triggered by the alopecia but it wasn’t ever diagnosed.’
It was only when her parents were able to purchase more expensive natural looking wigs that she started to feel confident enough to face the word again.
After securing a work placement at a local nursery her confidence slowly grow and she one day admitted to the children that she wore a wig.
She says: ‘ Working with children was a great tonic for me because they are so accepting and didn’t care a jot that I was bald. In fact they loved playing with my wigs. It did wonders for my confidence.’
In time she started work as a children’s entertainer and enjoyed being able to ‘hide’ behind the costumes which concealed her hair and face.
She says: ‘ I was so young when I lost my eyebrows that I hadn’t ever really drawn them on and if I did they were wonky and rubbish and made me look worse.
‘I remained very self conscious about it.’
Her mother in law to be told her about eyebrow tattooing last year but Miss Finn could not afford the £300 procedure.
She hoped it would be available on the NHS but when she learned it was not her future mother in law offered to treat her.
She had the tattoo in February last year and was amazed at the difference it made. She said: ‘ It was like my face changed overnight. It had structure and definition again. I looked, dare I say it, a bit more normal again.
‘I can’t explain how good that felt.
‘I’m in a totally different place because of it and feel strongly that it should be available to all sufferers.
‘I was very fortunate to have family pay for it but others won’t be. And they may be costing the NHS more in therapy or pills to lift their mood.
‘I seriously think it needs to be addressed.’
Miss Finn who is set to marry her fiancé Wayne next year even found the confidence to take part in a charity fashion show without her wig, something she would never have done before her eyebrows.
She said: ‘ This isn’t about vanity, it’s about acceptance after a medical condition which is a crucial part of the healing process mentally and physically.’
To support Miss Finn visit https://www.change.org/p/national-health-service-nhs-make-cosmetic-tattoos-available-on-the-nhs