“Really, I did not even notice it?”
“Ah it does not look bad, just relax, you are making a big deal out of nothing. You’re in your 30s, why do you care so much, in time you will just get used to it.”
“Oh there it is, now I can see it. You can’t though so why are you so upset about it. Just cut your hair short and it will be less noticeable.”
“Angel, you are going bald hey, getting bigger as you get older, you take after my side of the family.”
The above quotes come from friends and family who, while trying their best to be supportive amidst my early 30s crisis of, I AM GOING BALD, were just saying what they thought I wanted to hear or being super honest and adding to my all consuming dread in the matter. Their views aside, the growing bald patch on my crown was having a serious impact on my confidence.
I had spent the last year losing 20kg, getting in shape, becoming increasingly athletic and looking after my skin. Taking a look in the mirror I would marvel with pride at how much I could accomplish if I set my mind to it. How good my legs, stomach (or lack thereof) and shoulders were looking. I had adopted a new eating lifestyle, work was amazing and in all areas, I was excelling. There was just one thing, niggling at the back of my mind, or should I say crown. One thing that was out of my control. A relative ‘KICK ME’ sign on the back of my head for all the world to see, except me.
I had started growing my hair and then getting it straightened to pull it back and over my crown. The compliments flowed forth, people loved the new look and I got a few whistles as well. A mask, a lie, yes, a cover up. This conspiracy of my hairstyle hiding the truth was all consuming. Suddenly I found myself in one of my favourite places, an intense yoga session with a serious yogi. I was in front of the class… what was I thinking? The fans were a welcome treat for all those buckling under the strain and internal heat of the postures. To me, the fans were haters, ready to blow apart my neatly combed and styled hair and reveal the kick me sign, now more obvious than ever given that I had clearly made efforts to hide it. I could not focus on the session, all I could think about was what a fool I was. I had let this get too far… this obsession, this curse of genes. So before anyone else did, I kicked myself for being such a fool.
I knew that I had begun to obsess when I would be going through pics on my phone and the frequency of crown shots started to compete with pictures of my cats. Now remember, I could not see the area. The only way was to take pictures of it and the responses from friends and family were not helping at all. Luckily I have a massive love for hats, caps of all shapes and sizes. I can actually thank the situation for awarding me one hell of a collection and for it not being considered eccentric or odd to see Paul in a hat.
Now many readers might be thinking, “man get on with it and deal with it.” A note on my hair, it is thick, curly, black, wild, soft, unruly, even competition to a Brazilian Blowout treatment, my hair fought back and it never took. It is not like I am losing hair from all sides, just this one spot. To those readers who think I am too much, yes I know I am. Fair and fine BUT, do you make an effort to get dressed up for dinner. To look your very best when meeting clients. To be that couple out where people say, “damn, they’re lucky!” To me, this little kick me sign on the back of my head never allowed me to be fully confident in the above. It actually started to affect me making much of an effort in these areas.
I needed an answer, a solution. I needed a few more years of hair, my hair. Not a system where they install a wig on your hair and then you need to maintain it. I even got so desperate as to henna my scalp in the hopes that this would give an illusion of a full head of hair. I needed to feel like me again! I had done so much work on myself.
Enter Dr Catherine Davies from Rejuv-nation. Now when Dr Davies, aka Cathy, had her first chat with me she actually wondered why I was there regarding my hair (again a note on how thick and wild it is). We then discussed the area and for the very first time, the words of another regarding my kick me sign were heard and I started to calm down. “Yes, we can sort this out, nothing to worry about here, you are a great candidate,” Dr Davies comforted.
First things first. We needed to treat the area and halt the progression of the balding. For the next three months I would undergo one session of PRP for each month. A fascinating procedure. “Your body already has the tools to deal with your healing needs,” Dr Davies informed me. She drew blood, which was then placed in a centrifuge. The platelets were then extracted and injected back into my crown. I would use the term discomfort to describe this, it is not painful. Just odd I guess. Your hair can only be washed on the third day after this treatment and you cannot have anything with asprin in it for the next week. We underwent this procedure for the next three months. In the second month Dr Davies used a handheld microscope to show me all of the little fine translucent hairs that had started… TO GROW BACK! I was totally amazed at the healing qualities my own body had.
The date was then set for my Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) treatment. Now this is different from a hair transplant, I have since learned. FUE actually takes individual hair follicles from the donor area and then places these hairs into the affected area. So let’s chat about the science behind this.
Hair loss is generally caused by the following:
Inflammation of the follicle, this is where the PRP treatment assists the affected area by healing through the natural serum our bodies have.
Genetic targeting, where testosterone targets the affected area.
Now this is where the science / magic comes in. The hair on the back of your head, more or less between your ears IS NOT TARGETED BY TESTOSTERONE, ever. This is the donor area. These little guys were my ticket out.
So the day of my own FUE arrived. 8th February 2016. I was told to have a good breakfast, not to exercise for the next week and to have someone to take me home afterwards.
On arrival Dr Davies was ready to go. She gave me a Dormakin a light sleeping pill that would assist me in relaxing during the procedure. She then shaved a small section into the donor area, which my hair above covered naturally. Being the super inquisitive guy that I am I proceeded to ask 1 000 000 questions. I learned that Dr Davies would be extracting every fifth follicle from the donor area. This would allow the hair to retain a natural look once it all grew back after being shaved. In total we were going to extract 1200 follicles from the donor area and transplant these into the soon to be dealt with kick me sign.
We needed to numb both the donor area and the affected area. Dr Davies used a local anaesthetic. This was the only uncomfortable part of the entire procedure. We have so many nerves in our head so this point is almost obvious. When I say uncomfortable I mean just that. It is not painful, just uncomfortable. Once it had kicked in, we were ready to go. Now this part becomes a little foggy. The dormkin had now kicked in and I still wonder now how my conversation must had declined from an eager, inquisitive patient to a cave man who had retreated back to short groans for yes and long groans for no. Only the dedicated team at Rejuv-nation knows those secrets.
I woke up, not groggy but almost like I woke up to the team in my bedroom. Reality rushed back, I straightened, leaned back and to my surprise, no pain. Dr Davies handed me a cup of coffee and then we began to chat. “The procedure went perfectly,” Dr Davies smiled. I was still trying to think of anything I might have mumbled in my sleep. I was given a little gift bag of goodies that would help me through the coming week.
Contents of my Gift Bag
A swelling prophylactic
Saline Spray – which needed to be used every 30 mins on the affected area over the next three days
A first, second and third wash that would start from the Thursday, my procedure was on the Monday.
What to expect
Full set of instructions
Dr Davies told me not to send any emails on the day of the op, you won’t remember sending them. Listen to Dr Davies when she tells you this. I don’t remember ever sending those three emails until I received the replies.
I went back to the house and rested for the next two days. Luckily I had a resident spray slave (for the saline solution that needed to be sprayed every 30 mins) who took care of me. We set alarms for every 30 mins and the task was simple. The day after the op I went back into Rejuv-nation to have my dressing removed. 5 Minutes later I was on my way to the house to pack and head back to Durban. In the evening I had a slight headache, still no pain.
I could not wait for Thursday, the notion of washing my hair was becoming the biggest thing for me. Don’t get too excited for the first wash. It is a disinfectant that you run through your hair. Oh and, you have never been so gentle with anything, not even a new born baby as you are when washing your hair for the first time. It is quite interesting and now I realise that I should have tried to film it as it would make for a terrific home video one day. Second wash and third wash came and went and then I needed to wash my hair with baby shampoo for the next month. As my courage grew so did my need to touch the new hairs (you can only really do this after the first week). It was amazing. Instead of touching skin I was now touching these cheeky, stubborn little hairs. All confused as to their new environment but holding tight and out to claim their new territory. As the weeks go on this little guys will fall out. It is part of the process and regrowth begins to happen after 16 weeks, in batches and the hair will look best after 12 months.
A note on the last month. My confidence is at 100%. Yes, I don’t have a full head of hair, but I have done something to remedy that and want this part of me to enjoy time in the sun and rain. I am not wearing hats all the time, not doing comb overs and I am embracing a part of me that will soon be a thing of the past. This procedure has not only given me the opportunity to have my hair back, it has also helped me to accept the area that I no longer see as a kick me sign, rather I see it as a little work in progress, a part of me, a small little area that I will enjoy and now brag about. It gave me the platform I needed to make a positive change for myself. In turn, I will give it a stage where it can speak to others who are going through what I went through, a stage where it can communicate, “you are not alone, you are perfect as you are, and if, for any reason, you want to do something about it, then contact Dr Davies and her incredible team at Rejuv-nation.”