WHEN courageous Mary Horgan suffered extreme hair loss due to a stress-related illness she was determined that her struggles would not be in vain.
The Innishannon woman was dealt a devastating blow after learning she had telogen effluvium, which results from the early entry of hair in the telogen phase — the resting phase of the hair follicle.
Rather than bow down to the difficult situation, Mary decided to use it as a means of helping others. With this in mind she enlisted the help of her sisters Liz and Katie to organise a head shave in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs.
The mother-of two was determined her beloved siblings would be the ones to shave off her crowning glory.
It was a bitter-sweet event for the family, but Mary wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Neither of them wanted to do it but there was nobody else I wanted doing this for me,” Mary explained.
Speaking to WoW! from her home directly after the head shave, Mary said: “Katie took one side and Liz took the other. Both of them were very emotional. Katie had to walk out at one stage because it got too difficult. They were trying to be strong for me but typically I’m the strong sister.”
Mary described the mixture of emotions that came with the head shave.
“At the start I was laughing but I did get a little upset. I don’t think I would have taken it all as well without my sisters there. When it was done they were having drinks together as they commented on my ‘beautiful head’.
“I thought I would feel less feminine but I love the feeling of my spiky hair.”
She described the weeks leading up to her diagnosis.
“There was a massive amount of hair coming out on my hairbrush and I had to empty the drain plug each time I showered. I was trying so much to hide the hair loss. I even had a Pippi Longstocking hairstyle which looked ridiculous.”
Mary, who is mum to three-year-old Fionn and six-year-old Hayleigh-Mai, said her hair loss initially affected her daughter.
“Normally my daughter will come in to give me a cuddle but on one occasion she told me to cuddle Fionn instead. When I asked her why she didn’t want to cuddle me, she said that she didn’t want to catch my baldness.
Mary explained why her diagnosis came as a relief.
“I had been on to different doctors and they all gave me different reasons for my hair loss.
“A neighbour put me in touch with a trichologist. I hadn’t heard of one before, but they basically deal with hair and scalp issues. We had a Zoom meeting and when he told me what was wrong I felt a sense of relief. When you’ve got several diagnoses and none of them are the ones you worry. There’s so much running through your head. You worry about what it is your brain or body is trying to tell you.
“I was relieved to finally have a name for what I was going through. All I wanted was to control what I could and let go of what I couldn’t.”
The Cork woman revealed why she decided to go public with the fund-raiser.
“Looks never bothered me. My sisters are both beautiful but I never felt self-conscious. My biggest fear was that by going bald people would know there was something wrong with me.
“I didn’t mind talking about it, but I wanted to do it on my own terms. By going so public, I knew I wouldn’t have to explain the situation to people every time they saw me and asked me about my hair.
“Because of my sister’s platform, we’ve been able to get the message out to people and I won’t have to go through the same thing every day. The last thing I wanted was for them to think I was sick or that something was really wrong.”
Mary was glad to be able to use her situation to help others.
“I underestimated the pride that I had in being a woman and while this had made me vulnerable, it has-on the flipside-made me stronger. I’m now just viewing this as another curve ball life has thrown at me. The fundraiser has made me feel like this wasn’t in vain and I am losing my hair for good reason.”
Mary explained why she chose the Irish Guide Dogs as the recipient for their fundraiser.
“In 2007, my grandmother lost her sight from chemo. She couldn’t find her way around the house and was afraid to leave it. I can still remember her crying because she wouldn’t get to see our new cousin when she was born or watch her grow up. It changed everything for her and she died five months later. While she had been battling cancer, I think this made her give up her fight sooner.”
Mary’s daughter Hayleigh-Mai was extremely proud of her mum’s efforts.
“She was too small to fully understand what was going on.
“I haven’t let her see me cry so she has just been seeing the positive side. I’m hoping that what I’m doing makes her stronger too.
“I also hope it helps her to grow up realising that hair isn’t what’s important in life.”
Mary is thankful for all the support in her life.
“I initially told my dad. He has always been there for me no matter what.
“Throughout this experience, he has continued to be my rock.”
Mary and her sisters are continuing to raise funds through the fund-raiser until the end of this month. To donate to the Irish Guide Dogs visit https://www.facebook.com/irishguidedogs --
In 2007 my grandmother lost her sight from chemo. She couldn’t find her way around the house and was afraid to leave it.