ONCE left feeling stripped of her femininity due to hair loss, Sarah Knapper now feels like a new woman.
The 27-year-old has been able to ditch the wigs she once relied on for confidence after her hair began to grow back.
This time five years ago, Sarah was plagued by bald patches caused by alopecia.
Though distressed by the condition, she was determined not to let it beat her down. She used her then position as a Breakfast Show presenter on Sun FM to raise awareness and reach out to other sufferers.
It sparked a deluge of interest and Sarah appeared in national magazines and was contacted by countless sufferers who were touched by her story.
It led to her creating an alopecia support group which still meets regularly at Lickety Split ice cream parlour in Seaham.
But today she is an inspiration in a different way – because her hair has grown back.
Sarah, from Peterlee, said: “When my alopecia was at its worst I felt like I had been cheated as a woman. I would look around at my friends and think ‘why me’?
“It’s not until you lose your hair that you realise how important it is to your identity.”
She added: “With hair loss it’s only the tip of iceberg. It’s often symptomatic of other issues and I felt the support group was needed so that people had a safe place to come and talk about it.”
Sarah believes her hair loss was linked to the anorexia she suffered as a teenager which damaged her health. But for the past two years she’s been working with hypnotherapist, Sally Stubbs, which has seen her hair grow back.
Sarah, who has since swapped the airwaves for teaching children with disabilities, said: “Yes it’s a biological, hormonal and hereditary condition, but it can be treated holistically. For me it was about looking at the anorexia and why I had developed that.
“It’s wonderful to have my hair back, but I think if it falls out again I now have the strength of character to deal with it. If I could live life over again, I’m glad the alopecia happened because it’s made me the person I am and made me want to help people.”
During her hair loss, Sarah found comfort from real hair wigs made at the Ramsay & Johnson salon in Blandford Street, Sunderland.
She said: “I want women who are going through this to know that there is no shame in wearing wigs. Lots of celebrities wear them now, like Lady Gaga and Kelly Rowland.
“The wigs helped to turn things around me and helped me to feel normal. I didn’t feel like I wanted to go out, but they gave me the confidence to do that.”
* Sarah’s alopecia support group meets every second Wednesday of the month. Anyone interested in attending can contact her on Sarah_Knapper@ymail.com