Locks of Love

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When Deona Kim started to pull her hair out eight years ago, it wasn't because of stress.

After a trip to the doctor, Kim found out she had alopecia areata, a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. The disease can cause total baldness, and in some cases, loss of all body hair.

Although it's not fatal, alopecia areata has no known cure. While not physically painful, the psychological pain caused by the loss of hair can be great, especially for a girl in high school, where Kim was eight years ago.

"It's hard, especially in high school where looks are the big deal," Kim said. "It was really hard for me. I didn't want people to know that I had it."

Kim lost her hair in patches. She would spend hours in front of the mirror styling her hair to cover them up. It was fashionable at her school to have girls shave the back of their heads, which Kim capitalized on to hide one of her bald spots.

For most of the past eight years, Kim didn't tell many people about her disease outside of close friends and immediate family. More than 4 million Americans have alopecia areata, but Kim has yet to meet anyone else with it.

Kim became a kindergarten teacher at Fall City Elementary two years ago and settled into her life with little attention to her disease. She always wore her hair long and did whatever maneuvering she had to do to cover up any bald spots. There are shots and lotions available to stimulate hair growth, but Kim was always able to make do with what long hair she had.

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