Watch above: For years, a local cheer team coach hid a secret about her appearance. But, Amanda Greenough recently went public about her condition. Su-Ling Goh has her story.
EDMONTON – A 26-year-old Edmonton woman is helping expose the true meaning of inner beauty, after going public with an autoimmune disease that has left her almost completely bald.
About three-and-a-half years ago, while beginning her teaching career in London, England, Amanda Greenough’s long brown hair began falling out by the handful.
“I would literally be rinsing my hair out and pulling just a whole extra ponytail worth of hair out,” she recalled. “I was a little bit freaked out just thinking something really, really wrong was going on with me.”
Shortly after that, the cheer coach and former member of the Edmonton Eskimos cheer team was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a disorder that causes the body to attack the hair follicles.
Amanda says the hair loss left her feeling afraid, embarrassed and ashamed.
“I didn’t even want to tell my roommates about it,” she explained. “In today’s day and age we have this image of what we think is beautiful and what we want ourselves to look like.
“It’s heartbreaking when you don’t think that you meet those expectations.”
Amanda tried several medications, serums and even painful cortisone injections to fight the hair loss, but said nothing worked.
Wanting to be around family and friends, Amanda moved back home to Edmonton; that’s when she decided she would wear a wig. But even while wearing the wigs, she felt uncomfortable. Amanda says she was constantly wondering if other people could tell, adding they limited what she was able to do.
“I was always worried about it coming off and it felt funny,” she said. “But also at the same time, I never wanted to take it off because I was worried someone would see me, even around the house.”
Amanda’s mother, Dianna Greenough, says it was an extremely difficult thing to watch her daughter go through.
“My heart just went out to her,” Dianne said. “Finally one day she just said, ‘Mom, that’s enough.'”
Amanda started small; the first time she took off her wig in public was at a beach with her boyfriend and close friend.
“I took off my hair,” she said. “I was fine. No one said anything mean to me and no one gave me any strange looks.”
Amanda says that was a turning point for her, and gave her the courage to publicly open up about her alopecia. So she took to her Facebook page to share her story.
“I thought, ‘I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid off and just do this once.'”
At first Amanda thought her story would just reach her Facebook friends, but quickly learned her story spread much further, reaching and inspiring people around the world.
“For her to have the courage to step out and say, ‘This is who I am,'” said Dianne, “I’m just really proud of her.
“Her beauty is so far more than her exterior looks. She has a heart of gold and she’s a kind, loving soul.”
Last week, Amanda told the young girls she coaches, who say they too have been inspired.
“I am so proud of Amanda for doing that. If I had my hair falling out I would be so scared,” said Sydney Poulsen. “She taught me to always show and just be yourself.”
Amanda says the experience has helped her understand she’s not alone, and that going through struggles can make you stronger.
“You can’t let other people define who you are.”
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.
© Shaw Media, 2014