Sheffield school supports much-loved pupil with alopecia
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Roxy Cuttill, aged six, started to lose whole handfuls of her hair suddenly, nearly a year ago, just three days before her sixth birthday.
Within a month, 80 per cent of her long, blonde, curly hair was gone.
Medics believe the condition – discovered by Roxy’s mum and dad Amy and Tim while washing her hair one evening – is probably an auto-immune response triggered by her catching Covid a month earlier. Whilst a course of strong steroids helped some hair to return, the drugs can damage her white blood cells and liver, and medication had to be stopped.
Little Roxy is now almost completely bald, and it is not known if her hair will ever fully grow back. But, to show their support for Roxy, fellow pupils at Mylnhurst Preparatory School in Ecclesall ditched their uniforms for a day and came to school dressed all in blue – the colour of charity Alopecia UK. Roxy’s parents designed and made blue glitter pin badges for every child in school.
And each class from Reception to Y6 attended a special assembly, and listened to individual class presentations, about how the life-changing condition affects their friend.
“The school have been amazing from day dot,” said Tim, aged 37, from Totley. “As soon as we told them about Roxy’s condition they got all the resources from Alopecia UK, they asked us to come in to talk to them about it, and they asked Roxy how she wanted to deal with it in school.
“They showed all the classes a video, and all the teachers received learning about alopecia – the school have been incredible. Best of all, all the children have been so accepting.”
Amy, also 37, who owns Snugg children’s clothing and lifestyle shop on Sharrowvale Road, said not everyone they encounter has been so kind.
“Teenagers are often the worst,” she said. “We’ve had teenagers laugh at Roxy and make jokes in the street. One boy in the park started laughing and told all his friends she looked like a monk.
“Obviously it’s just heartbreaking, knowing she’s probably going to have to deal with this all her life, particularly in her teenage years. And it does affect her confidence. It’s always there. Even playing I spy she’ll say, ‘I spy something beginning with A...’ and of course it’s alopecia.”
There are several different types of alopecia and it is thought Roxy has alopecia areata, an auto-immune condition that starts with isolated patches and can lead to total hair loss.
In alopecia areata, T cells from the immune system gather around the hair follicles and attack, stopping the follicle from producing more hair. The exact way in which this happens is not yet understood. About one in every 1,000 people has some form of alopecia areata, and it is common for people with the condition to experience hair loss on and off throughout their lives.
Mylnhurst headteacher Mike Hibbert said: “We feel so fortunate to have someone like Roxy in our school.
“Alopecia may not be a life-threatening condition but in Roxy’s case it is certainly life-changing. Despite this, Roxy has been a shining example to all of us, showing how to take on life’s challenges with a big smile, and triumph.
“It was our privilege, as the Mylnhurst family, to support Roxy and her family to raise awareness about the impact of hair loss.
“To see every member of our school community decked out in their best blue outfits was a real joy. This was eclipsed only by watching Roxy present a beautiful badge, designed by her and her family, to every boy and girl in the school. This poignant and personal gesture will remain with them and us forever.
“We at Mylnhurst are so proud of Roxy and will continue to support her. She has taught us all so much in such a short amount of time. We are very excited to be a small part of her journey.”