BECOMING a hairdresser might seem a slightly odd occupation for someone who suffers from hair loss.
But for Shirley Dawson, of Cleveleys, it was all she had ever wanted to do.
Despite suffering from alopecia for four decades, Shirley has been cutting and styling other people’s hair for years and offering a wig service at her salon – for those with alopecia, and also those who have had chemotherapy.
And she hopes she can use her own experiences to help others by setting up a local support group.
Shirley, who runs Shirley’s Second Image on Beach Road, said: “There really isn’t much around this area – I don’t know of any other support groups covering Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre and Preston.
“I feel really strongly I want to try to help other people – those who have alopecia and those who have lost their hair through chemotherapy.
“It’s not just the hair, it’s things like eyebrows and eyelashes too, so make-up tips and advice can be really useful.
“Doctors and nurses do a fantastic job, but don’t have the time or the skills to help chemo patients with that side of things.
“I’d like the support group to be for everyone, including families and parents – due to the heartache mums and dads go through because of what their children are going through.
“It’s so hard for people with alopecia because it doesn’t make you sick or ill, but for some people it makes it impossible for them to go out of their front door. And there is no cure.”
Shirley said she was inspired to take action by setting up a support group after seeing Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Joanna Rowsell whip off her helmet to reveal her bald head.
The 23-year-old started losing her hair, due to alopecia, when she was 10.
Shirley said: “I thought it was brilliant she went up on to the podium to collect her medal without her wig.
“It really got people talking about it and will hopefully raise awareness.
“There seems to be awareness around men having alopecia with the example of Duncan Goodhew and Matt Lucas, but not really women.
“Gail Porter did a lot to raise awareness, but of course her hair has now grown back.
“I hope Joanna Rowsell will become an inspiration. Especially to younger people.
“Being a teenager can be a difficult enough time when you are worried about your appearance as it is. I already work with the Little Princess Trust to help children get wigs.”
Shirley had always wanted to be a hairdresser and started offering the wig service too after she faced many difficulties herself looking for high-quality, realistic wigs at competitive prices, both for herself – as an alopecia sufferer – and clients who were experiencing hair loss for many different reasons.
“People might think it strange I wanted to be a hairdresser, but it was just what I always wanted to do.
“I used to help out in my aunty’s shop and I wanted to be a hairdresser.
“It was hard when I was at college training to be a hairdresser and I was going bald.”
Anyone who feels they could benefit from a local support group, or would be interested in getting involved, is asked to call (01253) 855414.