I want others to understand that they are never alone in their struggles
Woman With Alopecia Who Had Double Mastectomy Shares Her Story
A woman who has alopecia and survived a double mastectomy is showing off her body because she is “so proud” of all it has been through.
Marisa Kimmel, 29, of Bay City, Michigan, was diagnosed with the hair loss condition alopecia at the age of nine. At the time, she felt she would “never fit in” due to the bald patches on her head. After years of trying to cover up her hair loss during high school, Marisa decided to “set herself free” and shave her head at the age of 19.
Six months after giving birth to her son, Abraham, now four, Marisa underwent genetic testing due to a history of breast cancer in her family. She discovered she had an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer. Instead of taking her chances, Marisa decided to “take back control of her body” and have a double mastectomy.
She continued to breastfeed her son for the following two years, before deciding she was ready for the procedure in January 2021. Prior to her surgery, Marisa spent time planning the tattoos she was going to have afterward. She says the tattoos made her feel like she “had a say” in what her body looked like after surgery.
Marisa, a photographer, said, “I want people to realize that they’re never alone in the hard stuff. You have to find a community that is ready to hold you when you can’t be there for yourself.
“Social media can be hard, you compare and see everyone’s highlights. And so for me, I really try to share all the sides of myself. I know how worth it is to keep choosing myself and find peace with the cards I was given.”
Marisa spent her younger years trying to come to terms with her alopecia, but felt it was controlling her life. As she got older, she learned to accept and trust herself, and she stopped looking for validation from others.
She said: “When I was diagnosed with alopecia, I was never given that much information on it as a nine-year-old but just followed the shampoos and steroids. The dermatologist at that time made me feel like it was my fault, I didn’t realize how much I internalized that for the last 20 years.
“By the age of 14, I was getting hundreds of steroid shots in my head to try and look like others around me. It wasn’t until I started high school that I Googled alopecia and started looking at the images of others.
“The photos that I saw were the most heartbreaking photos. Some were bald, some had bald spots, but everyone looked miserable. So, I thought that was my future, that’s what I would be – not having a good life. I decided to stop all treatment.”
My alopecia is such a beautiful part of what makes me, me 👽 #fypシ #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #trending #alopecia #alopeciaawareness #mastectomy #tattootiktok #selflove #bodyposi #bodypositivity #bodylove #baldisbeautiful #baldgirl #tattoogirl
Marisa said: “At high school, I would have to wake up hours before school to feel as comfortable as I could in front of my peers – spending hours on my hair covering my bald spots.
“It wasn’t until 19 that I finally decided to cut it all off. I had about 50 percent of my hair left, and my boyfriend at the time, Drew, now my husband, shaved my hair for me. That was the first time I trusted myself. I felt free.”
After getting rid of her hair, Marisa and Drew moved to Chicago, Illinois. It was there, at the age of 20, that she began to choose what was right for her. “It was a snowball of choosing me and what felt right for me and my life, Marisa said.
“I finally just felt that I could be myself. I could just breathe, and my alopecia felt less important and a smaller worry. I gained a perspective on what actually mattered in life. I wanted to feel and be beautiful, so I started surrounding myself with people who accepted me for who I was.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.