Riding the Waves of Life and Alopecia


The time: January 2004

The scene: Kiawah Island, SC

A mother and father have driven 10 hours with their three daughters ages 6, 5, and 3 to escape to the beach  for the weekend.  Their middle daughter Maddie was recently diagnosed with alopecia.  They are distraught and heartbroken, worried for her future.  As they walk on the beach on a cold wintry day, Maddie is wearing a baseball cap, and the wind keeps trying to blow it off of her head.  “Take it off ,” her dad says, “There is no one here but us.  No one will see you.”  Maddie keeps walking holding onto her hat so the wind can’t blow it off.  The couple talks quietly about what is best for their daughter.  Should she take her hat off? Does it really matter?  Their conversation, they both realize, is not just about the possibility of the wind taking her hat; it is about her future.  Her dad, ever persistent, suggests again that she take off her hat, and as he grabs his camera, Maddie whips off her hat in a sudden moment of bravery.  Her mom tears up, and her sisters hardly notice, as her dad snaps a picture.


maddie surfing


Flash forward: August 2011

The scene: Wrightsville Beach, NC

A mother and father have driven 10 hours with their four daughters ages 14, 13, 11, and 7 to attend a surf camp.   Maddie, more than the other girls, is very nervous about learning to surf.  She was texting her friends on the way to the beach telling them she did not want to surf; she was going to make a fool of herself.  Why were her parents making her do this?  A few hours later Maddie and her sisters are surfing.  Dad snaps a picture of Maddie catching a wave.  She later says, “This was the best day of my life.”

Life is hard.  We all have obstacles to overcome, and we are all scared as these challenges come barreling down like waves attempting to knock us off of our feet.  Sometimes it feels like we are standing still, and sometimes maybe we are.  Sometimes we move forward in slow motion.  Other times, we catch a wave and ride it for awhile.

When I saw this picture of Maddie holding her hat in her hand in front of the ocean, I was immediately moved to tears.  I remember that day so vividly: the cold air, the damp smell of the beach on our clothing, the girls wishing for a better beach day.  Mostly, I remember that we were scared and unsure of what to do next about Maddie’s alopecia.  I felt like we were standing still.

Today this picture speaks volumes to me about just putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where it will take you. Looking at this picture, the memories and feelings attached, I can’t believe how far we have come.


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