An even tougher blow came one year later when her 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with the same incurable disease.
“Ellie got in the shower one day and I noticed a tiny bald spot on the crown of her head,” Regal, 32, told TODAY. “Every fear inside of me escalated. The disease that took my hair was going to do the same to my daughter.”
Today both mom and daughter Ellie, now 8, are raising awareness of the condition through a Facebook group and Rachel has founded a support group, FAITH USA (Fighting Autoimmune Through Humanity).
Now Rachel proudly displays her bald head, with Ellie wearing a fashionable donated wig.
“Knowing my child had the exact same condition was a blessing in disguise,” said Regal, who lives with her family in northern California. “I had gone through all the research and heartache first. It was hard, but I could understand what she was going through.”
An estimated 6.5 million Americans have experienced alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease in which the body does not recognize its own hair follicles, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
The scalp is the area most commonly affected, but sometimes hair loss occurs on the entire body. (In some cases, regrowth occurs, even after many years and without treatment, but often new hair has a different texture or shade.)