September marks Alopecia Awareness Month and for Kyle Larson, his wife Katelyn and the entire Larson family, they have become forever linked with the autoimmune disorder, which causes hair loss.
In an Instagram post on Friday, Katelyn Larson, for the first time ever, publicly revealed the diagnosis of her daughter Audrey.
In an interview with TobyChristie.com, Katelyn Larson explained while Audrey has experienced effects of Alopecia since she was 18-months old, doctors had held off on giving an official diagnosis until recently, which is why they are just now revealing the diagnosis publicly.
“It took a little bit of time to figure out really what it was and if it was reoccurring,” Larson said. “Doctors wouldn’t put an actual diagnosis on it. They just kept saying she has hair loss. They gave it a title, but said that she would probably grow out of it. So, we didn’t really make it known.
“In the beginning, it was just little pieces that I could cover, and it was no big deal. It would grow right back. The last time that she lost her hair, she lost a significant amount. Those were the pictures that I had posted [in the Instagram post].”
For any parent, seeing their child diagnosed with a medical ailment, especially one which there is no known cure for, is emotionally taxing.
The official diagnosis coupled with the fear that people would begin to draw incorrect conclusions about the four-year old’s health based on Audrey wearing hats and accessories to cover the hair loss, also contributed to Larson deciding to take Audrey’s story public.
“I would stress about it and be very emotional about it because as much as I knew nothing really bad was happening to her, it was just hair that was being lost, people would look at you and stare at you and ask, ‘Why does she always have a hat on her head?’ She kind of looked like she was going through chemotherapy losing her hair. I just wanted to protect her from anything that might come out later. But I also think it’s good to talk about it and let people know that things are happening in our lives,” Larson said.
While Larson believes in keeping some things in her life and her children’s lives private, she felt Alopecia Awareness Month would be a great time to reveal the diagnosis in an effort to comfort others with the disease and to help bring further awareness to it.
“I knew I didn’t really want to post about it until September, because of the Awareness month, because I expected people would understand,” Larson stated. “And I’m a little more private with stuff like that on behalf of Audrey, as she gets older. I don’t want to expose it all. But this was a perfect opportunity to share it.
“Now that we understand it more and now that I’ve got [her hair] growing back, I don’t know if it’ll happen again. We’ve changed some things in our household with our water, with our diet that I think have helped it. But I don’t know how long-term that will help.”
Now that Audrey’s hair is re-growing, the Larsons are trying to understand what has caused the autoimmune disease flare ups that have caused her hair episodes.
While the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information states, “there are currently no mechanisms that have been demonstrated that could explain the correlation between vaccination and the development of autoimmune diseases,” Larson doesn’t feel it is a coincidence that Audrey’s episodes have coincided with flu shots and vaccines.
“I think that’s why I didn’t share much of it,” Larson said. “She has a dairy allergy. She has a lot of allergies.
“In the beginning, it was like why is this randomly happening? And then I kind of linked it to flu shots and vaccines, and I didn’t want to talk about that because it can be very controversial. But I have linked it back to that, I believe. Because the two years that she did get one, her hair fell out shortly after.”
While there isn’t statistical data to back up that vaccinations may have caused Audrey to develop the autoimmune disease altogether, Larson truly believes the vaccination shots have led to inflammation, which sends Audrey’s Alopecia into high gear, causing her hair to fall out.
“The doctors, the dermatologists just keep saying that it is a reaction that is happening due to stress. I don’t think most small children have stress, but they back it to kind of like diet. Like stress eating and inflammation amongst the inside of her body is coming out. Which also links back to vaccines, that I believe, cause inflammation,” Larson explained. “And she’s sensitive to that. She’s sensitive to a lot of things. She has a lot of allergies.”
In honor of Alopecia Awareness Month, the Larson family has launched a brand new t-shirt.
“With ShopKyleLarson.com, where we sell all of Kyle’s dirt merchandise, we have tried to tap into a few months, where we have tried to make shirts with the KL brand on it to bring awareness and give back to the foundation. This one, I have really been saving up for because it is so personal.
“The shirt is available on pre-order on ShopKyleLarson.com, and we normally would just donate $5 per shirt, but this time we are going to take full proceeds from the shirt sales, and the Kyle Larson Foundation is going to match all proceeds and donate the full amount to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF),” Larson explained.
For those wondering, yes, the shirt will also be offered in children’s sizes in addition to adult sizes.
The shirt itself has a really cool design. It’s a gray t-shirt with a photo of Audrey celebrating a victory with her father. Behind Audrey and Kyle is a badge, which includes the KL brand logo in purple and black. Emblazoned across the bottom of the father-daughter photo are the words, “Alopecia Awareness” with a blue Alopecia Awareness ribbon.
While things have been tough around the Larson home as the family has navigated this health diagnosis, Larson explains that Audrey has shown no ill-effects.
“She is the happiest, go lucky kid,” Larson said of Audrey. “She’s pretty Tomboy at this stage in life. Dresses and hair — she hates if I touch her hair. She’ll wear a ballcap. She’s completely unbothered and I don’t think she even notices, which is great.”
For those, who are struggling with their own Alopecia diagnosis, or have a family member with Alopecia, Larson says every case of the disease is different. It’s important to find what works best for you, and to find true support within your community.
“Definitely the NAAF [is the greatest resource]. We kept going back to our dermatologist and we learned over time that a dermatologist is only going to put a band aid over the problem,” Larson stated. “I think the problem lies in that it’s different with every kid. It’s just hard. Advocate for your kid and your family and do as much as you need to, or want to, or feel that you should. I mean, it’s hard to say because every case is completely different. You’re going to find your path. And if you learn to relax, there’s support.”
As the Larson racing family heads into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, they have all seemingly found peace and are ready for any and all challenges that arise from Audrey’s Alopecia diagnosis.
“Yeah, we’re in a good place,” Larson said. “It’s been, like the last six months, once her hair started growing, it’s been a shift. Just taking her off of all of the medicine that also causes more problems. It was just like, let’s just take a breather. So far, so good. But it doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. I think we’re pretty relaxed and she hasn’t been affected by it, personally. I think that will be the next challenge. But we’re all doing good.”
If you, or anyone you know is struggling after being diagnosed with Alopecia, please visit the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, which is dedicated to helping and supporting those who have the autoimmune disease.