14 year old from Ropesville defies the odds

14 year old from Ropesville defies the odds
Maggie Anderson
Maggie Anderson (Source: KCBD Video)
Maggie Anderson (Source: KCBD Video)
Maggie Anderson (Source: KCBD Video)
Maggie Anderson (Source: KCBD Video)

ROPESVILLE, TX (KCBD) - Growing up is not easy, especially at age 14 when kids are trying to figure out who they are, even harder if you're already "different" like Maggie.

Her teacher, Dot Elkins, says "She's a good student. She's a kind person."

Her coach, Mike McCann, says "Oh, she has the best heart of any kid I've ever had."

Her friends, Brooklyn Belyeu and Jabree Clabaugh, say she is the best at doing hair and they all call on her to do that.

And that's the irony of it all.

At the end of the day, when the girls at Ropes High School go into the locker room to get ready for basketball practice, Maggie Anderson puts on her uniform, and takes off her hair.

Coach McCann says, "The first time I saw her in 1st grade, I thought oh my gosh, that girl must have cancer."

Maggie's mother, Amy, explains.

"Most people think she has cancer. She has Alopecia and she's had it since she was 2."

Alopecia is an auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks itself and causes the hair to fall out.

Often it is triggered by stress, but in a 2 year old?

Dr. Michelle Tarbox is a Dermatologist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

She says, "Sometimes in very young children, it's an illness. Even a mild, viral illness that activates the immune system and the immune system forgets to shut down."

Dr. Tarbox says the hair loss may happen once and never again or it could last a lifetime: "After 12 years with no hair, Maggie's case is more unusual."

Dr. Tarbox does not see Maggie as a patient. In fact, Maggie has not seen a doctor about her Alopecia since she was very little.  But Dr. Tarbox has followed many other cases. Showing me textbook pictures, she says, "This is the most common" pointing to a person with one bald patch about 3 inches in diameter on the scalp.

However, she says she also sees patients with more extensive bald patches. And similar to Maggie's case, she says there is something called Alopecia Totalis where some people lose all the hair on their scalp, along with their eyebrows, eyelashes, mustache and even nasal hair.

Initially, Maggie also lost her eyelashes, but they have grown back beautifully, even though the hair on her head has not returned.

Maggie says people automatically assume she has cancer because she prefers to take off her wig while playing basketball. On the court, she is a powerhouse, a master at 3 pointers which is a good time to shine in the spotlight.

She says, "Sometimes, when we have photographers in the corner, I'll be at the free throw and smile so they can take my picture."

Maggie's Dad, Luke, says he always worried about Maggie when she was little. But as she has grown, he says, "She teaches us how to handle it."

So why wear a wig off the court?

Maggie says, "I get bored during the day and like to play with it!"

Just like other girls with long beautiful hair, Maggie likes to play with different looks.

She likes to wash it, blow dry it and fix it.

Maggie's hair would be a pretty brown if it were like her wig.

Ironically, that could be the reason she lost her hair in the first place.

Dr. Tarbox says there is a type of Alopecia in which only the dark or pigmented hair falls out, which can explain ancient stories even in the bible that tell of a shock that turned hair white overnight.

She explains, "So if a person has salt and pepper hair, the colored hair will fall out. The white hair will stay and look as if they 'turned white overnight'."

Dr. Tarbox says Alopecia only affects 1 to 2 percent of the population, typically in young people because they still have pigment in their hair.

She adds, "But the patients are well. They're healthy and I have found that they usually have the most fabulous attitude."

That sounds like Maggie.

She told me, "I've always loved being the center of attention so it's kind of cool for me."

Coach McCann, who is bald, says this about Maggie's sense of humor, "Maggie and I have this ongoing joke which one is the better lookin' bald person."

Luke Anderson says this of his daughter,  "I'm really proud of her. It's going to be ok."

Amy agrees, "There's so many things worse than alopecia. She's healthy. She's good."

She is good!  You should see her on the basketball court!  Maggie Anderson is helping the Lady Eagles win two playoff games on the road to the state finals.

But Maggie has more than a winning team. She has a winning attitude with sweet advice for other kids who are different.

She says,   "Be confident in yourself and who you are. Know you're awesome, no matter what. Hair doesn't make you great. It's your personality. It's what's inside."

Copyright 2018 KCBD. All rights reserved.