Bald truth about auto-immune disease

22 Dec 2014

University of Queensland student Jennifer Stables has had a hair-raising year after being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, and has now cut off her ponytail and shaved her head to raise awareness and money for research into the condition.

Ms Stables, a third-year UQ School of Biomedical Sciences’ student, was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder in October 2013 after being diagnosed in 2011 with fibromyalgia, a syndrome that causes muscle pain.

She said there were dozens of diseases that fell into the auto-immune category and her symptoms included painful joints, constant fatigue and skin lesions.

“One of the medications is causing me to slowly lose my hair, so I’ve decided to donate my ponytail to make wigs for people who have lost their hair and then get people to sponsor me to shave off the rest,” Ms Stables said.

“So far I have raised more than $1000 and I hope to reach at least $2000 by Christmas.

“Everyone has been so generous – there’s even a donation war going on between people who like nice, round, even numbers, and those who prefer odd numbers.”

Ms Stables said living with the disease had made study more difficult but she had managed an exchange to American during first semester this year.

“Having this disease has certainly taught me to look for life’s silver linings and to adjust my expectations of myself,” she said.

“I have always been very driven and now I am even more so – I want to prove that I can do it all anyway, even though I have to accept that sometimes I can’t.”

Ms Stables is majoring in neuroscience and anatomy after doing an anatomy subject while studying toward an Associate of Fine Arts (Dance).

“I have always found the human body fascinating and after doing the anatomy elective I decided that I really wanted to pursue my new-found love of anatomy,” she said.

“I’ll need to go hat shopping after today because the medications I’m on make me much more susceptible to cancer, but when I’m not in the sun I’ll be wearing my new bare look with pride.”

Media: Bernadette Condren, UQ Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, +61 7 3346 5309,