Her Name is Blake

Blake Newman is a former student of mine.  Considering she turns 23 this month, and I teach 6th & 7th grade, it’s been awhile since I had her in class.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Blake grow up over the years.  Her delightful charm and sweet demeanor has never changed from what I remember of her when she used to sit in my class.  Always with a smile and exemplifying politeness and good manners, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in passing when her face wouldn’t light up with a radiant greeting of:  “Hi Mr. Corso”.

I have to admit that it is a special experience for me to watch these kids come through the local school system and mature into young adults.  I watched Blake stay actively involved through her high school years as a student,  cheerleader and on the yearbook staff, among other things. I even drove the school bus for several years out to her house to pick up her younger brother.

The next thing you know I’m watching her process my bank transitions when I would go through the drive-through at my local bank in town.

So the other day when I walked in to the bank to make a deposit, I was a bit taken back to see her working as a teller up front.  Actually, what caught my eye was the fact she was completely bald.  But that sure didn’t hinder her from the routine greeting that I have grown accustomed to from her over the years.  In fact, the only thing shinier than her bald pate was the glowing smile that spread across her face as she said: “Hi Mr. Corso”.

Now there are some things one can notice about a person when they see them and ‘pretend’ that you don’t see it and carry on a conversation like nothing is different.  But that was not going to happen with this meeting.  I just stopped…and the only thing I could think of to say was: “Hi Blake.  Are you starting a new trend?”

Animated as ever, she began to share with me in such a childlike way that she lost her hair due to an auto-immune disease known as ‘Alopecia’.  Sounding like she was well read on the subject, she went on to educate me (and the customer standing next to me) of this ‘disease’ that can attack the joints (rheumatoid arthritis) , the organs (Lupus), or the hair (Alopecia). She felt quite fortunate to have had it attack the latter.

It was in August of last year that she discovered a couple of bald spots on the back of her head.  She laughs now, sharing how she thought she got mange from her dog.  But the problem persisted and after numerous doctor’s visits and testing and more testing, she received her diagnosis and began to accept the reality of a hairless life.

“At least I don’t have to mess with shaving my legs anymore” Blake quips with a smile.

Did she have struggles as the truth of this diagnosis settled in?  Of course.  She had her ugly cries and pity parties… not to mention she has become proficient at wig shopping.

There is no ‘cure’ for her disease.  It is possible that it could go in to remission on it’s own but there is no treatment that will bring this about.

But she  seemingly is beginning to feel comfortable in her own skin as well.  She gets a lot of affirmation from family, friends, colleagues and customers, being reminded once again of the old saying ‘bald is beautiful’.

Blake is in the middle of planning her upcoming wedding in August.  She plans to wear a wig for her walk down the aisle.  But with a growing jewelry and headband collection, along with honing her make-up application skills, it’s likely that the next time you stroll in to the bank,  you’ll see that shiny round head illuminated by a cheerful smile greeting you as usual.

It goes without saying that I saw a wonderful model in the making as we quickly agreed to do a photo shoot together.  Blake gave me permission to ‘show her off’ which you can view by clicking on the photo below.