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Penn Township woman to raise funds, awareness of hair-loss disease

Many a bride-to-be has come close to pulling out her hair in frustration over wedding details.

Penn Township native Amanda Shannon wonders if she will lose hers to disease.

"June 17 is my wedding. I have to think about if I'll have hair or not. That's not something most people have to think about," said the 25-year-old.

Shannon developed alopecia areata -- an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss -- nearly four years ago.

On Sunday, she will hold a "Tortoise and Hair" 5K run/walk in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park in Oakland-Squirrel Hill to raise money for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

She was inspired to bring a Tortoise and Hair event to Pittsburgh by her love for running.

"Running has always been a constant in my life. I know that no matter what happens, I'll always have running," Shannon said. "What better way to benefit alopecia then to do something I love?"

Alopecia areata is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. Although it affects 4.7 million in the nation, most people never heard of the disease, she said.

She said she hopes the event will raise awareness of alopecia areata and let people know that they are not the only ones dealing with the disease.

One troublesome disease

There are no known cures for alopecia. Several treatments, though, are available, including laser treatment.

The Laser Hair and Skin center in Monroeville will donate gift certificates to participants affected by the disease.

A substitute teacher, Shannon said she sometimes has a hard time dealing with alopecia areata.

"It's tough. Kids and parents ask questions," she said. "I try not to let it bring me down. It's hard, though."

Shannon said the worst part of the disease is the fear that she will pass it on to her future children.

"That would be so hard, to watch someone else deal with it -- especially a child," she said.

Shannon said the best part of working with Tortoise and Hair is meeting others with Alopecia areata and seeing how they deal with the condition.

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