TOLEDO, Ohio — Chris Rock's joke at the Oscars about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head did a couple of things.
It started a firestorm because of how Will Smith reacted.
But it also made it a chance to seize the moment for a local mom, teacher and coach.
In the last few days, McKenna Reitz has been able to open a lot of eyes and ears when it comes to alopecia.
She says it can affect anyone and at any point in their life.
In 2015, Reitz, as a new mother at the time, started to go through the unimaginable.
"By the end of that week, I was standing in the shower with my head full of hair and it didn't just come out slowly. It came out in clumps," Reitz said.
She says she was scared and confused.
"I went to the dermatologist and they said, 'well you could have alopecia and you can lose all your hair,'" Reitz said. "As a woman or really anyone, hearing that is detrimental. Like there's no way I could ever lose my hair."
Reitz says it's been an emotional six-year journey with the autoimmune disease to where she finds herself today.
But then there was this Sunday at the Oscars, with the spotlight on Jada Pinkett Smith and her battle with the same exact thing.
"This has opened up an opportunity for other people with alopecia to bring awareness and educate not only our community but the world," Reitz said.
Doctors say losing hair is what others see, but there's more to this disease that people don't yet understand.
"Patients often suffer from other psychological problems as a result of their alopecia. So patients have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, other psychological problems when compared to a normal population that doesn't have alopecia areata," said Dr. Ali Jabbari, a Dermatology Professor at the University of Iowa.
As an advocate for those in her shoes, hearing the Oscars joke about hair loss prompted Reitz to seize this opportunity.
The Springfield teacher and volleyball coach says she's no longer suffering. Through her hardships, she wants to inspire others going through the same or through hard times.
"It's taken me this long, losing my hair, becoming a mother to finally experience self-love, to look in the mirror and say, 'I am enough and see beauty,'" said Reitz.
A new study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York says that two out of every 100 people are going to experience hair loss because of alopecia.
Reitz says she's reached out to a number of national news programs the last two days because she says the more people hear her story, the stronger they can be in their fight should that day come.
WTOL 11 is also doing its part to share her message.
Once again, we'll be a sponsor for the second annual Alopecia Awareness Golf Outing at Highland Meadows in June. For more information, visit the Alopecia Awareness Golf Outing website here.
For more from McKenna Reitz, you can find her online at:
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