Protected: And I’m Proud To Be a Vegetarian (To the Tune of Proud to Be an American)

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“I’m Just Like Any Other Girl!”

No Hair, Don’t Care

By Rachel Epner and Grace Quinton

Cheyenne MacDonald sits at her living room table wearing a little hat that covers her baldhead. It’s a tiny little hat: green and blue swirls adorn the gypsy-like accessory. Though, this hat is hiding a secret that she has kept under wraps for a long time.

MacDonald was never like the other children; she was deprived of sweets, when other children were eating their Halloween candy. When other children were able to dress like princesses, MacDonald was whispered about and laughed at because she was dramatically different. These three facts about MacDonald’s life occurred because she has a disease. Now, with tattooed eyebrows and almond shaped eyelids lacking lashes, her mouth is still able to form a smile.

MacDonald, a recent graduate from SUNY Purchase, has a rare and the most severe form of Alopecia Universalis. This is a medical condition characterized by rapid hair loss. Holding this disease for 22 years, MacDonald said, “This form of alopecia has a one in 200,000 chance of diagnoses. This makes me feel kind of special.”

Some forms of Alopecia allow minimal hair growth. “I probably have a total of 11 hairs,” said MacDonald. Although there isn’t a specific cause for this condition, it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder.

This medical condition can occur at any age, as for MacDonald it started at the age of two. “When I was two, my parents took me to all kinds of doctors to figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix what was happening,” said MacDonald. “The doctors put me on various strict diets and supplements, but nothing changed what was occurring.”

Although she was young when her family’s anxiety and confusion began, MacDonald still remembers the first time her family surprised her with a wig. “I was sad because I felt like I was so different from every other kid and there was no hiding it,” said MacDonald. “I really just wanted to just blend in. Though my wish started to come true as I got older and classmates started to forget I didn’t have hair. Thank God for the wigs.”

As the classmates started to forget about MacDonald’s disease, her family didn’t. During MacDonald’s childhood, her family’s pervious anxieties started to turn into anger. Nothing slowed down her hair loss. The diets were not working and MacDonald’s father just wanted a normal life for his daughter. “Just let her eat some fuckin’ candy,” MacDonald’s father had said to her mother.

This anger was not only shared by MacDonald’s parents, but also shared by her older brother. “I remember when I was really young, my brother asked my mom how he could give his hair to me,” MacDonald said. “Growing up I was always envious of his curls, but I couldn’t be bitter about it. He would have done anything he could to trade places with me.” MacDonald took her hands and rubbed her head and sighed, “I don’t know if anyone in my situation would have such a supportive family from all avenues.”

Staying true to oneself is a motto that was literally written on the walls of MacDonald’s house. “My family never persuaded me to hide who I truly was,” MacDonald said. “When it did come time to start wearing wigs, they knew that it would aid in my happiness, trying to succeed in normality.”

To this day, MacDonald’s mother worries more than her daughter. “I worry about how people will look at Cheyenne, hoping judgment is dismissed at first sight,” said MacDonald’s mother.

As much as it was a struggle for MacDonald to grow up and accept she was different, now she believes her disease has made her an unique individual. MacDonald still tries to go back to her younger self by dressing up like a Disney Princess, as she never got the chance because she felt too different.

MacDonald’s boyfriend, Cory Mosler, looks at her with love in his eyes while talking about the first time MacDonald told him about her case of “baldhead.” “I always felt that she was wearing a wig, her hair was always too perfect” said Mosler. MacDonald describes it as the scariest moment of her life and she compared it to, “coming out of the closest,” or “telling the police I murdered someone. I was scared,” said MacDonald. “But Corey is the best and loved me with or without the disease.”

Another struggle MacDonald had to overcome, was during her first year of college, sharing her disease with strangers. “The no-privacy thing in dorms was a big. I could not hide,” said MacDonald. “I couldn’t bring my wig into the shower, therefore I knew I had to come right out with it.” MacDonald had to unleash her deepest secret to people she barely knew.

MacDonald’s first roommate at SUNY Purchase, Megan Ong, said, “moving in with Cheyenne, I didn’t know her at all. We met over Facebook.” After covering the basic introduction tactics, MacDonald Facebook-Messaged Ong, “I forgot to tell you that I wear a wig so don’t be too scared if you come home and I’m not wearing it.” Ong said, “we didn’t even say anything after that.”

Although recently non-active, MacDonald occupied her youth by running a body-image-positivity blog. MacDonald reached 100+ followers who tracked her journey to self-fulfillment. The followers of the blog also contributed their own stories about body image. The blog was called, “Disembodied Me.”

“I think it was a good way to start the conversation and include people. It is almost taboo to speak in non-anonymity, as it is harder,” said MacDonald. “I started this blog to help people with similar issues to mine; to shed some humor on the whole idea of a ‘different person.’”

Today, MacDonald is a year out of college, searching for a job and continues to be open about her disease, as far as her insecurities will let her. Her head is tattooed with a pink ribbon, which to her, signifies beauty. Only on a good day, will you see it, as she still wears her little hat covering her “baldhead” around the house.

Trial and Tribulations

From one vegan to another, being vegan is expensive. PETA provides their ‘Vegan Starter Kit’ to people who want to be, or wannabe, vegans. This starter kit weans one off of their daily diet to one more vegan refined.

This is how I feel when there is no food in my fridge and no know vegan option around me that is under $5:

But, when I find this ‘said vegan food’ this is an accurate depiction of myself:

OH and this is what my friends looked like when I told them I was going vegan:

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Here are 10 Things I Wish I knew before I Went Vegan: (source: Huffington Post)

1. The jokes will never stop.

So get used to them, and understand that they don’t necessarily indicate a lack of respect.

2. Giving up the cheese isn’t nearly as hard as it seems.

I’m not saying that losing the cheese is easy. Life without cheese takes some adjustment, especially if you rely on it as an essential part of the few vegetarian dishes you can order in “normal” restaurants.

3. Being vegan doesn’t have to be more expensive, but it will be.

If you do the math, there’s no reason eating vegetarian or vegan should be more expensive than eating meat.

At three, five, or eight dollars a pound, meat is one of the more expensive items you’ll buy in the grocery store. So if you just replace it, say, with beans that cost a dollar per pound, you’ll bank some serious coin.

4. Most of your meals will be one-dish wonders.

Believe it or not, this has been the toughest part for me — I lost a lot of my interest in cooking when I cut meat and then dairy out of my diet. (I realize I’m in the minority when I say this; most vegan chefs I’ve talked to didn’t discover their passion for food until they went vegan.)

5. You will impact many more people than you realize.

I didn’t expect friends and family to change as a result of my decision. I didn’t set out to change anybody.

6. Be prepared for a feeling of responsibility, and the compulsion to hold yourself to a higher standard than before.

There’s a stereotype that vegans are skinny and weak. And it’s a deserved one, because so many vegans have always been exactly that.

As the plant-based fitness movement grows, this is beginning to change. But keep in mind that even though you are aware of this shift because you’re so closely involved in it, most people have no clue about this. To them, vegans are still skinny and weak, by necessity. (PS – i’m not, nor will i ever be skinny)

7. No matter how much you try to not make it a big deal, it’s gonna be a big deal.

I haven’t met vegans who are more laid back about it than my wife and I are. We don’t try to get people to go vegan, we’re supportive when people tell us they’re eating more whole foods even when their diet is more Paleo than vegan, and neither of us is the type that enjoys debating about how anyone “should” eat.

8. You will be pleasantly surprised at who your biggest supporters are.

The flip side of eating less meals with friends and family as a whole is that it will become delightfully obvious who thinks it’s really awesome that you eat this way, who will go out of their way to make sure you’ve got something to eat at any event they host, and who will be eager to try your food and ask you intelligent questions about how you eat.

9. Sometimes it feels lonely, but you are not alone.

I’ve never had a strong desire to “cheat” for pleasure. More often that desire has been rooted in convenience or not wanting to make a scene, and tiny allowances in these situations are something I recently decided to take more seriously and abstain from entirely.

10. You don’t have to get weirder when you go vegan, but you will.

The fun part. Being vegan has changed so much else about me, encouraging me to explore my uniqueness and pushing me towards and beyond the edges of what’s considered mainstream … from ditching the microwave to putting broccoli in smoothies to owning very few things.

Perks on non exclusive, meaning not everyone feels the same way, i’m only in it for the cute whittle animals who deserve just as great as a life as humans do.