Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Faces and Places 2022. Copies are available at The Clanton Advertiser office at 1109 Seventh Street North, Clanton.
Stories and Photos Elizabeth Altamirano Smith
debtChilton County native Kathy Giles’ friends and family attest that she’s “as outspoken as they are.” Giles, 45, is at the Higgins terminus of her ferry road, where she spends her days with her husband Donald, who works as a parks officer.
Her warm smile and easy-going disposition allows her to greet and help campers from all over the country at park campsites and boat launches. is bald. She suffers from alopecia areata, an immune system disorder that attacks her hair follicles, leaving her completely bald many times. For Giles, it can last months or years. Her alopecia areata history began as a one-size-fits-all bald spot on her quarter of the back of her head that she had since childhood.
Eight years ago, quarter size spots started growing and over time she went completely bald. Her journey through life without her hair has been difficult at times and has redefined her identity, but it has shaped her confidence as a beautiful new woman.
“I have beautiful custom-made wigs that cost ‘a pretty penny’ sitting in my closet.” Except I wear a hat every minute of every day.It doesn’t matter if it’s a wig or a hat or a scarf.It’s not my own hair.It’s hot, uncomfortable and itchy.I put something on my head 24/7 for years Try it on and see how well it copes.When a woman loses her hair, it really sets her apart.It’s part of her identity.Hair trimmed, cut, braided. or every time you wash your hair, you do those things because your hair is your look and your confidence. You truly understand what means the most to you, when you have nothing left to give to the world but your heart and soul.Nothing extra, 100% just you.”
Dealing with baldness isn’t her first encounter with dealing with difficult life issues.
Later in middle school, she experienced bullying that led her to drop out of 8th grade and earn her GED. She started working as a construction worker, but quit her job when she became pregnant. She soon moved to Georgia with her child’s father and found herself in a dangerous situation in her car.
“I lived at rock bottom, but eventually decided to move back to Chilton County for a better life,” said Giles. We use those experiences as steps.When someone is going through something difficult, it can be terrible, but give it five minutes.Things change.”
After returning to Chilton County, she met her future husband, Donald, when he responded as a police officer in a car accident.
They got married in May 2012.
After being diagnosed with alopecia areata in 2014, Giles woke up one day to find himself beautiful regardless of his diagnosis and no longer needed to wear hats or head coverings.
“I went to an amusement park and was told to take off my hat on the roller coaster because they weren’t allowed on the ride,” says Giles. “I got off and went to the front of the park and cried. increase. It became a daily struggle to cover my head all the time. ”
In Spring 2022, Giles wrote on his social media pages:
“I refuse to wear a hat for one more minute. This is my new normal! Everything happens for a reason, this was my sign.”
She has not used any type of head covering since April’s post.
Giles said everyone has anxiety they deal with in life and the only way to overcome that fear is to talk about it.
“If you talk about what you’re going through, it’s no longer a secret,” Giles said. Is it?” If you think you can’t get through it alone, focus on getting through it in an hour a day, minute by minute. ”
Over the last few years, Giles found several people experiencing crisis sitting at the boat dock (next to her house) and talked about the problems they were facing.
During the pandemic, Giles worked with the Lake Mitchell Home Owners and Boat Owners Association (HOBO) to create “Cathie’s Playground” with community help. The playground named after Giles is located at Higgins Ferry Park and has age-appropriate facilities.
From 1 to 17 years old. The various playground amenities were modeled to reach multiple age groups with her grandchildren in mind.
In her spare time, Kathy enjoys spending time with her husband, four children (Michael, Jacob, Kim and Jason) and seven grandchildren.
She also enjoys collecting driftwood she finds on the lake to make furniture. Some of her driftwood creations are featured at Much A Brew About Something Coffee Shop in downtown Clanton.
The playground at Higgins Ferry Park is named Kathy’s Playground in honor of Kathy Giles.