Fortitude and Passion Kept Dreams Alive After Medical Diagnosis
Jacob Merlo’s determination to achieve his dreams regardless of being diagnosed with Alopecia at age 15 is an inspiration to other youth soccer players who face challenges. Here is Jacob’s story and how he overcame the effects of Alopecia and achieved success on the soccer field.
Jacob Merlo was 15 years old when he arrived to play in a 2016 college soccer showcase in Virginia. Jacob had been relaxing in his hotel room with parents Robin and Mark Menlo when he discovered that his hair was falling out.
Strange he thought — and he informed his parents who immediately sought the advice of their pediatrician.
They were told to leave immediately and have Jacob examined. As the Menlo family drove home they researched all of the possible medical conditions that could cause this. Alopecia Areata kept coming up as a result as well as the recommendation to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. Alopecia is a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles.
Within a couple of days, Jacob had been examined by a dermatologist who diagnosed him with this unusual disease Alopecia. Jacob was understandably upset — he was just entering high school and knew that he could lose all of his hair. And, it happened quickly, during the following two weeks, he was bald.
The one place life did not change was the soccer field — Jacob did not to let his condition affect his love for or drive to pursue his dreams in soccer.
The soccer field is where Jacob felt at ease, with his teammates remaining supportive of him — regardless of how he looked. After all, what mattered was how he played, not if he had a head of hair.
JACOB MERLO: OVERCOMING ALOPECIA TO ACHIEVE HIS DREAMS
Despite having Alopecia, Jacob continued to play soccer at a high level and work hard at developing his skills. After games, parents from the opposing teams would come and ask if Jacob was sick. Did he have cancer? He looked healthy but why was he bald all of a sudden?
The Menlo family would educate other soccer parents and explain that he is not sick but has Alopecia.
Jacob constantly dealt with people staring at him thinking that he was sick, but he was healthy. Jacob had also begun steroid injections into his head of which he initially received 75. The amount of steroid injections after this would vary.
In the summer of 2016, Jacob attended the Cantera Futbol USA ID soccer camp in Northport, New York directed by Alex Mendolia where LaLiga coaches were scouting. He was quickly noticed by EFSD Huesca Academy and invited to come play with them in Spain.
Jacob’s dreams and aspirations — since he was 10 years old — were becoming a reality, and he accepted the offer within hours.
Jacob’s passion for the beautiful game helped him through a difficult time as a young teen. He had not let anything get in his way and rose to meet the challenges he faced — turning them into opportunities to succeed. Jacob now has 80% of his hair back, but it could be temporary as he can still lose it and receives injections into his head and eyebrows every 5 weeks.
Robin Merlo, Jacob’s mother told us, “As his mother, I have been told so many times that it could be worse and that he could be sick. Obstacles can get in your way, but you have to get around them.”
For more information on this condition – please visit Alopecia Areata | National Alopecia Areata Foundation.