St. Clement mother authors children’s book on daughter’s alopecia

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Rosie Quinn, a student at St. Clement School, 2524 N. Orchard St., poses with a copy of “My Hair Went on Vacation.” Her mother, Paula Quinn, wrote the book to share Rosie’s experience with alopecia. Photo provided

When Paula Quinn’s daughter Rosie was 2½, she lost her hair over a period of just three weeks. The family soon learned that Rosie had alopecia, a condition that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles.

It can cause patches of baldness on a person’s head or complete baldness, which is the case with Rosie. There is no cure.

Rosie and her parents began receiving stares and questions whenever they went out in public. To help cope with that, and with the hair loss, Paula Quinn made a story book about Rosie’s hair going on adventures around the world. That book is now a professionally illustrated children’s book titled “My Hair Went on Vacation” and is available through the family’s charity, Coming Up Rosies, and on

“I wrote the book to help me when Rosie was first diagnosed,” Paula Quinn said. “I was trying to wrap my arms around having a bald child and how do I raise this bald child in a world to love herself as she is and not be ashamed of how she looks.”

The title came from Rosie, who, before she went to bed after she lost her hair, would tell her mother, “Don’t worry, Mommy, my hair just went on vacation.”

As the family members, including Rosie’s younger sister, Caroline, became used to answering all the questions people asked and learned how to respond to the pointing and staring, they no longer needed the book. But some time later Quinn’s husband, Larry, suggested they publish it to help others.

Paula Quinn updated the story, added a teachers’ guide and found a publisher and illustrator. All the proceeds support Coming Up Rosies, the non-profit the family founded (see Chicago Catholic’s 2017 story.)

Coming Up Rosies sells head and neck scarves printed with Rosie’s paintings, the proceeds of which cover the costs of producing scarf-making kits for children in hospitals.

Each kit includes a handwritten note from Rosie, paint, brushes and a blank canvas. After children paint the canvases, their parents or caregivers email Paula a photo of the image, which she has printed on a head scarf for the child.

“There’s so many different words to describe alopecia that a little kid, if they heard them, would go crazy, because they don’t understand an autoimmune disease,” said Rosie, who is 9 and attends St. Clement School. “So my mom wrote a book about me to break down alopecia in little bits and pieces for the kids to help understand what alopecia is and my journey with alopecia. It’s just to help other kids feel more confident.”

It’s not easy being different from others, she said.

“It’s hard when you know that you look different from other people and you can see that other people know you look different,” said Rosie, whose energetic and charming personality shines through when you meet her.

Paula noted that Rosie is blessed with a strong and confident personality, but many kids who look different, whether because of a physical disability or a medical diagnosis, struggle with it.

“A lot of children don’t want to go to school and they’re afraid they’ll get made fun of,” Paula said.

“Honestly, I think any kid who is going through something will feel insecure, and our goal with this book is to help them as much as we can with being confident and making sure they’re happy, and just as happy as I am,” Rosie added.

The book doesn’t just help kids accept those who look different from them, it also teaches them to be kind, Paula said.

Often people assume Rosie has cancer because they don’t know about alopecia. In most cases, when kids approach Rosie, their questions come from curiosity and not malice. Paula and her husband have always encouraged Rosie to approach children and introduce herself. They would accompany her and suggested Rosie ask the children what made them different too.

“Everyone has something that makes them different,” Paula Quinn said. “Most of the time when we went up to the children, the parents would mouth ‘Thank you,’ because they didn’t know what to say.”

Before COVID-19, Rosie would regularly visit kids at Ronald McDonald House who lost their hair from chemotherapy. She misses those visits.

“I see God in people when we go to the Ronald McDonald House because I think they also see God in us,” she said. “We go there, and the stories are just heart-wrenching. We’re there to paint with the kids and have fun.”

Faith has helped the family get through the tough times.

“With this diagnosis there is no cure,” Paula Quinn said. “There is no treatment that’s effective for kids. There were so many unknowns. Larry, my husband, and I just felt so helpless. I really leaned on my faith because there were so many unknowns.”

Faith has also helped them maintain a sense of humor. For example, they keep a “silver lining list” of the top 10 reasons why it’s good to be bald. That list had an addition to it when the family contracted head lice and Rosie was spared. She ran around the house cheering, both Rosie and Paula said laughing.

“God has really helped us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re all just doing the best job that we can,” Paula Quinn said. “I think it’s our calling to use Rosie’s positive energy to share with others so that other children can benefit.”

To order a copy of “My Hair Went on Vacation,” visit or Bulk prices are available through the charity. All books ordered through are signed by Rosie Quinn. Beanie hats are also for sale.


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