Tanya visited her GP, who said it was likely she was suffering from a condition called alopecia areata – which causes round bald patches on the scalp.
A dermatologist prescribed lotions and gave Tanya steroid injections in her scalp to stimulate hair growth.
“My beautiful long hair just kept falling out and nothing would stop it. I found it all over the carpet, in the shower – it would block the plughole, too,” she says.
“I lost my eyelashes on my right eye too. Sometimes my hair would grow back over my bald patches and then it would fall out again.”
Tanya spent hundreds on hair extensions, root sprays and topic fibres to cover up her bald patches. She even spent $635 on a human hair wig.
Then in 2013, her marriage broke down.
“My husband, and I divorced after six years of marriage. It was a very stressful and painful time,” says Tanya. “The stress made my alopecia even worse. I was like a moulting dog. I wondered if anyone would find me beautiful again.”
Tanya concentrated on being a mum and kept herself busy. But in time she met a new partner, Algirdas Butkus, 30.
“Algirdas was warm, kind and loving and we fell in love. But I dreaded the thought of telling him about my alopecia, so I didn’t,” Tanya says.
“I made sure whenever we were together, my hair extensions were in place. I even used to sleep with them in and I’d get up in the middle of the night to apply eye liner so he’d wake up and see me the same as when I went to bed!”
Tanya admits she would wash her hair in secret when Algirdas went to the gym. “It was absolutely ridiculous,” she says. “And the longer it went on the harder it was to tell him.”
Then Tanya fell pregnant. But even then she couldn’t confide in him about her hair.
“I finally went into labour with Algirdas by my side,” Tanya says.
“[But] all I could think about was my hair extensions and if they were in properly! The thought of them coming out and Algirdas seeing my alopecia filled me with absolute horror."
“Looking back, I realise it sort of ruined a magical time because I was so stressed about my bald patches showing.”
After a seven-hour labour, Tanya gave birth to Lorena. “We adored her instantly,” Tanya says. “We were so close and it was such an intimate time but still I couldn’t confide in him.”
Tanya then noticed her hair was thinner than ever. “I didn’t even have enough hair to clip my false extensions,” she says.
“I joined online forums and I sent strangers pictures of my almost bald head and told them I hadn’t told my partner about my alopecia. They reassured me and told me to tell Algirdas.”
Tanya took their advice and one day summoned up the courage to tell him.
“I remember Algirdas just looking at me with the kindest smile and asked me to show him but I told him I just couldn’t.
“He didn’t put any pressure on me at all to show him and I was so grateful. He then came out with another suggestion.
“Why don’t you shave it off?” he said. “You’ve got beautiful big eyes and such a pretty face.”
Tanya says: “I was gobsmacked. He mentioned famous pop stars like Pink and Amber Rose and how fabulous they looked.
“I knew he was right I had to take control and not let the alopecia control me any longer.”
Tanya booked an appointment with a hairdresser and told them to shave all her hair off.
“I stared at my reflection and took a deep breath. I was completely bald. It was strange but somehow liberating. I was no longer hiding behind hair extensions and wigs,” she says.
Then it was time to go home and show Algirdas. Tanya was still wearing a synthetic wig to cover her bald head.
“I began sobbing; really sobbing. Then I pulled my wig off and showed him,” says Tanya.
Algirdas just hugged her tightly and smiled. “You look absolutely amazing,” he said. “You look so beautiful.”
Tanya soon loved her new look. “My bald head gave me a sense of freedom I’d never felt before,” Tanya says.
“Now I catch my reflection in a window and I smile at myself. I feel proud. I have so much to be grateful for.
“I don’t have a terrible illness. I am incredibly lucky – all I have lost is my hair.”
“Alopecia doesn’t worry me at all anymore,” she adds. “I’ve embraced it in a way I would never have imagined.”
For more, see this week's New Idea - out now!