Location: Stevenage, UK
Cancer type: Breast
Drug type: EC T
Hair type: Long, fine
"With everything unknown, I always think that I will give it a go. Nothing to lose (except my hair!)"
My name is Anna. I was diagnosed on 22nd August 2017 with Grade 3 Her2+ breast cancer. I had found a lump in my left breast that felt the size of a 2p coin. I thought it was a swollen gland as we had such a hot spring/summer and it was one of those weekends. I waited until the Monday morning and then checked again at work to see if I could still feel it. I could, so I rang my GP and arranged an appointment that day. The GP said it might be nothing to worry about but the new guidelines were out which meant that I would see a consultant within 2 weeks. From then, I had a biopsy, mammogram and a scan. I went on holiday and had the results on my return. The consultant was straightforward and no- nonsense which I prefer, he told me I had breast cancer, that it was an aggressive form and quick spreading so I would need to have chemotherapy straight away. It was a shock. I had tried to prepare for the worst, but when you actual hear it for yourself it is scary. I was referred to the oncologist for a treatment plan and then went home to tell the children which was awful.
My treatment began on 15th September at Lister Hospital in Stevenage.
A friend told me about the cold cap, she told me a mutual friend had tried it. I thought it was worth a go. I had prepared myself to lose my hair. I asked about it at my pre-chemo meeting and the nurse said it was a possibility and that it would be organised when I started. So I was happy to try it out.
With everything unknown, I always think that I will give it a go. Nothing to lose (except my hair!) I had the cap on and was told that I’d feel cold, I was looked after. I had a heat blanket, tea and my iPad to keep my busy. The nurses told me that after 10 minutes I would feel ok. Once it switched on the cold was instant, it was like a brain freeze from drinking an iced milkshake. But it didn’t hurt, it was uncomfortable but the ten minutes went quickly and suddenly it was fine. I was the only one in the chemo ward with it on at the time and I thought that other patients might think I was having brain treatment or something! But I quickly realised that other people do use it. One lady was on her 25th session – I was amazed at her.
After the first two weeks, I started to lose hair on the top of my head. I think that there was a bit of an air pocket, luckily, I have loads of hair. I was thinking that I might not carry on with the cold cap if it was falling out but my husband encouraged me to keep going with it. I didn’t lose my hair at the very front and I kept my hair long so I could hide areas that went bald well. When I went for the second session and talked to the nurse she agreed with my husband so I carried on.
Using the heat blanket was great, having a hoody to cover my head afterwards helped too. And really preparing myself for the first ten minutes, so I would download some music and play a couple of songs to keep my mind off of it then I was fine.
I would say I lost 30%, but I think that was mainly due to the cap size, I might have needed a tighter fit on reflection. But because I kept my hair long I could hide it easily. I wore a hat sometimes but mainly because it was cold not because of my hair.
Well, I have been patiently growing the short bits out. I am waiting for them to get long enough to have a new style. I had some chemo curls growing too. I have just been very careful with it, not over brushing or using harsh elastic bands to put it up.
Scalp cooling is amazing, I was so happy that I stuck with it and it meant that I could be as normal as possible. I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone, and that meant I had control of the cancer. Which was powerful for me and meant I could be positive.
I would absolutely recommend scalp cooling. It is worth trying, I would (and still do) try to convince people that are starting chemotherapy to scalp cool. Losing hair is one of the biggest fears of cancer treatment so why wouldn’t you try it?
"It is worth trying, I would (and still do) try to convince people that are starting chemotherapy to scalp cool. Losing hair is one of the biggest fears of cancer treatment so why wouldn’t you try it?"