Location: Boston, USA
Cancer type: Breast
Drug type: TC
Hair type: Long
"Of course I thought of all the side effects and one of the big ones was losing my hair. I already felt low as I lost my breasts and now I was going to lose my hair and eyebrows and eyelashes. I thought my kids are going to be worried about me, and how are they going to cope?"
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a busy 34 year old wife, mother to 3 young children ages 15 months, 3years old, and 7 years old. I was a pediatric nurse at an acute care facility and loved my family, my job, and life. Shortly after finishing breastfeeding in my daughter in November 2017, I slipped over my right chest and felt immediately that something didn’t feel right. I wanted to run to the emergency room and check it out, but I went to work and worked two 12 hour shifts as it was the weekend and on Monday went and got it checked out. From there it was a whirlwind of testing and waiting in which all I thought about was my children and that they needed their mother. When I received the call that it was in fact cancer, and that they caught it early, I was overwhelmed and of course emotional. I leaned on my husband, my family, and friends for support. I luckily live in the Boston area where I have access to world renowned hospitals. I sought out Dana Farber for my care and treatment. I had a double mastectomy in which the period after was very challenging as I had to not lift anything over 10lbs(including my 1 and 3 year old children) for 5 weeks. I had an outpouring of support from family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. When I followed up with my oncologist to see if I needed chemotherapy based on my results from the surgery it was the most excruciating time for me. I held my breath and when she said it was recommended, I just remember breaking down and thinking how am I going to do this? Of course I thought of all the side effects and one of the big ones was losing my hair. I already felt low as I lost my breasts and now I was going to lose my hair and eyebrows and eyelashes. I thought my kids are going to be worried about me, and how are they going to cope? I thought, everyone is going to stare at me and know I am a cancer patient. That’s when in that appointment my oncologist from Dana Farber mentioned how they recently got Paxman machines in which I had the option of using the machine to basically cool my scalp so that I could minimize hair loss. I didn’t even have to think about it, I said definitely and how do I do it? I said when we are starting chemotherapy, expecting her to say in a few weeks, but instead she said hopefully by next week. My head was spinning and I felt overwhelmed , but knowing that I could keep my hair and keep some sort of normalcy in my life felt like a small win especially since they are just recently obtained the machines!
In February of 2017 I started treatment and with it I started my PAXMAN cold capping journey. My husband and I had practiced a couple of times with the video the night before, but I still felt slightly unprepared and hoped I did it right. That first day I took my ibuprofen to help with any uncomfortable feeling that I might get with the cold capping and also an anti-anxiety pill that was prescribed. When it first when on, it just felt like an ice cream headache, I just would lie my head back and wait until it got a little numb. The most uncomfortable time was about the first 15 minutes and then it subsided and I got used to it. I felt like the first time I did not wet my hair enough. I had VERY thick hair and felt like wetting it more would have allowed the cold to get down more into the follicles. I also felt like the fit could go down a little lower to the ear area so you don’t lose as much there. It made for a long day as you had to pre treat with the cold capping and then keep it on for 90 minutes after treatment, but I didn’t mind. The 2nd time I wet my hair more. I did have my big hair loss around day 14-21 when my hair came out in droves and I was for sure thinking I would be bald in no time. It matted and I had to cut a little bit of it off that I couldn’t get untangled. I found hair EVERYWHERE in the house and on my clothes. But alas is subsided and what I was left with was about 50-70 % of my hair with a couple of bald spots in which I could cover with my remaining hair. I also used hair fibers to make it look a little thicker. I would wash it every 3 to 4 days in cool water which was barely dripping out with sulfate /paraben free shampoo and conditioner. I used dry shampoo in between. I slept on a silk pillowcase. I wore hats as it was winter and the in spring I worse some baseball hats when I felt I was having a bad hair day. I still felt good about my hair as you could see it past the hats. I did obtain a wig and wore it once, but never felt comfortable with it and would just rock my own hair instead. I brushed it with care with a wooden comb or the wet brush gently. Near the end of treatment I would braid it loosely to keep it contained and that worked well. In the middle of treatment, I was interviewed by the Boston Globe in regards to the importance of this treatment being covered by insurance. It wasn’t covered for me and it would be very helpful for insurance to start covering it more. After treatment I continued with my washing every few days and at 6 weeks went to every day and warmer water. At 3 months post final chemo treatment I felt I had a lot of re-growth. At 5.5 months I got a cut and highlight and it felt amazing. At 6 month post final treatment, I wash it regularly and treat it like my original hair. There is serious re-growth. I continue to get a lot of surprised looks when I tell people I had cancer this year and then explain how amazing cold capping is.
I felt like using cold capping was so worth it, even though I lost some, I kept most, and was able to keep some sort of normalcy for my children and myself! My regrowth has been fast and I’m so thankful I had Paxman scalp cooling as an option in my care. I will forever be grateful to Paxman and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
"I felt like using cold capping was so worth it, even though I lost some, I kept most, and was able to keep some sort of normalcy for my children and myself! My regrowth has been fast and I’m so thankful I had Paxman scalp cooling as an option in my care."