Location: Queensland, Austrialia
Cancer type: Breast
Drug type: AC & Paclitaxel
Hair type: Long
"I could go out with family and friends and still look the same as normal. Just wanted to say thankyou so much for making this awesome product available. We need more availability and more education in Australia. Brilliant!"
Hi all. Australia definitely needs more publicity for scalp cooling. A lot (not all) of oncologists over here have a very outdated and blase attitude towards it. Actually some just say it doesn’t work so there’s no point trying. How wrong they are. I had 4 x 3 weekly AC and 12 x weekly Taxol. I was absolutely thrilled with the results. It did thin, but it was even, and nobody but me could tell. It gave me so much more strength and confidence to get through this knowing nobody knew that I was being treated for breast cancer unless I wanted them to know. I could go out with family and friends and still look the same as normal. Just wanted to say thank you so much for making this awesome product available. We need more availability and more education in Australia. Brilliant!
My diagnosis came 3 days before my twin daughters 18th birthday in 2016. Not the present I had been hoping to give them I must say. I had noticed a weird lump under my arm so had it checked out thinking it was going to be some kind of cyst type thing. How wrong I was. I was 45 at the time of diagnosis and the biopsy had come back as “highly suspicious for metastatic breast cancer”. I had a long month of appointments and scans chasing around to find the breast lump as it couldn’t be felt and I wanted a lumpectomy Surgery consisted of the lumpectomy, re excision for margins and level 2 lymph node clearance. There ended up being 5 nodes positive so chemo was pretty much a must do, followed by radiation and hormone therapy.
The oncology appointment was the most daunting out of all of them. When you are told straight out that you will lose your hair, strangely enough, all the other side effects pale into insignificance. I was to have 4 x 3 weekly treatments of AC and 12 x weekly treatments of paclitaxel, followed by 30 rounds of radiation. One of the hardest things about a breast cancer diagnosis is the feeling of a complete lack of control. Not only are you going to have to get used to a different and somewhat battle-scarred appearance, but you are going to have to walk around bald, so that everybody knows you are fighting cancer. I did some research myself and found out about the cold caps thanks to google. They are fairly new to Australia, not many hospitals have them, and most people have never even heard of them. I thought my chances of finding a hospital nearby with one were fairly slim.
The first oncologist I was seeing was very sceptical and cynical. I got the impression that she thought keeping your hair was fairly low down on the list of things to do to fight cancer, and from what she knew there was only a slim chance of it ever working, gave you headaches and added hours to your treatment. Luckily, my breast care nurse had worked in the U.K. for a number of years and had seen how successful cold capping was. Even better luck, there was a new Mater private hospital opened fairly close to me and some wonderful soul had fundraised and donated them a Paxman machine, and, they would accept me as a public patient.
So, I changed oncologists and hospitals. I was over the moon! I knew now that I could cope with whatever else chemo could throw at me. Nobody would have to know if I didn’t want them to. I started my treatment on the 11/12/16. Two weeks before Christmas and went through till the end of May 2017. After the first time I didn’t find the cold a problem as I knew what to expect, and that the discomfort would only last for a couple of minutes at the start. The nurses were very excited about their new Paxman machine and were diligent with the fit and instructions of the cap and cooler and so was I. I used to push the cap down on my scalp about every 15 mins just to make sure, as this seems to be the place some people have problems with.
If I wasn’t happy with the fit, we didn’t start until I was. My nurses were fantastic and timed the premeds with the cap pre cooling time and the last bag of fluids with the after cooling so it really didn’t add that much extra time to treatment at all. Besides, you get to sit in a nice comfy chair with lots of warm blankets! If there was anybody this should not have worked for it was me! I didn’t follow the hair care rules very well.
The summer of 2017 in Qld, Australia was hot to say the least. We had several weeks in a row of over 35 degrees. My husband and I have a farm so there is work to be done outside all the time. Any longer than 15 mins in that heat and I was sweating from head to toe. I spent the first three months of chemo with an Akubra on my head, and the thought of only washing my hair once a week was not very appealing. I washed it very quickly from mid-length down every day the whole way through. I gave a quick flick of conditioner to the scalp and washed it straight off so it would feel fresh and clean. I only ever used a wide-tooth afro comb and put it in a loose plait a lot of the time so I didn’t have to deal with tangles.
I didn’t touch it with a blow dryer until about three months after treatment when I was game enough to put a colour through it. My hair did thin but it was even with no bald spots whatsoever so nobody could notice but me. I never needed a wig, or scarf. My family had a lot of social events during this time. I was able to go to all the parties and work without feeling self-conscious in the slightest.
Towards the end of Paclitaxel my hair started growing rapidly and hasn’t looked back since. I’m not sure whether the cold cap had anything to do with it but I kept most of my eyebrows and lashes as well.
I would (and do) thoroughly recommend Paxman scalp cooling to anyone starting chemo. The extra strength it gives you to deal with the rest of treatment is so worth it.
"You don’t have to look like a cancer patient! My surgeon actually said to me at my after-treatment review “Wow, you don’t look like anything has even happened to you!”. If only he knew."