Location: Leeds, UK
Cancer type: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer, Stage 2
Drug type: Epirubicin/Cyclophosphamide, Docetaxel
Hair type: Long, Straight
"Overall, I was super happy with the cold cap and so grateful to Paxman for allowing me to keep some normality."
I was 34-years-old when I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer, stage 2, having found a lump by accident one morning in the shower.
My treatment began with lots of scans and biopsies, along with the removal of the sentinel lymph nodes which were thankfully clear.
Due to having no children yet, I decided to have fertility treatment before chemotherapy started, thus delaying the chemo, but I felt It was something I just had to do, to give me a possible ‘normal’ future in case the chemo damaged my ovaries.
I started chemotherapy on 15th February 2017 at St James’ Hospital, Leeds. I had two doses of Epirubicin/ Cyclophosphamide and four Docetaxel. My last chemo cycle was on the 1st June 2017 and I’ve since had a single mastectomy with an immediate reconstruction.
I was informed about the cold cap when I was first diagnosed. My breast care nurse told me I would definitely lose my hair with the chemo regime, but I could try scalp cooling. I was told it only works for 50-60% of patients, and people find it very uncomfortable, but there was no way I wasn’t going to try! I was given a leaflet to go away and read.
The first few experiences were ok, the first nurse I had really made sure it was fitted correctly, which is a massive must. It took some getting used to, the first 10 minutes are by far the worst.
As I went through the treatment, I learnt to take a couple of paracetamols before leaving home, it took the edge off slightly. I also had a magazine ready for those first 10 mins as a distraction. A thin headband was also useful to cover the first bit of my forehead and tops of the ears. As well as plenty of hot drinks, the nurses gave me a heated pad. I also took a blanket or scarf to go around my neck and I bought the Paxman shampoo and conditioner which I used throughout.
I learnt to only wash my hair once a week and comb it very gently once a day. My biggest tip though is don’t be afraid to spend time making sure the cap fits correctly, and speak up if you don’t feel it’s right.
I kept 50% of my hair, which I was really happy with. I had patches at the front, and above my ears, but it was fine. The cold cap enabled me to go out without anyone knowing what I was going through.
I didn’t feel the need to buy a wig; I just kept going with the cold cap, which is really important. I had a really big shed after chemo no.2 and I believe some people give up at this point, but it’s best to try persevere as the shedding does slow down.
Post treatment, I continued to only wash my hair once a week using a gentle shampoo. I am now 4 weeks post final chemo and the shedding has completely stopped.
Overall, I was super happy with the cold cap and so grateful to Paxman for allowing me to keep some normality. When you talk to other patients however, it seems a lot of people are told of the low success rate and uncomfortableness of it, which puts people off. I know nurses and other professionals have to give you the facts, but I know it put this puts some people off which is a shame.
I would definitely recommend scalp cooling to others though. It’s an amazing invention!