Location: Missouri, USA
Cancer type: Breast Cancer Stage Ib ER+/PR+/HER2+++ invasive ductal carcinoma
Drug type: Paclitaxel, Herceptin
Hair type: Average Thickness, Straight
"With all the changes and emotions you face during a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it was a relief to remove the stress of losing my hair. It was nice not to have a reminder every time I looked in the mirror of one more thing cancer would have taken from me."
I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2020, I found out about scalp cooling through my friends and on social media. I found the process easy and straight forward.
I braced myself for the cold feeling, but it was what I had expected. I agree with other people who say the first treatment is the worst treatment. Once you know what to expect, the rest are very predictable and it gets better each time. By the last treatment, I barely noticed it anymore.
I premedicated with acetaminophen about 1 hour before chemo, usually while I was waiting for my labs to return. I found that this alone was very effective for any discomfort associated with the cooling cap. I used an electric blanket to stay warm during cooling and it really helped. I would sometimes wear the cap while the machine was warming up. I was sitting in the chair anyway, so I figured it was just more cooling time. After a few times of doing this, I realized that the slow, gradual cooling made the actual cooling process much more tolerable and I barely noticed any discomfort when the actual pre-cooling began. I used pieces of foam tape on my hairline to protect the skin on my forehead from coming into contact with the cap.
I felt like my hair was thicker after chemo than when I started chemo, which sounds crazy. I did not experience thinning or patchy hair loss. I am 4 weeks out from my last treatment and have since lost my eyebrows and eyelashes, but I have not lost the hair on my head. I would occasionally wear a hat if I felt that my hair was greasy from not washing it, but not because of hair loss.
I cut my hair short and donated it before chemo because I didn’t know what to expect. In hindsight, the shorter length was much more manageable. I washed my hair 1-2 times per week by lathering (everything-free) baby soap in my palms and smoothing the soap over my wet hair in the shower. I never massaged my scalp. I do shower every evening and wet my hair with warm water every night. I brushed my hair every day with a wet, detangling brush. I used hair clips but no rubber bands. I never used a hair dryer or hot iron, as instructed. I would take a shower before every chemo appointment and wet my hair (no soap). I would go to my appointments with a damp head and then spray my hair with water again before applying the cooling cap. I felt like by having my roots completely damp before cooling was helpful for the process. I know some of the books say not to do this because it can be more uncomfortable, but it was not overly uncomfortable for me.
With all the changes and emotions you face during a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it was a relief to remove the stress of losing my hair. It was nice not to have a reminder every time I looked in the mirror of one more thing cancer would have taken from me. I moved out of state and started a new job while receiving chemotherapy. During this time, I was able to go on meet and greets and feel confident with my own hair. If I had lost my hair during treatment, I can’t say that this would have been a positive experience for me and I might not have had the confidence to do it at all.
Molly before cancer
After Cycle 4
After Cycle 12
I would like to thank many people. My husband, Chris, who drove me on numerous 6-hour round trips to the infusion center, hauled my bags into the hospital, helped me spray my hair and apply my cooling cap (the BEST bubble smoother and strap tightener around!), and kissed my forehead before he had to leave me for each cycle of chemo during COVID. You’re my rock.
To my mother-in-law and father-in-law who had weekly slumber parties with our 2 and 4 year old daughters during chemo. Knowing the girls were safe and loved while Chris and I were away meant everything to me and I can never thank them enough. We are so lucky to have you.
My mom and dad who still love me unconditionally and still take care of me in my 30s.
My daughters – you make me strong.
All of my family and friends who sent gifts, cooked meals, and offered mental and emotional support. I love you all.