January 31, 2017
I recently finished 12 weeks of chemotherapy during which I had almost no side effects. I continued to work, keep up with my 4-year-old, work out a few times a week and enjoy some fun evenings with girlfriends. And, thanks to a process known as scalp cooling, I have 90% of my hair.
Chemotherapy was one of the things I feared the most when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like most people, my image of chemo is that of a frail, sick person with no hair; the kind you see in sad movies. I didn’t feel like a sick person and didn’t want to look like one. I never had to explain to my son why mommy doesn’t have hair anymore. He never even knew I was sick. Knowing this made my situation seem bearable and I’m quite sure helped me fight and win this life-and-death attack on my physical—and mental--health.
Battling cancer is terrifying and exhausting. It was a relief to see myself in the mirror looking “normal.” I don’t know how a person could not feel awful if they had to see a bald, sick version of themselves every day. In fact, hair loss is known to be the most traumatizing effect of chemotherapy. Eight per cent of breast cancer patients actually refuse chemotherapy due to concerns about hair loss, so scalp cooling can actually save lives. So what is it exactly?
Scalp cooling works by reducing blood flow to the hair follicles so there is less exposure to the chemotherapy drugs. The question most people ask me when I tell them about cold caps is “how cold was it?” The answer: Very! But that’s why it works. It entails wearing a fitted, cold cap before, during, and after the chemo infusion, while changing the cap periodically to maintain the temperature.
It is not typically covered by insurance and the cost is prohibitive for many and thus has been available only to a privileged few. I hope we can change that.
I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. After I finished the 12-week course, it was easy to move on, not having to wait months for my hair to grow back and to feel like myself again.
I feel passionately about passing on this honor (and I do consider it to be just that) to other people going through the fight of their lives. Please join me in supporting HairToStay.org, the only national non-profit dedicated to making this treatment available to those unable to afford it. As anyone who has had a parent, sibling or friend experience hair loss from chemo knows, this will be a game-changer in the lives of chemo patients. Let’s make this happen!