Donna | California
Diagnosis: Stage 1a, Estrogen+, Progesterone+, HER2+
Chemotherapy Regimen: Weekly Taxol
Total Treatments: 12
Timing is everything, so I was lucky to have found my lump as soon as I did. Finding it during the Covid-19 lockdown was another matter. I kept visualizing a scale with breast cancer on one side and the virus on the other. Did I want to forego chemo, thereby keeping my immune system intact, so I might fight off Covid-19? In truth, I was fighting the idea of chemotherapy from the start, because my sister had breast cancer 10 years earlier than mine and never recovered all her hair.
After all, my cancer was stage 1a, it was small enough for a lumpectomy, and the margins were clear, with no lymph node involvement and 3 generations of women in my family had lived into their 90’s without having contracted breast cancer at all. I had conveniently excluded my sister and first cousin who both had breast cancer because I was confining “family history” to the generations before ours. I felt I was home free, a bit of radiation and I’d be through, avoiding chemo and all its side effects. Once I learned that older women were at higher risk for hair loss, I was firm in my decision, even after I saw tears welling in my husband’s eyes when I announced that I was never going to consider chemo.
Then I saw my lab reports and talked to an oncologist. Even though I was focusing on hormones, HER2+ was the real problem since it determined growth rate. My tumor had its cells dividing by 70%, so I had no choice. That’s when I started asking about DigniCap.
I was skeptical and after reading the statistics, I had to ask myself if 25-50% hair loss was worth the price. Yes to 25%, no to 50%, but the literature pointed to greater success with treatments using one chemo drug, and because my age made it more likely to lose hair I decided I’d consider it a luxury gift to myself.
Directions were followed to the letter, however, my doctor’s choice of pain killer, Tylenol Plus, didn’t work, but then, Tylenol had never worked for me so day one was a misery. After consulting my doctor, I was cleared to use a pain reliever with codeine, given to me after the surgery. Half a tablet 45 minutes prior to donning DigniCap and I was ready for anything.
I had chopped off 10 inches of hair prior to using the cold cap, thinking the hair would fit better into the cap, but then discovered that it had been unnecessary, as it didn’t need to be piled on top. Still, I consoled myself thinking that when my hair did fall out, it would be better not to see clumps of long hair on the floor or on my pillow.
After week one, I checked my comb and found that I was losing about 3 hairs whenever I combed it after washing. Days 14-21, which I had been warned about, came and went without incident. During the entire 11 weeks of chemo, I lost about 15 hairs twice, then back to about 3. One of the assistants helping me get into the cap told me to cut the hair washing back to once a week for a better result, so I had. I never did find hair on my pillow, or on the floor. My hair seemed to lack body, and may have been brittle, since shorter pieces of hair were in my comb, but it didn’t look thinner.
During week 7, I noticed quite a few small hairs growing from my hairline, so I must have lost hair, but it had not been evident during the process. It was good to see that hair could still grow during chemo, and I believe that is why I never noticed any loss at all. Every morning my husband greeted me with “Good morning….you still have all your hair.” I literally ran my hands through it each morning to make sure.
My last day of chemotherapy is this coming Tuesday. I’ll miss all the time it gives one to relax. I’ll also miss the staff with their kindness and empathy, but thanks to DigniCap I will not miss my hair!!!