I am currently battling breast cancer for the second time, having first been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 31. My two sons were 3 and 4 years old at the time, and as you can imagine, there was no option for scalp cooling 15 years ago. I decided to cut my hair cut very short before starting my chemotherapy regime of ACT. I decided to get my haircut while my children were attending a camp. When I returned to pick my sons up from the camp my youngest son, was very disturbed to see my long hair chopped off. He kept telling me he didn’t like it and I should get it back. I believed that by cutting it first would be less shocking for my sons.
When my hair began to fall out, I let my husband and sons shave my hair. I tried to make it fun and not scary for my sons. My husband, Carlos, decided to shave his head completely bald in solidarity with me and my sons got buzz cuts. As a family we all got a “new look”. I had purchased a wig but found it very uncomfortable, so I wore bandannas or nothing at all. To be honest, I felt very comfortable being bald, and that is a choice some people with cancer do make. Had scalp cooling been an option 15 years ago, however, I would have definitely pursued it–not for me, but for my sons. As a mother I wanted nothing more than to protect my sons from the trauma of seeing me ill.
Now flash-forward 15 years to November 2018 and to my surprise, I was diagnosed again with triple negative breast cancer. This time, both of my sons were in college and they understood the situation. Since my previous oncologist whom I trusted and admired had passed away a few years after my treatments, I met with a new oncologist that had been in practice for many years in my area. She was the first person to mention scalp cooling to me. She gave me a recommendation, but it required me to bring over 100 pounds of dry ice in a cooler to each appointment. It seemed cumbersome, so again I decided to cut my hair short and wait for it to fall out.
Given the fact that this was my second diagnosis with triple negative breast cancer I decided to do some research on triple negative breast cancer and the top oncologists in the field. That is how I came into contact with my oncologist who introduced me to DigniCap. I told her I was not interested in it because I did not want to have to transport the dry ice to each appointment. She explained that there were machines in place, and I did not have to bring anything. After some additional research on Dignitana, I decided to give it a try.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was working full time and attending the University of San Francisco full time. I was scheduled to graduate in June 2019 and I was extremely excited to walk in my ceremony. I meant a lot to me to be able to put on my cap and gown. I wanted to be able to have my cap secured to my hair. I felt like cancer had taken a lot from me already and I wasn’t willing to give up my hair this time.
My actual experience with the scalp cooling machine was relatively easy. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t a bit uncomfortable getting to the freezing point. I always feel cold, and for someone like me, it was difficult for the first 30 minutes or so. But, like they say, “No pain, no gain.” I was extremely surprised that I not only maintained my hair, but it was growing out as well. I have always had fine, thin, and slow growing hair–so for it to be growing through chemotherapy was mind blowing for me.
The overall scalp cooling experience was a positive one for me.
While I know that I am capable of being confident being bald, I was relieved that I did not have to go through it again. Women and men should not have to assume hair loss is a given while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Cancer takes so much away from us–time, health, energy, plans, simple pleasures, appetites–I’m glad that hair doesn’t have to be another thing.
– Jaime, California