Kimberly | Kentucky
Diagnosis: Breast cancer
Chemo Regimen: Taxol/Herceptin x 12
On May 30, 2019, my world was turned upside down. My husband and I went to the Women’s Wellness Center where I had a prescheduled appointment to discuss my breast biopsy results from 2 days prior. Being the optimist that I am, I thought that the physician was going to tell me that the calcification’s in my left breast were benign, and I would leave the office and life would go on as usual. That was not the case.
The good news was that the cancer was caught early, and it was only 12mm in size. I had been very faithful to have my annual mammograms, and that’s when the cancer was found. More good news- it was estrogen receptor positive and HER2 receptor positive which meant there was treatment that could help prevent it from returning. The plan was for me to have a lumpectomy and radiation. And then I would get on with my life, right? Then the bad news came. The size of the HER2 positive portion of the tumor was large enough that radiation therapy alone would not suffice. The physician informed me that chemotherapy consisting of 12 rounds of weekly Taxol, along with Herceptin infusions every 3 weeks for a year, would be the course of treatment. I was informed that my chances of survival were very high.
In spite of all the positivity, I was so devastated. It was frightening to be staring cancer in the face. Surgery, a port placement, chemo, radiation, and Herceptin infusions were all in my future. The fear of the unknown was overwhelming. It was frightening to think, “Will this come back? Has it spread to another part of my body? Will I be around for my family; to watch my granddaughter grow up?” I was reeling with all these questions going through my mind at once.
So, then my next question came. AM I GOING TO LOSE ALL MY HAIR? The answer to that question was unbearable. The doctors and nurses tried to be encouraging, letting me know that there were some nice wigs I could wear. Nice wigs!!! I had to go through all of this and lose my hair too!! I just collapsed into my husband’s chest and sobbed. My surgeon then told me about a cold cap therapy that could help me keep at least some of my hair. She also let us know that it was expensive, and most insurances didn’t cover it.
At that point, I was determined that I was going to keep my hair. Everything that followed was nothing short of a miracle. I started looking online to find information on cold cap therapies and found The DigniCap Scalp Cooling System. I started looking for hospitals that had the DigniCap, and there were only two hospitals in the state of Kentucky, and one of the machines was less than 30 minutes from my home. And though most insurance companies don’t yet cover the DigniCap, my insurance company happened to be one that did. I have since learned that there are organizations that actually cover the cost of the DigniCap for those who cannot afford it, which is so incredible!
The cap was so very cold, but I was willing to do anything to keep my hair. And I quickly learned that after the first 20-30 minutes, my head became numb, and the treatment became much more tolerable. So, I did deep breathing exercises to help me get through the first half hour. I carried an electric blanket to chemo every week, which also made me more comfortable. Also, I ordered bandless ear caps on Amazon which kept my ears from getting cold. Much more importantly, my husband was my biggest cheerleader and was with me every step of the way!
Along with the use of the DigniCap, I took very special care of my hair. I only used a wide-tooth comb. I washed my hair only twice a week using a mild shampoo and conditioner. I did not use hair product such as hairspray on my hair. I used only a cool hair dryer or allowed my hair to dry naturally. For treatment days, I washed my hair but did not apply conditioner. My nurse, Missy, at the cancer care center was so awesome! She was always so careful to make sure my hair was very wet, and the cap was applied correctly. She always made sure there were no air bubbles in the cap, and the cap was as tight as possible on my head.
My goal was to not lose my hair at all; however, at the beginning of my treatment, my son became engaged, and they planned the wedding about 8 weeks into my treatment. At that point, I just wanted to have hair at my son’s wedding. I definitely did not want to be a bald Mother of the Groom. So, we prayed, and we continued to use DigniCap. The wedding day came, and I had not lost any hair at all!! It was a beautiful day!! At the end of my 12 weeks of treatment, I still had my hair. It felt thinner to me, but my stylist informed me that it was just as thick as ever.
It has now been over 6 months since my last chemo treatment. Thanks to DigniCap I was able to keep my hair and my dignity. And I am now cancer free. I am so blessed!