At a glance:
- Diagnosis: ER+ PR+ HR- invasive ductile carcinoma breast cancer
- Drug regimen: Cytoxan followed by Taxotere
- Results: My son couldn’t tell I’d lost any hair
- Carol says: “Penguin Cold Caps are the savior and protector of my positive attitude”
Carol is 64 years old mother of two children, with a successful career in IT. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, and we’re pleased to report she is now celebrating her one-year cancer-free milestone.
“The Caps enabled me to stay looking ‘normal’ and ‘healthy,’ which was vital to my mental wellbeing.”
Carol’s diagnosis and treatment
In 2020, during Thanksgiving week, Carol was diagnosed with ER+ PR+ HR- invasive ductile carcinoma breast cancer.
Carol’s tumor was small – 1.5 cm, stage 1A, but she was told it was aggressive. Luckily it hadn’t progressed to her lymph nodes and was surgically removed within 3-weeks of her diagnosis, which was followed by four rounds of chemotherapy and standard radiation treatment.
Carol explains, “I began my chemotherapy in January 2021, going every three weeks for four rounds. My infusion drugs were Cytoxan 1200 mg followed by Taxotere 150 mg. I had a bit of trouble with the Taxotere, which was resolved with Benadryl. Twenty radiation treatments followed this.”
Hearing that she needed chemotherapy hit Carol even harder than receiving the initial cancer diagnosis.
“I was told the tumor was small, found early, not in my lymph nodes, so I thought it would be a relative “walk in the park” compared to what others go through. But when my doctor told me I needed chemotherapy, I realized I was sicker than I thought.”
Carol knew the chemotherapy would be tough on her body and was initially undecided whether she wanted to go ahead. She waited for her Oncotype score, indicating how likely cancer was to return. When he received a score of 30, classed as borderline, she decided she had no choice but to go ahead with the treatment.
“My sister was with me and held me while I cried. All I could think about was staring back at myself in the mirror with no hair, gray skin, and dark circles around my eyes. I had been very positive until that point – I knew in the back of my mind that my survival depended partly on my attitude. I worried about my ability to remain positive if the chemo made me look so ill – in all honesty, I was terrified.”
Why did you choose to Cold Cap?
“I believe Penguin Cold Caps are the savior and protector of my positive attitude. The Caps enabled me to stay looking ‘normal’ and ‘healthy,’ which was vital to my mental wellbeing.”
She explains that she was able to maintain her privacy. She could decide who and when to tell and didn’t have to endure the pitying looks or comments from well-meaning strangers. In addition, when she returned to work, she didn’t have to face a barrage of questions or awkward silence from colleagues unsure of how to address the situation.
Carol says, “I felt that I had created a bubble around myself to stay positive. But that bubble was fragile and looking normal helped me to keep it in place.”
Carol’s experience with Cold Capping
“Cold capping has been wonderful from beginning to end. When my oncologist mentioned it, I had never heard of cold capping before. My chemo nurse, Nalida, was extremely helpful. She recommended Penguin Cold Caps and advised me to hire one of their professional ‘cappers’ to help during my infusions.”
Carol followed Nalida’s advice and hired Gail, a Penguin Cold Capper.
“Gail met me at the hospital about an hour ahead of time, got me settled and started the caps before my infusion, swapped out the caps during treatment and for a few hours after. Watching her working with precision and close attention reassured me that my hair was in good hands. And she was good company – I was so glad Gail was there.”
“Before chemo, my ponytail thickness was 4-7/8″, and now it’s 4-1/4” approximately. If you’re good at math, you can figure out the percentage lost – and it’s not a lot.
“I did lose some hair around my sideburns and the very bottom back of my hairline where the cold cap doesn’t cover, but that’s nothing compared to what I would’ve looked like if I’d lost a whole head of hair. My son even said that he couldn’t tell that I had lost any hair at all.
“The only thing that looked different was that I had to wear my hair “au natural” with the air-dry wave. Not so bad. I usually blow-dry it straight because it’s easier to handle. I just passed the 6-month waiting period, and now I can blow dry, cut, color – whatever I want.”
Carol’s cold capping tips
- There are a lot of rules that your Penguin Cold Cap rep will talk you through, and it is important to follow them. The whole point is to save your hair – and the rules are there for a reason.
- Starting from the first infusion, don’t use anything but shampoo and cream rinse, no other products, no blow dryer, and only comb your hair when it’s dry.
- Be very careful with your hair – you have to remember that any single piece you pull out is gone until it can grow back.
- I recommend hiring a professional capper because you will lose your hair if you don’t do it right.
- And finally, if you’re going to cold cap, I recommend using manual cold capping rather than machine capping systems. Carol explains, “A friend with precisely the exact diagnosis and treatment lost 30% of her hair using machine capping. Penguin Cold Caps are colder and fit closer to your head, which is why they work. If you want to keep your hair, use Penguin.