Shanti is 42 years old and lives in Southern California. She was diagnosed with stage 3 Ductal Carcinoma, Her-2 breast cancer in early 2020, and started her chemo infusions in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is Shanti's story
When I was first told I had cancer, unsurprisingly, my main fear was death. But, as I began to learn more about my diagnosis and the impending treatment regimen, my fear shifted less from dying and more towards the thought of losing my hair.
I am a VP of Sales for a large foodservice distributor in Southern California. Before Covid, I had to travel a lot, both within the Southern California area, as well as across the country. Consequently, I had many face to face meetings with other people.
When my medical team explained to me that one of the side effects of Taxol included hair loss after approximately 2-3 weeks of receiving infusions, I was scared for a couple of reasons. Firstly, losing my hair was a signal to others that I was battling cancer, and I did not want work colleagues or customers to see or treat me differently. Additionally, I did not want to experience 'chemo-hair regrowth' the entire year following Taxol completion. I wanted to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
I chose to participate in a clinical trial. My pre-operation regimen was Taxol every week for 12 cycles, then every 3rd week, I would have the Taxol, in addition to Herceptin and Perjeta (Pertuzumab). As if the thought of chemo wasn't bad enough, my first infusion was the same week California went into 'safer at home' quarantine measures.
How did you find out about cold capping?
I first heard about cold capping from a work colleague, so I started researching different options on the internet. Given certain constraints and limitations of the infusion space within my hospital, Penguin Cold Caps was the best option for me.
How did you find using Penguin Cold Caps?
It was a bit of a learning curve to begin with. However, my Penguin technician, Gavin, did an amazing job with the in-person training. I invited my husband as well as a certified nursing assistant, (who would be administering my infusions) along to the training so they knew what to do. It does cost more money, but I would highly recommend having a personal demonstration before starting chemo, to practice and get feedback on best practice.
If you have the financial resources and depending on where you live, Penguin offers one-to-one personal cappers who stay with you through all of your chemo session.
Keeping the caps at the optimum temperature, and fitting and changing the caps for you is an important part of this process. The regimen can be a big commitment for a spouse or friend to undertake on every infusion day, so paying someone else to do it does alleviate the burden.
With regard to the caps themselves, I found the process to be more than tolerable and had no issues with the cold temperature.
What were the results?
I have fine, straight hair that sits just above my shoulders. Noticeable shedding only really started at week 4 of treatment. Overall, I have managed to save 80-85% of my hair.
Are you happy with the results?
Like so many other women, after the initial shock of finding out I had cancer had subsided, I was most obsessed with preserving the hair on my head.
Penguin Cold Caps made that possible for me. I do not know what I would have done without them and am so incredibly grateful that they exist. Insurance companies in the U.S. should cover them, as the mental health that they contribute to is priceless.