Penguin Cold Caps

Stefanie’s Story

At a glance:

  • Diagnosis: Stage 2A Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer
  • Drug regimen: 4 rounds of AC followed by 12 Taxol
  • Results: Saved 70 – 80% of hair
  • Stefanie says: “Chemo is now over, and, while my hair’s a little more sparse, no one knows I just went through 16 rounds of chemo… unless I tell them”

Stefanie is a 51-year-old Spanish teacher with a family, a husband, and a new puppy to look after. So it was a shock when she received a diagnosis of Stage 2 breast cancer.

“There was no way a machine-based scalp cooling system could compare to the manual technique that the cappers use to mold each cap to my head. It was well worth the investment.”

Stefanie’s diagnosis and treatment

When I was first diagnosed, my immediate fear was of dying and leaving my family and new puppy behind. But this fear was closely followed by the thought of losing my hair.

For me, it was important to save my hair if I could. I felt it would give me back some control over my life. I didn’t want to look sick, and I didn’t want people looking at me with pity.

How did you hear about cold capping?

I heard about cold capping from my nurse, Nicole, at Marin Breast Health in Greenbrae. She had used the system herself when she underwent chemo treatment. She recommended Penguin Cold Caps because I was having several rounds of AC.

AC is a particularly strong form of chemo. Penguin is a manual system, which works better than machine-based scalp cooling, especially for patients on stronger chemo regimens.

Stefanie during chemo

What was your experience of cold capping?

My Nurse, Nicole, explained that although Penguin trained her family to cold cap for her, she recommended that I employ a capper if I could afford it.

And I’m so glad she did. Having been through the process, I truly feel that if my husband had been my “capper,” I would have lost significantly more hair… and we’d definitely be getting a divorce right now!

After my first 4 AC treatments, I planned to switch to the more economical system of machine-based scalp cooling. But after talking to my capper about the pros and cons, I chose to stay with Penguin.

It was well worth the investment. There was no way a machine-based scalp cooling system could compare to the manual technique that the cappers use to mold each cap to my head.”

How did you find your cappers?

I could not have been happier with Theresa, my Penguin rep, and my cappers, Gloria, Alexia, and Beth. They were professional, compassionate, and knowledgeable. They went beyond their job role every time. I believe their knowledge was paramount to the amount of hair I saved. Plus, I believe their support helped me maintain my overall mental health.

I didn’t have to do anything – my cappers took care of everything. Every week they would meet me at the chemo center with the caps and dry ice. They went out of their way, offering me a pillow or something to drink, changing my caps every 20-30 mins, and continued to do so 4.5 hours after chemo had ended.

They answered any question I had and told me how to care for my hair and what to do to keep most of it on my head. All the cappers have thousands of hours of capping experience, so they know what does and doesn’t work.

How did the cold caps feel?

I found wearing cold caps very pleasant. I have heard that other people can find them too cold and tight – but that wasn’t my experience. Yes, they were cold, especially when you first put them on your head, but to be honest, my body was on fire from chemo, so it felt like a relief.

What were your results?

The results were better than I had hoped for. I went into chemo hoping for the best but thinking the worst.

I have very straight, highlighted fine hair with no natural body. It sits very close to my head and is about collar bone length. I usually wear it slightly curled in at the ends.

I probably kept 70-80% of my hair throughout 16 sessions. Yes, the AC chemo was very hard on my hair, Taxol – less so, but still rough – and my hair is thinner. I can feel the difference when I put it in a bun, but people tell me they can’t see a difference.

I did experience some hair loss around my ears; however, my hair began to grow back well before I finished chemo, and I believe that is because of the cold caps.

Chemo is now over, and while my hair’s thinner, it’s still long and looks healthy. The added bonus is that I don’t have to wait months for it to grow back. In fact, no one knows I’ve just been through 16 rounds of chemo… unless I tell them.

Would you recommend Penguin Cold Caps to others?

Yes, I would definitely recommend Penguin Cold Caps to others.

What tips or advice can you offer others who are thinking about using the caps?

Cold capping does require commitment – it’s not an easy “quick fix” that only lasts as long as your treatment session. It does require you to make significant changes to your lifestyle – and if you’re not prepared to do that, it won’t work as well. For instance:

  1. You can’t simply wash your hair like you used to, comb it out, color or apply heated styling tools – you need to treat it far more gently
  2. You need to stay out of the sun and limit exercise to prevent sweating
  3. You can’t go swimming during treatment and for a good while after

I am an active person and underwent chemo in the summer – so it was tough sticking to the rules. And that’s why you need to be committed to it before you start.