When I was told I was to have chemotherapy and my hair would fall out my first thought was, that's fine, I'll do whatever it takes to get rid of the cancer. My breast care nurse mentioned something called scalp cooling/cold capping that could prevent hair loss. Apparently it is less than 50% effective and hard work! I was reluctant to try it saying I wasn't that bothered about losing my hair. My husband had a word with me asking if maybe I would regret not even trying it. Perhaps I would, so I agreed to try it.
My hair wasn't that long to start with but I knew it had to go shorter before I started. I knew I would lose some hair and I didn't want long hairs everywhere! So this is it before:
I didn't actually get around to having it cut before my first chemo session, maybe slight denial on my part! This is me on my first FEC-T cycle, attractive head gear don’t you think!
I think I'm smiling because it's not switched on yet! There is an outer and inner layer to the hat and you have to make sure it is TIGHT on your head. Double and triple check it is as tight as it will go, this will ensure you get the best results. As soon as I looked in the mirror, this image came to mind....
But others thought of this......
I was told to take a couple of paracetamol an hour before my appointment, this didn't sound encouraging! So I'm sat in the seat with this fetching hat on my head waiting for switch on...... I didn't have to wait long. As soon as it started up I could hear water swirl around my head and instantly my head went cold. I knew I had to wear it thirty minutes before they started giving me the chemotherapy drugs and this half an hour felt like an eternity! Proper brain freeze. It gave me a headache and I felt sick. A couple of times I wondered to myself if I could carry on but I'm determined and do not like failing. So with gritted teeth I soldiered on. But after about 20 minutes my head must have gone numb and the pain disappeared. Ahhhh, lovely! So thankfully it didn't really hurt for the rest of the time - all throughout the drugs being administered and an hour and a half after that. So you are in hospital two hours longer if you weren't using the cap. If it works, worth it surely!?
About 10 days after my first session I decided to get that haircut. My best friend is a hairdresser so who better to go to! It was quite emotional for both of us because as she washed and cut my hair, it started coming out in small clumps....bugger! I didn't panic though, my hair is quite thick and I had loads I could lose before it noticed. Here is the new hair cut...
I didn't actually lose much more hair that cycle. As it got closer to my next chemo session I started to get nervous, would I be able to do it again or would I quit this time!? I managed to do it again, it hurt a lot more this time though and I was very close to quitting this time. But I carried on and felt extremely glad I managed it again. As my third cycle came around though I started to dread it and every time I thought of the cold cap or even just saw a picture of me in the cap it made me feel physically sick. The third time wasn't actually that bad, I think I had timed the paracetamol just right so I hardly had any pain, result! After the third cycle I was still losing a bit of hair but so far I had no bald patches!
The fourth session came and went and again I felt sick and was left wondering if I could carry on. There was only two to go, of course I could carry on!! It was only 20 minutes of pain to hopefully keep my hair and so far so good. When the final one came I was elated, still got shed loads of hair left, I was a success!! Now I've been saying that the cap gets cold, this is how cold it gets.....it froze my hair! This is a pic from my last cold cap session!
Even though it was extremely hard work to get through all 6 cycles of chemo with the cold cap, I am so glad I did. And I am so glad my husband pushed me to try it! Now I can look in the mirror and look 'normal' and to everyone else I don't look like a cancer patient. I think it will definitely help when I have finished treatment and I'm trying to get back to some sort of normality.
So my top tips for surviving the cold cap!
Take 2 paracetamol an hour before you are due to wear the cap.
Keep yourself occupied in the first 20 mins, I chatted to everyone around me!
Keep accepting cups of tea or coffee.
Tell yourself that it's only the first 20-30 mins that is the hardest.
In between cycles wash hair once or twice a week in mild shampoo, I used Simple.
Don't pull on your hair to see if it is falling out, I got told off numerous times for this!
(this is me a month after my last chemo, just before my surgery – look at all that hair!)