Freeze my head?

My hair, my hair, my hair. It’s getting longer, but more lackluster. Not sure if it’s the damage from the chemo, or because it is getting heavy and faded from not cutting or coloring it for so long. Well, I’m not wasting my money or time now. I expect by the end of next week, it will begin falling out.

I’ve had it at various lengths throughout my life.

In 1992, it was probably the longest it has ever been. As you can probably tell from these pictures, I have fairly thick hair.

1992-003                                                    199210-001

Since having kids I’ve kept it at shorter length – anywhere from a shoulder length (which I look back at now and think “how unfortunate that I thought that was nice”) to this in between length  from 2 years ago to the shorter length I sport now.

2013

2013

This was my 40th birthday. My hair is short like this now.

This was my 40th birthday. My hair is short like this now.

I did some reading and found out there are people so worried about losing their hair that they freeze their heads during chemo to try to keep it from falling out. It’s fairly successful. I saw stats that something like 80% of women won’t experience as much hair loss, although many still have so much thinning that they end up wearing a wig anyway. Apparently in Europe it’s a fairly normal procedure. Some of them are not approved by the FDA here. Let me explain.

They have two different types of “cold caps” that can be used. The first type are caps that you place in dry ice and then put on about an hour before you start your chemo sessions. It has to be replaced with another every 30 minutes from then on throughout your chemo sessions and for a couple hours afterward. It takes about 14 caps per treatment. Penguin Cold Caps were the first to be used in a couple states in the U.S. and they cost $580 per month to rent, plus you have to purchase dry ice for each treatment.  You also have to have someone help you replace them, as apparently it’s not easy to get it on correctly by yourself.  As you can see by the picture below, it’s shaped to your head by a number of Velcro flaps and needs to fit properly to work. The dry ice is needed because the caps need to start at -32 degrees Celsius (-26 degrees Fahrenheit). There is a new company – Chemo Cold Caps – that is beginning some research trials in the U.S. now as well. Because these are simply a hat you wear on your head and not an actual device, the FDA has not involved itself in regulating these (yet?).

coldcapFergusonfollicles (See: http://www.coldcaptherapy.com/faq)

Another option, not available in the U.S. (the FDA is currently undergoing studies of these), is a Swedish product called DigniCaps. These devices are made of silicon and neoprene, and they have tubes that connect to a machine which pumps a cooled gel through the cap to keep your scalp cooled to around 3 degrees Celsius (about 37 degrees Fahrenheit). This means you only put the cap on once and leave it- no changing it every 30 minutes like with the cold caps.

DigniCap-cap (See: http://www.dignicap.com)

So, what does freezing your head do?

It makes the blood vessels in the scalp restrict the blood flow to the point that the amount of chemo that reaches the hair follicles is greatly reduced. You continue to wear the cap for a couple hours after the treatment has ended to give your liver time to process most of the chemo meds. (For more info: http://www.rapunzelproject.org/FAQs.aspx) The process can cause headaches from the extreme cold, and they suggest wearing warm clothes and using blankets to ward off chill while using the caps.

So, first of all – me being me – I want the chemo to reach ALL parts of my body. Cancer can spread through both your lymph nodes and your bloodstream. The last thing I want is some cancer cells left behind after I go through all this treatment.

There has been one U.S. study so far that claims there is no difference in scalp metastasis (spread of cancer to your scalp) between those who use the products and those who don’t. The companies who produce these products claim that scalp metastasis occurs with such low frequency that it shouldn’t even be a concern.

…Okay, again – me being me here – Isn’t there a chance that there are some cancer cells floating around in your bloodstream, that end up in the blood in your scalp during the chemo treatment? Then after chemo is over, they float back out to the rest of your body and land somewhere else? Probably a very small chance, but still. Why risk it? for hair?! I mean, it grows back!

Also, what a pain in the rear dealing with all that. When I did my first chemo treatment, the last thing I would have wanted is all that extra hassle and possible added discomfort or headaches. Again, for hair? Meh.

Now, I am probably not the average female by any stretch of the imagination. I just don’t have the genes in me that make me care that much about being pretty or feminine. I spend as little time as possible in the morning with my hair and makeup. I didn’t even wear makeup regularly until I was well past my mid-20’s. Too much of a pain. Besides, I’m me. I may not have hundreds of admirers for my looks, but I have some really awesome friends who like me for the real me that’s inside. And those that don’t? Oh well. I don’t necessarily like everyone either. And anyone who judges me on my looks, well… you know, who gives a crap what they think?

So, other than the alien look that I’ll be sporting once I’m walking around with a bald head, I’m actually kind of looking forward to the amount of time I’ll regain from not having to take care of things like shaving my legs, washing and combing my hair, etc. Really, if you think about it- hair can be fairly annoying and time consuming. Maybe I just don’t care that much because my hair is so short anyway, that it won’t take that long to grow back to the length I like. I mean I normally tell whoever cuts my hair that “you can’t cut it too short – it will grow back”. Maybe when the time comes, I’ll care more than I think I will, but I’m doubtful.

Of course once my hair falls out, I’ll be bald until all my treatments are completed, when my hair can then start to regrow. My treatments are scheduled to run until September. That’s a long time of baldness. But, I just can’t imagine myself wearing a wig. I mean, I’m very tactile sensitive. Basically, anything I wear bugs the crap out of me. My friends and family know that I am constantly tugging at my clothing in an attempt to be more comfortable. Wearing a wig sounds like nightmare to me. So I guess if that leaves me looking like a cancer sicky chemo patient for a while – oh well. It just isn’t worth the time and effort to me to care that much about either trying to save my hair, or trying to hide the fact that I’ve lost it. Especially during the times when I’m tired and feeling sick.

As for an update, I am feeling fairly well. I’m eating – again, much less than normal, but eating smaller meals is supposedly healthier anyway, right? I still tire easily, but I feel more strength returning each day. I know it will get worse after my next treatment, but for now my fatigue is manageable. I came home from work today and slept for two hours 🙂 – that helped. I still have these once in a while “head rush” feelings, that also reach my chest. This has been happening since the 1st treatment and is getting better each day. Thanks, as always, to all of you. Your prayers and support mean more than I can say.

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3 thoughts on “Freeze my head?

  1. Gina, you are such a trooper and an inspiration! I pray you continue the positive attitude as I believe that positiveness spreads throughout your body and will help fight this interloper you have growing inside you. Love the blog but hate that you have to go through this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Bye-Bye Booby | Gina Karasek

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