"Don't spend time worrying about how you are going to die. Worry about how you are going to live today"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My journey through chemo with hair

My worst fear when I got diagnosed with breast cancer was losing my long hair.  I know that seems odd, but for some reason it was important to me not to lose my hair.  I think it was because I knew that if I was bald people would immediately know I had cancer.  I just couldn't face broadcasting my health condition to the world and especially my four year old son.  I kept hoping and hoping that I wouldn't have to get chemo and it would not matter, but the more I read about my situation and talked to the doctors I thought "how can I NOT do chemo". 

I then did research and came across a thread on the http://www.breastcancer.org/ website about using Penguin Cold Caps to keep your hair during chemo.  I started reading as much as I could about the cold caps and talked to my medical oncologist.  She supported my use of them but warned me that there was only a 50% success rate.  I had talked to the Penguin Cold Cap representative and knew that was misinformation and was not accurate.  In fact, the cold caps have a very good success rate especially with the chemo I was on (taxotere and cytoxan).  I decided to do the Penguin Cold Caps. 

I have talked about this for months on my blog, but now I wanted to share my journey with my hair.  I hope this helps other women out there facing chemo.  I hope people realize they have a choice in keeping their hair....I am proof.  See for yourself that it worked for me.

Here are some photos of me before chemo.  My hair is long, colored and about medium thickness. 

August 2010 - 4 months before diagnosis
October 2010 - 2 months before diagnosis

October 2010 - 2 months before diagnosis

March 2011 - right before starting chemo

46 days after first chemo
(air dried, frizzy hair - no blow drying allowed)

April 23rd 2011 (a week after 3rd chemo)
April 24th 2011 - 1 week after 3rd chemo

April 24th - 1 week after 3rd chemo

Weekend after finishing last chemo
(I have one small set of hair extensions in today)

August 2011 - 3 months after completing chemo
(hair is air dried and a bit frizzy...still not able to use blow dryer)

Is my hair the same as before chemo?  No.  It is definitely much thinner.  It does not help that I can't style it much.  I have gotten use to air drying my hair which now happens faster since it is thinner (I am looking for the positives in this).  I am still only washing my hair twice a week but it has adjusted and quite honestly doesn't even get greasy anymore.  I guess it somehow got use to not getting washed and adjusted which is a bonus!  My hair still sheds more than it did before chemo but I still have a full head of hair.  Now I tend to wear one small set of hair extensions that easily clip in/out and with those in, it pretty much looks like my pre-chemo hair.  Today I actually used a cooler flat iron on the length of my hair and styled it slightly like I use to wear it (straight) and I could not believe it - I looked like the old me!  It is the first time in months that I looked like myself.  It made me feel really good. 

I hope that if you are considering using Penguin Cold Caps you can get an idea of what the results may be.  I am glad I did it.  I feel good having my hair and feel like it is easier for me to move on with my life.  I am sick of the shedding but when I go out, no one knows I had cancer.  There are people that have not gone through chemo that have less hair than I do.  I am thankful for Penguin Cold Caps!


  1. I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in April 2010 and went through 6 rounds of chemo (Taxotere and Cytoxen) and I also used the Penguin Cold Caps and had very good results with them. I did lose quite a bit of hair, but my hair was long, thick and naturally curly so I could afford to lose some without it being noticable. I'm so glad to read that other women are having success with them as well.

  2. I used Penguin Cold Caps also and, like you, kept the majority of my hair through my T/C treatments too. I am thrilled not to have gone bald. Having my hair makes me feel normal and healthy, which is a gift beyond price. Cancer is a scary disease. Anything that can be done to make someone with it feel better about themselves is great.

    1. Chemo Chick March 18, 2013
      I'm at my fourth chemo and I've lost 75% of my hair with Cold Caps so far. I'm starting to see a bald spot on the top back of my head. Sucks... but so far, still beats being bald! I'll update.

  3. Chemo Chick....I wish you had the same success I had. What chemo are you on? I have heard some chemos work better with cold caps.

  4. I'm back! i've had 6 rounds of taxol and carbo. I lost pretty much 85/90% of my hair using cold caps! BUT, it's not the caps' fault i've come to realize: it's the way they are put on! let me explain, i had ladies who helped me with my caps and they were ALL amazing and very professional, but I realized (too late) that when i had the caps applied by one of the ladies i had MAJOR shedding. at first i thought it was just the drugs, but then it hit me! when the other ladies put on my caps: super MINOR shedding, as much as you get normally when you brush your hair... so all my loss was from the caps put on TIGHTLY enough. if they had been, i think i'd have most of my hair now... but it's ok. i'm not overly devastated. by some stroke of luck most of my TOP hair is still there, i tie it in the back, and voila', covers enough that i don't have to wear a wig, can go to the store and hang out and ppl i've never met don't notice (i hope!). doesn't look like i'm starring in some shampoo commercial or anything, but, hey, no biggie... but just so you ladies (and gents) know: make sure that sucker is on TIGHT!!!!!
    - chemo chick

  5. Oh, BTW, after just a week after my last chemo i already stater seeing new hair growth! so, hang tight ladies! it all will pass!
    -chemo chick

  6. That's great that you are done! I am sorry the caps were not as successful for you but I am glad that you have enough hair to feel normal when you go out. I hope you can look forward and put the breast cancer behind you now and enjoy life. I am so happy hair is growing too! I finished chemo two years ago this week. My hair is the prettiest it has been since I was in high school. I am happy I used the caps and hope that more people will hear about them and have success.

  7. I went through 4 rounds of CT without CAP and lost all my hair everywhere except for a little bit of eyebrows. Three months after chemo my hair was back and now 2.5 years after chemo it is at original length before chemo, however it's softer and lighter colored.

  8. Greetings! I had the last of 4 rounds of T/C on Feb. 24th using cold caps. I'm 54, perimenopausal and my hair has been gradually thinning for a few years already (thankfully I was blessed with a full head of hair to start with). I experienced shedding during treatments, but am concerned now that shedding seems worse 6 wks later. I was instructed to wash my hair no more than twice a week, blow dry on cool only and no brushing. Well, I cheated and used a round brush anyway and now regret it. I think it was too much for my poor hair follicles :-(( I can't touch my hair without 5-10 strands falling out at a time. It's a bad habit, especially while watching TV. Also, it doesn't help that I get hot flashes during the night and my head perspires. I'm glad I used the coldcaps and thankful for the hair I still have...just praying the shedding stops soon or I won't have any hair left by the end of April! Definitely going to air dry and no brushes from now on. Sooo, I recommend Penguin Cold Caps...just follow the rules!!

  9. I had worse shedding after I finished chemo too. I thought it would NEVER stop, but it did. Hang in there!!! You will be done soon!!!!

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  11. Hi! Anyone use cold caps with the AC chemo? They say it doesn't have the best results. I'm done with 2 so far and have sooo much shedding. I have 2 more then start taxol x12

  12. I appreciated that you shared your experience. It was enlightening. I really loved how you contacted a representative directly for the correct information on cold caps. Going to the source for the correct information is usually a good idea. http://www.polarcoldcaps.com