Mom’s hair tale: Freezing head slows the shed
Wellington woman says she never went totally bald from chemo.
Jennifer Martinez wore a cold cap during her chemo treatments for breast cancer two years ago.
She bought the caps online from a medical supply company. (Total cost for cold-cap therapy is around $2,000, and insurance doesn’t pay.)
The caps are super-cooled to minus 25.6 degrees and changed every half-hour, so that meant Martinez’s husband had to man the cooler and become adept at quick-changing his wife’s caps every half-hour during her chemo treatments.
Her oncologist, Dr. Elisabeth McKeen of Florida Cancer Center in West Palm Beach, didn’t mind.
Whatever made her feel better, that’s what the doctor wanted.
“It was really cold, really cold,” Martinez recalls. “You get a headache ... all over, into your eyes, because it’s so, so cold.”
Her husband covered her with blankets during treatments. She also had ice packs on her hands and toes to help prevent neuropathy, or numbness.
And still ... after her second chemo treatment, her hair began to fall out.
Not all of it. But enough that she cut her hair really short and had to wear wigs to business meetings.
It was worth it, though, she says — and she’d do it again.
“I was never completely bald,” says Martinez, who runs her own public relations firm, JLM Communications, in Wellington.
Cold caps do work for many people, says Nancy Marshall, co-founder of the Rapunzel Project, which raises awareness about cold caps and works to get biomedical freezers for the caps into medical facilities. “Our mission is to help women save their hair,” says Marshall, who lives in New Jersey. (Her father, Adrian Marcuse, lives in North Palm Beach.) “We want to let people know that this process exists and that it works.”
Because of the Rapunzel Project, Lynn Cancer Center at Boca Raton Regional Hospital has a biomedical freezer dedicated to cold caps. It is the only large medical center with a freezer in Palm Beach County so far, but Broward County has several.
“One or two years ago, we had a patient family who want- ed to donate a freezer to our infusion room via the Rapunzel Project,” says Kimberly Carty, chief operating officer for the Center of Hematology Oncology at Lynn Cancer Center. “We investigated the use of cold caps and installed the freezer.”
Only 5 percent of Lynn’s patients have used the cold caps and some of them have had success.
“It really depends on the type of chemo the patient is going to receive,” Carty says. “We have it available as an option for them. It’s not something we promote or suggest it’s the right thing to do. It’s on the patient’s initiative. They get their caps, they handle the switching. We have the freezer available to make that easier for them.”
For more information on cold caps, go to www. rapunzelproject.org.
Jennifer Martinez shows courage at her very first chemo.