Mom’s hair tale: Freez­ing head slows the shed

Welling­ton woman says she never went to­tally bald from chemo.

The Palm Beach Post - - HEALTH & BEAUTY - By Jan Tuck­wood Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Jen­nifer Martinez shows courage at her very first chemo.

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