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I was diagnosed on 19th November 2012 at the age of 45. After noticing a dip in my breast I assumed it was probably due to my age or breastfeeding my son, so I wasn’t too concerned. After mentioning it to my doctor and him examining me, he thought it was a good idea to go for a mammogram.

I found out I had breast cancer, lobular carcinoma. They eventually found five very small tumours. The largest was 13mm and the smallest only 5mm. On December 19th 2012 I had a mastectomy and on 19th February 2013 I started FEC75 chemotherapy – six cycles followed by 15 blasts of radiotherapy at Kent & Canterbury Hospital.

We have an amazing support group in Deal. I heard about scalp cooling from one of the girls who had kept her hair a few months ahead of me. When I asked about it at the hospital I was told, “You have a 50-50 chance of it working” by my consultant, oncologist and breast care nurse. I didn’t really understand the science behind it so I interpreted this as my hair would either stay in or fall out.

At first, nobody seemed very enthusiastic about me trying scalp cooling. I was warned about the cold sensation and how it would lengthen my treatment a little, but I wanted to give it a go. Before my first chemo, I had my hair cut into a short bob. The pump needed to get to the right temperature but I was determined to try it! At that point, nobody explained the advantages of dampening my hair or putting conditioner on it before the treatment.

By the second chemo, I had lost some hair, but not much. The nurse told me I had bald patches and it wasn’t working, but I wanted to persevere. I had done a bit more research by now so I knew to dampen my hair. At this point I had my own chemo nurse called ‘Comfort’ – she was amazing and would prepare my hair for the cap.

I did lose some hair after every chemo, but I knew I needed to keep contact between the cap and my head close to improve the effectiveness. The chin-strap was a little uncomfortable so I called Paxman and they suggested a sanitary towel to help cushion it! I’d lost a boob, got fat because of steroids and had patchy hair – I wasn’t about to stick a panty pad on my face as well!

Overall I lost about 40-50% of my hair, but with my hats and headbands I could do comb overs to cover any patchy areas. The hairdressers at my lovely hair salon were great; they looked after me with a shampoo called Kérastase and trimmed my hair to keep it looking as good as possible. I was put in touch with a wig lady who told me that scalp cooling didn’t ever work, so I did buy a wig. £300 down the drain. I hated it and never put it on.

Generally, I didn’t find scalp cooling too traumatic. It was cold, but I’ve been colder. It did make treatment longer but I was happy with the results. It meant it was up to me who knew I was having treatment for cancer.

I would and have recommended scalp cooling. I think there needs to be more awareness to the patient and everyone involved in their care to spread the word about the use and benefits of the cold cap.

Mandee Castle
Mandee Castle
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