Facing my third cancer was shocking and heartbreaking. The thought of losing my hair from chemo (again) felt like a punch to the stomach. When my oncologist shared a possibility of keeping my hair, I was willing to try it. And I’m grateful that cold capping saved my hair from chemo.
It’s been 16 months since I finished cold capping to save my hair during chemo! I wanted to share one more post-chemo update on my hair after cold capping as I continue to get questions about the process and how my hair is doing.
To recap, I used cold caps to help freeze and preserve my hair follicles during four rounds of chemo for early stage 1 breast cancer. I saved approx 50-60% of my hair.
Some regrowth started before I even finished my final chemo! The thin/bald spots were completely grown in within a month of finishing chemo. My hair turned curly from chemo and continues to grow in curly. I like it! Wash and go low maintenance. I’ve been trying the #curlygirlmethod to help make the curls full and fun. My new hair growth curls seem to be curlier/softer than my ‘old’ hair so that makes for interesting hair care!
While I no longer have hair care restrictions, I still follow some tips:
don’t wash daily (my hair is used to this now); daily washing seems to dry my hair
stick with natural products (no parabans, sulfates, etc.)
use a scalp cleaner (love apple cider rinse)
wide tooth comb
no hot air drying (normal warm air dryers don’t work for curly hair! I sometimes use a diffuser but mostly air dry)
Hair shedding admittedly still makes me anxious. I know it’s normal, and it’s minimal now, but that may be some long term emotions to face. Just add that to the life after cancer journey.
Positive outcomes from cold capping
Cold capping isn’t for everyone (and can’t be used with all cancers so talk to your doctor). It’s a lot of work to follow protocol between chemo and for many weeks post-chemo. And it’s not guaranteed – some people only lose a little hair and others lose a lot. But cold capping saved my hair during chemo and it was worth it to me. Some positive outcomes are:
I kept enough hair that strangers didn’t know I was sick. Feeling a little ‘normal’ when I went out was refreshing in the midst of cancer treatment. I was bald for 15 months due to bone cancer when I was 21 so I know what that’s like too.
Despite losing a lot of hair, cold capping preserved my hair follicles so that new growth started before my last treatment! I’m still keeping my hair shorter than usual so it looks fuller while the new growth catches up. I also added long layers to help lift the curls.
My new hair seems to be growing back faster than when it grew back after being bald with bone cancer.
Cold capping during chemo infusion, plus the maintenance between chemo treatments and for months after kind of helped distract from the actual chemo and cancer. It gave me something to focus on besides chemo.
It’s been interesting to have the perspective of losing your hair to chemo and trying to keep it. There are pros/cons to both and no right answer. It sucks overall that we even have to face loss of hair while also facing cancer. So you should always make the choice that works best for you, not others.