SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Lehi woman wants to bring more awareness about an option to keep your hair through chemotherapy.
Jenni Thompson kept most of her hair, and she’s got a lot of it, through four months of chemo treatment for breast cancer.
Several weeks ago, 40-year-old Jenni Thompson completed 18 weeks of a type of intense chemotherapy.
“They said between day 14 and 18 you’d be completely bald,” said Jenni.
But that never happened. Instead, Jenni has a full head of long, thick, locks.
“I’m in shock I have this much hair,” said Jenni.
Jenni says she faced the possibility of permanent baldness, but the main reason for preserving her hair was to spare her children the emotional roller coaster.
Jenni had lost her husband to a rare genetic disorder that led to leukemia 4 years ago. She didn’t want to re-traumatize her children thinking they would lose their mom too.
“I know they associate hair loss with sickness and death.”
So she looked into saving her hair.
”There are a few options that all relate to scalp cooling,” said Dr. Van Meter.
Dr. Margaret Van Meter is an oncologist at Intermountain Medical Center.
“A cap is fitted over your head, placed in a freezer changed out every 25 minutes.”
It is an intense process before, during and after treatment.
In Jenni’s case, her sister and friends helped cool the caps with dry ice an hour before treatment, through four hours of chemo and four hours after treatment, changing the cold caps every 25 minutes.
“Nine and a half hours of cold capping. I would drive home from Huntsman to Lehi stop twice. It was tough. I’m not going to pretend it was easy,” said
The cold caps used at Intermountain Medical Center allows continuous scalp cooling without changing caps.
Dr. Van Meter says she’s seen success.
“100 percent lose hair without scalp cooling. A scalping regiment with cooling devices on average around 50 percent of patients lose 50 percent of their hair or less.”
She says the correct placing of the cap is key. Dr. Van Meter says there are varying reasons people want to keep their hair during a life-threatening disease.
“You lose so much control. Anything we can do to help you maintain your identity or control is something valuable.”
For Jenni it was all worth it.
“Sometimes I wonder if they even remember I am a cancer patient.”
Cold capping is a personal decision.
The tough part is not all insurance covers cold capping although some companies are changing since many cover wigs. The average cost of cold capping is $2,000 for the entire series of treatment.