Kristy Sisler's family comes with her to her appointments and conducts a regimented schedule advised by the cap maker
CLEVELAND -- It's bad enough getting a cancer diagnosis, but when treatment involves chemotherapy, it often means the patient will lose their hair, and, for some people, that's a devastating side effect.
Kristy Sisler's long red hair has long been part of her identity. So when the 34-year-old learned she had breast cancer, she was devastated to learn the treatment would cause her to lose her locks.
That's when she and her husband started researching and found out about cold caps. She still has her hair after her eighth and final chemo appointment.
"Well by the second treatment my hair should have fallen out. I've had the hardest chemo that you can have when undergoing breast cancer," Kristy says.
Her family comes with her to her appointments and conducts a regimented schedule advised by the cap maker, Penguin Caps. They bring coolers loaded with the caps on dry ice. They're about negative 35 degrees by the time they're placed on Kristy's head.
"We've been following the instructions to the T and you can tell it's working. She still has her hair, at least 70 percent of it," says Kristy's father, Les Rice.
Cold caps are not FDA approved and not routinely used at many local cancer centers. One of the reasons is that research is limited, and they don't work for everyone. Penguin Caps claims the caps cool the hair capillaries and put the hair follicle into hibernation, which prevents the absorption of the chemotherapy drugs. Kristy's convinced.
"It works. I still have my hair, and I should have been bald months ago. I want to let women know that you don't have to be bald at the end of your cancer treatment," she says.
The caps are switched out every few minutes, and she'll continue to wear them a few hours after treatment. She says it feels like a really bad ice cream headache, but it's a discomfort she'll gladly take. Her hair, while thinning on top, is still there.
"It helps you keep your self esteem, it helps you keep your self worth, and it really helps you when you look in the mirror and you don't look sick. A bad hair day is better than a no hair day," she says.
Kristy paid $600 a month for the cold caps. She needed them for four months. To learn more about Penguin Cold Caps click HERE.
Cold caps have been used in Europe for several years. Click HERE to see what Cancer Research UK says about them.
Kristy's insurance runs out in June, and she still faces six weeks of radiation at a cost of $25,000. If you'd care to help, click HERE.