Please note that this blog post consists of the experience of one individual, the beautiful Leah. Do not make any decisions about your cancer journey without consulting a medical professional.
Hey everybody! My name is Leah Singh, I am 33 years old and I am from Liverpool.
My whole world was tipped upside down August 2nd, 2019 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32.
Lying in bed one day I happened to brush past my breast and much to my horror I felt a huge lump residing just underneath my nipple area. Instantly my stomach sank, I knew there and then that it was something bad. I felt it in my gut.
I went to my GP who assured me it was more than likely fibroadenoma (a benign breast tumour). I was then referred to the beast clinic. They too thought it was fibroadenoma but took a precautionary biopsy as I was over 30.
A few weeks passed and I went back for my results. Unknown to me at the time, the hospital had been trying to contact me to come in sooner, but I never received the messages. I went in for my results alone, as I was so convinced it was merely fibroadenoma as I was told.
The doctor entered the room with a breast care nurse and I knew instantly that it was bad news.
To my horror they revealed to me that I had breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I was completely floored. I managed to pull myself together and felt instantly calm. They explained to me that I was going to need treatment including fertility treatment, chemotherapy, surgery and then 3 weeks of radiation. My head felt like it was going to explode with all the information. The hardest part for me was that there was no answer as to why or how I got it in the first place. It was simply a case of bad luck. It was a tough pill to swallow.
I just couldn’t comprehend the idea of having chemotherapy. All I could think about was my hair falling out. My hair was down my back, thick and curly. My hair to me was my signature feature. This is what I was known for. The thought of losing it was too much for me – I was devastated.
My consultant then explained to me there was a chance that I could save my hair by using something called a cold cap. He explained to me that a cold cap was something you wore during your chemotherapy treatment to keep your head freezing cold and prevent your hair falling out. The way it works is by freezing your hair follicles. This reduces the blood flow to that area which helps prevent the fall out of hair.
Every chemotherapy drug is different and so are everyone’s reaction to these drugs. What might work for some, may not work for another. Everybody’s reactions to the cold cap are different. Some women keep all of their hair, some loose it and some people’s hair simply thins. My experience with the cold cap during my first cycle of chemotherapy was amazing. I did not lose one hair on my head, and this cycle lasted 12 weeks. Everybody was so amazed at how I reacted to it and how I managed to keep hold of all my hair. During the second cycle however, I was not so lucky.
I started to lose my hair two rounds into my second cycle. I was on much stronger chemotherapy during the second time around. I went straight into my second cycle from my first and it all proved to be too much. I did have so much hair that I probably could have gotten away with keeping it and wearing hats for a few months, but I wanted it off. I couldn’t look at my hair the way it was, I had gone from a big lion’s mane to hair so thin you could see the scalp.
The decision was made, I was going to shave my hair. So, January this year I went live on all of my social media platforms and shaved it off in front of thousands of people. It was the most liberating thing I had ever done in my life. The whole experience was just amazing. I had my friends and family there, it was more of a party, a celebration.
I don’t regret using the cold cap, everybody’s chemotherapy treatment plans are different. Some women keep all their hair by using the cold cap, and some only loose a small amount. However, in my opinion, it is definitely worth giving it a try. I cannot stress enough that the cold cap did not hurt; there was no pain. I had heard so many horror stories about the cap, to the point where I was petrified at the thought of wearing one.
For my first chemotherapy session I had worked myself up, I was shaking. Yet, when they turned the machine on, I can remember just waiting and waiting and thinking “OK the pain is going to come anytime now”. Then the nurse turned to me and said “That’s it, if you’ve made it past the first 10 minutes you’ll be fine!!”.
I could not believe I had gone in there so scared, I literally felt nothing other than a bit of head freeze! I thought of all that worrying I had done for nothing and it made me sad. I thought about all the women who turn down the cold cap because they are petrified, when there is nothing at all to be scared of. You might feel a slight discomfort, but that is it.
The setup is really straightforward too. The nurses spray some water on your hair, apply conditioner, brush it all back and then fit the cap to your head. It is attached to a cooling machine, which keeps it ice cold throughout the treatment. The only downside to wearing the cold cap is it adds an extra 2 hours or so to your treatment, but from my own experience, it is worth it. After a while, your head turns numb and you cannot feel a thing.
I would highly recommend this treatment to any woman who wants to keep their hair. Many women feel that the worst part about chemotherapy is the hair loss, but I would recommend giving the cold cap a try without being afraid. Try to avoid the horror stories before you try it, reading them is the worst thing you can do. In my experience, the cold cap was painless.
I vlogged my whole breast cancer journey and have some videos of me wearing the cold cap on my Instagram page @blessedwithcancer.
Anybody embarking on a chemo journey who wants to find out some more information, feel free to take a look at my videos. I hope that they can bring some comfort and a bit more insight on what to expect.
See below to view one of the videos on Leah’s profile.
View this post on Instagram
Leah recently tried out some of the Defiant Beauty Collection, formulated for those living with or beyond cancer.
Which Defiant Beauty products did you choose?
Which product was your favourite?
What do you think would have benefited you most during your treatment?
I think the Intensive Serum would have benefited me the most during treatment because my skin would become so dry. It feels intensely moisturised and hydrated when I apply this and it is very long lasting too.