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September, 2013

In July of 2011 my wife Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Within 6 weeks, she underwent a double mastectomy followed by a year of chemotherapy and radiation.  She has now completed all treatments and we feel blessed that she is doing great, healthy and cancer free.

Upon receiving the diagnosis, our number one thought was for her to live. After that was addressed, our next concern was for our two young children, Samantha and Sean.  Samantha had just turned four and Sean was one and a half.  We wanted them to have as much normalcy as possible.

Stephanie’s doctor mentioned in passing that some patients were able to keep their hair using some sort of “cold cap”.  She researched and found a company in England that rented cold caps (http://penguincoldcaps.com/) which claimed to allow patients to keep their hair while undergoing chemotherapy.  As an active person, she preferred not to wear a wig and was excited about the possibility of not losing her hair.

During the days between treatments when Stephanie felt okay and was able to function, she did not want to “look sick”.  She also felt that keeping her hair would help protect her privacy.  Finally, when she looked in the mirror post treatments, she may be able to avoid the constant reminder of the cancer and chemo.

I was quite skeptical about the cold caps, and even more skeptical about the idea of her wearing a cap that was frozen to negative 30 degrees Celsius for 10 hours on treatment days.  Stephanie did a lot of research and networking and found several women that had success with the caps and wanted to give them a shot. The pain was so brutal that she actually vomited within a few minutes of wearing them for the first time.  This was probably a combination of the cold and nerves. Stephanie is a very strong willed woman, having much more resolve than I can imagine, and she pushed through the pain and miraculously never lost her hair. It was definitely a psychological boost for her to not go bald, and she has never regretted the decision.

In order to freeze the caps to thirty below zero, my father-in-law and I would sit in the garage and chop approximately 50 pounds of dry ice for about an hour in the evenings prior to her chemo treatments.  We would layer eight cold caps in the dry ice and lug them in two huge coolers to the Oncologist’s office for every treatment.  We then had to hire someone to change out the cold caps every 30 minutes trying to maintain the required temperature; it was quite a circus.  The process would have been significantly easier and less expensive if the treatment center had a freezer on site that was capable of freezing to 30 below zero. A normal freezer does not get anywhere near the required temperature.

After Stephanie was finished with the chemo, I researched if any treatment centers have these special freezers.  I found that a few dozen around the country (Eg. 3 in Beverly Hills) do in fact make them available to patients.  I also discovered a terrific charity based in Minnesota that donates these special freezers to treatment centers all over the country. The Rapunzel Project was founded by Shirley Billigmeier and Nancy Marshall, both breast cancer survivors.  We are thrilled to have this charitable organization as the primary beneficiary of CenterPoint’s first annual Traders4ACause charity event.  Please click the button below to participate.

Many thanks,

Scott Herman