In November 2015, I got married in beautiful Maui and returned to find out that the preventive mammogram I had before I left was abnormal. I had a repeat mammogram that same month and was devastated to learn I had breast cancer.
I was told that, for the next year, I would undergo chemotherapy, three surgeries, radiation and IV infusions every 3 weeks, not to mention all the frequent follow ups. I remained in a fog throughout the holiday season in 2015.
One of my biggest fears was losing my hair during chemotherapy. People would tell me that my hair would grow back, but that did not make me feel any better. It was one thing to feel sick, but to actually look sick to people around me really affected my well-being. I remember crying during my chemo education class when I learned about when I should expect to lose my hair (fortunately no other people were in that class that day). I felt powerless. I felt like I was slowly losing my identity. I then heard about the Paxman Cold Cap trial at Baylor in Dallas where I was receiving care and volunteered to enroll in the study. I had never heard about it before and so I admit I was a bit skeptical. At that point I had accepted my diagnosis but had not accepted the fact I would lose my hair. I never realized how important having hair to me was until I looked in the mirror and imagined what I would look like without it.
No one knew I was being treated for cancer because I still had my hair. I am so grateful I was in the Paxman scalp cooling trial.
I started chemotherapy the day after my 44th birthday on Christmas week in 2015. It was amazing to see people’s faces when I would tell them I was going through chemotherapy back then. Unless I had told people I was undergoing chemotherapy treatments, no one knew. I remember during many conversations where I would share that I was undergoing chemotherapy and people looked puzzled because I still had my hair. I am so grateful I was in the Paxman cold cap trial. Losing my hair would have been a constant reminder to everyone that I was sick but the reality was, people did not see me as a cancer patient when they looked at me. They saw me for who I was as a person. And the best part of it all, I could go anywhere and no one would know what I was going through unless I said something.
Around the time I was diagnosed, I was invited to a wedding that was scheduled the following spring. There was no way I could entertain the thought of going to a wedding back then. But after 6 rounds of chemotherapy, and 10 days after my last chemotherapy treatment, I went to that wedding. I decided to go because I could be myself and no one would know I had chemotherapy. I went because not losing my hair kept my confidence. I felt great that night and I owe that to the Paxman Cold Cap study who allowed me to keep a part of myself during a very challenging time of my life.
One year later, my holiday season looks a lot different. November was a bittersweet month this year. My husband and I celebrated one year of marriage but it was also the same month I was told I had breast cancer last year. But it is also a month I am reminded to be thankful. Thank you Paxman for helping women like me keep their self-confidence and thank you for what this study means for the future of breast cancer victims here in the USA.
NELIA SOARES, Texas.