Helping Cancer Patients Keep Their Hair

When Liz Lord started chemotherapy, cold capping saved her hair. Now she's helping others gain access to the same technology.

Liz Lord (courtesy photo)

In 2016, Liz Lord’s life was turned upside down. Married with two young kids, she had recently left a job as an attorney, earned her real estate license and switched careers. That’s when she got the breast cancer diagnosis.

After undergoing a bilateral mastectomy, Lord needed chemo­therapy. She remembered her son’s teacher had also undergone chemo and managed to keep her hair, thanks to “cold capping”—a promising procedure in which patients wear caps filled with freezing cold gel or liquid before, during and after infusions to prevent hair loss. The caps need to be frozen in dry ice and changed every 20-30 minutes. Some cancer centers have scalp-cooling machines to help with the rotation.

Knowing that her job required a lot of face time with clients, and not wanting to have to explain, repeatedly, that she had cancer, Lord decided to give cold caps a try. She acquired four rented gel caps, an electric blanket (to keep warm during treatments) and 40 pounds of dry ice, and used the caps during her treatments at The George Washington University Hospital.

Thanks to this technology, Lord kept most of her hair—but cold caps aren’t cheap. They can cost $250-$500 per infusion and are not covered by insurance. So in 2018, she launched the nonprofit Cold Capital Fund, which is run by a board of cancer survivors and provides financial assistance to patients who want to keep their hair with cold caps, but otherwise would not be able to afford the technology. To date, the nonprofit has provided $50,000 in assistance for about 70 chemotherapy patients in the D.C. area. “[Helping] is so gratifying,” says Lord, who lives in Donaldson Run. “Just when I think ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this,’ we’ll approve a patient, and they will write me the most heartfelt and impactful, often hard-to-read emails…and it’s worthwhile.”

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Categories: Community