Like many others before her, Elva Connelly felt overwhelmed and anxious upon receiving her breast cancer diagnosis. Not only was she concerned about the effect cancer would have on those closest to her, but also how the treatment would affect her body.
Chemotherapy was determined to be the most appropriate treatment course to combat her cancer. However, Connelly, a senior manager of a health care company, knew exactly what that would entail — hair loss.
Connelly refused to let that become her reality. “I wanted to have my hair for my daughter’s wedding in October.”
A friend told her about a piece of technology that helps patients keep their hair during chemotherapy. Elva and her husband, Kevin, jumped online to do more research.
They found the DigniCap® Scalp Cooling System. Worn during chemotherapy sessions, the DigniCap blows cold air onto the patient’s wet hair. Keeping the patient’s head cool prevents some of his or her chemo-infused blood from reaching the hair follicles. The results? Less hair loss.
Avera is among the few cancer facilities in the nation using hair-preserving technology.
Knowing she wanted the DigniCap as part of her treatment, Connelly proposed the idea to her physician, Amy Krie, MD. “It was like the stars aligned; Dr. Krie knew this would make a difference in my treatment and future patients’ treatment,” she said.
Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls now has four different sizes of the DigniCap. At Dr. Krie’s request, Connelly was honored to be the first Avera patient to experience this technology.
While the DigniCap can’t ensure you keep 100 percent of your hair, proper use can help you keep most of your locks. The silicone cap fits tightly around the scalp and face to ensure all hair follicles receive cold air. Connected to a control unit, the cap starts off at room temperature and then safely cools after a short while. The temperature never dips below 32ᵒF.
Its addition to her cancer journey has helped Connelly stay mentally strong. “Keeping my hair helped retain a sense of normalcy while having breast cancer.” A mother or three, she didn’t want a bald head to provide even further evidence of how breast cancer invaded her family’s life.
Along with the DigniCap, Connelly followed recommended hair tips during her treatment. These included:
- Washing her hair once a week
- Using a wide-tooth comb
- Avoiding heat-generating tools, including straighteners and curling wands
- Not pulling hair into tight ponytails or other hairstyles
She encourages other cancer patients to approach their diagnosis with courage. “Do your research; learn everything you can about your cancer, possible treatment methods as well as any other services that will help you through the process. You have to be your own advocate.”
As for Connelly, she’s glad her efforts could improve her chemotherapy experience and stop cancer from taking one more thing from her life. “I love my hair; it’s a part of me.”