Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, developed the podcast series Your Stories: Conquering Cancer to showcase unscripted conversations between patients, doctors, and the family and friends who conquer cancer with them.
Losing your hair due to cancer treatment can be devastating, but hearing the stories of others who have been through a similar experience can help you cope. In the latest Your Stories episode, “Remembering Mum,” siblings Claire and Rich Paxman reflect on their late mother Sue’s experience and share how it inspires their work helping patients prevent hair loss.
Hair and heartbreak
Claire Paxman will never forget the day her mom lost her hair. “One of the worst things I’ve ever had to do—that gives me the passion and drive for what we do now—is stand in the bathroom with orange-handled scissors from the kitchen, cutting that beautiful, beautiful curly hair off,” recalls Claire.
Sue chose to part with her token curls when the side effects from chemotherapy kicked in. “She could hide it before that,” says Rich. “It was that clear sign she was going through chemotherapy.”
A legacy in preventing hair loss
Hair loss can be highly emotional for patients and their families. “There’s tens and tens of individual reasons why people want to keep their hair,” says Rich. “And the last one is vanity. It has nothing to do with vanity.”
Inspired by their experiences, the Paxman siblings created a scalp cooling technology to help patients limit hair loss. This technology is used before and during chemotherapy. Patients wear a soft cap that restricts blood flow to hair follicles and reduces their metabolic rate, which are 2 factors that contribute to hair loss from chemotherapy.
More than 30 clinical trials have been conducted since the 1970s to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of scalp cooling therapy. The Paxman’s scalp cooling system is 1 of 2 systems approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2015.
“What we do every day makes it a little bit easier, knowing that we’re helping people,” says Rich.
“All because of one incredible, special lady,” says Claire. “That’s mum who’s doing that. Mum’s legacy.”